Hello Mystery Coach,
I just came across this quote from Haile Gebrselassie after his 2:04:26 WR in Berlin this year:
Last year my problem in Berlin was with the last part of the race, I decided to run only endurance and I stopped running speed work completely. Since last year I was just focused on endurance, three hours, three-and-a-half-hour long runs.
Is Gebrselassie a physiological freak who does not need speed work because his natural pace is fast enough to break the world record, or is there a lesson in there for the mere mortals amongst us? I'm also thinking of the likes of Ed Whitlock, who apparently does nothing but slow running in his training (granted, things may well be different at his age).
I'd love to hear your thoughts.
Thomas, Looking at parts of training programs often gives the wrong clues on what works. Let's review what else is part of the picture in their training.
Here is a list Haile's races before his marathon record (at least the ones I heard about).
22 April 2007 - Raced 18 miles of London Marathon (dropped out)
May 2007 - 10K Track Race 26:52.81
27 June 2007 - 1 hour run World Record Race - 13 mile 397 yards (21,285 meters) (two 28:13 10Ks back to back en route)
05 August 2007 - New York City Half Marathon 59:24 (new record by 2 minutes)
30 September 2007 Berlin Marathon 2:04:26 (New world best)
So on average Haile was racing 2.2 miles per week before his marathon (of the races we know about and not to mention any time trial efforts that we do not).
Not only does Haile use races to keep his speed so does Ed Whitlock. Ed used to race 20 times per year ( see Oldest 3 Hour Marathoner )
Last year before one of his marathons last year he said:
"Yesterday's 10k just confirmed that (a) sub 3 (hour marathon) is not on for the 24th. A 40:10 10k does not translate to sub 3 for me. It would have to have been sub 39."
(The race was 2 weeks before his marathon attempt see this thread )
Both of these runners use races to monitor how well their endurance training is bringing them to their peak. You don't have to use races to be able to judge that, time trails or specific controlled speed workouts (like the 1000s) do the same thing.
One other thing that should be noted is that both Ed and Haile both had long careers running short distance races on the track where they set world or age group records before they specialized in marathons. The real lesson for us mere mortals is that to get the best out of yourself training has to be balanced in all parts; speed, distance, hard work and recovery.