Over the last 38 years, I have observed runners. The things they say, the way they train, the races they choose and the way they feel about their performances. Other things I have noticed is that, they tend to race too many races, they don’t train long enough for “A” goal races and they often complain about their performances. Too many runners start doing hill work, speed work, long runs and 4-6 weeks later they are racing marathons or 50k distances. I have concluded, if all runners would have some patience and focus on base training, they would perform and feel better about their performances, especially in longer races such as the marathon or 50k.
Too many times I see runners forgetting the most important part of training, base training. What is base training? This is the beginning of training phase (Mesocycle) for a marathon or other goal race distance. Typically, this means running up to 500 miles at conversation pace (aerobic). Think you do enough base training before you race? Look at it this way. This could be 50 miles per week for 10 weeks. I have found that most runners don’t even train 10 weeks total for any race. Most runners don’t average 50 miles per week either. See what I mean about patience? Base training could take up to 16 weeks for longer races.
Recently, Todd Parsons and I spent about 20 hours in a class, for RRCA coaching certification. There were 35 students from all over the country in the class. One of the things we agreed on was this. It’s not the journey, it is the destination. Often I hear folks say oh it’s all about the journey, the training, the comradery, the memories, not the destination. Oh but contraire, reality is that after the goal race has been run, everyone wants have a faster time. We all concluded that despite the journey, everyone wants a faster time. A 4 hour marathoner wants to run 3:59, a 2 hour Half-marathoner would have rather run 1:59, and a 40 minute 10k runner would have rather run 39:59. Get the idea? It is about the destination. No matter what your time was, you always want it to be faster.
In order to run faster times and feel better about your performances, you must base train. I am not saying you can’t race along the way, but they must be part of the training schedule and should be considered “B” races. Everyone likes to run lots of races but in order to do your very best performance; a training plan along with a good base is required. If you don’t do the base training, you are not allowed to complain about your performance.
Why do we need to base train? Let’s face it, in order to become a better runner, you got to run, miles, lots and lots of miles. You must get more efficient at running slower in order to be able to train harder and faster later in training. Even high-school cross country runners spend 3 months over the summer running up to 500 miles to get prepared the training for 5k cross country races. We have to build a strong aerobic foundation. According to Runner’s World magazine “Physiologically, base miles are important because they boost aerobic conditioning, develop slow twitch muscle fibers, increase blood volume and glycogen storage, strengthen connective tissue, and enhance the body’s ability to burn fat.”
It’s February. You have all year to plan your races. When you do, allow time for base training. I am a firm believer in base training and I believe this; if most of you will run 500 miles of base training, do 6-8 100 meter strides after you run 2-3 times per week during this time, you will become a better runner even before you do anything else. If you want to run your best performance, be patient, have a training plan and remember, “I’m all about that base.”