Training For The 'Right' Distance

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08/10/2010 at 20:34

Very interesting Moraghan. I do agree that a gradual build up is essential, I have done this and stayed injury free (touches something made of wood). For a lot of us though the aim is not to race rather to get round in a time good for us. Yes a lot of training schedules out there aren't ideal but for a lot of people their chosen event is a once in a lifetime event and is still to be applauded.

I did VLM following a beginners marathon program (not beginner runner!) and got round ok. I did enjoy it but felt I could have done a lot better so have Dublin soon and have followed more or less as you advise but I don't think I'll ever plan to "race" in races I enter.

08/10/2010 at 21:04
JeremyG wrote (see)

 For a lot of us though the aim is not to race rather to get round in a time good for us.


I must admit I don't see the difference.  Effectively all any of us are doing in this sport is racing against ourselves and the clock.  If you prepare for a race properly and try your guts out on the day you've raced'your race' however you look at it.

Unless of course you mean participating in a race which of course is something different all together.

Everyone has different motivations to run of course none of which are really any more superior to any other.

08/10/2010 at 21:10
I guess I'm just a participant then! Although aim for Dublin is 3:45 that will not be busting a gut. I guess that's why I prefer the longer distance as I don't really like going all out. Mind you I have been contemplating focussing on 10Km next year and seeing what time I could get, apparently at 43 I'm already past my potential peak so I'd be interested in what time I could get to.
08/10/2010 at 21:32

This is really interesting.....

Can I check I understand by applying to me?

I'm interested in basing my training on 10m races (which means I can do the occasional 10k and 1/2 marathon). Therefore, this would imply my total mileage should be a minimum of around 38m a week?

Given that I'm currently only doing approx 25-27 miles, my focus should currently be on increasing my mileage until it looks something like:

Long run: 12m

Easy 1: 6m

Easy 2: 6m

Midweek Long: 8m

Easy 3: 6m

Once I'm at this level, and have done 4 weeks constant, then I can start introducing some "quality"

08/10/2010 at 21:51

That looks like a nice plan.  The only change I'd make would be to add in strides 2 - 3 times a week.

However, if you are already operating at 25 - 27 miles per week there are a couple of options:

1)  Drop all existing quality which will enable a more rapid increase in mileage (with strides).

2)  Keep existing quality as long as it's proportionate (and you are physically well) and ramp up a little more slowly.

Also, don't feel restricted to 5 times a week.  If you want to do 6 you could probably build up slightly quicker.  If you changed Easy 3 to two 3 milers on separate days you'd probably feel less fatigued.

A very good quality workout to keep whilst building easy mileage is a multi-pace fartlek.

Good luck.

08/10/2010 at 21:58

Cheers Moraghan

There is currently no quality in my training, as I'm building back up after a summer break. As a result it's all easy running. Also, at the moment my three easy runs of 6m are being done as 2*3m runs - in that I run as part of my trip to work. Does this matter?

Thanks again for posting this......

08/10/2010 at 22:05
In the context of this thread's topic that wouldn't really matter.  Stick the strides in though, even if just 4 * 75m.
08/10/2010 at 22:55

Hi Moraghan, just a quick one and thinking specifically about the HM training you've mentioned - my quality mid-week sessions currently consist of  :

1,    2mile easy with 3mile hill fartlek and 1 mile cool down

2,   2 mile easy with 5 mile tempo run and 1 mile cool down

Is this sensible for quality HM sessions? My other mileage is about on a par or slightly more than what you've detailed in your opening post...

09/10/2010 at 07:18


Thanks for the advice and info. I'm one of the runners that falls into the camp you've described - too  much too soon! Joined a jogging group in 2007 and did a 5k that year, followed 6 months later by a half marathon. I did my first marathon in 2008 and have done another 3 marathons this year, with the occasional half and 10k thrown in. Having got a marathon PB of 3:59:04 at Lochaber this year, and with PBs of 1:47:12 for the half and 46:37 for 10k, I had decided that my focus should now be on shorter distances and trying to build up some speed before I attempt another marathon. Training, as you've said, takes up so much time when the miles are slower, and there's no way I can run the mileage suggested at present with the speed I go at!

