Running Less, Running Faster
“Since the first running boom of the 1970s, an increasing number of runners have begun to believe that the more they train, the more successful they will be. In fact, there is a limit to the amount of training the body can benefit from.” – Tim Noakes, Lore of Running (p. 291)
Is it possible to get faster while running less?
In the spring of 2011, I put the idea to the test by running very few miles, 20-25 miles per week, and focused on running fast high intensity workouts 1-2 times per week.
I knew I was on to something when after 9 months of training this way, I was able to run 59:59 for 10 miles, a 6 min/mile pace. I ran the last mile of the race in 5 min 30 sec and felt like I was running on all cylinders.
Three weeks later, I ran a 57:31 for 10 miles, setting a personal record, maintaining a pace of 5:45 per mile, and taking 2nd place overall. Four weeks after that I ran a personal best in a small local 5k, running 16:37 and winning the race.
Within the next year of running this way, I set or equalled my personal bests in every distance from the 5k to Half-Marathon; ran a marathon in 2:55, and completed a trail 50k in 3:46, all while running about 25 miles per week.
I hadn’t planned on setting any personal records, but as my training progressed, I kept getting faster. My goals were simple: avoid injuries and have fun. If my times improved, even better.
After 14 years of running, I had finally found a sustainable way to train. It allowed me to run fast, and stay injury free.
By reducing my training miles and focusing on staying injury free, I have been able to continue doing the activity I love, and have set personal records at the same time.
“Only when top runners stop trying, lose interest, and train less do they again start performing to their potential. Only then, when it is too late, do they begin to understand the training threshold concept, and only then do they learn that too much training was more detrimental to their performance than too little training.” -Tim Noakes, Lore of Running p.293
Before adopting a low-mileage approach, I was constantly getting injured. I had a consistent pattern: I’d start increasing my weekly mileage, I’d get faster, then I’d get sidelined with another injury.
After I’d recover from the injury, I’d promptly repeat the process of increasing my weekly mileage, getting faster and getting injured again.
In hindsight, it seems ridiculous that I kept repeating the same process over and over, expecting different results.
It wasn’t until I gave up on the idea of high weekly mileage that I was able to run faster, and stay injury free.
Getting the most from your training
By listening to your body and focusing on specific workouts tailored to your event, you can optimize your running and stay injury free.
When you stop worrying about your weekly mileage, and focus on key workouts, you’ll be able to run faster, and stay injury free. You’ll also have more fun, and more time for other things in your life.
This is not a magic formula, it’s just one runner sharing his experience with other runners.
I can’t guarantee success; I can only tell you what I’ve done and how it might work for you.
If you value your time and are willing to give an unconventional approach a try, let me know in the comments and I’ll keep writing about how I’ve set personal records and stayed injury free while running low mileage.