Running-Wizard

123

Why people who train using the Lydiard method don't do 20 mile runs (Read 64 times)

JML


    This question comes up a lot here and I often hear it from the runners that I coach.  The conventional training wisdom says that you need to run a couple of 20 mile training runs to prepare for a marathon.  Lydiard / RunningWizard does not do this for good reasons:

     

    • The wear and tear incurred during a 20 mile run is significant.  If you need to recover for several days after a long run, you are disrupting the flow of your training and beating yourself unnecessarily for very little fitness benefit.
    • The injury risk increases as your running time exceeds 2:30-2:45.  If you are runner who will need 3+ hours to complete 20 miles, you run the risk of injury and of not making it to the starting line of your race.
    • If you are running a less than 40 miles per week, a 20 miler makes up far too much of your weekly training volume.  You would be better off running shorter runs on successive days which will give you more training benefit with lower chance of injury.

    While the long run is important and helps you to develop several key physical adaptations, the conventional wisdom of needing 3x20 mile runs in a training cycle is incorrect.   When people go through a Lydiard / RW cycle,  they typically find that they can easily handle a  tempo/PCR run on Saturday followed by a longish run on Sunday.  Using this approach, you get significant training benefit with lower injury risk, and you do not need to 'recover' from your long run.

     

    That being said....I will let you in on a secret.  Without meaning to, I ran 20 miles last Sunday.  I had planned to run 17-18 (roughly 2:45) with my running group during an organized run that included the parts of the NYC marathon course that I am running in November.  One of the designated pacers for the 9:00 minutes/mile group developed a problem at mile 14, and I was recruited to lead the pack of 30-40 runners.  The run gave me a good opportunity to talk to some other runners about their training.  Most of them were following some variation of the standard 3x20 16-18 week plan with a few exceptions.  Most notably, there was another runner using Hansons that bears a resemblance to RW in that the longest run in the cycle is 16 miles, and the concept of back-to-back tempo/long runs is also present.  In talking to the other runners and observing them in the later miles, I noticed a few things:

     

    1 - Most of them were doing their long run at a far too aggressive pace.  I met more than a few of them that were aiming for a sub-4 hour marathon (9:09 pace) and had opted to run with the 9:00 minute pace group.  I can't see the logic of a 20 mile marathon pace run as part of a training cycle and most of them struggled to finish.  I also noticed that most of them could not talk at all in the later miles as they were working too hard.  Fortunately, the Hansons guy hung with me and seemed fine with the pace.

    2 - Many of them did not finish.  When I took them over the 59th street bridge at mile 16, I slowed the pace (roughly 9:45) to account for the long upslope to get over the bridge.  As many of them were running close to their limit, even this was too hard and we started dropping runners at a fast clip.  That mile saw at least 8 of them stop running and go find a subway station.

    3 - The people that did finish were wiped out.  One of them is a friend of mine that is running his first marathon and is currently running about 35 miles/week.  We got to the end and I turned around to find him gasping for air, laying down on the filthy sidewalk in midtown Manhattan.  He ended up taking four days off before his next run.

     

    Did 20 miles hurt me?  No....but it was not necessary either.  I ended up running 20 @ 8:55 in just under 3 hours.  I was able to run the next day without any issues.  I don't think that I received any additional training benefit for those few extra miles and based on what I observed, none of the other runners did either.  The only other person who seemed unfazed by the run was the Hansons guy who decided to finish with me.

     

    Admittedly, I may be biased as a coach that is certified in the Lydiard method, but I did not observe anyone during the run that had a good training day (other than the Hansons guy).  Every one that did finish struggled to get to 20 miles and I cannot see the reason for it.  I contrast this to the people that I train using the Lydiard approach who easily complete their long runs (14-17), and whose fitness development is progressing nicely.   Based on this experience, I stand by my belief that Lydiard was right and 20 milers are just not necessary.

     2014 goals: run a bunch....race some.....repeat...


    Obligatory runner.

      Well, that doesn't sound very fun for 99% of the people involved.

       

      I run 35-40 miles per week normally, and it would take me days to get over running that far, even at an appropriate pace - which it sounds like very few of your running partners did (9 minutes per mile, dude! I don't even run my 20 *kilometer* runs at that pace!) The obvious question from someone wishing to make a counterargument would be, do the people with the 4-hour goal have a coach? Why is nobody telling them to slow the heck down?

