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Run Training - The Program (part 2)
A continuation of Run Training - The Program (part 1)


A Quick Summary of Part 1

Phase 1 – all easy paced training using the paces @ www.mcmillanrunning.com. Run 6 days a week using a 1:2:3 ration (ie short runs of 15 minutes, medium runs of 30 minutes, and a long run of 45 minutes....just as an example). Gradually increase mileage, but by no more than 10% from one week to the next.

Phase 2 – replace one medium run a week with a threshold workout of 20-60 minutes long.

Phase 3 – replace the other medium run with a race specific workout.

Some people will never reach phases 2 or 3.

Working Toward a Goal Race

Every now and then I’ll get someone to ask me how to train for a sprint triathlon in 2 months and then get ready for a half marathon 6 weeks after that. My answer is I don’t know. My training strategy is geared toward an end of the season A race. Everything else in the plan is secondary to that. You can either train for the sprint tri and run the best half marathon you can 6 weeks after your peak, or you can train for the half marathon and run the best tri split you can in the middle of phase 3 of your half marathon training.

Nevertheless, your goal race will largely determine what kind of workouts you do in phase 3 of your training plan. I will address each race distance below and do my best to account for different ability levels and how one should adjust their training.

Training Balance

I started an entire thread on this here:


Too many athletes compartmentalize training into an either-or approach. Do you need speed, or do you need distance? You need both. The question is how much of each do you need, and that largely depends on your level of fitness as well as the race distance you plan to run. See the chart below for a graphical explanaition:

Allow me to briefly explain this chart. To put it simply, the shorter your race is, the more speed and less endurance training you are going to need. The longer your race is, the more endurance and the less speed training you are going to need. Somewhere in between the two extremes you will also need a mixture of threshold (those 20 to 60 minute sustained hard runs) and V02max training (efforts at 3K to 5K race pace).

What mixture would that be? It all depends on how long it is going to take you to finish a race. The actual length of the race is not necessarily that important, nor is how long it will take you to finish it. It’s really about what energy systems your body will be utilizing while racing, which can be predicted by the two previous variables.

I have circled above an athlete who runs about 33 miles a week and is in phase 3 of his training. His goal race is a stand alone 5k, which will take him about 20 minutes to complete. Looking at the chart above you can see that he will want about an even mix of threshold and V02max training, and a good portion of speed work (efforts at 1k to 2K race pace), while still maintaining a large amount of easy running to build the aerobic system (reminder: all of this training develops the aerobic system. The easy training targets it best because you can do lots and lots of it). What’s most important to understand here is that if this athlete was, instead, training for a half marathon, he needs more threshold training and more easy running while requiring less V02max and speed training (look just to the left of the 60 minute mark). If he is training for an Ironman, he will mostly need lots and lots of easy running (speed work to run 10 minute miles? Nah.)

Standalone Training versus Tri-Training

The above chart is meant for standalone races. I use a really simple conversion to compare stand alone training to tri-training. The run segment of a triathlon is equivalent to double that distance as a stand alone race. In other words, in order to be properly trained to run the 5K segment of a sprint triathlon, you should train to be in 10K stand alone racing shape. For a Half Ironman, you want to be in marathon shape.

This has little to do with being able to run twice as far and more to do with training the proper energy systems. Triathlons are simply run slower than standalone races, so using the chart above, everything slides to the left. The 5k segment of a sprint tri is going to require just a little less speed and a less trained V02max than a stand alone 5K, while relying more on your aerobic conditioning.

Interval Training

Below you will see recommendations for two types of interval training: V02max intervals and threshold/V02max borderline intervals.

I typically recommend that V02max intervals be done starting at around 5K race pace and done for a distance that takes 3 to 3 ½ minutes to cover. For most people this will be 800m. I like the recoveries to be 2 to 2 ½ minutes, or 300-400m. Begin at 5K race pace on the first interval and gradually work your way down to 5-10 sec faster than that pace per interval (or 10-20 sec/mile faster). Be very careful to stay under control. The intent is not to kill yourself during these interval sessions. As a general rule, if you can’t go immediately into a jog after your interval, you are working too hard. Some good coaches disagree with me on this point, but I find that the potential reward of training any harder does not outweigh the risk of over training if the intervals are run to the point of exhaustion. Always remember, if you leave the track a bit undertrained, you can always just run more mileage the next day.

The threshold/V02max borderline intervals are run at 45 minute race pace and are typically done at a ratio of 100m jogging for every 500m running. I prefer 1500m intervals with 300m jogs. You will find this workout to be a bit less stressful than the above intervals and the jog breaks will be rather short.

Speed Training

What I call speed training is what Jack Daniels refers to as Repetition training. He typically recommends them as 200-400m intervals, while Pfitzinger and Galloway (from his first book) recommend them in 100m chunks. Either way, I like to do these with easy jogs of equal lengths in between each one. The pace should be pretty close to mile race pace, which is a pace that is pretty quick yet not really close to all out sprinting. I don’t really recommend much of this for longer race distances as its benefits become less and less important for the longer distances. Striders (explained later) are used in place of speed for these distances.

