Training For The 'Right' Distance

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10/10/2010 at 17:46
Moraghan wrote (see

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.

Thanks for the advice Moraghan you’ve given me food for thought.

My long term goals would be to break 3 hours for the marathon, 1:20 for the half and 36 minutes for the 10k so that I would be ranked with the UKA Power of 10. In the short term I want to achieve GFA qualfying times for London 2012 and New York 2013 marathons. If I break 3:15 in Dublin it will get me into London and maybe I will concentrate more on half marathons next year as a 1:30 half qualifies for New York.

10/10/2010 at 20:32


 Many thanks for posting this thread, really interesting stuff.  If you haven't tired of giving out bespoke advice I'd be very grateful for your thoughts on my position.

I'm currently 48, going on 49.  I ran quite alot at school but to no great standard.  Gave up in my 20s and then took it up again in my late 30s, but just running 5 miles a couple of times a week for general fitness.  Five years ago or so I ran a 10k and ran just over 40 minutes and thought that I might step up my training a bit with a view to getting under 40 minutes.  A couple of years followed when I probably overdid it and keot getting injured and then I had a year when I managed six months or so of regular training and managed to to get my 10k time to 37 mins 12 secs.  Having the usual running mentality my thinking was that having made that improvement off a certain level of training if I were to step up the training further I must get faster still.  Since then I've had 2 or 3 years of what I like to think is decent training but further improvement has been glacially slow.  Earlier this year I dipped under 37 mins by a few seconds but I keep thinking that for all the running I'm doing I ought to be showing more improvement (although reading this thread you may well tell me that "all" the running I'm doing is not enough!).  I have a best 5k time of about 17.30 (set last year) and a best 10 mile time of about 63mins although I've only ever done two of these.  I've never raced a half marathon or a marathon and have no plans to do so any time soon.

 My weekly training generally looks something like this:

Mon: rest

Tue: intervals (generally on a treadmill); 10x3mins or 4x8mins or 8x4 mins - something like that, about 30-35 mins fast running, just varied to prevent boredom.  Done at current 10k goal pace (36mins) with 1 or 2 mins recovery at an easy jog

Wed: 40 mins easy run (7.30 min miles) or maybe a similar time on the cross trainer if my legs are feeling sore

Thur: steady run of about an hour (7 min mile pace)

Fri: 40 mins cross trainer or exercise bike

Sat: 5k park run; or hills (9x300m) or 20-30 min tempo run at 6.10 pace

Sun: 80-90min run at 7 min mile pace

I also go to the gym 3 times a week and do general conditioning with the emphasis on leg strengthening stuff.

Maybe my current level is all I can expect at my age, not being blessed with any particular talent but if there is something I can do to get to the next level before old age catches up with me I'd be very grateful to hear it.

Thanks in advance.

PS: Apologies for reposting this which I previously posted on the other thread.  I'm not sure which one Moraghan is still monitoring

10/10/2010 at 21:15

> Thanks

Would love to do some park runs none near enough for me to go to would take me a good 90 minutes minimum to get there. Nonetheless i do a 5km most months in Hyde Park have a few mile races coming up over the winter once a  month except for Decemberso looking forward to that

10/10/2010 at 23:12


I'd definitely get off the treadmill - you're missing most of the benefits of doing quality work by doing it on one of those contraptions.

I'm a fan of making your hard days hard and your easy days easy.

Therefore I'd schedule two quality days and make the rest of the runs at an easy pace - which for you would be 7:30 p / mile or slower.  At the moment only one of your runs qualifies as being truly easy imo.  

By backing off on the non-quality days you might be able to turn one of your cross training days into an extra run - the more the better as long as you are recovering sufficiently to nail the quality work.

I think the majority of your tempo running should be slower at around marathon / hm pace, but be longer in duration.  The short tempos are much overused in my opinion.  An initial goal of 45 minutes at MP with a decent warm-up would be a good start and then you can start to make things more interesting / challenging.

Park runs / hills / 10k pace work all have their place - just not done on a treadmill.

Going forward I'd schedule 1 longer quality workout at continuous paces per week (MP / HMP / bit of tempo mixed in maybe) and 1 shorter rep quality workout based around current 10k pace / 8k pace / 5k pace.  You'd probably want to change things up every 4 weeks or so to keep the body on its toes.

