I just went through a couple of running white papers, 2 books and some running articles. Maybe all together around 500 pages in 2 days. I talk about new and up and coming recent texts. The importance of base, of experience, of a well established foundation is still as important nowadays, than it was 10 years, 20 or 30 ago. Our understanding of this crucial factor doesn't change. The emphasis we put on it does. Except of course, the pro coaches, who do actually practice background check and use all tools to monitor the past, in order to build a future.
What is a real base ?
In case of a Kenyan athlete, it is about 12 years of constant walking, often barefoot, what is turning slowly and surely into running. When they are 14 and 16, they already have often over 10km a day of dedicated covered distance, with sprinkled in physical activities, of water carries, sheepherding and agricultural work.
For others it might be, young life tennis, swimming and cycling. I personally had 15 years of volleyball, a couple of years of martial arts, body building and so. I never had a pause from dedicated sports after the age of 5. Never ! I am 36, what means 31years of dedicated sport experience. It is not specialised, at all, but counts as a good base.
When athletes come to me with 5 years of running experience of 100k weeks and giving me race PBs and future goals, I often look at what reality is. After about a month of running 100k weeks, often there is a 20km break, a 40km break, multiple 2 to 3weeks total missing out, no strength and conditioning at all and race results all over the place. Race times should be slowly but surely coming down and stagnation should be in a 20 to 30 second range in case of a 10km, and 2 to 3minutes in case of a marathon for instance. When running a 2:50 for the 26miles and 5months later it is 3:15, then 3:05, then 3:20, then again 2:52 and so, that is not progression, but a mess.
This is one of the reasons, that for instance Renato Canova or other coaches use 20 to 26 weeks of dedicated marathon training. Not the rw's couch to 26 plans lasting 12 to 14weeks. In a 26 week period, you build, you construct, you work towards a goal. That will serve you for the next 26 weeks too and surely step by step, you click on with the experience.
What and how to build ?
I already talked about the Maffeton method. That is a Z2, a Submax, an aerobic threshold based training philosophy. 80% of the training should be done like this, uninterrupted. The rest is even slower. 20% of jogging around with perfect form, but also purposefully walking. Strength training and mobility should be always present and health should be constant.
Then after about 2 to 3months of constructing and bringing up your milage, adding in some LT (lactate threshold) workouts once every two weeks, then once every 10 days, then once every week. When you are ready to hold on with great health and reasonably high mileage, this is where you can think of starting a program.
Don't get me wrong, you can include some 10k or even half marathon races, to keep up the motivation and to establish some base times. However, efforts should be dialled in on a way, that the Sunday race will not interrupt at all your base training and gradually increasing mileage.
If you've never built a very deep 5-6-12month base like this, you cannot start that 20 to 26weeks of marathon program. Of course, once you are done with your race, the thing is, that you base does not go away. After some days rest, a 2 to 4 weeks of introductory phase will suffice, before to re-commence another 26week concentrated cycle.
So, please, I greatly advise you, learn what is your Z2, what is your Maffetone heart rate range, what is your SubMax aerobic effort. That will be a 10beat range. You can use the 180-your age-10 formula if you wanted. Run at the bottom of the zone when tired and run the top of the zone when fresh. As an example of a 40 year old:
- 180-40=140 / 140-10=130
- His range is 140 to 130 and 80% of his running will be in this range.
- He will start each run with 5 to 20minutes of walking, plus 5 to 20minutes of jogging.
- Then he will bring up the heart rate, by accelerating towards the 130 to 140 range.
- He will do the same as cooldown. Getting out of the range, slowing down gradually and walk it off at the end.
- After a while he will add intervals. Running 5 x 2km with 1min rest at his 140heart rate. Running a 4k road tempo downhill at 138bpm.
- Adding some 7 to 10seconds hill sprints to the end of his runs on a way, that his heart rate never shoots over 140. If it does, he stops the workout or decreases the duration of the sprints to 3 to 4 seconds.
- He makes his workouts more difficult by adding a hydration pack filled with two litres of water. His body will react by slowing him down on the 130-140 heart rate, but eventually will speed up and his non-backpack speed will be even higher.
- He will walk and run constant hills. He starts running trails of rolling hills too. All on that heart rate.
- After the 4th month, he adds a 10km race. He will push it hard, but keep the control all the way, to finish strong.
- 10days later he does a fartlek style work on the track, using free spirit. Then revert back to his old methods for another 10days.
- Then he adds a hard tempo run of 7km. Back to 130-140 for ten days and so on.
- When he arrives to the spot of recovering very fast from his LT work, he start using it weekly. Doing 5 x 1000s and ladders of 3000/2000/1000.
- Depending on fatigue, he lets his mind and body dictate the rhythm. Maybe he does an LT workout every week, but they still can be 10 or 12 days apart ! Maybe he feels and develops to a very strong runner and stacks some workouts. Sunday and Monday double LT, then goes for a 14day 130-140.
- After the 6th month he does a half marathon race, recover from it in 4 days and 1 or 2 weeks afterwards, he jumps into the 26 week dedicated marathon training routine.
Here you go, an imaginary scenario for the runners looking for ideas and motivation. I recommend to think and practice what is just described up and above. It will be way easier afterwards to get into the routine of Kipchoge. Constant and strong mileage through out Life ! Enjoyment of every step. No injuries, no downtime. Hormonal, emotional and health all balanced out !