On I went, out of the wood, passing the man leading without knowing I was going to do so. Flip-flap, flip-flap, jog-trot, jog-trot, curnchslap-crunchslap, across the middle of a broad field again, rhythmically running in my greyhound effortless fashion, knowing I had won the race though it wasn't half over, won it if I wanted it, could go on for ten or fifteen or twenty miles if I had to and drop dead at the finish of it, which would be the same, in the end, as living an honest life like the governor wanted me to. -Alan Sillitoe, "Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner"

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

On mileage

Me again.  More from my sister tomorrow, but here's something I wrote a while ago that tied in with my sister's post yesterday.

A few weeks ago, when I was talking about Runner's World, I got to thinking about mileage.

A lot of runners - hugely successful runners - agree that a key to success is high mileage.  Look at the training programs of the elites, and almost all of them run high mileage.  (Lots of Lydiard in the linked article, if you're into that, and also lots of photos of Shalane Flanagan if you're into that.  She's running New York this year, just like me!)

I've always been a low mileage runner.  Part of this is my speed: even at my peak training back in Philly with my beloved training partner Tamara, if we ran 60mpw it took us at least 10 hours.  Someone who runs 8mm could have done 75m in that time frame.  Lately, a good week is when I inch toward 30m, and of course my marathon training should take me beyond that.  (Key word at this point: should.)

Some of it is my physiology, or at least my caution.  Having had the two stress fractures for no other reason than overuse/high mileage, I don't want to risk that again.

And yeah, I'm lazy.

I remember vividly one summer when I was in maintenance mode.  It was the first time in years I'd worked a steady 9-5 and I wasn't running as much as I wanted.  I told a friend that I was down because I was barely running 15mpw and that most of my running friends would consider that low mileage.  He said to me, "Well, if this really bothers you, maybe you don't need to run more so much as you need to get new running friends."

Obviously he was half-joking, but I'm constantly amazed at how much variation there is with runners' mileage totals.  Some people I know race a 5k or 10k every now and then with little to no preparation and are proud to identify as a runner.  Other people I know put more miles in than many runners, but they see it as part of a larger fitness program and so demure at the thought of being considered a runner.  A friend and beginning runner was given the advice that he should be doing something every day, if not running then cross-training; another friend openly swears by the specificity of training principle and advocates that "only running will improve your running."

Just some thoughts.  No conclusions.  Now that marathon season frenzy is in full force in New York, I'm amazed at the variety of training plans, from near-elites with their triple digit weeks to the beginners with long runs of 6m or 8m or 10m.  Some of the super-low mileage runners will beat me.  Hell, some people with next to no training will beat me!  So I guess that is the conclusion, then: I want to run more miles than I am currently running and I see that as key to my improvement, but everyone is different and individual.

Anyone feel like confessing their mileage?


  1. A rest week is 35 miles for me now. The highest mileage I get in this marathon training are 50 miles a week. For my next marathon I will try to get to 56 miles a week or more. And since I want to run a 60K and a 78K mountain marathon next year, that mileage has to go to 63 miles/week or more. But I really am in desperate need of a reality check once in a while. I do have a full-time job (more than full-time actually...hello funny world of lawyers!), and getting 63 miles a week in means I will hardly have any time to sit on the couch and watch silly soap operas...

    Oh, and I just gave you the Cherry on Top award in the last post on my blog. :)

  2. Ha - I don't track it because I know it's probably low :-) At my best guess, I do anywhere from 10-15 miles per week on average. It rarely goes above that unless I am training for something. But I can say that my cross training has grown significantly - more biking/spin and swimming. It actually makes me enjoy the runs a bit more since I "miss" them a bit.

  3. I think I am approaching 30 miles per week. The most difficult thing for me is to have patience that building slowly will make me stronger and building too quickly will injure me. I'm with you that at slower speeds it just takes more time too.

    The more I run the more I'm amazed at how differently people approach running and fitness!

  4. 3 miles per week if that - but i'm still a runner...i'm just a full time working single mom first :)

    you're doing great Tracy - you are not lazy - stay healthy and positive!

  5. Thanks for all the comments - that's exactly what I mean - such a variety. Fascinating. And Annie, I'd even call you an *accomplished* runner, after Mt Washington :)

  6. I've been really good with my long runs, but been really bad with my short runs. Instead of running 4 times a week, I'm running more like 3 times, some weeks, only twice, and last week only once (though I was sick all week though, so rested on purpose to be ok with my 19 miler that weekend).

    That means that for marathon training, I'm averaging about 20-25 miles a week. Some weeks I don't even break the 20 mark... And most of my short runs are really short -- instead of the 5 miles I'm supposed to be running, I only do 3 miles, since I can run home from work, for example.

    It's hard to fit all those runs around a busy schedule (I'm even slower than you!), so I'm not beating myself up too much about it.

  7. yea i dont think youre lazy too. my slow speed makes it dificult for me too! these days i am running 30-35 these weeks and need to be closer tro 40 oh well.

  8. Yeah, me too. I haven't hit 40 yet and I'm allegedly halfway through training for this marathon we're all running... when is that? In 8 weeks? Yeah, that one. Whatever. Prior to starting my marathon schedule, 25 was a good week (Hmmm... do you think that's why I got injured right off the bat? Yeah, me too.)

    ANYWAY, I gave you the Cherry on Top Award too! Does that mean you have to do it twice? Yes, yes it does *laughs maniacally*

  9. Actually, I really am lazy. You should have seen me during my spinning class this morning, working it every time the instructor looked at me then slacking when she'd turn slightly.

    And Carla - I'm surprised! You've been rocking your long runs! So interesting!

    And Mrs. Duffy (and Silly Girl!), thank you for the award :) I'm so honored. I'm also too freaking exhausted to edit tomorrow's post, so I'll have to put it off until Friday.