Building Up Your Mileage

By Hal Hingdon
Adapted from - Marathon: The Ultimate Training and Racing THE WEEKLY LONG RUN. Home Whether social or serious, forms the kingpin of any marathoner's training program. "Some runs are just to get the miles in," says Susan Kinsey, a coach from La Mesa, California. "You need time on your legs." Not only is it essential to marathon success to run far at least two or three times a month, but high weekly mileage also plays an important part in running fast times. But how high mileage? Before the 1980 Olympic marathon trials, The Runner, surveyed the list of American contenders and uncovered a fact that certainly must have seemed intimidating to those seeking success in the sport of long distance running, whether at the national or personal level: Nearly all of those contenders trained more than 100 miles a week! But are 100-mile weeks necessary? And whether or not they are necessary for the marathon elite, what about runners of, let's say, more pedestrian ability? What about runners who might have the talent, but not the time? Must they train at a Herculean level to achieve success? If not, what level of high mileage is necessary to maximize potential, not merely in marathons but in medium length distance races? Could the person who trains 30 miles a week achieve marked improvement in his 15-K or half-marathon times by increasing weekly mileage by 50 per cent to 45 miles? What is the truth about high mileage? THE TRUTH ABOUT HIGH MILEAGE Consider first the 100-mile week. Is it myth or reality? Even some of the elite runners disagree as to the necessity of regular training at this level. Don Kardong of Spokane, Washington achieved success (2:11:16 and fourth place in the 1976 Olympic marathon) with less mileage than most. "My feeling is that people pick 100 because it's a nice, round number," he says, "but an even rounder number is 88. Tom Fleming, a 2:12:05 marathoner with several second-place finishes at Boston, however, claims: "You have to run 100 miles a week to be up there. That's all there is to it. To be a really top runner, you have to be all the way up to 140 miles a week. That's only 20 miles a day." Only? Well, that depends on your point of view. Craig Virgin disagrees. A three-time Olympian and two-time world cross-country champion, Virgin was a low-mileage runner--relatively speaking. While setting P.R.s of 27:29.2 for 10,000 meters and 2:10:26 for the marathon (second at Boston in 1981), Virgin averaged 90-95 miles a week. He hadn't run his first 100-mile week until his junior year in college, and, except when training for his infrequent marathons, rarely strung 100-mile weeks together. "I don't think they give any awards for workouts," says Virgin. "To the best of my knowledge, there are no gold

but also suggests that volume training may result in a neuromuscular training effect. you probably must train at. which is metabolized less efficiently. you can maintain a higher intensity. That won't make the difference between winning and losing. because of the vast volume of their training. thus increasing the available duration of glycogen reserves well beyond the characteristic 60-90 minute depletion time: "Top marathoner's are probably so efficient in metabolizing both fats and glycogen throughout the length of their race. one reason why spaghetti has become such a popular pre-race meal among marathoner's. you most likely must work out twice daily.medals for `Most Mileage. which translates to a better running speed. the 100-mile level. the predominant substrate is fat. The late physiologist Al Claremont. you're depleting yourself on a chronic basis and forcing yourself to replenish your glycogen stores day after day. once told me: "Where you may get some advantage in high mileage--if you can stand it--is in the substrate. and I have 98 miles in. the facts speak loudly: if you want to survive in the jungle of American road racing at the topmost level. But what about the average runner? Can we all benefit from increasing mileage? Consider some of the physiological effects from high-mileage training. With volume over 100 miles.' If it's the end of the week. Glycogen is the preferred fuel for running. Claremont stated: "If you can push the depletion level of the body in races from 60-90 minutes to two hours by training." Glycogen is a starch like substance produced in the liver and muscles and changed into a simple sugar as the body needs it. or near. which allows the work load to be parceled out over the . There exists the possibility that the 100-mile week may be necessary to achieve maximum performance in the marathon with mileage near that (70-80 miles weekly) for achievement at middle distance races (10-K to 30-K). but it can become depleted within 60-90 minutes under normal training conditions. There does seem to be a special training effect achieved at high mileage that scientists have only begun to understand. That is where volume mileage has the advantage over high intensity training. they don't hit the wall. Carbohydrates in our diet offer our main source for glycogen." BURNING FAT He suggested that the well-conditioned athlete teaches his body to burn a higher percentage of fat with glycogen. As a result. forcing a reduction in pace." William J. the metabolic level that relates to glycogen storage. a more efficient recruitment of all available muscle fibers. I don't go for a third workout that day to get 100. who had been a top competitor and high-mileage trainer in his native Canada. To do that. Fink of Ball State University suspects Claremont's assumption may be correct. Thereafter. It's what you do with that 100 miles a week." WHAT ABOUT THE AVERAGE RUNNER? Regardless of the opinions of runners. and I think people forget about that. that they probably rarely deplete their stores.