Currently I'm also studying part-time and working full-time, so I've got quite a constraint on my time and am having to prioritise. My current week is:

7-8 miles @ around half marathon pace (7:50-8:00 min mile);
Spin class
5-6 miles variable (tempo or easy) - aim to go to club reps but never make it due to timing!
10 mile long run (slow & steady)

I have cut back the mileage quite a bit from marathon training when I was running less than you would advise, but around 45 miles a week at peak. Is this a sufficient way to maintain things - not convinced I've got the time to try to get much better this year! I'm 37, female, and never going to be a super speedy runner! Thanks!

09/10/2010 at 09:50


I like reading your posts.  You are clearly knowledgeable about running.  In a slightly disconcerting way you remind me of myself when I was younger.

My approach to running has mellowed quite a lot over the years though.  I used to read all the physiology and training books and spend a lot of time thinking (possibly obsessing) about my training.  Now, I just have a vague plan of what I am going to do for the next couple of days, and sometimes this can change.  I think this is partly because I feel I have got to the stage where training principles have become more instinctive, but I think it is mostly because I can't really be arsed spending much brain space about whether my tempo runs should be 10 seconds quicker per mile or my rests on mile reps should be 3 minutes or 4 minutes, or whether my easy pace was slow enough.  I still enjoy running and racing as much as I used to and I can train very hard when required, so it's not a case of losing motivation, but I prefer to be more casual in my approach.

I think that a good proportion of people on here may also take a slightly more laissez faire atitude to running.  It is an outlet from our normal duties in life, and who's to say that a person who likes running marathons can't do it on say 30 miles per week if that's all they want to commit on a weekly basis.



09/10/2010 at 10:11

Davies1927 - looks fine to me.  Keep the tempo based work interesting and challenging but using different paces, sometimes in the same session.

Clag - that would certainly maintain things, although if that was the real goal I'd probably swap the quantity of quality mileage with easy stuff.   I'd also swap the spinning for easy running, but you may have other reasons for doing that.

Twatt - good post.  I'm not too anal about paces for my own running, although probably far too anal with its planning.  As you say, each to his own and your assessment of some people's motivations covers a far greater range of runners than I can realistically expect my post to strike a chord with.  I'm sure you'll agree that the longer someone's been running the more they can take liberties with any of running's established 'rules' anyway.

09/10/2010 at 11:17

Thanks for posting this Moraghan. Sound advice as always.

I'll admit to being one of those people who started running with the marathon as my aim, and over the years I've retained my fascination with the distance. However, I wish I'd approached it more cautiously. After starting out on a sub-4 I should have spent the next few years getting faster, not getting injured and slowing down which is what happened.

I know that a lot of people read these posts and think 'well I'm doing 3 days a week with a 20 miler at the end and I'm doing fine', but trust me - it'll wear you down eventually. 6 months ago I'd just run my 7th mara on 30 miles a week over 3-4 days, and came on here for advice on training for my next one. I took Moraghan's advice to increase my mileage throughout the week, not just on long runs. As it stands, 50 miles a week over 6 days now feels natural, and I've raced one PB after another since June (5k to half mara) - and aiming to break 3:45 for the marathon next week.

I always used to think that I couldn't maintain my marathon training all year round as it's be too exhausting, but looking back I was pushing my body for a few months at a time without giving myself the chance to build a decent fitness base. Once this mara's over I'm planning to maintain my weekly mileage at around 50, but concentrate on shorter distances over the next few months by reducing the long runs and adding some doubles a couple of days a week. In other words, adapt the content of the schedule rather than the quantity.

09/10/2010 at 11:27
Twatt wrote (see)

I think that a good proportion of people on here may also take a slightly more laissez faire atitude to running.  It is an outlet from our normal duties in life, and who's to say that a person who likes running marathons can't do it on say 30 miles per week if that's all they want to commit on a weekly basis.