Hope that's helpful despite being fairly vague.

11/10/2010 at 08:39

Many thanks for your reply Moraghan.

 In terms of marathon/half marathon pace, I'd be guessing a bit having never raced those distances.  My guess would be that marathon pace would be about 7 min/mile and half marathon pace 6.30 min/mile.  Does that sound about right to you based on my 10k time?

 Thanks again.

11/10/2010 at 08:50

next2nuthin - According to McMillan a 37:12 10k equates to 6:40 pace for a marathon and about 6:20 for a half. Although I find the McMillan longer distance predictions to be a little on the sharp side.

11/10/2010 at 09:26

N2N - I'm 47 and I would love to be stuck at 37min for 10k!! Well done on your achievements


11/10/2010 at 10:22

Badbark - thanks for that.  The marathon pace certainly seems a little sharp judging what other runners at my club do for the marathon who run around the same time as me for 10k.  The half marathon pace seems a bit more realistic.

Joe - cheers.  I'm generally happy with my level but can't quite understand why, three years (and probably 6,000 miles of training) after running around 37 mins for 10k, I'm not really any further forward. I'm just wondering if I have the motivation for another winter of dark, cold early morning training!

11/10/2010 at 10:47

N2N - 37min for 10k would suggest that if you were to train for a marathon, sub-3 (6:53/m) could be an achievable goal.  However, since you've not been doing marathon training, I would say that something around 7:00/m would be a good 'theoretical MP' to use for the sort of sessions Moraghan is recommending.  I see you're already doing a one hour steady run on a Thursday; I'd be tempted to make this into a 'semi-long run' up to 90 mins, with an easy warm-up and cool-down tagged on, and at the same time increase the length of your long run to 2 hours, but all at an easy pace (8:00 - 8:30/m).

11/10/2010 at 13:14


The vast majority of the year it's largely irrelevant what you personally could run for the half marathon or marathon - they are just intensity levels / paces.  So, go ahead and use Macmillan predictions if you wish and add 10 seconds on to the HM and MP predictions to create a range.  They are close enough.

However, don't use your PB to calculate this use a recent race time.  You are trying to train according to current fitness and not an elusive fitness of the past.

11/10/2010 at 14:01

Moraghan - Great thread.

Why do you describe the FIRST schedule as absolutely horrible?
I've followed the FIRST schedule since Jan 08 and run 5 marathons (3 london and 2 Edinburgh in times ranging from 3:05 to 3:14). I also ran a half in 1:23.

On the '3 runs a week successful?' thread, there are 2 runners who ran 2:59 and 2:47 following FIRST.

If followed to the letter, the schedules are extremely tough and have made me a stronger runner with fewer injuries. I shall be using FIRST for VLM 2011.

11/10/2010 at 14:20

Hi iFish

I guess we're going to come at this from different directions!  Absolute times are no indication of a good marathon program.

You ran a 1:23 HM and have 5 marathon times between 3:05 to 3:14 so you're between 10 and 19 minutes off what you could potentially be off your half marathon time.  That's what the FIRST program does - guarantees a reasonably poor conversion.

In fact you seem to have done better than most despite the training program you're following.  You could be well under sub-3 this time next year with a proper program if you were willing to do the extra running involved. 

Particularly as the FIRST program isn't going to prepare you for much of a half marathon either.

More detailed thoughts on the FIRST program here:


Edited: 11/10/2010 at 14:21
11/10/2010 at 14:27
*lol*  I've never seen a marathon training schedule compared to Rick Astley before.  That's tickled me that has.
11/10/2010 at 15:11


 Still reading all this with interest.

 I think I've read before your low opinion of treadmill training and so I wasn't surprised when you picked me up on that when you kindly cast your eye over my training in the earlier post.  I'd be interested to know why you hold that view as it seems to me that it gives a controlled environment for running exactly the pace you want to hit.  This is particularly so for tempo runs where it's easy to run too fast or two slow or to have the pace vary between the two when concentration wavers.  Also at this time of year it's warm and light in the gym (given I do most of my training first thing in the morning) and also there is a cushioning on the treadmill compared with pounding away on the roads.

