I not only finished Friday with 34 miles this week, with this weekend and a long run workout still to come (after 36 miles last week), but I did so despite insomnia on Thursday night and my air conditioner problem messing with my sleep earlier this week.
While obviously tired, I didn’t feel burned out, and I had the energy in me to pump out 30-45 minute training workouts on the treadmill after work, AND run 1K-2K on all my work breaks (except only for Thursday afternoon, which I walked). I played everything by ear and was willing to bail on any of the above if I simply didn’t feel well enough to do it.
But I did all of the above. No stimulants (outside of the same 12 oz of coffee I have had every morning for years and years), no crutches, no supplements I hadn’t already been taking for a while. Even now, other than understandable general fatigue (and yes I got decent sleep last night), I feel okay.
How am I doing this? I haven’t taken a complete day off from training since June 23 (10 days ago)
There’s a few new things I’m consistently doing. Some regular readers already know about, but some things not as much:
One of Pachev’s preached staples is what he calls his Always On The Run Routine. Basically, after training in the morning, every few hours he will take a break and go jog a mile. Pachev, to paraphrase, says this is to get the body moving. We as humans were not designed to sit all day. A short run every few hours is more natural, plus adds running volume and practice.
Keep in mind Pachev at his peak trained 80-100 miles a week, and was capable of running a sub-2:30 marathon. He was an elite-caliber runner and even in his older age probably still is. Even with such a high volume it didn’t take him more 10-12 hours a week to train. So, sure, Pachev’s scheduled short jogs between workouts were probably not too taxing after 10-20 mile workouts in the morning.
Though I’m nowhere near the prolific runner Pachev is, I’ve taken inter-workout jogs during work breaks to generally positive effect. I used to occasionally do them towards the end of my time in Chicago.
I’ve been doing these short jogs during the workday, around the neighborhood during 15 minute breaks and after eating lunch. I previously walked outside during breaks, but I wanted to do more than walk. I also didn’t like being out in the Vegas sun as long as it took to take these “short walks”. I can finish jogs 5 minutes faster on breaks, well before the end of my lunch break, without being in the sun long enough to cause distress. Though sun exposure is good for your body, the decreased time in the hot sun was better for my skin.
I run up to 3-4 miles during the workday. I can also train during the morning and weekends. I have effectively, though somewhat inadvertently, adopted Pachev’s Always On The Run Routine.
Despite my current weekly mileage rocketing upward from these little runs, I don’t feel any significant signs of burnout. I have no issues other than a bit of random soreness here or there, or occasional fatigue accumulation (as you would after a few days of multiple runs).
Plus, my running has shown more substantial week over week improvement than it was during earlier conventional training. I simply took one day off this weekend, and my running improved dramatically once I returned on Monday. Bear in mind I’m not coming off a break in training: I’ve been running and endurance training for a while.
So obviously this had me considering what about this routine contributes to run development. I did land on a few ideas.
Today marked the first time I’ve run four straight days since March, and the first time I’ve run four straight day all outside since December. After months of 2.0-2.75 mile runs, three of the four runs have been 3 miles or more.
Incidentally, each of the last couple days, I didn’t feel good about a morning run. But in each case I just started at as comfortably slow a trot as I could, and within 10 minutes I was running at closer to a normal easy cadence. If you had asked me at the start of each run I’d have said 3 miles would be tough to do, and by the end of each 3+ miles wasn’t a problem.
None of this is to preach or to reinvent the wheel. There’s a legion of anecdotal advice about how 90% of a workout is just getting it started and how making yourself doing the work is worth the reward of having done, and so on. I get tired of that preaching as well.
And who knows… maybe I wake up tomorrow and successfully talk myself out of running. However, probably not, because I recognize how easy it should have been to talk me out of the last three runs.
It’s very hot. I’m feeling weary. Given how little I’ve run, you could justify taking a rest day. I’m already strength training later in the day on top of this. If I need 10,000 steps I can go on a long walk later or a long walk that morning instead, which is way easier.
But along with my pursuit of 40 miles in a fortnight thanks to all ill advised Garmin challenge badge, and knowing I probably need to run 2-3 miles everyday for it to be in reach… I also realize that the easiest way to hit a step goal like 10,000 is to go on a 30-45 minute run.
By the time I finish each run I have 7000-9000 steps already, and it’s typically not even 8am. That makes getting the last 1000-3000 fairly easy, having the whole entire day to do it. Often I’ve hit the goal in midday or early evening with little to no additional effort.
I could if needed take a couple days off during this challenge fortnight, as long as all my other runs are this same 3.3-3.7 mile distance I’ve somehow been able to comfortably hit. So it’s nice to have that buffer.
At the same time, I also want to see how much running volume I can handle with everyday 3 mile runs. I hadn’t run more than 10 miles in virtually any week since the lockdown, and now I’ve already got 12. For reasons I’ll discuss in a bit, I have the luxury of being able to rest most of the day. So while others may get injured ramping up their volume like that (plus, again, I’m also strength training with mostly upper body exercises between all this), I may be able to successfully handle the intense ramp. I want to see how far I can take it. After all, like I said, I can afford to take a day or two off during the next week if I need it.
Not a lot to report here other than me trying to run everyday right now despite 115°F midday heat, just to see what I can do in a time and place where there’s currently not a lot to do.
As a runner, your body can only handle so much mileage. Some runners can pile over 100 miles a week. Some runners can’t run more than 3-4 days a week.
A better more emcompassing way to put it is that you can only handle so much time on your feet. Sure, some runners are faster than others and that’s why they can rack up 100+ miles at an easy pace, whereas if most of us ran the same amount of time we’d probably max out at around 60-65.
