GO AHEAD, CHUCKLE SET WEEKLY MILEAGE
all you want at photos from the 1970s and 1980s of confidently hirsute runners, singlets tucked deep into shockingly short shorts. And, sure, giggle away if you must at the loud, shiny tracksuits (actual tracksuits!) and ‘futuristic’ shoes of the 1990s. Yes, modern reader, it’s easy to mock – and fun, too – but let us also accept that runners from every era have something to teach us today (though probably not about what to wear in public).
Elite winning times are faster today, but the average runner back then was considerably quicker than modern mid-packers. There are no long-forgotten training secrets to account for this disparity; back then, the sport simply drew a smaller, more serious crowd, who racked up mileage that seems insane today (see Setweekly Mileage, above right). Today, running is far more relaxed, enjoyable and inclusive, and that’s to be applauded. At the same time, it’s impressive that so many runners got it right when it came to training and racing in the ‘old days’. That’s why smart coaches and runners today often borrow from the rulebook of yesterday, even as they update it. You can benefit from some old-school wisdom, too, just as older runners can benefit from a few lessons from the new school. Here’s how to combine best practices from different eras to improve your running life.
THE OLD WAY It wasn’t unheard of for amateur runners to hit 100 miles in a week. Astonishing.
THE NEW WAY These days, the average Runner’s World reader logs fewer than 100 miles in a month.
THE BEST WAY Mileage isn’t everything, especially for runners who come to the sport simply to get healthier and to enjoy themselves. Logging a few miles a few times per week – and devoting equal time to cardio work, cross-training, strength training and/or yoga – can deliver more balanced fitness than simply running alone for a long, long time.
However, if you’re building up to a half or full marathon, weekly and long-run mileage matter – though still not enough to merit triple-digit weeks. Norman says his half-marathon runners peak with a week of about 25 miles in total, including an 11-mile longest run, while his marathon runners build to 35-plus weekly miles, with a 20-mile longest run. ‘Gradual mileage increases, with a cut-back week every two or three weeks, allow your body to properly adapt to the stresses of running as your cardio fitness and muscle, tendon and ligament strength improve,’ he says. Gradually building up also helps to keep injury risk and mental stress low.