Posts in Running
Thoughts on the 20-mile Run

The following insight was provided by Coach Nobby Hashizume in response to a runner's question regarding the infamous "20 mile runs". It's relevant as many of you are beginning your training cycle for a fall marathon. I trained under the Lydiard Method back in 1980-81 and recorded a series of PR's at distances from 5k to the marathon. My marathon preparation was based on a 24 week Lydiard cycle. I pulled out my old log and here's what I found. 4 weeks out from race day: 2 hour 10 min aerobic run. 6 weeks out: 2 hour 20 min aerobic run. 8 weeks out: 2 hour 20 min run. That was it. In between was of course a variety of workouts, each building on the other with specific purposes. The result was I ran a PR 2:21:07 marathon in the 1980 Detroit Free Press Marathon. (uninjured and healthy). It's extraordinarily risky and counter productive to be doing "20 mile" runs 2 and 3 weeks prior to a substantial effort such as running a marathon. The reason is found here below. It's a interesting read. If you would like to know more about the Lydiard Method, stop by the store, we'd be happy to share. bob

"The best aerobic benefits (stamina, endurance) come from continuous running of 1:30-3:00. Your body does not realize the difference between running 10-miles in 2 hours or 15-miles in 2 hours. 2 hours is 2 hours. Your body starts to pick up fat-burning metabolism somewhere around 20-30 minutes (surpassing carbohydrate metabolism) and mitochondrial development picks up somewhere around 1:30-2:00. And, beyond 3:00, your legs start to really tire and muscle fibers will be damaged double and triple-fold. Today, far too many runners are focused on "20-mile runs" established by sub-3-hour runners who can complete a 20-miler in 2 hours. Consequently, most are headed to the marathon start line with already tired legs from too many over-distance runs. We’ve all heard about “hitting the wall”. This is actually the result of too many and ill-timed over-distance runs, not improper nutrition in take during the race.

It’s important to know that the body requires a range of 3-5 weeks to fully recover from a training run of 20 miles.

The key is to do your 2-3 hour runs in the proper training phase of the Lydiard Method, which usually is in the aerobic base building phase. As you progress through the Lydiard phases, you will find while your “long runs” shorten in duration, they are preceded by “progress calibration runs” the day prior which are done at close to race pace, with the next day a longer recovery run. But think about it, within a 24-hour period the runner will be putting in significant mileage, but in the proper sequence to maximize the benefit and recovery.

Renowned exercise physiologist Jack Daniels put it this way: ultra-runners preparing for a 100km race don’t do 80km run’s during training. But, for some reason for a marathon, people unfortunately believe they have to cover at least 3/4 of the race distance without understanding the damage they are doing to themselves.

I’ll finish with one recent example, a guy in his mid-40’s with a marathon PR of 5:30. His longest run was 14 miles. After going through one Lydiard Method cycle he indicated this was the first time he had reached that far without sore legs! He had previously tried the typical 3 X 20-mile training program, improperly timed during preparation and his legs were always beaten up. He said that this was the most fun he had ever had with all the different types of training: hills, intervals, 50/50. Remember all these different workouts strengthen your legs without un-necessary pounding. His result, a 4:50 marathon, a 40-minute improvement without struggling.

With Lydiard you will actually do more long runs during your preparation than a few super-long runs, because you need to recover from them. It is the overall training program that will bring you to the starting line healthy and prepared and through the finish tape."