Coach Mike Mead

Time for Serious Distance Training - October 2007

With autumn leaves soon falling, this is a great time of the year to get in some serious distance training. I’m not talking five or six miles, I’m talking about distances over 10 miles per run! With cool nights and mornings, along with low humidity; you just cannot miss out going longer than you did just a few weeks ago when the heat and humidity wore you down.

Distance runs are the foundation to running speed, provided you get your heart rate up to reap the physical benefits. From now until March provides the ideal time to build a strong foundation of distance running. Some runners cut back when the temperatures fall, but they are making a big mistake. The wise runners use this time to put in the miles in preparation for those spring marathon events like Boston.

I’ve never understood those folks who run marathons in the summer. It’s one thing if you live in International Falls, Minnesota, but those of us in the South have ample time in the fall, winter and early spring to get in the marathon training and racing.

I’m amazed at people who cannot fathom running, say, five miles at a time, let alone 10 miles. It’s about life – evolution, man! Think about it. These folks who shy away from running distance forgot that one time before they learned to walk that they crawled. I don’t think my knees could take crawling if I had not advanced to walking upright. Same goes with running. I hear people who walk four or five miles a day. That’s great, but I don’t have the time so I run. The more miles I run, the stronger I’ll be, provided I train smart.

Just like with transitioning from crawling to walking, it takes some time. The same goes for running, too. If you have never run more than three miles at a time, you cannot expect to go out the next day and run 10 miles. You have to work up to that. I advise runners trying to increase their distance to add five minutes to their long run each week for three weeks, cut back five minutes the fourth week, then repeat. So, if your longest run has been 20 minutes, within three weeks time you’ll be up to 35 minutes. Here’s how it would look during a 12-week period:

  • Longest run 20 minutes
  • Week 1 - 25 minutes
  • Week 2 - 30 minutes
  • Week 3 - 35 minutes
  • Week 4 - 30 minutes
  • Week 5 - 35 minutes
  • Week 6 - 40 minutes
  • Week 7 - 45 minutes
  • Week 8 - 40 minutes
  • Week 9 - 45 minutes
  • Week 10 - 50 minutes
  • Week 11 - 55 minutes
  • Week 12 - 50 minutes

With this example, the individual will not have hit the 10-mile distance yet, but they will likely make it through the 12 weeks injury-free and on their way to getting in a 10-mile run by the time the second 12-week cycle is completed. That would be late March or early April if you start mid-October.

During this time you do not have to contend with extreme heat or high humidity. And if the weather gets chilly, you can get out at noon and not worry about frostbite or heat stroke.

If your goal is to race a distance more than 10K in 2008, now is the time to get in your distance training. Keep in mind you need to limit your long runs to no less than one but, no more than three per week if you plan to make it injury-free. So get out and begin “crawling” so that come April you’ll be ready to run!