Most scientists probably have not zeroed in on the real causes. If you're talking about the reasons high mileage results in fast times. . "Then when finally you do taper before an important race. of course." One such area may be psychological. those coaches failed to discriminate between the amount of mileage necessary to finish well and to set a Personal Record. who through a gradual buildup achieved an ability to train comfortably at 60. It feels like my connective tissues are coming apart." says Paul D.1 miles to your weekly routine and expect dramatic improvement. So we are forced to look to other areas to determine why volume training results in better performance.5 miles to finish well.D.D. was that high mileage is not the only reason for success.7 to set a P. and through me all other runners who aspire to marathon success." he comments. Wilmore. Wilmore also suggests that there still may be other adaptive mechanisms that physiologists not only do not understand. everything moves smoothly.distance more effectively: "When a runner doubles his training mileage. Although carefully watching your diet is important. "When you do 100 miles a week.R. Of course. Increasing your training to match the magic 100 number may cost a price in time and energy that even most serious runners may not want to pay. is fat reduction.. but there is hope. In a survey of runners of average ability. Since believing in your ability is a necessity in achieving success. 57." THE 55-MILE SOLUTION One of the benefits of long training runs. weight loss can most easily be accomplished by running far. The actual survey numbers were 56. training at a level of more than 100 miles may constitute positive reinforcement in a runner's belief in his own ability to compete well. In another survey. or so suggests Jack H." Interestingly. I discovered that many "serious" runners train by doing around 60 miles a week. I'm not sure we know what we're looking for yet. Ph. but may not even have identified. relating more to his own experiences as a marathoner rather than anything identified in a laboratory. Dr. That 100-mile workout weeks may be necessary for optimum performance certainly must seem discouraging to the runner now doing 30 weekly miles and who wants to improve by eventually doubling that distance. The same would hold true for a 30-mile-a-week runner. his ability to deliver oxygen to the muscles. Fifty-five miles a week is a reasonable commitment involving perhaps an hour a day during the week with a long run on the weekend. your legs are chronically fatigued. "In one area it could relate to the punishment your legs take and how you adapt to it. M. and have put in the miles. But when I'm ready for a marathon. of the University of Texas at El Paso. "You reach your ideal weight by training down to it. "When I'm out of shape and I race at long distances. we often see no change in his maximum oxygen uptake (max VO2). director of preventive cardiology at the University of Pittsburgh Heart Institute. everything hurts. it makes you feel all the stronger. Thompson." he says. What this distinguished body of coaches apparently was trying to tell me. that doesn't mean you can merely add 1. coaches suggested 35 miles a week as sufficient for finishing a first marathon and 55 miles a week for "finishing well.

