Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Ask the Mystery Coach

If I am trying for a sub-2 hour half marathon, what should my pace be for long runs?

Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device

This general question lends itself to two answers and with the two answers an important (perhaps the most) underlying principle of Arthur's system.

Arthur observed that a runner could not race and do fast work continually or else the runner would become jaded mentally and physically. Arthur had two very distinct phases in his program where his athletes did "no" sharpening work or racing. The one most runner recognize is the 10 weeks of marathon running the second was after the track racing period where the runners would "train off" with easy running (an hour a day 6 days a week and one day 2-2 1/4 hours) for 4-8 weeks. Both of these periods allowed the runner to recover from the "wound up state" of racing and speed work while still allowing for development.

This "wound up state" allows a runner to ignore fatigue which is good news when you are in racing season but bad news any other time. Most runners can identify with this "wound up state" but have a hard time controlling what they should be doing during it (the body fools the brain into thinking it is not fatigued). Arthur saw that only six weeks of sharpening combined with time trails and controlled racing is all that is needed to get to a "wound up state". After this the emphasis was on hard racing and "comfortable" training efforts.

When you identify that you have entered this wound up state is the time to stop doing hard workouts (even if you feel that you need them). It is when runner ignore this point that they become "jaded" as Arthur observed and it is time to go back to that "train off" phase and allow for the deep recovery that every runner needs at least a third of every year.

So what are the two paces for the long run that "afunrun" ask about? Initially until six weeks before the race it should be at a pace that allows for completing the long run easily (as a guess without knowing more about this runner's background 10-12 minutes a mile for up to two hours). Then with six weeks to go run parts of the long run so that put some effort into it working on a fast relaxed pace, jog a mile then repeat until you have had enough. By following this that "wound up state" will show up and get you ready for a good racing performance.


Ewen said...

Mystery Coach, I'm curious about the "train off" period and the need to be doing this type of running for a third of the year (4 months). This is 8-8 1/4 hours per week of easy running?

Am I right in presuming this is for the runner who is aiming for one peak period of racing every 12 months? I'd like to aim for two peaks - one in the summer track season and six months later in the winter cross country season.

Many of Australia's elite runners have the problem of having to peak during our track season (finishes in March) to gain selection for Olympic/World Champs teams, then peak again in August. Could a Lydiard trained athlete achieve two such peaks?

Mystery Coach said...


The phrasing of my answer looks to be confusing. The following will help put the Original Lydiard system in perspective:

4 weeks XC medium pace and slower
6 weeks XC Sharpening, trials and races
2 weeks to freshen up for Championship
6 weeks road racing (hard racing and comfortable training efforts)
10 weeks Marathon training
4-6 weeks hills
4 weeks medium pace and slower
4 weeks Sharpening, trials and races
2 weeks freshen up for peak
4 weeks hard racing, light training
4-6 weeks "train off"

Looking at this schedule from the southern hemisphere generally it would look like this:

March-Hard Racing light training
April-Train Off
May XC Training medium and slower
June XC Sharpen
July XC Peak racing
Aug Road racing
Sept Marathon Training
Oct Marathon Training
Nov Hills
Dec medium pace and slower
Jan Sharpen Time trials etc
Feb Sharpen and peak

The elite runners have the same problem that perplexed Alan Webb this past year, how long can you hold a peak? Alan was past his when he hit the championships. It is very hard to convince runners that they should back off (go back to the base phase) when they feel the pressure be ready down the road but that is what they should do. I would try a schedule like this:

March - Hard racing
April - Marathon conditioning
May - Marathon conditioning
June - Medium pace and slower volume work
July - Sharper intervals, time trials, controlled races
Aug - Hard racing, light training

One other note coming off a hard track season in March and anticipating the peak racing in August runners get a mind set that they have to train very hard during the marathon conditioning period which defeats the recovery nature of this type of training. They would be better backing off an extra 20 seconds a mile so that their systems could adapt to the aerobic levels which most likely have dropped off during the hard track season.

Ewen said...

Mystery Coach, thanks for your detailed reply. Much appreciated.