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NYT: Modern Marathoners Have Fewer Miles on Them (Read 938 times)


A Dance with Monkeys

    May 31, 2007 Basic Training Modern Marathoners Have Fewer Miles on Them By JOHN HANC SO you want to run a marathon? During the first running boom three decades ago, aspirants embarked upon a six-day regimen of arduous runs hellbent on crossing the finish line in the fastest time possible. Hollow cheeks, hobbled feet and an overuse injury or two were badges of honor for the mostly middle-class men who tackled the 26.2-mile challenge. Their icon was Frank Shorter, a Yale-educated lawyer whose victory in the 1972 Olympic marathon ignited the mass running movement. Things have changed. Today’s marathoner is less likely to have been motivated by an Olympian than by Oprah. Her slow-but-steady completion of the 1994 Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., is considered the start of the second marathon boom, one that has dwarfed the first, and is far more democratic in nature. Ms. Winfrey was one of 277,000 marathon finishers nationwide in 1994; last year 410,000 runners crossed the line, according to Running USA, a nonprofit organization in Ventura, Calif., that keeps track of participatory running. The marathon has become an “everyman’s Everest,” said Amby Burfoot, the executive editor of Runner’s World magazine. Men, women, fledglings and fossils, of varying girth, are marathoners these days — in part because of the proliferation of training programs that make it, if not easier, at least less time-consuming to prepare. During his training for the Boston Marathon, which he won in 1968, Mr. Burfoot ran twice a day, seven days a week. Emil Zatopek, the great Czech runner who won the 1952 Olympic marathon (along with two other gold medals in the same Games), prepared by running mountain trails near his home in Moravia while carrying his wife, Dana, on his back. Contemporary marathon programs require neither twice-a-day workouts nor spouse-hauling. Indeed, the new watchwords of marathon training are moderation and specificity. Gone — for beginners, at least — are the six days a week of running routinely recommended in the 1970s. Absent, in most programs, are even consecutive days of running. Today, some popular schedules involve as little as three days a week of pounding the pavement. “It’s gone from being excessive training for what many would consider to be an excessive event to a very trimmed-down, less-is-more approach,” said Toby Tanser, a marathon coach in Manhattan and the author of “The Essential Guide to Running the New York City Marathon.” One of the leading less-is-more programs for running the marathon involves walking. It was developed by Jeff Galloway, a 1972 Olympian who believes that regularly timed walking intervals increase the likelihood of covering the 26.2 miles. In 2006, it worked for 18,000 Gallowalkers (as his followers are dismissively called by some old-school runners) who ran-walked their way to a marathon finish. At least half of last year’s marathoners used a minimal-mileage training plan, said Ryan Lamppa, a spokesman for Running USA. “The expectation has changed,” said Bill Pierce, the chairman of the health and exercise science department at Furman University in Greenville, S.C., and the creator of a popular three-day-a-week program. “It’s O.K. now to walk. It’s O.K. to finish over five hours. People have a completely different approach to the marathon.” Those people do not include the Kenyans, Ethiopians and other elite athletes from around the world who will be running in and perhaps winning the ING New York City Marathon on Nov. 4. The best will not be following a less-is-more approach. “This type of program is designed to get you to complete, not compete in, the marathon,” said Dr. William Roberts, the medical director of the Twin Cities Marathon in Minneapolis-St. Paul. Dr. Roberts endorses minimalist approaches. “They offer a lower risk for injury,” he said. Whether covering as little as 15 miles a week or as many as 100, the primary goal of all marathon programs is the same: to build your endurance to the point where you can cover 26.2 miles. Hence, the common denominator of every program is the weekly or every-other-week “long run” — a slow-paced run that starts at whatever distance you can now complete and, over months, grows longer. “The long run teaches the body how to deliver and utilize oxygen more efficiently,” said Carwyn Sharp, an exercise scientist with Wyle Laboratories, which conducts research on behalf of NASA. As the runs lengthen, the body adapts by creating more blood vessels to transport oxygen-rich blood to working muscles; by manufacturing more energy-producing mitochondria; and by more efficiently repairing the microscopic tears to muscle fibers that result from the extended effort. The long run is the one element, experts agree, that cannot be red-penciled out of a marathon program. But how long is long? Here, experts disagree. Many say 20 miles is sufficient. Others, like Mr. Galloway, recommend conquering at least the full marathon distance in training. Still, whatever the distance of the longest long run, novices can’t go from zero to 26 miles overnight, which is why most plans are at least 12 weeks long, and some last up to 30 weeks. What’s more, most coaches and exercise physiologists recommend against even starting a marathon program until you have regularly run shorter distances for a couple of years. Most programs also include at least one day of shorter but faster-paced running to improve efficiency; hill work not only to build leg strength, but also to prepare for steep elevation; and plenty of rest to allow the body to recover and rebuild. For many people, finding the time to train may be harder than actually training. Gordon Bakoulis, who competed in the United States Olympic Trials marathon four times, and now works for the New York Road Runners, the New York marathon’s organizers, says she has noticed a pattern among those who drop out before the race. “It’s not that they failed in the training,” Ms. Bakoulis said. “It’s just that they couldn’t manage the logistics. There were too many early-morning meetings at work, too many Saturday-morning soccer games. You can’t fake marathon training, especially the long runs.” But you can be reasonably certain that if you reach the starting line in one piece, you’ll finish: In last year’s New York City Marathon, 38,368 runners started and 37,869 finished — a 99 percent completion rate. Other major marathons, including the Marine Corps and Chicago’s, have similarly high finisher percentages — and it’s been that way for most of the last decade. What does that say about the various marathon training programs? “It says that they all work,” Ms. Bakoulis said. Basic Training looks at the latest thinking about conditioning for recreational sports.
      Interesting read Trent... 2000 mile group is a little quiet today isn't it? Tongue Whether covering as little as 15 miles a week or as many as 100, the primary goal of all marathon programs is the same: to build your endurance to the point where you can cover 26.2 miles. Hence, the common denominator of every program is the weekly or every-other-week “long run” — a slow-paced run that starts at whatever distance you can now complete and, over months, grows longer... Actually, this is just what I was asking Scout about. Smile