Confused? It's simply that too many miles too soon result in injuries: strained tendons and ligaments. simply adding mileage may not guarantee success either for the world-class athlete or the born-again jogger. stress fractures. but you also find your break point. achieving maximum efficiency. He recommends a gradual climb. "The first time out can be exhausting. these limits are physiological in nature. occurs." While high mileage may produce fast times.s. There's a Catch-22 in red-lining. who had a marathon best of 2:27:51. You advance in steps. the author of the best-selling Aerobics and subsequent books on the subject. what commercial advertisers might label "tired blood. Georgia. training the necessary miles to run P. whose goal is not a gold medal but merely qualifying for Boston. chronically dead legs. You become very concerned with how . you can move to the speed phase later. The red line for one of Dr.RED-LINING Top marathoner's talk about "red-lining.R. Cooper's fitness joggers. but if you concentrate first on mileage and improving your strength. Go up two or three steps. you have to move through a gradual progression in increments of 10 per cent a week." he advises. you handle the stress. Dr. The red line is the mark on the tachometer of a high performance automobile where if you consistently rev your engine higher. you get stronger. but a lesser progression for others. suggests that if you run further than 15 miles a week. He believes in building through repetition: "The more you repeat something the stronger you get. interested only in good health. Or 45." a term borrowed from auto racers. Then every third or fourth week. suggests that to reach even the 60-mile level. and you become stronger. but not so much that injury. You have to train hard to be able to train hard. It's a natural outcome of keeping a running diary. drop back one or two steps. unload: drop back close to the starting point to recover.000 worth of junk." says Catalano. Kenneth H. it will disintegrate. Red-lining in running is pushing your body in training right to the point of self-destruction. then hop back to where you were and start stepping again. Don Kardong says: "People are too conscious of high mileage and not conscious enough about quality. you no longer will be able to train hard. Or 60. But as you practice more and more. Massachusetts has coached everyone from beginning joggers to his former wife. or staleness. Someone whose goals extend beyond fitness to performance might red-line--after a gradual build-up--at 30 miles. "The endurance base is the single most important factor in getting fit. Quality must be mixed with quantity to produce maximum results. Most often. Cooper. your body adapts. But if you train too hard. Patti Lyons Catalano." Joe Catalano of East Walpole. Catalano believes that people vary in their ability to increase mileage. Fidler says: "If you build constantly week after week. Whoom! $125." ADAPTING TO STRESS Lee Fidler. adding five extra miles a week for a top runner. "People worry about speed. you're doing it for reasons other than fitness. is 15 weekly miles. a running coach from Atlanta. It's best to approach your break point without reaching it.

but you probably may grab that P. 115 week after that. the runner who can increase training mileage should expect to improve as long as quality is not sacrificed for quantity. and that includes excellence." Hunt usually runs between 85 and 105. If you push your weekly mileage from 30 to 60 miles a week. the next time you try a marathon. A price must be paid for everything. California whose best marathon time is 2:12:. It may even be worth it to go from 3:10 to below three hours. "Rest is an important part of a training program. because one of the great talents of today's top runners is not merely to race hard. the 99-plus per cent of today's running population. often varies his mileage from week to week and from season to season." says Hunt. "I might run 105 one week. That's Catch 22-A. but to be able to train hard so as to be able to race hard. In the next few years we may see a shift back to quality rather than quantity. but not with how fast you ran them. . Whether it is worth it at the other gradations of achievement can only be determined by each individual involved." HUNTING FOR SPEED Thom Hunt. But he patterns his workouts.R." But what about the average runner. you still may not be able to qualify for Boston.many miles you ran this week. who will never see the underside of 3:10 much less 2:10. Eventually all of us must face the fact that nothing comes free. "I do not do megamileage. There are times of the year when you just go to the beach. those who because of a genetic mismatch do not have the basic equipment to match the Thom Hunts of the world either in a race or in workouts? Must this person be condemned to a life of marathoning mediocrity? Maybe not. slightly higher immediately before marathons. Nevertheless. then go down and run a 90. The price that must be paid for wringing the 99th percentile of efficiency from your body may be worth it if you can improve your marathon time from 2:20 to 2:10." he says. "yet I'm not afraid of it either. a distance runner from San Diego.

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