March 15, 2009

New Training Program

Having taken two weeks off after Napa, I feel ready to think about, if not implement, a new training program. I said I would post one and not wanting to disappoint my thousands of readers, will do so. In fact, the implementation will not start for quite a while, since I will be running with the track team at ASIJ (American School In Japan) until mid-May, which makes any reasonable training program impossible. The week (with ASIJ kids) will be something like:
Mon: 12k run (6k moderate pace, 6k very fast pace, if running, or trying to run, with the top boys); Tues: short intervals on track; Wed: intervals on track with club (not running hard); Thurs: short intervals on track; Fri: rest; Sat: rest (watching track meets); Sun: 24k easy. Some days will be adjusted due to work demands. 
Definitely not a marathon training program, or even a half or 10k program. But I like running with the kids so I'll just do it for fun and as preparation for real training to begin on May 17.

So, as I mentioned in the previous post, the reason for a new program is that my legs were dead the last 10k of the marathon. Hence I need stronger legs (or a slower pace, but we won't go there). My feeling is that my legs cannot handle the stress of a fast pace for long distances (half as well as full marathon). So I need to stress them more, and that means more hard runs, not more long, slow runs.
   This theory is backed by two pieces of "evidence." The first is Hosaka-san, the Japanese guy who broke the world record for 60 year olds last February with an astounding 2:36:30. Brett Larner of japanrunningnews.blogspot interviewed him for Running Times (be sure to read it in the June or July issue). Hosaka's training is quite amazing. He does not do long runs. He does 10k in the morning and 20k in the afternoon, each of which includes 5 x 1k of fast intervals. He does this every single day. This is a "hard runs" program taken to the extreme. Of course, normal human beings can't do this, but the theory is valid, and he is the proof. You could say he is doing long distance, since he runs 210k (126 miles) per week, but the point is, he doesn't do any long runs, or easy runs.
   The second is an article in the latest issue of Peak Running Performance, a newsletter I highly recommend (google it), which talks about the two theories of marathon training: LIM (Less Is More) and MIB (More Is Better). LIM is followed by the Hanson-Brooks team, among others (actually I think most Kenyans favor quality over quantity). The Hanson guys don't do any runs over 16 miles (25k). The point is, LIM is an accepted marathon training method, which I have now embraced. With the understanding that you do most runs hard.
   As for weekly distance, I have settled on 90k (55 miles). I don't think you can run a decent marathon on less than 90k a week, and I don't want to run more than that, so 90k it is (with occasional easy weeks, depending on how I feel).
   The program looks like this:

Tues:  15k. Average pace, including very short hill sprints (5, working up to 10). Got this from a Brad Hudson article in the March Running Times. Napa runner Sky also mentioned doing these.
Wed:  AM - 12k average pace. Evening - intervals on the track, typically 6 x 1000m, run at 5k race pace (VO2 max).
Thurs: 15k hard. Could be 3k-5k intervals, or progression (each 3k or 5k faster), or 5 hard 1Ks in the middle, or LT (half marathon) pace for 10k.
Fri:  Rest (cross training).
Sat:  15k - same as Thursday.
Sun: 25k at a good pace. Or 18k hill workout (Trail thru the woods at Ome - continual up/down with many steep sections - want to do this about every 3 weeks).
Mon: Rest
So that is 90k and for me, it is a pretty tough week. But if it feels tough, I just have to think of Hosaka.

Alternatively, it could be:
Wed:  AM 10k, PM 8k
Thurs: 18k (16 hard)
Fri:     Off
Sat:     24 (16 hard)
Sun:    AM 10k, PM 20K
Mon & Tues: Off
Probably not as good, because I lose the hills on Tuesday and Sunday would be kind of brutal.

Any comments welcomed.


  1. Very interesting. I have thought that some of the 40Km runs at a slow pace (some with stops after every 10Km)that some of the nambaners do, was not the way to go. LSD= Low slow distance runner.