      Michelle



        What does that say about the various marathon training programs? “It says that they all work,” Ms. Bakoulis said.
        Or does it actually say that finishing a marathon isn't really that hard?

        Runners run.

          I for one am tired of hearing crap like this. Angry I've seen the same type of discussions on other forums on how the "non-elite" runners are ruining the sport. We make it hard for the "real runners" to get in some of the more popular marathons, We want to train less and we want to ware our iPods. Shocked Blah, Blah, Blah....Its a bunch of crap. Anyone who has the heart and dedication to complete 26.2 miles whether in 2.5 hours or 6 hours, by running all the way or walking some, is awewome in my opinion. "Hollow cheeks, hobbled feet and overuse injuries were badges of honor". Not for me, I like to go down stairs and walk normal after I run 20 miles. The one thing that is true about the Basic Training article is the statement of "You can’t fake marathon training, especially the long runs". Long live the 4,5 or 6 hour marathoners. Big grin


          madness baby

            How many people who are running a marathon are actually "competing in" a marathon? Nearly everyone (except for a few Kenyans and an amazing Russian) is running to compete against themselves, right? I must be a modern marathoner. I'm damn proud of it. I ran a 5:10 marathon in 85 degree heat on 20 miles/week with a longest training run of 16 miles. I ran it all, except for 10 minutes in the porta jon and 10 minutes walking (due to temporary "illness"). I don't think that distinguishes me in any way from the other runners out there that day. And the best part is that I wasn't too sore the next day-- 10x less sore than the first time I went snowskiing, because I could actually walk normally. It was hard. Would "finishing" the marathon have been less difficult if I had trained harder? Yes, because my poor little legs would have overtrained. So there. Wink deb
            deb
              I for one am tired of hearing crap like this. Angry I've seen the same type of discussions on other forums on how the "non-elite" runners are ruining the sport.
              Where does it say that? Why do people get so worked about about this? There's a big difference between training to race and training to finish, and most of the growth in marathons has been with people who just want to finish. What's the problem with that?

              Runners run.


              You'll ruin your knees!

                Where does it say that? Why do people get so worked about about this? There's a big difference between training to race and training to finish, and most of the growth in marathons has been with people who just want to finish. What's the problem with that?
                Hmmm... training to race vs. training to finish. Seems to me there is a huge gap between these two that most of us actually fall into...training to PR! Otherwise, I share Mike's view that this article was not flaming non-elite runners...I came up through the Galloway program and they helped me PR. Their "long run" strategy helped me to realize how much I enjoyed the longer distances so I moved up to ultras...I still am a non-elite runner who shoots for somewhere between first and last! Lynn B

                ""...the truth that someday, you will go for your last run. But not today—today you got to run." - Matt Crownover (after Western States)


                I've got a fever...

                  I for one am tired of hearing crap like this. Angry I've seen the same type of discussions on other forums on how the "non-elite" runners are ruining the sport.
                  Where does it say that? Why do people get so worked about about this? There's a big difference between training to race and training to finish, and most of the growth in marathons has been with people who just want to finish. What's the problem with that?
                  Agree with Mikeymike here. I don't think this article was in any way critical of the change in the marathon movement. The fact is that the change in emphasis from compete to complete has opened up the distance to so many more people. I think most people will argue that this is a good thing, and the article certainly didn't do anything to dismiss that notion. BTW, compete/race doesn't have to mean compete with the leaders. It can be with yourself, or your age group, or with friends -- whatever. But there is a reality that if you want to wring the best time possible out of your body, you will need to run many more miles than if you just want to finish.

                  On your deathbed, you won't wish that you'd spent more time at the office.  But you will wish that you'd spent more time running.  Because if you had, you wouldn't be on your deathbed.

