Getting Your Mileage In

by Karl Gruber
As a long time distance runner and running coach, I have always encouraged runners to get your required training miles in — and maybe even a bit extra — to achieve your desired goal half or full marathon time. On a personal level, this has almost always held true during months of training for an upcoming marathon, helping me achieve or improve upon my goal race time. It’s all about putting in the needed work to achieve the results you want. This, of course, holds true for most anything you wish to achieve in life, and running is no different. 

My highest-mileage training week before setting my marathon PR was 87 miles. Putting in this type of mileage in one week finely tuned my body to not only endure running 26.2 miles but also to become familiar with the rigors of running long miles for long periods of time. Come race day, when my body was cruising along like a well-oiled machine at mile 24, there were no surprises. That is because my body had been there numerous times before.

A beginner distance runner or even an intermediate distance runner shouldn’t be expected to put in large amounts of weekly training mileage. Particularly because it can take months and maybe years of buildup to prepare your body to handle the effort and pounding those increased number of running miles dole out.

This does not change the fact that consistently logging more training miles will result in improved finishing times in the half and full marathon. Runners World offered a very telling story; check out how their article “Runners With More Training Miles Finish Marathons Faster” confirms the idea. According to the research:

“We were curious – just how much of an effect does mileage have on marathon times? So we partnered with folks at RunKeeper, the training app, to analyze data from more than 27,000 of their users. We looked at runners' training habits over a typical 16-week training period and compared their weekly mileage to their 26.2 finish times. The results were revealing. For example, on average:
  • Runners who ran the most, 38 to 44 miles per week, clocked an impressive 3:50:46— well below the nation's average marathon time of 4:27:27.
  • Conversely, runners who ran the least, six or fewer miles per week, ran the slowest times—5:12:12 (11:54/mile pace).
  • Even just a few more miles per week was associated with faster finishing times—the group that logged six to 13 miles per week finished in 4:45:36 (10:54/mile pace).”
Of course, running fewer miles can also result in injury, extreme fatigue and burnout. Authors Dan Fuehrer, Christine Fennessy and Robert James Reese confirm that, “Of course, more mileage isn't always better. Doing too much, too soon, too often can cause injury.” 

While this information confirms the long-accepted adage that more training mileage will allow you to race a half or full marathon faster, I suggest taking a long, progressive road of mileage buildup over a longer period of time. And if you’re just now jumping into the world of distance racing, don’t beat yourself up over this — physically or mentally. Take time to assess not only your current but also your future marathon goals, and be patient about running longer and faster. 

Find a good local training group and/or coach to run and train with, and do your own homework on what it takes to run 13.1 or 26.2 miles. Decide whether you are okay with running a five-hour marathon at this point in time or if you have the desire and drive to one day come across that marathon finish line in 3:50. If so, put in the required weekly training miles, and most assuredly, you will achieve that desired result.

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