Getting good at running is like getting good at anything. You have to practise. You may never be world class, or even a good county runner level but, if you want to get better practise is the only way. Now there are two ways that people practise things, either they just put in the hours doing the same thing over and over again or, they focus practise on particular aspects of an activity. To be brutally honest most people learn enough to get by and then just practise that over and over, this is the story with my guitar playing, hours and hours of the same 3 chord tricks and blues licks. Those who get the most out of their practise pick an activity apart into it’s component pieces and work on those elements individually before putting everything together. This is partly the reason I like running. A simple activity with two elements, for a simple person.
When you split running down to it’s component pieces you find that really there is really only speed and endurance to work on. I think most people agree that they would like to be a bit faster as a runner, and for lunatics such as myself the best kind of runner is one who can run quickly for a long long way. Knowing this you can start to think about what is needed to train yourself to get better. When I first started to meet other runners, all of whom were better than me they recited the received and accurate wisdom that you should not increase pace and distance at the same time. I was not aware then as to why this should be apart from some vague notion of not getting injured, but when you think about training in terms of focusing on component elements of the activity this makes a bit more sense. Some training sessions should be built around running faster, and some around running further. Then you can have a go at putting the whole thing together.
OK so the next natural question is how much of each of these different activities should I be doing? Of the hours I can scrape together each week how much time should I devote to endurance and how much to speed. Here is where it gets tricky and I will tell you my own particular take on this. Before we go any further I am going to issue a disclaimer, I am not a professional, I have taken a leadership in running fitness course but I am not a coach. I have run a few marathons over the last couple of years and only really started to think about training properly in the last year. Everything you read here comes from conversations with other runners and reading articles on t’interwebs fermented in my own semi delusional mind. You have been warned, as my dear old Mum used to say ‘when your legs fall off don’t come running to me’.
I tend to work on a basis of 60-40, with 60% of my running focused on endurance. This is not recommended and most articles talk of an 80 – 20 split, but I am a bit of an idiot. These are my long slow runs. In general I try to keep them about 40 seconds to a minute slower than my marathon pace. The other 40% is made up of working on pace and putting the component bits together, so 20% focused purely on getting faster and 20% on combining endurance and pace. My typical training week looks like this.
Monday – Rest
Tuesday – Tempo Run ( usually a run pushing myself a bit, getting close to a race pace and somewhere between 5 -10 miles. The less distance I go the faster I run this is where I put the bits together.)
Wednesday – Long slow run. Depending upon what my next event is anything over 6 miles but not often over 13.
Thursday – Track, or speed work. Might be a Fartlek session or track. I love track sessions they make me feel like a proper runner. This session is always about working on pace.
Friday – Rest
Saturday – Slow recovery usually not all that long. Mainly it’s a leisurely parkrun with friends however I have been known to turn the parkrun into speed work. Everyone loves a PB now and again.
Sunday – Long slow run, this is where the real endurance stuff is done. Even in an off season I try not to do less than 10 miles as a slow run. Obviously while marathon training this can go up to 22.
There you have it. A very brief overview of how I put together the basic structure of my training program. I have found a fair few on the webs and the ones I have had most success with follow a similar kind of structure, this is not hard and fast though. Some plans talk about time on feet, particularly if you are just starting out so a LSR in one plan might say run for 2 hours. For me I know that would be around 13 miles or so, I have friends who could easily do 16 or 17 in 2 hours. To be honest the first half marathon training plan I did talked only of time on feet with 2 hours being the longest run to do. I covered about 10 miles and felt like death. For me now it’s all about the distance which means sometimes I am out running for over 3 hours but I can see where time on feet can have it’s use if you are not used to such prolonged stretches of activity.
If you want to hear more please ask and I will write another episode. One of the things that it took me ages to discover was what kind of pace should I be aiming at for each type of session, that might be a good area to cover.