       

      No counterarguments from me, though. I think the results here in this forum speak for themselves Smile

      northernman


      Fight The Future

        Makes perfect sense, JML.

        Harriet, I believe the main reason is that many of us start out by following Hal Higdon's plans, which tend to have several 20 mile runs at the end. He is a famous coach, after all! But he's pretty old by this point. I actually heard him give a lecture at my work place several years ago. Skinny old guy, but I think he was still running pretty well at that point. I wonder if he still does marathons himself?


        Obligatory runner.

          Oh, I was just trying to say you could (theoretically) argue that while 20 miles at 9 min pace makes no sense (for a 4 hour marathoner), 20 miles at 10-11min pace would be far less stressful. But 20 miles at 10 min pace would take 3 hours and 20 minutes, and that's just so long to be on your feet. Maybe 20 milers make sense if you're running many more miles per week than 40, otherwise I just don't see it.


          Boston Strong in 2014!

            This question comes up a lot here and I often hear it from the runners that I coach.  The conventional training wisdom says that you need to run a couple of 20 mile training runs to prepare for a marathon.  Lydiard / RunningWizard does not do this for good reasons:

             

            • The wear and tear incurred during a 20 mile run is significant.  If you need to recover for several days after a long run, you are disrupting the flow of your training and beating yourself unnecessarily for very little fitness benefit.
            • The injury risk increases as your running time exceeds 2:30-2:45.  If you are runner who will need 3+ hours to complete 20 miles, you run the risk of injury and of not making it to the starting line of your race.
            • If you are running a less than 40 miles per week, a 20 miler makes up far too much of your weekly training volume.  You would be better off running shorter runs on successive days which will give you more training benefit with lower chance of injury.

            While the long run is important and helps you to develop several key physical adaptations, the conventional wisdom of needing 3x20 mile runs in a training cycle is incorrect.   When people go through a Lydiard / RW cycle,  they typically find that they can easily handle a  tempo/PCR run on Saturday followed by a longish run on Sunday.  Using this approach, you get significant training benefit with lower injury risk, and you do not need to 'recover' from your long run.

             

            That being said....I will let you in on a secret.  Without meaning to, I ran 20 miles last Sunday.  I had planned to run 17-18 (roughly 2:45) with my running group during an organized run that included the parts of the NYC marathon course that I am running in November.  One of the designated pacers for the 9:00 minutes/mile group developed a problem at mile 14, and I was recruited to lead the pack of 30-40 runners.  The run gave me a good opportunity to talk to some other runners about their training.  Most of them were following some variation of the standard 3x20 16-18 week plan with a few exceptions.  Most notably, there was another runner using Hansons that bears a resemblance to RW in that the longest run in the cycle is 16 miles, and the concept of back-to-back tempo/long runs is also present.  In talking to the other runners and observing them in the later miles, I noticed a few things:

             

            1 - Most of them were doing their long run at a far too aggressive pace.  I met more than a few of them that were aiming for a sub-4 hour marathon (9:09 pace) and had opted to run with the 9:00 minute pace group.  I can't see the logic of a 20 mile marathon pace run as part of a training cycle and most of them struggled to finish.  I also noticed that most of them could not talk at all in the later miles as they were working too hard.  Fortunately, the Hansons guy hung with me and seemed fine with the pace.

            2 - Many of them did not finish.  When I took them over the 59th street bridge at mile 16, I slowed the pace (roughly 9:45) to account for the long upslope to get over the bridge.  As many of them were running close to their limit, even this was too hard and we started dropping runners at a fast clip.  That mile saw at least 8 of them stop running and go find a subway station.

            3 - The people that did finish were wiped out.  One of them is a friend of mine that is running his first marathon and is currently running about 35 miles/week.  We got to the end and I turned around to find him gasping for air, laying down on the filthy sidewalk in midtown Manhattan.  He ended up taking four days off before his next run.

             

            Did 20 miles hurt me?  No....but it was not necessary either.  I ended up running 20 @ 8:55 in just under 3 hours.  I was able to run the next day without any issues.  I don't think that I received any additional training benefit for those few extra miles and based on what I observed, none of the other runners did either.  The only other person who seemed unfazed by the run was the Hansons guy who decided to finish with me.

