Nathan Pennington Running in The Distance

Quality Miles: Running Smarter Or Junk Miles

quality miles runningQuality miles running

You can get better results putting in quality miles running less per week.

I ran 130 miles last week.

How often do we hear of the percentage of quality miles running at faster speeds of that total weekly mileage?

Sally down the street put in 95 miles this week, awesome

How is that impressive if she has a goal of running a sub 3 hour marathon (6.52 per mile pace) and is running 85 of those 95 miles at 9.00 mile pace?

Does that get this athlete any closer to that specific time?

Let’s dig into this further.

Focus On Goal Pace

Listen, running high mileage doesn’t guarantee you and I running success. You can get quality miles running lower mileage each week.

David Bedford of England, the former world record holder for 10,000m used to train as high as 200 miles a week.

What works for Bedford may not work for you and I.

In fact, am pretty sure it wouldn’t work at all.

I, like many others fascinated with wanting to run faster, have tried my hand at high mileage.

I tested it and went as high as 142 miles per week.

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All it did was make me tired and  frustrated that the results weren’t coming.

I ran my best marathon to date (2.19.35) on 85-90 miles per week. That being said, I am sure there are runners who have run faster on even less.

Anna Nocik, in Yuki Kawauchi, Citizen Marathon Runner, discusses one of the world’s top marathon runners from Japan who doesn’t have the luxury of time like many professional athletes.

Kawauchi is my hero in that he chooses to work a full-time job while training for his marathons. In addition, he runs quality miles running far less than other top marathons.

High Mileage vs Quality Miles

He recently set a new personal best time of 2:08:14 at the 2013 Seoul Marathon

Yuki runs less than 100 miles a week.

The limit on time forces me to train efficiently and increases my motivation for my weekend training -Yuki Kawachi

This is considerably lower than many of the world’s top marathon runners  In addition, he consistently performs at high levels while working a full-time job.

It isn’t about quantity but quality.

The sooner you realize this the less stress you will place on yourself.

Lisa Larsen Rainsberger, the last American female to win the Boston Marathon (2.34.04) in 1985 was my coach from 2007 to 2010.

We discussed running higher mileage after having broken the 2.20.00 marathon barrier.

High mileage is no guarantee for better results.

Lisa never advocated running high mileage to me.

She won the Boston Marathon in 1985.

In addition, she was always a proponent of quality rather than focusing on high mileage weeks.

That being said, she would allow me raise my mileage slightly over 100 miles a week. Our focus was more on quality mileage rather than just high mileage.

Regardless where you are, whether seeking to break the 4 hour marathon, sub 2 hour half marathon or cutting weight, get away from the long slow distance mentality.

I have always believed that long slow distance produces long slow runners -Sebastian Coe

Nate, I am not interested in being a world record holder or Olympian!

I get it and totally understand if that is how you feel.

That being said, you can still improve by focusing on more quality work. Do not focus specifically on mileage.

Be Patient

If you are not getting the results you want in your races, take a step back, look at your training.

Sit down and try to figure out how much percentage of your weekly mileage are you doing at your specific goal pace?

How much of that mileage is spent running at speeds that are far faster than the speeds you have in mind?

Are you recovering enough between hard efforts and is this the reason you are not performing where you need to be in the race?

Lastly, ask yourself this question.

Is the slow mileage I am running for the majority of my weekly mileage setting me up for success?

It is far better to do a 4 mile run at 9.09 mile pace if your want to run under 2 hour half marathon. That being said, you would get less results by doing 8 miles at 10 minute mile pace.

Be Consistent

Mileage is still very important you have to focus more on quality versus quantity.

99% slow mileage with 1 percent of high intensity training does not produce fast results.

Recovery is just as important as getting out on the track and churning out 6×1 mile at 4.45 a rep.

The body can only be pushed so far before you get a diminished return.

sample2Courtney Baird did an outstanding article in Competitor magazine called Ditch The Long, Slow Distance where she states,

long, slow distance gets the job done is becoming a thing of the past. If you’ve completed a few marathons and want to run faster, running long, hard runs could be a key training stimulus for you.

Scott Simmons, a former NAIA coach while at Azuza Pacific University put training at faster paces for the longer races beautifully,

The focus has changed from simply preparing for the distance of 26.2 miles to preparing for the pace that would allow for running fast over that distance

This is key.

Focus On Your Long Run

The dropped my marathon time from 2:43:36 to 2:19:35 due to changing from long slow runs to much harder, more specific long runs

I was still on 5:11 per mile pace through the 20 mile mark in that marathon.

Ironically, I felt as if I was doing my usual long run.

If you gradually extend the amount of time spent at higher intensities you’ll cut time off your personal bests.

In The Long Way, Jenny Hadfield states,

Dress-rehearsal runs discipline you to go harder at the end of the run, when your legs are most fatigued.

Jenny states you want to experience more pain in training  than you will ever want to deal with in a race.

Closing Thoughts

If you have properly trained at your goal pace then you will cut dramatic times off of your personal bests.

I have seen it from total beginners to some of the world’s top runners.

Please share this post with other runners you feel could be helped in their quest.

If you want to be a successful runner, you have to consider everything. It’s no good just thinking about endurance and not to develop fine speed – Arthur Lydiard

It doesn’t take skill to run slow, anyone can do that.

Learning to run fast and having the patience to allow your body to adapt to the stress load you place on it is art.

Everyone is an artist.

I have found in this sport that far too many of us are in a rush wanting the results now, not believing in delayed gratification.

It took me from 2002 to 2007 to break the 2:20:00 marathon barrier and several failures.

I believed in what I was doing and my love for the gift was too great to give up.

Don’t let up on your dreams.

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