Wednesday, 4 May 2011

The need for clarity

When I wrote the resumé of Advanced Marathoning yesterday evening I had been about to go to sleep. For that reason I may well have missed bits out in terms of explaining my take on the training rationale.

Due to that and the excellent questions/observations from Jess and Alison, I'll add a little extra bit here. If there are any more thoughts I'll try to do the same.

What are strides?
Strides are short structured bursts of speed. For example you might be doing a 10 mile run and after 8 miles you start doing your strides by accelerating to 800m/mile pace over 70m and then holding the pace and form for another 30m, then jogging for 200m to recover before starting the next stride. Doing that for such short intervals won't carry much risk of injury but will help with running form as faster running promotes an efficient form. Key focus isn't speed per se but on gaining fluid, efficient, economical form.

What are drills?
Again, these are an activity concerned with promoting an efficient running form. Instead of running though, the drills are a series of dynamic exercises each designed to focus on an aspect of good running form (stride length, cadence etc). Repeating these drills should teach your body to learn how to adopt them when running and also helps promote flexibility. If you watch sprinters warming up before a race you get a bit of an idea of the sort of thing.

Do they assume you'll naturally get faster over time?
Yes, but only to a point. Theory is that the more you run the more your body learns to be efficient, and an efficient runner probably has greater speed as well as endurance. Hence, the high mileage should have a bi-product of some speed gain but probably only for longer distance runs - there might be little payback in a 5k for example.

Do they assume you already have the pace and just need to be able to maintain it for longer?
Yes, pretty much. I suppose most people that have a target time in mind can already run a half maarthon or further at the target pace - they don't need any more base speed but they do need speed endurance to be able to hold that speed for longer.

Why no speedwork?
I was particularly unclear on this point. There is speedwork but its focus is speed endurance and form rather than on pure speed. What that boils down to is there are no 400m/half mile/mile repeats as their aim is promoting speed primarily through changes to VO2 max. I look at it in terms of a cost benefit analysis. The benefit of such training is improvement primarily at shorter race distances with lesser benefit for the marathon. The cost of that limited benefit would be another hard session a week and corresponding increase in injury risk as well as an opportunity cost of having to drop another more mrathon specific endurance session. Hence the intervals run are at 5k pace and no faster and primary focus is on endurance, marathon pace and lactate threshold runs.


Maria said...

I think I should bookmark this! I read about strides in runners world etc, but was never particularly clear as to how they differed from normal intervals. And they never featured in any of the running books that I have.

Alison said...

Thanks for that -- good clarifications! I've read in various places about the redundancy of speedwork. Oft cited are the Kenyan team, who just run lots and lots of miles at a decent pace, often on hills. Again the assumption there is that you have the speed, it's stamina that needs working on (what you called speed endurance I think?). For an advanced runner that seems right: you know you can run at the required pace, and you know you can complete the required distance, so your training is just about bringing those two things together.