With today’s 4.5 mile run I earned this August Rundown badge on Garmin, for running 40 miles within 2 weeks.
This sort of thing should not be a big deal if you’re running regularly. But, as I’ve mentioned before, I haven’t been running like I was before. After I stopped training due to Coronavirus cancelling everything, and since I pivoted towards strength training once I resumed training… I hadn’t been running all that much. Before beginning the badge challenge in mid-August, I had averaged zero or single digit mileage every week since March 15.
When I finished the week of August 16-22 with 14.6 miles, it was the first double digit week of mileage I had logged in 5 months. And with today’s run I finish this week of August 23-29 with 22.6 miles, my first 20+ mile week since mid-February.
Granted, I had one other practical reason for not running, aside from Coronavirus or wanting a break or wanting to focus on swolework:
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 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.
One project some hardcore runners are into is Running the Year, aka running during the course of a year a number of miles at least equal to that particular year. People may or may not join the linked project to attempt it.
Once you get into the math of what running the year 2019 takes, you realize it’s not an easy feat. To run the year 2019, you have to average about 5.53 miles per day, or 38.8 miles a week. And to be honest, most runners probably could not run that much all 365 days, or 52 weeks, in 2019.
A hardcore marathoner or ultra runner putting in 80-120 miles a week probably reaches 2019 miles in 2019 without trying too hard (… or at least harder than they usually do while training). Many of them probably can reach 2019 miles before the end of May, whether or not they’re training for a goal race.
For most other runners, this is very difficult. I myself peaked last year in 2017 at about 1495 miles, and despite training for two marathons I’m actually behind last year’s pace by about 50 miles.
Granted, this year I took extended breaks, whereas I didn’t really in 2017, and at this time last year I was peaking for the 2017 Las Vegas Rock N Roll Half Marathon whereas today I’m taking two weeks off following a marathon.
Still, if a seemingly compulsive runner like me struggles to get to just 1500 miles, then logging 2019 miles next year probably won’t be a slam dunk if it’s uncharted territory for you.
Plus, let’s be real: You’re probably not going to run every single day, or every single week. Life happens. So banking on running 5.53 miles every day or 38.8 miles every week won’t cut it.
If you want to run the year 2019, and you don’t already run 50+ miles in a typical week, you need a more robust training plan.
It may not be enough to simply train for one or two marathons or ultras. Oddly, training for a marathon or an ultra can hinder your ability to pile up the needed miles.
You need to cut substantial miles for a taper in the weeks leading up to the race.
You probably need to take time off from running after the race.
That’s a month or more where your running is absent or heavily curtailed… which offsets the chunk of mileage you get running 26.2 (or more) miles on race day.
In fact, racing in general can limit your ability to pile up the needed miles. Even in shorter races you’ll need to taper in the few days beforehand, and then you’ll need to take it easy for some days afterward.
Plus, most of the races themselves are a lesser mileage than you may need to keep pace with 2019: 3.11 miles for a 5K, 6.21 for a 10K. You’re often not getting a ton of mileage bang for your buck on race day, plus you’re paying for it by needing to taper or rest surrounding the race.
Now, this doesn’t mean you need to abandon all fun and stick to just long, easy distance running every day for a year to hit the benchmark.
It can be possible, and possibly healthy while maximizing your chances at success, to run the year 2019 while peaking for races, and then taking extended time off during the year.
The key to running the year 2019: You need to run enough volume while actively training to bank enough miles that you can take time off without losing ground.
What is that volume? I’m gonna go out on a limb and set the benchmark at 45 miles per week. You need to be comfortable logging 45 miles per week in whatever way allows you to safely, reliably do so.
This can be one speedwork session, one long run, and then nothing but a bunch of longer easy paced runs the rest of the way, each week you run.
It can be three 90+ minute runs with a longer long run on the weekend each week, taking a day off between most of the runs.
It can be a daily run in the morning, then a run in the evening, every day if you wanted to.
However you do it, you want to make sure you can comfortably bank 45 miles per week pretty much every week you run.
The reason for this is because you will anticipate taking weeks off at a time throughout the year, plus anticipate that you will need to take incidental or unplanned days off throughout the year. If you run 45 miles a week, you can hit 2019 miles in 2019 while taking a bit over 7 total weeks off from running. It creates a substantial margin for error, while allowing you to build breaks into your training plans.
The human body can only handle a maximum of about 24 weeks of uninterrupted training before the law of diminishing returns kicks in and you start to lose more value and fitness from continuing than you gain. If your training doesn’t feature a regular break from training, you’ll want to train in 12-18 week cycles that are bookended by a week or more off from running.
This is no problem if you plan to run a marathon in 2019. But even if you’re not, it will do you good to take a break every few months, if not after any other races you do. Most runners need no coaxing to do this, but hardcore runners sometimes need the reminder. As runaholic as I can be, I realize I should take days off and extended breaks every so often.
This also better allows you to book some races in 2019 if you desire, without doing the aforementioned damage to your Run the Year 2019 goal. By logging more mileage than you technically need, you bank enough time to taper, take breaks, recover, etc, with peace of mind that you’re still ahead of the game.
So, if you’re gonna run the year 2019 this coming year, start by getting comfortable with about 45 miles a week. From there, hitting the benchmark will still take a lot of work, but will be within reach.