This is true Twatt, but the danger is where people convince themselves that this is adequate training for racing the distance, i.e. pushing themselves. I know that a lot of people just like to complete the distance at whatever pace and do it quite comfortably, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that - but that's a very different kettle of bollocks.

Again there will be people who look at this and say 'nonsense, I ran X time on minimal training and did great' - yes, people do that. But in doing so they do risk getting injured or exhausted, and if they don't then it's probably a sign that they could be running faster!

Or that they are in fact Spiderman, which would be pretty cool.

Edited: 09/10/2010 at 11:29
09/10/2010 at 14:13
Delurking as well

Training for half Maras. Previous times 1.52, 10k 49, 5k 23.

Tend to run on own so not very disciplined with intervals etc.

Usual week 5,4,9,15

Pace varies from 10mm to 8mm

Would a weekly park run be good enough for speed work?

09/10/2010 at 16:30

Excellent thread Moraghan and great advice as usual. Sorry to impose but I have to ask a question about myself.

I started running in February 2009 at the age of 39 and like a lot of people kept increasing my race distance from a 10k  (42:30) then a half marathon (1:37) and finally a marathon in October 2009. I only ran 3 times a week then (FIRST programme) and hit the wall badly and finish in 3:48 while on course for 3:30 at the 20 mile mark.

After this I changed my training and began a base building programme of slow running six times a week over the winter. I then used a P&D 55 mile schedule and by March I had ran a 1:32 half marathon and then two sub 3:30 marathons in May 28 days apart. Since then I have run another hillier half marathon in 1:32 and only last month ran a 10k in 38:21 despite not targetting the distance specifically.

From looking at my performances and the McMillan calculator it appears that I am much better the shorter the distance. A 38:21 10k suggests a marathon time of around 3 hours while I am only targeting sub 3:15 in Dublin which would still be a 12 minute PB.

One important point I haven’t mentioned is that before I took up running I had been rowing 5 x 5k a week on a Concept 2 rowing machine including intervals and tempo sessions lasting about 20 minutes. So do you think it possible that I have already ‘served my time’ at the lesser distances due to the rowing and developed a good aerobic base? Might I be someone who should continue to specifically train for the longer distance and my shorter distance times will also continue to improve? I would like to continue running races from 5k to marathon distance.

A typical training week for me in preparation for a marathon would be -

Mon –Rest

Tue – 11 to 15 miles majority at MP

Wed – 5 miles easy

Thur – 6 miles including either 800m or 1 mile intervals or a tempo session

Fri – Rest

Sat – 18 to 22 miles easy with some MP miles near the end

Sun – 6 miles easy including 10 x strides

Edited: 09/10/2010 at 16:32
09/10/2010 at 20:19

Madame O - good points there, thanks.

Malc5 - it would be okay, but there are certainly more HM specific sessions (longer and wider range of paces) that you could be doing that would stand you in better stead.  

Badbark - I'd say it's probably close to impossible to convert short distance times to marathons using that absolutely horrible FIRST schedule.  Poor conversion is typical of that sort of schedule and is also typical of newcomers to the sport.  It may also be simply due to the fact you are physiologically suited to the shorter distances but let's assume it isn't.  

I'm tempted to say the non-running aerobic base will serve you well, but it doesn't actually seem to have done that good a job in terms of extending your speed through fatigue!  So much of safe running progression is acclimatising the connective tissues and developing good neuromuscular function that can only be done through running.  No doubt you can skip the body weight issues that hold so many runners back though.

I'd say with your suggested sensible schedule (lots of P & D there I see!) like you have you'll continue improve at all distances no matter which you concentrate on.  Does your non-running base mean you can 'jump ahead' and reach your potential in the most effective manner as suggested on this thread - probably not.

So I guess your future long term goals would be the things to consider when deciding your short term approach.

