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High Mileage

Answered By Jeff Arbogast


Hello, Thank you for taking the time to anwser my question. The first week of July, once my track season has concluded and I take a two week break I will begin XC training. My coach has talk to me about doing 20 mile runs, since that is what he did. He ended up becoming one of the better runners in the state but now he is struggling to break 13 in the two mile. If I run 80+ weeks at a slow pace, and some days tempo runs or fartleks, will I run a risk of causing an injury that will not allow me to run in college and after? I will be a sophomore next year and would like to try and gain more strength from XC so I can race the 800 well next spring.


Superb question, and I'm sure you can get multiple answers depending upon the backgrounds of your responders . . . Overall, our program is set up to model the African system in many ways as we've had some unique opportunities to become familiar with the intimacies of their training models. Bottom line . . .speed is everything. Yes, a solid aerobic background is critical, but I think you will find that many more coaches in college will recruit speed and ramp up your distance than vice versa. Consequently, to address your college issue . . . focusing on speed now and keeping yourself and your legs as fresh as possible is by far the best idea. After all, in the international perspective, a mile is nearly an all-out sprint, and even a 5k requires 50 second quarter speed to really compete. You can certainly build to 80 mpw during the highest two weeks of your summer, but always keep in mind that intensity or quality must come first. Yes, many runs will be recovery paced, but every other day you need intensity in the form of power runs, hard fartleks, hills, stepdowns, etc. You need to train like you race . . . and you aren't prepping for 20 milers. Think and visualize the 5k as a sprint race (like the Africans) and realize the manner in which you train directly affects how you will be running. It's just too hard for a HS runner to maintain any type of focus (or intensity) for 20 miles. A good rule of thumb (although I know it is controversial) is to rarely (if ever) go beyond twice race distance in a hard run. Focus on the shorter quality, but run twice a day if you need to in the summer in order to hit you mileage totals. Just make one run high quality and the other recovery. A 1:55 athlete in HS averaging 40-50 mpw in the summer is much more 'recruitable' than a 2:03 kid running 80 mpw. In the latter case, what is a college coach actually going to do to imporve you . . . increase your miles up to 120? It is impossible to say what causes injury. Numerous studies (including recent ones at West Point) have failed to show positive correlations that are repeatable, but we can naturally expect that too rapid a rise in mileage coupled with too high a volume is more likely to cause injury than a minimalistic program. Bottom line for you and your coach . . .the "art" of coaching is getting the MAXIMUM result with MINIMUM damage to the athlete. Preservation of the physical body and the emotional desire to compete is the most important. Have fun . . .train hard . . .

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