Back to the main point: While it’d be ideal to have you log 50+ miles while training for a marathon, many can’t quite hit that number within their reasonable best efforts, or their plan doesn’t ask that much. Even if your plan does, maybe you struggle for understandable reasons to do it: Hal Higdon might ask for 20 milers and 7-10 mile midweek runs, and maybe you don’t have the time to put them in… or your body simply gives out after 15 miles. Maybe the Hansons want you to run 6-8 miles six times a week, but there’s no way you can run six times a week.
However, as Jonathan Savage says, everyone running a marathon has to run the same 26.22 mile distance. Whether your longest run was 15 miles or 18 miles or 22 miles, everyone’s got to run 26.22 on race day. It doesn’t matter if you can’t handle the distance, the pounding that volume requires, in training. You’ll have to handle it eventually just like everyone else.
This doesn’t mean you need to do 20-26 milers in training to be ready. Some runners certainly can do that, sure, and they’ll usually be ready on race day. But while I do think it’s important to develop the aerobic endurance to go no less than 2.5-3.0 hours without stopping… what you do on the other days of the week can be far more flexible.
With one key caveat.
Your body not only has to be aerobically prepared to run long, but it physically must be prepared to take the pounding of that much continuous running. No matter how much you run or how you run, you must develop the physical strength to handle the 3-6 hour pounding. And that simply will not happen on a lighter running schedule by itself.
I also don’t think speed and tempo work is anywhere close to enough by itself. You’ll develop solid ability to run a 10K or something, but that won’t fully prepare you to handle hours of pounding and aerobic demand.
The successful marathoners I know and see all tend to have one other common denominator aside from just running a lot, running regularly and eating/sleeping/recovering well.
Got a few friends, both runners and non-runners, who are really into working out at Orange Theory, a chain of gyms built around a somewhat interactive, competitive series of high intensity aerobic circuit training workout classes.
Long story short, participants aerobically work out hard for about an hour between numerous stations, and the establishment keeps score of your vitals on a big monitor, along with esoteric stats like “splats” (a metric measuring how long you hit their key orange heart-rate level).
As with such gyms, pricing is a bit of an investment for most working class individuals. While OT gyms offer free introductory classes, taking any more after that at a given location requires a membership. They want you to make a commitment up-front, though if you buy a membership you are free to use it at any OT gym available.
Tiered memberships cost from around $60 for 4 classes a month to $150-175 for unlimited classes. The heart rate monitors require an additional $5-10 to rent (and you can outright buy them for around $75-100). Additional classes on limited plans can be purchased for around $20-30 each.
This pricing isn’t relatively outrageous considering yoga, Pilates and other workout studios ask generally the same amount. However, someone looking into a new gym habit probably will be somewhat averse to forking out $60-200 a month just to work out. Of course, while they can either join a gym for $15-50 a month, or go run and do bodyweight exercises on their own for free… the direction of a coach or teacher is a key reason people look to fitness classes in the first place.
… I guess that was a little long to be a long story short. Whoops!
I’m a supporter of group fitness classes. A lot of people could use better fitness, could use some coaching, and these classes provide valuable direction in both. Whether people prefer this, yoga, Pilates, dance technique classes, chic dance variants like Pure Barre, etc…. if you enjoy these group classes, can consistently do it safely, and it gets you to actually work out when you otherwise wouldn’t, then yes: DO IT.
There are certain people who benefit more from it than others, of course. And in the case of runners, it can absolutely benefit some of them. I’ve seen it benefit several I personally know. Likewise, I wouldn’t outright say to certain runners that they should stay away, but there are also some cases where it doesn’t work as well.
This year I decided to participate in Jeff’s Birthday Challenge, a week long virtual event that NoCal ultra runner Jeff Fleming decided to put up for the week of his 49th birthday.
The details to the challenge are in the link, but basically anyone willing could participate, and while the scope of the challenge is up to you the crux of the challenge was to post about your running for the challenge, cheerlead others… and eat cake (or anything similar) on Sunday (Jeff’s birthday) to celebrate completing the challenge.
Also, you were to do some running that involved any of these key numbers (the relevance of which is discussed in the link): 2, 4, 6, 9, 12, 49, 69 (#nice).
At someone’s random semi-recommendation, I decided instead of cake on Sunday I would eat donuts from Firecakes right after every run I could.
I decided I would run 49 miles for the week of the Challenge.
And while this admittedly came to me a day or two into the Challenge, I decided I would do a run that somehow hit all of the other numbers.
Monday: 5.86 miles: 2.56 mile run to go and get the donuts after work. After the donuts were safely delivered at home, another 3.30 mile run in the neighborhood.
Tuesday: 5.23 mile haul run home from work, with my backpack on.
Wednesday: 5.81 mile haul run from work that took 69 minutes (#nice).
Thursday: A 4(.05) mile run during a lunch break at work.
Friday: 10.45 miles: A 2(.32) mile run during a lunch break at work. Then, after returning home from work, a frigid 12K+ evening run that actually totaled 8.13 miles.
Saturday: 8.60 miles: First a 6(.03) mile run during the early afternoon. Then, a 2.57 mile run around the neighborhood during the evening.
Sunday (today): A 9(.02) mile run during the mid-afternoon.
Total: 49(.02) miles.
I had a chocolate frosted donut after a run every day except for Thursday. The run was during the workday, and by the time I returned home it was so long after the run I didn’t feel it was right to eat one. However, I did eat two on Saturday, one after each run.
This was fun, and it was also a good way for me to restore high volume to my training, as I had struggled to get in more than 30ish miles into my previous weeks due to various schedule factors and other concerns. Making a point to get all that running in helped me close the gap.
I’m glad I was able to do it. Would be nice to do it again next year!
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.