Lynn Gray M.S., RRCA Coach
To perform best in a given distance event; one must train specifically for it. Most people are fine with getting the distance done and generally speaking may not think further than that. Even with the training aspect of distance, many participants still do not go far enough.
DISTANCE: to finish the actual distance you should be able to run the set amount of mileage.
However, to perform and reach your best potential one must employ additional mileage above and beyond the event distance. Let’s look at the long run day example for commonly run distances. Every other week (EOW) for 6 weeks or so:
5K – one should do a 8 – 10 mile EOW
10K – one should do a 10 – 15 mile EOW
15K - one should do a 12 – 16 mile EOW
13.1 – one should do a 13 – 18 mile EOW
26.2 – one should do a 13 – 20 mile EOW, then 22 mile, then 24 mile, then 26 mile - EOW
Note: long runs are done 2-3 minutes slower than goal pace; with walk breaks when needed especially if it is hot
DESIRED PACE; the amount of minutes per mile for the entire distance.
To hold desired pace, the body must be trained to run a bit faster at least once a week.
An example would be the desire to run the 5K distance at an average 10 min. pace. Every other week, implement 2-3 minutes per mile at 9:30 min. pace. Get to a point where you can do 3 x 1 mile repeats at 9:30 pace. Bingo; you will get your 30:00 min. 5K!
TERRAIN: Many of us Floridians have a fixture on flat surfaces and seek flat surface races, especially marathons since it is hard to find hills. Not so! Practice walking upstairs in a bank building once a week or find a bridge and do uphill repeats.
However, for those doing a flat event such as the Chicago Marathon need to be practicing their goal pace on flat surfaces so the foot strike and overall body mechanics become efficient. The same idea if one decides to do a race with lots of hills; time to go at least every other week and do hill work, or stair work, or treadmill with a steep incline and stair work. The foot strike and landing pattern are more demanding with hills; not to mention the overall impact on the body. Watch out for treadmills; not specific to outside running.
Lastly, trail runners must practice not only on rough terrain and in the trails, but must employ hill training due to the higher lift of gait needed to sustain running through grass, rocks, limbs, etc.
TIME OF DAY: It is best for us to practice frequently the start time of the actual race. The digestive track, the climate, and our mental set need to adapt to the race start time.
Some races are in the evening which gives us a challenge as to what to eat not to mention the edema, or slight swelling in the ankles after a full day of standing. Practice running once a week in the evening.
WEATHER: Try your best to practice in similar temperatures and weather of the race. Warm, mild weather running in Florida allows our muscles to stretch out fully during the run. Many runners enjoy warmer weather running because of this. However, there are countless Floridians who go up north for the weekend and run an event with a 20-30 degree temperature difference. Muscles are tight, joints get stiff, and, as you slow toward the end, leg cramping can set in, etc.
Yes, cool is nice, however cold running is not the best for most of Florida runners.
ALTITUDE: Breathing in high altitudes becomes nearly impossible for those who have not acclimated to the higher altitudes due to less oxygen being available as the breathing process transpires. It may be advised to get an altitude training mask to get your lungs and breathing ready before the race. Or spend a week in the altitude your event is in (a bit more costly!)