Magic numbers don’t exist in training


Magic numbers don’t exist in training

When runners come to me for help with their training, we discuss their goals. We discuss what their current running looks like and how much time they have available to train.

And then, sometimes, they tell me that they don’t think they can run X time in their goal race because they can’t fit in X miles in training.

There’s a notion that to run certain times and distances, you have to run a certain amount of miles in training. That there’s a magic number that, if you hit it, all your dreams will come true and if you don’t, we’ll you may as well give up altogether.

It’s very easy too, to look at elite runners doing 100 miles per week, compare it to our own training and this more miles = faster running. This is certainly broadly true among the population of runners, but it’s not true on an individual level for an individual training cycle.

The obvious limitation with the more miles = faster miles is injury. Too much too soon and you’ll likely end up reaching for the frozen peas.

If you’re looking at a magic number of miles or runs per week that you think will get you a sub-2 half or a BQ, you’re going to be disappointed.

How many times have you got annoyed that someone you know at work ran a 10k ‘without training’ and ran faster than you who diligently ticked off all the runs on your 12-week plan?

Your friend at running club might be five times per week for their half marathon while you only manage three, but you’ll be running different paces and finding them easier or harder than each other.

We like to think that running is fair and rewards those who put in the work to train. And it does, for individuals. If you increase your mileage sensibly and train consistently you’ll get better than you were. But you won’t necessarily be faster than another person because you did more miles.

We all have different training and injury histories, different amounts of time to train and we’re at different levels of fitness. Why would simply doing the same weekly mileage give us the same race result?

When I started training again after having my son, I knew I didn’t have as much time to train as I once did. I don’t do as many miles or as many runs as I once did, but you know what? Last month I ran a 10k PB and this autumn I plan to do the same at the half marathon. No magic numbers other than those in the finishing clock.

Half marathon training: Weeks 1-4

Half marathon training: Weeks 1-4

Four weeks of half marathon training done, and four weeks of working with a coach complete.

It was a rocky start. I had an issue with my right foot whereby it was hurt walking around between runs but felt ok while running. It was really annoying and, as usual, I very dramatically thought the race was over before training had even got started. But here we are, week four and things are back to normal.

My training doesn’t look too different to how it did before I started having a coach take over, which is good. A dramatic overhaul of my training to date and a massive jump in mileage and frequency aren’t sensible or good coaching. Instead I’ve got a coach who took the time to listen to what I was doing, how much time I have and changed a few things but not too much.

My life right now allows me to fit in four runs each week, I can generally find two hours max for a Sunday long run and my body seems comfortable with around 20 miles per week. So that’s what we’re working within.

One of the biggest benefits of having a coach is the accountability. During the hot weather a couple of weeks back, knowing I had to report back meant I got up early and ran my intervals before the day got too hot. I looked at the paces set and thought ‘I can’t do that’, but I gave it a go and was able to hit them.

At the end of week three I ran the Pride 10k. It’s my favourite race of the year and I’d signed up pretty much as soon as entries opened. And I encouraged some of my Tuesday night runners to sign up too.

I discussed with my coach whether I should be aiming for a PB. I was still beyond pleased with the the 44:39 10k I ran a few weeks back and didn’t think I’d have the same drive to push to go faster this time. And then when the weather predicted strong winds, the decision was pretty easy to make – run fast but not my fastest.

Just like last year’s race , my Garmin hadn’t got signal at the start, and so it lied to me about my pace all the way round. I finished in 45:45 having been blown about a bit and knowing I could have gone faster, which was a good result all in all.

One of the biggest changes to my training these past four weeks hasn’t been the training at all. I stopped breastfeeding after 19 months of it. But I think that’s worth a post in its own right.

Four weeks down, eight weeks to go until the Great Eastern Run.

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