So, How Many Hats Do You Wear?

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Pensacola, Florida, United States
Husband. *Dog Dad.* Instructional Systems Specialist. Runner. (Swim-challenged) Triathlete (on hiatus). USATF LDR Surveyor. USAT (Elite Rules) CRO/2, NTO/1. RRCA Rep., FL (North). Observer Of The Human Condition.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

15 Miles-A-Week to 26.2 In A Day: Time, Or Distance?

This is the fourth part of a response to a question I received in my personal e-mail from a reader:

"I have a question regarding your 10% increase every three weeks. How would this work if I were training for a marathon? Would I have to do a 20 mile run five times a week? I'm sure that can't be good for your legs. Do you have another training schedule that you recommend for marathons? Like your friend in the article I have also had IT band problems, which I believe was due to increasing my mileage too fast when training for my second marathon. Thanks for any help you can offer."

In my humble opinion, it takes right on the verge of four years of consistent, (preferably) injury-free training to go from couch-to-marathon. When it comes to the "marathon puzzle," every athlete is an experiment of one.

I'm certain some smart physiologists have researched and recommended minimum training mileage requirements for each racing distance. Old training logs of mine show workouts when my coach would purposefully ease back my efforts; he knew I was more effective at a slightly lower training volume once I reached racing fitness. Timothy Noakes' 14 Laws of Training, from his seminal work "Lore of Running," recommends runners figure out the minimum amount of training necessary to achieve optimal race performances...and follow it when developing a plan.
I believe the minimum training volume for running five-kilometer races is 30 miles/week, or 4-to-5 hours/week. A move up to the ten-kilometer distance can add another ten miles or total 80-to-100 minutes in training each week.

The half-marathon is my favorite race distance because it tests speed and strength. I like it also because the training volume of 50 miles or 400-to-500 minutes a week fits well with a typical work week - an hour a day seems like nothing to me. A race doesn't take all day; I can recover in one day and return to training in two. But, if you're considering the marathon, be prepared to run least 60 miles, or spend 8-to-12 hours a week in training.

Why do I look at training volume in terms of duration rather than strictly mileage? Looking at time for run training makes it easier to take weather conditions and terrain into account. It's one thing to write a plan for a runner in southern New Mexico who deals with dry air, 4000-to-5000 foot elevations and mild climate; it's another story altogether to write for someone on the Gulf Coast who deals with 90 days of 90 degrees and 90 percent humidity in the summer, and temperatures which can fluctuate from comfortable to just above freezing at the drop of a hat.

Another good reason to look at time is that it adjusts well to runners of varying abilities. A 60-minute run is a 60-minute run, whether you're an eight-minute miler or a ten-minute miler. And once the body adapts to a certain training volume and gets faster, they'll be able to run a little farther. In a perfect world I guess it would be a positively-reinforcing cycle.

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