Quick thoughts on considering training volume by time rather than by mileage

I finished October with only 87.8 miles, thanks largely to the two weeks I took off following the Chicago Marathon. I’m already back up to about 25 miles per week as I ease back to a larger mileage load… the difference mostly being that I’m taking days off, rather than running shorter distances. I’ve already knocked out a few 8-9 milers since getting back on the road.

We look at elites and their crazy mileage loads, but it may make more sense to look at their weekly training in terms of time spent running each week.

Matt Fitzgerald actually lists runs in the training plans in his book 80/20 Running by time spent running, rather than by mileage. He’ll list regular runs at 40 minutes, 45 minutes, etc, reserving mileage recommendations exclusively for long runs.

Though like most I track my runs primarily by mileage, I do keep an eye on my overall time spent running. In fact, if you use the Electric Blues Daniels Tables, you’ll find yourself gauging workout intensities by time spent more often than by mileage.

Back to elites. Some may aspire to run the 100+ mile weeks that elites run, but many may make the mistake of blindly aiming for that mileage, even though they lack the speed of those elites. The result is they spend far too much time each week running, if they don’t burn out or get injured first.

Consider that an elite who can average a 5 minute pace running a marathon probably does his/her easy runs at something like a 6 minute mile, which is far faster than the vast majority of runners. Thus, if this runner were to run 100 miles, they could knock all of them out in fewer than 10 hours of weekly training. A typical runner might be able to log 65 miles in the same time frame.

An elite runner doing a 12 mile run for their typical run can probably knock it out in around 75 minutes. You or I trying to run 12 miles might take a couple hours.

So, one thing to bear in mind when setting the elites as a benchmark is that their high mileage is a function of their superior pace. If they ran closer to a 9 minute mile, there’s no way they’d log 100+ mile weeks.

As you go to establish training mileage goals, it might make sense to take stock of your own pace, and whether that pace makes the needed training time realistic.


I’m scratching the surface on this idea as it’s late, and it probably will get a more substantial treatment down the road. But it’s worth considering.

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