    I also found 90Km suited me better than 130/140 km a week.Trying to run 160/170 a week just wore me down.

    That Japanese guy who ran 2-36 (or whatever) is one of a kind.I personally would not try and copy too much of his training without putting in a few decades of prep work first.

    Good luck. I am sure the thousand of readers will follow closely.

  2. interesting concept, Bob. But, well, the big difference between you (who needs long runs, I guess!) and Hosaka-san is that Hosaka-san might not be able doing a long run (;-)) because of his high Mileage. In other words, he is running long every single day without going up to 30km in a single run. We mortals need the single long run every week because we just do 100km/weeks. So, I am very interested where your new training will get you.

  3. I was going to say that I agree with your basic premise, that to run a fast marathon with good endurance you need a fairly high fiber diet, that is, lots of miles at fairly stiff pace. But Joachim is right. There is a big difference between 200 km weeks and 100 km weeks, no matter how you cut and dice it. And maybe that is the rub; no matter how you configure your mileage, you are always going to get return from more overall mileage, even if you don't do a specific long run.

    The key is this: you have to be able to handle the mileage. And to handle the mileage you have to get your body to adapt gradually, at its own pace. So Hosaka-san can run 30 km a day and can handle the runs at a stiff pace. How long has it taken him to get to that point?

    The one thing I do NOT like about your model schedule is its apparent (possibly not what you actually intend) static structure. If you are going to go out and start that program after the ASIJ season, and then basically hold it for X weeks and then run a marathon, I would say, no, it isn't finished. You could write it out in the same format, but at a volume you know you can handle, say 70 km per week, but with the intention of increasing the total mileage gradually, say 5% to 10% a week across all runs, perhaps holding steady some weeks and stepping backwards some weeks, then you have the basis of a strong marathon program and perhaps the ability to get up to a volume of mileage, including several tough runs per week, that your body easily handles because it has adapted gradually over 20 or more weeks. Well, that is the theory, but I find it difficult to translate it to a 40's y.o body let alone the balancing act you will have. But I still think that the secret is allowing slow and steady adaptation and always allowing the body time to recover if it needs it, then ratcheting up a little more. I know that you already take a lot of that on-board, so the only thing left is to build in both volume and intensity in such a way as you never push your body over the brink of over-training, but that you do keep adding to the load, little by little.

    I think that Hosaka-san's 1k repeats in the middle of an aerobic workout are interesting. My peak running condition coincided with a time when I was running from work to the track (5k), doing the Namban workout (6k), then running home (5k). Sometimes with some additional aerobic distance in the park before the workout. Of course I was doing a lot of other stuff too at that time, but I just felt that that I was getting a really good stimulus from that workout. Similarly, before my PB marathon a key workout was home to Komazawa Park (4k), then 4 or 5 x 1600 m intervals with 400 m jog recovery, then 4k back home again. Both aerobic components were not at a jog, either. Since the end of the 1600 m was slightly uphill and I would push it hard, I called that workout The Brute, and I really felt it was an important piece in the PB puzzle. I haven't done it for a couple of years due to those bloody leg niggles. Maybe this year.

  4. The LIM method is interesting. You say Hanson-Brooks is doing it, but their star runner Sell runs 140-160 miles/week with only a couple of hard sessions.

    Yoshihisa Hosaka is amazing. I wonder does he work 9 hours in the mines between morning and afternoon runs? ;) His 'hard all the time' training though is very similar to our state record-holder... 2:31 at 50, 1:22 half at 60, 1:29 at 65. With the 2:31, he was running 140-160km per week - all hard runs (4:00/km town to 3:40/km), some on hills, but no speedwork apart from occasional races.

    I like the Hudson short hill sprints. With the 1k repeats, doing them within a run like Hosaka seems a good idea as it prevents them from becoming too anaerobic.

    With the mileage, I don't think 90k/week is enough to get by with no specific long run. The 30k/day would give Hosaka incredible endurance, such that he wouldn't miss a long run.