Obviously there is the issue of running on a moving belt rather than on a stationary road and there's no wind resistance but that can be compensated for by setting the treadmill on a slight incline.

So I can see that it's not quite the same as running outside but I'm interested that you are so dismissive of treadmill running.  Are others of a similar view that treadmill training is largely a waste of training time?

11/10/2010 at 15:17
PhilPub wrote (see)
*lol*  I've never seen a marathon training schedule compared to Rick Astley before.  That's tickled me that has.

iFish wrote (see)

If followed to the letter, the schedules are extremely tough and have made me a stronger runner with fewer injuries.

My question would be for both of those statements, "Compared to what?"  It is very difficult to isolate the cause of a particular effect in an experiment of one with so many variables.

A Swedish study did a comparison of fartlek and interval training and discovered the ultimate output was that the fartlekkers were faster on average.  Given that the intervallers got faster more quickly during the training periods, the ultimate output was realised to be because more of the fartlekkers turned up to races and time trials during the experiment.  The intervallers were spending time with the physio.  FIRST is pretty heavy on interval training...

11/10/2010 at 15:25

N2N, the treadmill does push you along.  Stick a power-meter in the socket for the treadmill and the wattage shown is an approximation of the reduction in power that you need to cover the same distance at the same pace.  Putting it on an incline does add a level of difficulty, but changes your running position to one that you may not be replicating on the road.  The cushioning and bounce is good for injury recovery with its extra level of protection, but doesn't therefore give you the same level of strengthening of bone and connective tissue as is found with road running.  Wind is gusty, so the variation in effort level is different to that found by simply raising the incline.  And further to the cushioning, the ground is even which doesn't allow for increasing ankle and knee strength in lateral motions which running on uneven ground gives you (even roads are a little uneven, but I try to run off-road as well).

So not good for replicating the big outdoors, or preparing you for it.  And yet I would advocate it for recovery, and if you really can't hack the weather, better at least to be on a treadmill.  Greta Weitz appeared to love the treadmill!

11/10/2010 at 15:27

You can race any distance based on 3 days a week training input.

But then again, you can race any distance based on zero days a week training input.

It depends on whether you are trying to find a way to minimise the effort you put in or trying to explore what your potential might be!

Re treadmills - you only have to have a quick look around the parks in Spring once the weather improves. Those that have done the majority of their winter running on treadmills stand out like sore thumbs with their tigger style bouncing techniques. Makes for good entertainment though.

Edited: 11/10/2010 at 15:30
11/10/2010 at 15:58

Ratzer, thanks for that.

 I wouldn't myself want to do all or even most of my running on a treadmill and I recognise the benefits of running on uneven ground etc but for interval work or tempo running it seems to me it can have its place. In my view it can have some advantages over running outside (in terms of mainataining the pace you've set for yourself) even though it does at the same time have some disadvantages as you've mentioned.

Parkrunfan - I've never noticed that but will look out for it now you've mentioned it.  I'll also have someone check me out for excessive upward movement!

11/10/2010 at 16:23


The massive irony of treadmills is that you can run at a steady pace but in gyms you have no idea whatsoever what that pace actually is, because you have no idea of the machine's accuracy.  Bearing that in mind, you have no idea if you're exercising at the appropriate pace - even if it keeps its speed constant.

Even assuming that is spot on each and every time (and assuming if you use the same treadmill that treadmill's pace doesn't degrade over time) there are stacks of reasons not to use them - most of which are covered above.

In addition the treadmill doesn't teach you how to pace because you're mental effort is directed towards keeping going than using your own feedback to maintain pace.  

The bottom line is you broadly do quality work to improve your aerobic efficiency and your biomechanical efficiency and the treadmill only addresses the former.  Success in most sports is governed to a certain degree by the principles of specificity.  So go ahead and train on a treadmill for your quality work if you are planning on racing on them.  Otherwise go outside unless the alternative is not to run.

11/10/2010 at 17:59

Great thread, some real high level advice on here. One quyick question aimed at anyone...

My second long run should be 66%? I do 17 miles on a Sunday and on Wednesday I run a combined total of 13 (a 4 miler am and 9 miler pm). Is this allowed or should I look to just go longer in the evening?

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