             

            Admittedly, I may be biased as a coach that is certified in the Lydiard method, but I did not observe anyone during the run that had a good training day (other than the Hansons guy).  Every one that did finish struggled to get to 20 miles and I cannot see the reason for it.  I contrast this to the people that I train using the Lydiard approach who easily complete their long runs (14-17), and whose fitness development is progressing nicely.   Based on this experience, I stand by my belief that Lydiard was right and 20 milers are just not necessary.

             

            Thanks, JML; this comes just at the point when I was wondering whether not doing a 20 miler was such a good idea. I also "cheated" a bit this weekend and did an 18 mile run with similar observations. I had planned to add a couple of miles to my long run and go for 16 but then it felt so good, I added on a couple more. Maybe not a really smart idea but what struck me was that I felt strong the whole time and I was holding back to keep the pace reasonable. At the end I felt like I could easily have done more; in the past, I would have struggled in the last miles of anything more than 16 miles. Also, I had plenty of energy the rest of the day and easily ran a 6 mile fartlek today. Previously I would have spent the rest of the day recovering and would have felt sore the next day. It gave me a psychological boost and convinced me to stick to the program and not worry about adding on miles.

            2014 goals

            2000 miles; 5k < 24:30; HM < 1:56Century Bike Ride

             

            Upcoming:

            NYC Half Marathon 3/16Boston Marathon 4/21

            Gustav1


            Fear is a Liar

              This post makes a lot of sense.

               

              I would venture that all of those other runners have several things in common. Here are my assumptions:

               

              1) They don't have a previous mileage base. By this I mean they have not run consistently for a year or more with a MPW to substantiate a marathon training program.

               

              2) They currently aren't even running the MPW to substantiate a 20 mile LR.

               

              3) They "cheat" in their plan but almost always get their LR in.

               

              4) They avoid interval speed work and hill work - relying on tempo and pace runs.

               

              5) They feel if they don't run close to 26.2 in training, they will become overwhelmed racing in the "unknown" territory.

               

              One thing I'll admit that was a nice feature in this run was that people could bail any where on a 20 mile run and take a train home - I can't even imagine that.

              I'm so vegetarian I don't even eat animal crackers!

                I wonder if 20-milers (or more accurately, longer-than-3-hour runs) have a place in training for ultras; wouldn't the answer still be no if running four hours at a shot is all risk with no benefit? I might be possibly maybe venturing into that scene next year, in part because my training for this upcoming marathon with such high weekly mileage but no (well, one) twenty-milers has me feeling like the plan could be applicable to a 50-miler with only minor tweaking.

                northernman


                Fight The Future

                  This post makes a lot of sense.

                   

                  I would venture that all of those other runners have several things in common. Here are my assumptions:

                   

                  1) They don't have a previous mileage base. By this I mean they have not run consistently for a year or more with a MPW to substantiate a marathon training program.

                   

                  2) They currently aren't even running the MPW to substantiate a 20 mile LR.

                   

                  3) They "cheat" in their plan but almost always get their LR in.

                   

                  4) They avoid interval speed work and hill work - relying on tempo and pace runs.

                   

                  5) They feel if they don't run close to 26.2 in training, they will become overwhelmed racing in the "unknown" territory.

                   

                  One thing I'll admit that was a nice feature in this run was that people could bail any where on a 20 mile run and take a train home - I can't even imagine that.

                  Well, I don't think that is true all the time. I have a number of friends who have run marathons for years, some typically making it in under 3 hours. They all run 20 or more miles, one or more times before their races. Just look at the logs of some of the fast people on this web site, and you'll see many who do the same. For me, I have a solid base, and have no doubt that I can make it to the end of a marathon. Previously, I just thought it helped with the final build up, and also, I like to run, so if I could run for 3 or more hours in a training run, it was fun, not a grind. Nonetheless, I'm willing to give the RW strategy a try, and compare the outcome


                  Hungry

                    I am enjoying this discussion. I think that for first-time marathoners, running 20 miles probably has some psychological benefit in terms of getting them to believe they will finish. (When I tell non-runners that I'm training for a marathon, they often assume that I'll run a 26-miler as part of my training.) At the other end of the spectrum, the athletes who can comfortably run 70-100 mpw can probably do 20-milers with no ill effects (and probably net positive gains in training effect). I would guess this is because: a) 20 miles is a relatively small percentage of their weekly mileage, and b) if they run 8:00 pace, for example, it will take 2:40 to run 20 miles (far less than 3 hours).