Threshold/Tempo Runs

From part 1:

Jack Daniels has a nice chart on page 114 of his 2nd edition Running Formula to cover the different paces one should run for different durations. Greg McMillan also covers these paces in his pace calculator.

The chart in Daniels’ Formula is pretty self explanatory. Regarding McMillan’s site, use the tempo run pace to describe sustained 20 minute runs, and the steady state pace to describe threshold runs from 40 minutes (lower range) and to 60 minutes (upper range).

Once you have moved out of the base phase, I recommend throwing in a single threshold workout each week in place of a medium run. I recommend a mix of the lengths described above (20 to 60 minutes) at the corresponding paces. However, the entire workout, including warmup and cool down, should be at least a mile or two shorter than your medium run. For many of you, this will limit you to shorter workouts (20 minute range). I also recommend giving yourself at least 2 weeks to adjust to this workout, starting off with half the distance the first week, and then ¾ distance the next. Overall weekly mileage should not be increased at this time as the added intensity will lead to an increased training load. In fact, a *reduction* in mileage may be necessary and should be considered the day or two after this workout is introduced.

Cruise (threshold) Intervals

Some people prefer to do threshold training as intervals. The nice thing about cruise intervals is that you can do about 50% more work than you can with a tempo run. There is a compromise between the two workouts. Cruise intervals allow you to do more work, while tempo runs allow you to mimic race conditions. I recommend a mix of both. The rest should be kept very short for cruise intervals. A ration of 5:1 is appropriate (5min working, 1min jog, or 10min working, 2min jog, etc.)

Tips about Steady State Runs

60 minutes on a track? Are you kidding me?! I prefer to do these near a track and then map out a course that I can run off of the track to try and break up the monotony. I’ll run my first mile on the track to dial in the pace, and then 1-2 miles off of the track at that same effort, and then another 1-2 laps on the track to make sure the pace is still good, and then back out onto the course. Rinse and repeat for 60 minutes.

The Training Continuum

In the above chart I talked about endurance, threshold, V02max, and speed training as if they are four completely separate concepts. There is no magic black line that compartmentalizes one training zone as being completely different from another one. It's presented this way as a means to be able to talk about different types of training and how and why it is done, but if the chart above was to be drawn more accurately, it would be more of an overlapped mishmashing of the different colors. Training at mile race pace will improve all of the energy systems that affect your body’s ability to run an ultra marathon just like easy running will improve your mile time, when compared to doing nothing at all. Running just a little less a little faster or a little more a little slower will have very similar effects.

And that last sentence I think is very valuable information to know. If you ever get into a workout and find that you have run it faster than you should have, simply cut the workout short and know with confidence that you had a good workout.

Weather Considerations

Heat and humidity slow you down. Remember this on workout day.

Ultra Long Runs

For longer races (mainly half and full marathons) it may not be possible for you to get in an adequate length long run following the advice laid out here (a long run of at least 80% of the race distance). In this case, I recommend an ultra long run every 2-3 weeks with a normal long run on the in between weeks. The ultra long run should increase by about 1-2 mile increments on the alternating weeks and build toward at least 80% of the race distance, or 3 hours, whichever is less. In the case of a half marathon, if possible, the ultra long run can be pushed up to 13-15 miles.

An example of a long run progression for a 4:8:12 athlete might be as follows: 12 miles one week, 13 the next, 12 the week after that, 14-15 following that week, back to 12, etc. Back out of the goal race week enough weeks using this progression to see at what point you’ll need to begin your ultra long runs.

Warning about ultra long runs – During the course of an ultra long run there often comes a point where the body starts to feel pretty bad. I never recommend running for more than 10 minutes beyond this point as it will dramatically affect the rest of your week’s training. This may prevent you from reaching your eventual goal ultra long run, but you simply can’t force your body to be more fit than it is and your goal in training is to do the training that you are currently prepared for, not the training you want to be prepared for.


2 to 4 times a week finish your run with a set of three to six 50 meter striders. This is a short fast run (but not a sprint) where you concentrate on form to the best of your ability. The theory behind striders is that at higher speeds your body self corrects it form and teaches you to run more efficiently.

Races as Workouts

Always remember that on any week that you run a race that you should eliminate one of your workouts. For a 5K race (not a sprint-tri) I recommend eliminating the interval workout for that week (if one is scheduled). For anything longer, eliminate a threshold workout. For harder races, keep in mind that you may need several days or longer of recovery. The key concept to take away here is to make sure you don’t boost your training load as a result of not compensating for a race with the rest of your week’s training.


Always include a taper before your goal race. Shorter races like a 5K need only 4-9 days for a taper. Longer races require more….2 to 3 weeks for a marathon and 3 to 5 weeks for an Ironman. Keep in mind in the following sections that whenever I refer to periods before the goal race, I am actually referring to the number of weeks before the beginning of the taper.

Coming soon: Part 3 - Putting it all together for differnt race distances

-----------------------------Baron Von Speedypants
-----------------------------RunTraining articles here:
Last edited by: BarryP: Oct 16, 09 11:21

Edit Log:

  • Post edited by BarryP (Dawson Saddle) on Oct 16, 09 11:16
  • Post edited by BarryP (Dawson Saddle) on Oct 16, 09 11:21