ifteen years ago, transitioning to the marathon was seen as the death knell for speed among elite runners. Then the likes of Paula Radcliffe rewrote the rulebook by returning to the track faster than ever in the months after racing 26.2 miles. Goodman believes training for a marathon six months before her 10K race made all the difference.
‘I was running longer long runs and doing workouts within long runs,’ she says. (Goodman was running 30 per cent more weekly miles in her heaviest weeks of marathon training than she would peak at in 10K training.)
Increasing your mileage brings many benefits: increased capillary density, greater numbers of mitochondria, better usage of fat as fuel, muscle fibre adaptations and higher glycogen storage. These changes allow you to maintain a desired pace for longer by making your body more efficient at oxygen usage and energy production.
One runner who has taken this to extremes is the US 100K record holder, Camille Herron. ‘Nine years ago I started running over 100 miles per week,’ she says. ‘Building that aerobic base translated to being able to sustain my speed for longer.’
Not many of us will hit weekly triple digits and increasing your mileage safely takes time, patience and often some creative thinking when it comes to time management. Elite masters runner Frankie Adkins ran a 10K PB at the age of 41. His biggest challenge was finding a way to fit the extra miles around the time constraints of family life and a job that had him travelling almost every day. ‘I fit my training around work and family, not the other way around,’ he says. ‘And there were weeks when I looked at my training plan and work schedule and thought there was no way I’d get it all in, but more often than not I did. Having a training plan was crucial; it kept me thinking of 30-60-minute windows where I could get the training in.’
The downside of adding volume is it does increase your risk of overuse injuries. To lower that risk, coach Ben Rosario has two recommendations: ‘First, make sure you're running on soft surfaces for the majority of your mileage,’ he says. ‘Second, put a bigger premium on postrun recovery – foam rolling, flexibility exercises and massage are the big ones.’
Rosario also stresses that patience is a virtue when you’re trying to develop your aerobic system. You may not get faster for a while, but workouts will get easier over time. ‘It’s about trusting what you're doing,’ he says.
CHANGE THIS Run more miles, even if you're training for a 5K.
WHY Upping your mileage is the best way to improve your aerobic capacity, which increases speed endurance – how long you can sustain race pace.
THE CHALLENGE Making a jump in mileage safely requires patience.
THE RISK Increasing mileage too rapidly can lead to overuse injuries.