                    Who cares WHY people run marathons? I'm so freaking sick of this "I ran twice a day, seven days and 100 miles a week, I don't listen to music, I am a purist... therefore I am better than you" attitude. If you want to run a marathon to say you did it, what is so WRONG with that? Honestly, slower runners and walkers means that middle of the packers place better! Wink I placed in the top 10% at Va Beach R&R Half, and it's not because I ran a sub 1:30 HM. Some of us run because it allows another peice of cake, burns off some stress, keeps us in shape. I'm studying for the Maryland Bar right now --- I don't have TIME to get in 50 mile weeks. I run 3-6 miles in the morning to keep my head on straight. Who cares if Oprah is the reason some people run marathons? ... modified to add: I realize this isn't what the article is about, but (1) I'm cranky anyhow Wink , and (2) I am sick of runners who consider themselves better and more "pure" than others
                    2009: BQ?


                    I've got a fever...

                      ... modified to add: I realize this isn't what the article is about,
                      Glad you did that, because now I don't have to point that out to you. (Yet I feel compelled to say that I was going to point it out. Tongue )

                      On your deathbed, you won't wish that you'd spent more time at the office.  But you will wish that you'd spent more time running.  Because if you had, you wouldn't be on your deathbed.


                      Needs more cowbell!

                        Hmmm... training to race vs. training to finish. Seems to me there is a huge gap between these two that most of us actually fall into...training to PR!
                        That and training to pass the people immediately in front of me as the race progresses. At any distance I'm only concerned with my own PR and picking other runners off, especially in the last mile or two. I have only run to merely finish once--when I ran my very first 5k race. After that the racing bug bit and it's been mostly about the PR ever since. Just because I'm slow doesn't mean I'm a casual jogger with simply a goal of finishing. There are plenty of runners far faster than I am who don't put in the hours I do. My brother is much faster than I am, but he does his 3 mile runs, several times/week (rarely runs more than 10-12 miles/week) and calls it good. He doesn't race, doesn't plan ahead much, no speedwork, no long runs. He and I hope to do the Chicago Marathon together someday. I would almost guarantee that I will *train* more than he will, but I will almost guarantee that he will still kick my ass. k

                        I shoot pretty things! ~

                        '14 Goals:

                        • 2 olympic distance duathlons -- 6 days apart -- PR at least 1

                        • 130#s (and stay there, gotdammit!)

                        Scout7


                        CPT Curmudgeon

                          Hmmm... training to race vs. training to finish. Seems to me there is a huge gap between these two that most of us actually fall into...training to PR!
                          To me, going for a PR IS racing. Personally, any time you toe the line in an event called a race, I'd say you're racing. You're racing the people around you, yourself, the clock. A race is different than a training run in that it's something that you use as a goal, and you go out with the intention of giving it your all, your best effort possible on that day. That's what racing is. It's not something done by a select few. It's something done by everyone who pays their fee and crosses that starting line.
                            To me, going for a PR IS racing. Personally, any time you toe the line in an event called a race, I'd say you're racing. You're racing the people around you, yourself, the clock. A race is different than a training run in that it's something that you use as a goal, and you go out with the intention of giving it your all, your best effort possible on that day. That's what racing is. It's not something done by a select few. It's something done by everyone who pays their fee and crosses that starting line.
                            HERE HERE!!

                            Your toughness is made up of equal parts persistence and experience. You don't so much outrun your opponents as outlast and outsmart them, and the toughest opponent of all is the one inside your head." - Joe Henderson

                              My first post on this was a bit harsher than it should have been. Confused Having just come in from a very hot 80+ degree, high humidity run, I came to post my run and just glanced through the forum and saw the article. Mikeymike your right, it really doesn't say anything against non-elite runners but it still gives me the impression that our efforts are not the same as those who ran in the early days of marathon training. The first paragraph where it says "aspirants embarked upon a six-day regimen of arduous runs hellbent on crossing the finish line in the fastest time possible" left me with the impression that because we train differently, we are not "hellbent on crossing the finish line in the fastest time possilble, so we are "lesser" runners than those early aspirants. That's simply not the case. I would bet that 99% of the runners, whether they finish in 3 hours or 6 hours, are "hellbent on crossing the finish line in the fastest time possible." Big grin Big grin Big grin


                              Needs more cowbell!

                                That's simply not the case. I would bet that 99% of the runners, whether they finish in 3 hours or 6 hours, are "hellbent on crossing the finish line in the fastest time possible." Big grin Big grin Big grin
                                Yeah, otherwise why bother? I could run that distance for free on my own time and not even have to get up early, deal with parking, or nasty port-a-johns with long lines... Big grin k

                                I shoot pretty things! ~

                                '14 Goals:

                                • 2 olympic distance duathlons -- 6 days apart -- PR at least 1

                                • 130#s (and stay there, gotdammit!)

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