                     

                    My results over the last year have convinced me that I don't need to run 20-milers and am probably better off not doing them. The two marathon programs I used were the classic Higdon 3x20 for last fall's marathon, and a 24-week RW plan for my race in June. The one thing I see in the plots below is that the RW plan had me doing significantly more weekly mileage, but without the 20-mile long runs of the Higdon plan. The Higdon plan had very low mileage mid-week runs, which I tried to highlight with the red curved line. The mid-week runs of RW were longer, which meant that the Long Runs on the weekends weren't all that much longer than some of my mid-week runs.

                     

                    (I created this plot when I was only 13 weeks into the 24-week plan. But it shows the Aerobic phase and most of the Hills phase.)

                     

                    Higdon vs RW

                     

                    To those who are thinking about adding mileage to get some 20+ mile runs in before their marathon, I will paraphrase something Nobby said once:

                    "Don't add a pair of legs to a beautiful painting of a snake just because you felt you needed to do more."

                     

                     

                    Good luck to everyone training!

                      I wonder if 20-milers (or more accurately, longer-than-3-hour runs) have a place in training for ultras; wouldn't the answer still be no if running four hours at a shot is all risk with no benefit? I might be possibly maybe venturing into that scene next year, in part because my training for this upcoming marathon with such high weekly mileage but no (well, one) twenty-milers has me feeling like the plan could be applicable to a 50-miler with only minor tweaking.

                       

                      Yes, they have a place, and they say that long runs don't start until 4 hrs in for ultras. (added "for ultras" later) There are physiological benefits plus that's when you figure out hydration, electrolytes, and fuels, gear. . (More tomorrow when I tucoming start up desktop rather than iPad. Just got home from 10-hr Climbathon.) Keep in mind that many ultras are on hilly trails, which is very different from a road marathon.

                       

                      I agree that you could probably just modify a marathon pgm. But the only runner I'm aware of who limits long runs to 2-3hrs is Matt Carpentrr, but he ran about 14 hr a wk.

                       

                      many ultra runners like to run long in the woods and mountains. That's why they run long - or do a lot of long races so they don't have long runs in training.

                       

                      Theres exceptions to be sure.

                      "So many people get stuck in the routine of life that their dreams waste away. This is about living the dream." - Cave Dog
                      JML


                        Josh - Ultras are a different animal.  My experience and observations have been limited to distances up to the marathon.  I know a few ultra runners who regularly go out for 4+ hour runs at a very gentle pace.  On the other hand, they are working off a higher mileage base and have slowly built up to workouts of this duration.  In my experience, most first time marathoners are pushing the envelope in terms of mileage and intensity build up.


                        Northernman - I too know a few people with much more experience than I who have very fast marathon times.   I think that these runners can handle 20 milers for two reasons:
                        - They typically have a much higher lifetime mileage base resulting in a larger aerobic capacity and are also training at more than 30-40 mpw.
                        - They train at a faster pace.  A friend of mine (2:17 marathon PR, 50-60mpw) does his long runs at a 6:45 pace.  20 miles @ 6:45 takes around 2:15.  He can easily handle a 20 miler (he does two in a marathon training cycle) because he is not on his feet for that long.

                        I agree with SubDood in that the primary benefit of running 20 miles for a first time marathoner is psychological.  The marathon is a daunting distance, and knowing that you can get to 20 is significant mental boost during training.  Unfortunately, for many runners, this mental boost exacts a high price in wear and tear and may lead to injury.  As with all things, there is a balance to be found and I personally err on the side of shorter long runs and hopefully getting my runners to the starting line healthy.

                         2014 goals: run a bunch....race some.....repeat...

                          Josh, I agree with JML that ultras are a different animal, sorta. But recognize that some people do 50k races in 3 hrs while some marathoners may take over 7 hrs (median for my AG - upper 60s female - in next week's marathon is about 7:20, mostly trail loop with about 3500 ft of uphill). So there's overlap in duration of ultras and marathons. RW has my longest long run at 8.5mi, 2.5 hrs (my paces are based on trails). My past experiences are that the more I run with the longer long runs (up to a point), the better I do - but I built up to them. (yes, I ignored the cap since I knew that wouldn't provide adequate training, and I was already running longer than that, including a race not too long before I started this)

                           

                          Take a look at any of the ultra forums (Ultra running group here; RWOL has one also, plus there's many other groups, forums out there; Trail forums will frequently have ultra discussions since there's a lot of overlap), and you will find some very different training and perspectives than what you see here. A lot of it is based on trail running, frequently in the mountains, although some do flatter ones and even roads and tracks. My ultra friends in Anchorage have a 4-hr "run" every Thursday night year round. Not everyone does it every week, and many of the runs have a lot of bushwhacking. I'm not sure how some of my friends out here train, other than knowing it's long, usually with lots of up or pulling a pulk in the snow. And their results show the benefits of their work, esp. in longer races (350mi, 1000mi).

