I ended my last post (the Coventry Half Marathon Race Report) by claiming that I was happy with my performance and time for the race. At the time, I was, and I still am now, but there was a large part of the Sunday afternoon where I was questioning myself and just why I didn’t go faster.
The main reason for this was seeing other people’s race times, mainly from the club, for both the Coventry half and other half marathons around the same time. 1:40 is by no means a bad time, but there are many who are going quicker, some by a minute or two, some by 10 minutes plus. Particularly during that Sunday afternoon, I was scrolling through my Strava feed wondering how others were going faster when I couldn’t. I must say, I felt a little disheartened.
I started to look at the average weekly mileage of those that were going faster than me, along with those that were finishing at around the same time. Strava is helpful in the fact that you can do this even if you don’t follow the individual, unless their account is private of course. Discounting race week due to tapering, I looked at the previous eight weeks leading up to race week. For those going a couple of minutes faster (which was what I thought I was capable of), the average weekly mileage was 35-40 miles. For the couple that I checked that went sub-1:30, their average was more like 60 miles. I checked my average weekly mileage for the same time period and it was 25 miles. Suddenly I felt a little bit better.
I went on to check some of those that finished in around the same time as me and they varied around 25-35 miles.
Whilst I appreciate that higher mileage alone won’t make you race faster, it does make a difference. Several studies have been carried out by the likes of Runners World and Strava on marathon runners that prove those with higher weekly mileage do race faster.
I tried to come up with a simple formula that showed even a loose correlation between race times and mileage, just for my own benefit, but initially failed and then gave up trying. In my online searching however, I did find that it also matters at what pace you complete your training, but I kind of already knew this. There’s a reason why a 65 mile per week runner almost achieved a sub-1:20 at Coventry whereas a 60 mile per week runner just about achieved a sub-1:30. Anyway, take a look at the graphic below from Runners World.
Put simply, whilst specificity is important, those that race faster, train slower. A perfect case in point on this is a friend of mine who I often train with. He runs his long and easy runs at 09:00-10:00/mile and yet is a 3:07 marathon runner and is well on course for a sub-3:00 in a couple of weeks’ time.
Unfortunately, due to various reasons, 50-60-mile weeks just aren’t possible for me. I’ve said it several times before, this then means that if I want faster race times, I need to train smarter. I’ve often prided myself on the fact that I make the most of the miles that I run, with a plan and purpose in mind each time I head out of the door. The Coventry half has thrown me a little bit, as I genuinely thought I would go quicker, and I’m no longer as sure that I am making the most of the miles.
I do have a bit of a plan going forward. For starters my four running days per week have been Tuesday, then Friday, Saturday, Sunday. Not ideal for rest and recovery, especially in preparation for hard days, so moving the active days around a bit should help. I’d also like to increase my weekly mileage. Not massively, just to 30-35 miles ideally. There’s a runner at the club who is a sub-17 minute 5k’er, a sub-36 minute 10k’er and a sub-1:20 half marathoner who rarely runs more than 40 miles per week. This profile is almost what I aspire to, and proves that it can be done.
This is as long as time permits of course. The running still needs to fit in around other life commitments and, as I keep saying, it needs to remain enjoyable. Otherwise, what’s the point?