Despite talking about adding mileage to my training… I’m not worried about building a lot of new running volume. I peaked at 50-55 miles my last training cycle, and that’s probably fine as a max average for this next training cycle. Like most, I don’t have the natural speed to run more than that given my available time and physical capacity.
Elites who run 100+ miles a week also run easy 6-7 minute miles, can run speedwork with 4:00-5:00 minute/mile paces, and can knock out those 100+ miles a week in fewer than 8-9 hours per week of running.
Another important point: Virtually all elite runners are sponsored and can build their entire lives around training because running can be their job. They can spend virtually all the time outside of training relaxing and focusing on recovery.
Meanwhile, working class runners do not have that luxury. We also have to navigate the stressors, work and competing demands of everyday life. Those who live in big cities also have to commute a lot on foot. Eliud Kipchoge is not battling hordes on the subway to get to a day job, and then weaving his way through the neighborhood to get groceries and pay bills, while also training to run a 2:00:00 marathon for his next race.
So, barring the speed to run easy at 7:00/mile plus some resourcefulness and extra ambition… most of us shouldn’t run more than 60-70 miles a week. Not only are most of us not built to reasonably run that kind of volume, but we’ve got so much other work to do everyday that we risk burnout and injury going beyond that.
If your easy mile pace is more like 8:00, 9:00, 10:00, 12:00 or slower per mile… your volume should be lower until you pace improves.
I’ve written a bit about this before, but we should look at our training volume in terms of time required than in terms of just mileage.
I offer the following guidelines, hodge podged together from the principles of other top running minds (Daniels, Hanson, Fitzgerald, Higdon, etc).
Regular distance runs: Most of us should restrict our weekday distance runs to an uninterrupted 60 minutes of running, maybe 90 once a week or so if at all. Ideally you run at least 30 minutes, but maxing most of them out at 60 minutes is your best bet.
Speedwork and tempo runs: Most of us could use some speedwork, but the total amount of hard reps should typically cap at around 30 total minutes. If you’re doing an uninterrupted tempo run, the total tempo running should cap at around 60 minutes.
Long runs: Most of us should follow the Daniels and Hanson advice to cut our long runs at 150 minutes. Ideally your long runs should be at least 60 minutes long, and if you can go 90-120 minutes then great. But maxing them out at 150 minutes (2.5 hours) is your best bet.
Mixed Tempo Runs: If you’re mixing tempo/speed segments into a distance run, the speed/tempo segments or the total distance of the run should shorten in kind to reflect the added challenge.
- That 60 minute distance run max? If you’re going to do a fast finish, or mix in fartlek/tempo/speed portions to the run, then maybe shorten the max to 45 minutes.
- That 150 minute long run max? If you’re going to run some of those miles at half-marathon or full-marathon pace, then max it out at 120 minutes.
Rest Days: Again, I’m a proponent of running every day if you physically can, to try and do a short, easy run for the day instead of taking the day off if you’re tired.
However, if you’re sore and tired after runs, and running anyway either makes it worse or you find your soreness and tiredness never goes away… then it’s a good idea to build in rest days. This obviously reduces your capability for training miles, though so would getting injured or otherwise burned out.
At the same time, someone reading this with an interest in maximizing mileage probably runs close to daily and isn’t into taking extra rest days.
Extra runs if you do 2+ runs a day: If you want to add an extra run to a day, those runs should be 10-30 minutes long. They should be brief, easy, and help spur nutrient usage and recovery above all else.
Can you break these rules?: Make exceptions here or there, like once every few weeks. You’re better off sticking to the above 95% of the time. Figure out how much you can do within those above constraints and make that your goal peak volume.
There’s no way I can run 80+ miles a week this way!: Keep in mind the advantages an elite has over a working class runner. 1) They can run very fast, so it takes them less time to run miles than it does for you. 2) They are typically sponsored and can make running their full time job. 3) Therefore, they can build their entire life around running and spend their remaining time recovering, resting, etc. You can not.
- An elite can run 20+ miles in less than 2.5 hours. You probably can’t.
- An elite can knock out 120 miles in less than 10 hours of running a week. You probably can’t.
- An elite can knock out 20 reps of 400 meters in about 45 minutes, and probably have enough in themselves for another 8-10. You probably would take twice as long, and would probably get injured.
- An elite can knock out a 12 mile tempo run in less than an hour, and will likely go on a longer run the next day. They might even go on a quick 30 minute run later that day as a recovery run.
- What’s the fastest you’ve ever run 12 miles? Could you run that distance right now, at a pace fast enough to breathe hard and feel the burn in your legs, without stopping… and feel like you could go for another 5-10 mile run tomorrow? Maybe even another 4 mile shakeout run in about 5 hours after that 12 miler?
The only reason your volume should go up is because your endurance, strength, and most of all your speed improves. Meanwhile, your current training volume should be a function of your current capabilities.
If all you can reasonably run in a week of 60 minute runs with a 90-120 minute long run is something like 20-30 miles, then 20-30 miles a week is completely fine.
Once you get fast enough that those workouts become too quick and too easy, then go ahead and add miles or workouts.
Only one person has to follow your training plan. Make sure the person in the mirror can handle the volume you want to run, and the amount of time and effort it will take to successfully do it.