09/10/2010 at 22:29
i agree with the progression through the distances but i think such views are very very much in the minority. i would surprised if people listen given what most people think about the distances you run !

to tell people that they are making mistakes by targeting 10 miles-marathons so early is not what the vast majority believe but this is the norm. 99% of runners run 10k-marathon and do the odd 5k as a 'speed race'. this is a forum with nothing on 400-3000m so i'm genuinely not surprised! if you are someone who is training for marathons and getting average times for 5k/10k on the back of marathon training i think you are wasting your effort. it is the hardest way to get a times on shorter distance. still this is a minority view. racing under 5k has a reputation of being is easy, pointless and just for kids - often from people who never have raced a track race - but it is very hard. i started it and you can still you race all your desired long distance in winter and spring around cross country so it should be very assessable to any endurance athletes. if you dont do it i dont think you can get anywhere really but i am new to it so time shall tell.
Edited: 09/10/2010 at 22:31
09/10/2010 at 22:56
Moraghan - Great thread once again

> sadly though i think you are right you only have to look at a typical road race where they have an extra race in addition to the main one usually 3k or less and normally these are for chidren. Unless you are a member of an Athletics club your chances of competing at such short distances are virtually nil.
I get annoyed when people suggest shorter races are easier they are only as hard or easy as you make it. They are hard. But usually they are seen as races beginners do even 5kms are like that. 5kms are my most raced distance and people are always asking is it a charity run nowt wrong with them and i do my bit occassionally but not on every race i do
10/10/2010 at 00:43
i am really a product of parkrun. i suggest you try these if you are looking for 5k races. they are fantastic. if i did not have them i would not have become a decent level club runner. the track was really only a way of getting the 5k times down after a good spell doing regular parkruns.

to run track as an endurance runner is easy actually. you just have to train for it and be patient. anyone who can run a 10k will easily train for a 1500m. there is too much 'i can't run under 5k' because people just expecting to turn up to a 1500m race doing no specific training. you need to join a group and find a race but it does not take me for a good result if you have done winter endurance training.

to be honest thought the alternative is how some people run and some of these endurance marathon runners are running in ways that are hard, relentless and never ending. particularly since it is only about miles mostly and i doubt it is sustainable long term. i know it is not for me and to be honest i'm so shattered after work at the moment i cannot really see myself making any progress with my endurance races so i have to just do cross country more as training and i'll have good enough endurance perhaps only to make decent progress at 800m and minimally for the 1500m but i'm sure i'll get some improvement just on the basis of more experience. we'll see what happens later for track. when i get a better job i will train again but i'm stuck for the next few years as needs must. good luck with your training.
10/10/2010 at 13:38

Hi All

Yet another lurker coming out of the closet and another of Moraghans "bad runners".

After a couple of years of running and about 15 10ks and Halfs and 1 marathon under my belt and not really making the gains I wanted to I've decided to finally buck up, get my finger out and start to train properly.

I sat down and looked at this years traing log while nursing my aching calves and just laughed.

What the hell was I thinking, theres just no way on gods earth I was going to break that elusive 1:45 half or 45min 10k on a paultry 25 - 30 miles a week. Oh I did try to increase the mileage, and managed if for about 2 weeks. Why was this you ask ? Well I was going too bloody fast and wiping myself out. So made it to 40 1 week and then droped back to 10-15 for another 2 and then the cycle of increasing mileage started all over again and me wondering "Hey whats going on ?  I feel alright doing the work but after a couple of weeks Im knackered " The answer would be in that nearly all my runs where quality and very little was easy running.

So after the fits of laughter stopped I slapped myself an started from scratch with only easy mileage and its going pretty well.

Ive read lots of the fantastic advise from Moraghan and the other contribuors on these forums and just like to say thank you for imparting your pearls of wisdom, its made my running a lot more enjoyable and threads like these are like gold mines for us "bad runners"

Just got a little question about core work, How much should you be doing and when would you fit it into your schedule ? Im currently running 5 days a week, Friday + Saturday off, LSR on Sunday, will hopefully be making Saturday into another short easy run also. Currently on 30 mpw and heading up to 50 gradually.

Again many thanks Moraghan and others for your help



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