                           

                          People train for ultras and longer runs. Many people use 8-hr long runs or b2b runs of 4ish hours or so. But they've taken the time to build up to them - or have accidentally taken a wrong turn on a trail and had a substantial increase in duration. Wink  OR they do races frequently enough that their training doesn't need separate long runs.

                           

                          In contrast, most canned programs that I've seen, start out with a slow buildup, then very aggressive in the last month of two. Yes, that's why people get injured with 3-5 hr runs - inappropriate training. It's not the duration of the long run by itself.

                           

                          Sometimes you can get by on shorter long runs IF the volume is there. JMHO, I don't think RW (at least the plan I had) has the volume to do that. Other plans might have more volume.

                           

                          Some people argue that recovery times are slow from 3+hr runs - only if not trained for them.

                           

                          Besides the traditional road training workouts, you've got agility, long uphills, steep downhills, and other types of workouts that need to be in there. Granted the uphill and downhill fit in long runs, but not if capped at 2.5hr. There's only so much time to train, and people need to figure out which workouts work best for them.

                           

                          I think I mentioned this last night also, ultra training is frequently on trails - with ups, downs, hiking, etc - very different from road marathon and much less pounding, except on long downhills or the wipeouts when tripped by a root or whatever. The stressors are different. I generally don't go longer than about 1:30-1:45 on road, and that's a tempo with 25 min warmup and cooldown (hey, that's how far the flattish part of the paved bike path is from me). I wouldn't want to go any longer on asphalt. But "training" on trails is more akin to playing in the woods, and people do play hard.

                           

                          Just a side note to the ramblings: Remember that Lydiard's guys did 22-mi hilly runs - even his 800-m guy - plus running to Lydiard's house to start. IIRC, the range of durations was  somewhere from 2:40? (when untrained) down to 2:15 or so when trained (may not have the numbers right and not sure where I read that to check). Yes, they were world class.  But in your original question, you did refer to 3+ hrs, which I think is the proper may to think of training.

                           

                          These 2 articles by Matt Carpenter are some of my favorite about ultra races and training.

                          http://www.skyrunner.com/story/2005lt100.htm

                          http://www.skyrunner.com/story/2004lc50.htm

                          Note: I think of Carpenter as more of a high altitude mountain runner than an ultra runner, but the articles are still interesting.

                           

                          I might also note that one of the 50-something ultra runners also runs track competitvely, placing (or winning?) in US masters championships. He lifetime PRd in  marathon a couple years ago (pacing his daughter to OTQ). I don't know how he trains.

                           

                          Just some thoughts.

                          "So many people get stuck in the routine of life that their dreams waste away. This is about living the dream." - Cave Dog

                            Thanks for everyone's input; I would apologize for hijacking the thread, but I'm guessing this crowd enjoys this stuff.

                             

                            I think we should be careful to make sure we're clear when we talk about the sacred 20-miler; it's not that 20-miles is pointless, or even that 3-hours is risky. It's the the percentage of weekly mileage, and the buildup of base miles I guess. I notice that many of the runners who advocate FIRST type training tend to have years of high-mileage training in their past.

                              ^ that was a rather disjointed comment; remind me not to post while on the phone with my parents.


                              Obligatory runner.

                                Thanks for everyone's input; I would apologize for hijacking the thread, but I'm guessing this crowd enjoys this stuff.

                                 

                                I think we should be careful to make sure we're clear when we talk about the sacred 20-miler; it's not that 20-miles is pointless, or even that 3-hours is risky. It's the the percentage of weekly mileage, and the buildup of base miles I guess. I notice that many of the runners who advocate FIRST type training tend to have years of high-mileage training in their past.

                                right. Nothing wrong with 20 milers in themselves, or superlong runs. Or Hal Higdon!

                                 

                                and posting on phone while with parents > posting on phone while with 2 year old.

                                123