Sunday, January 22, 2012

Mileage: A New High

A casual runner can stay in good shape running about 20 miles a week. During marathon training, that needs to be bumped up to 30 or 40 miles a week. Most first time training plans will peak with a 20 mile long run and as a rule, you shouldn’t run more than ½ your mileage for the week in one run. (In other words, don't run 20 miles on Sunday and only 10 total miles the rest of the week.) Though some training plans will break this rule during the week including the longest run, it shouldn’t stray too far from that.

Reality check: the professional women runners of the world run between 110 and 120 mile weeks during their peak training. Men go even further, sometimes upwards of 140 miles a week. (Quick math: that’s 20 miles A DAY. Please leave this to the professionals!) Famously, Catherine Ndereba (“Catherine the Great”) maxes out in the 90 mile a week range, but this is of note only because it’s so far from the norm.

So, not surprisingly, the best in the world run a lot more than the everyday runner. The Captain Obvious’s of the running world stand by the notion that the only way to get better at running is to run. But others argue that runs whose only purpose is to add to the mileage total (termed “junk miles”) are unnecessary and increase risk of injury or burnout. Programs like FIRST and Crossfit offer encouragement for time-pressed runners, claiming that you can get better by only running a few days a week: stressing hard efforts on your on days, supplementing with cross-training, and resting completely on other days.

I don’t think there’s a clear answer to this debate; I think it completely depends on the runner. Some people can handle the mileage, some can’t, and only carefully trying both styles will tell. And I do agree that each run needs to have a purpose, easy recovery runs do help promote recovery, but can also do more harm than good for some runners.

In my case, I do better running more than less. Both my confidence in my training and race times have improved with increased mileage. In my progression from a 4:07 to a 2:55 marathon, I have slowly and carefully ramped up my mileage from 40 miles per week to 50 (before NYC in 2009) and then stuck with 70 (before 2011’s Boston and Chicago, where I broke 3 hours.)  Last summer I made my first attempt at getting to 80, but wound up with classic signs of over-training (slower paces in workouts, mentally drained) and backed off.

In training for Charlottesville, I gave it another go. I’ve slowly added more miles and this week hit my new high: 80 miles! And, despite some soreness from this morning’s 20 miler, I feel pretty good. Of course, our bodies don’t divide things into 7 day weeks, and mine doesn’t know that I consider my running weeks to start on Monday and end on Sunday. To my legs, tomorrow won’t be the fresh start to a new week, but just another day after today’s workout. So I’ll keep being careful and seeing how my body handles this. The beauty of (and reason for) doing this now is that I can back off/take time off if I push a little too far. I have plenty of time to recover before any real attempts at the trials standard. But for the time being, I’m still proud to reach a new high.

It's true. I'm hip enough to have a blog but am old school with my pen and paper running log.
Dream big, 

No comments :

Post a Comment