As you might have heard, I did not run under 16 minutes in the 5K this year. But that’s ok, because I have a plan. A plan so crazy it just might work! What is that plan, you ask? Well I’ll tell you! I am going to do the opposite of what I did this year, and two years ago when I ran 16:00! Rather than reduce my mileage and focus on lots and lots of very fast track workouts, I am going to run higher mileage, and do some easier workouts, while keeping in touch with my speed by doing strides or short repeats after most workouts.
Why am I doing this, when I was able to run 16:00.48 by doing exactly what I am avoiding this time? I’m glad you asked! You see, I have long known that I am much more of a marathoner than a 5Ker. I enjoy long runs, and find it relatively easy to run at a moderate pace for a long time. Running at a fast pace, even for a short period of time, is very difficult to me. In the past, I have tried to work on my weaknesses by doing lots and lots of trackwork, but that proves to be so stressful on my body that it means I neglect my strength, which is my endurance and ability to run lots of miles.
Recently, I undertook the exciting task of mapping out my monthly mileage for the past ten years. (I’m a data geek, so it actually was pretty exciting for me.) Do you know what I found? Every single personal best I have run has occurred after a span of several months above 300 miles (roughly ten miles per day average). Even when I ran 16:00, I had ran a marathon the fall before, so I had a large base of miles supporting me. Every single breakthrough race, from my first time running under three hours in the marathon, to my 53-minute 15K, to my 16:00 5K, was the result of running lots of miles beforehand. Every time I was able to string two or more 300+ mile months, I would have a great race. Obviously, mileage does good things for me. Here is the data in a handy dandy chart format. Months over 300 miles are highlighted in red; months under my average of 227 are shaded grey. Obviously, tapering causes the months before the goal race to be less than average.
|Race||Previous Month||Two Months Prior||Three Months Prior||Four Months Prior|
|5K – 16:41||248.40||
|Marathon – 2:48:15||292.20||
|5K – 16:24||236.80||295.90||
|Half-Marathon – 1:16:41||
|Marathon – 2:42:19||217.20||
|Marathon – 2:40:58||185.00||
|Marathon – 2:39:08||
|5k – 16:00.48||206.50||244.60||279.90||272.50|
Do you know what else I realized? The last time I ran over 300 miles in a month was in April of 2013, just before I ran 2:39 in the marathon. For the remainder of the year, I actually logged below-average miles. Part of this is due to injury; I sprained my ankle in August of 2013 and injured my shin at the start of this year. Part of this is because I have to reduce my mileage when doing lots of trackwork because it is so taxing on me. So I have not run any sort of decent mileage in a year and a half.
Armed with this newfound knowledge and power, I have decided that it is time to get back to my bread and butter; i.e. running lots of miles. It’s going to be difficult over the winter, but luckily I do have access to treadmills in the fitness center at work, plus some friends who will be running a lot as well. I hope those two forces can combine to get me through this winter with a lot of miles under my shoes. When I run 70+ miles per week, I feel strong and fit. I may not be super-fast, but that’s not the immediate goal. For now, the plan is just to regain my aerobic fitness and log as many miles as possible before spring.
Once the weather starts to warm up, I will hit the track, but I’m planning on backing off the paces a bit. When I did run 16:00, my fastest workout before that was at 16:15 pace. None of my workouts were anywhere close to 16-flat pace, and I think doing workouts that fast hurts me more than it helps me. If I can run workouts a little bit slower, but have the aerobic capacity and strength that high mileage gives me, I think I can get into sub-16-minute shape. If nothing else, it will give me a good base for whatever else I decide to do next year. Wish me luck!