Efforts Vs Mileage

I am currently attempting to upgrade my training to allow me to progress from enthusiastic fun runner to something more serious, with a view to getting my marathon time down to 3:30 or less (from a little over 4 hours now.) Having done some research via Runners World articles and taking advice from other runners, I seem to have received much conflicting information concerning effort or hill sessions. Many training schedules place heavy emphasis on them, while I know of runners who do very well on training schedules based simply on mileage. I don't do many effort sessions at the moment, mainly because I don't like doing them - I'd rather run 20 miles than spend half an hour sprinting up hills - and my training consists of around 25-35 miles a week spread over 5 days, rising to 35-40 miles a week during the build up to a marathon.
Given that I am certainly not a sprinter, my primary focus is on the Marathon and I rarely race over distances of less than 10 miles (I do not get the same level of enjoyment from anything less), am I wasting my time on effort sessions? Wouldn't I be better off going for mileage, mileage and more mileage?
I would be interested to know what other runners interested in the longer distance events think.


  • ‘Effort’ as you put it has a place in anyone’s training who wants to get faster – to be able to race at a speed over a distance the body need to get use to both covering that distance and running at that speed.

    You long training at the moment fits the criteria of the first – distance but lacks the work required to improve your speed.

    One way to approach it would be to work out what you mile pace would need to be to achieve your target time and do 1 mile intervals at this time with 90 second recoveries – each week either increase the number of intervals OR reduce the recovery my a few seconds

    Eventually the body will become accustomed to running at the new speed thus enabling you to meet your target

    As far as hills go not every Marathon is flat so occasionally include long hill intervals into your training – I would advise a structured session to improve your speed at least once every 2 weeks

    Hope this helps

  • As abaove Brunswick, milage training helps you do the milage in the race while the shorter harder sessions help you achieve better times.
  • drewdrew ✭✭✭
    Brunswick. There are lots of differing views on this topic. My own experience has shown that a sub 3 hour marathon is feasible without doing any interval training. However what is essential is to do some shorter faster runs, tempo runs, or add faster sessions into your long runs. These faster sessions should be done at somewhere between 1/2 marathon and 10k pace. I tend to do these runs over distances of between 4 & 7 miles.

    You will reach a stage where you then realise that shorter intervals are required to make further improvements. But then it's up to you to decide whether or not you wish to do something you don't enjoy doing.

    As for hill sessions - I don't enjoy doing them either but realise that I will have add such sessions into my training routine at some stage if I want to get the most out of my training.

    It's also important that you don't add too many new things into your training routine at once as this can lead to injuries and/or overtraining.

  • Agree with all views expressed.

    Brunswick, you are aiming to run a time I myself trained for this year and just missed out on due to circumstances I couldn't control.

    I personally feel, after doing some things wrong myself and reading lots of training schedules for marathons, that the best type of running to improve marathon times comes with doing tempo runs at half marathon pace and medium-long runs at marathon pace.

    According to the Advanced Marathoning book your long runs should be once a week at 17 miles or longer. You should then be doing a medium-long run in the week of 11-16 miles at marathon pace on top of a recovery run, a tempo run and a VO2max run of say 600m repeats at 5k pace.

    I followed a very similar schedule to this apart from I didn't do the tempo runs and didn't concentrate on doing my medium-long runs at marathon pace. I concentrated, I feel, to much on doing 800m repeats which didn't do much for maintaining my marathon pace. Anyway sorry this is a long post. Good luck in your goal. Happy running!
  • Excuse my ignorance on this (I am not up on the technicalities of speedwork - I'm more used to just piling on the miles), but I'm not too sure how a "tempo run" should be approached. Do you keep up a certain pace for the entire run, or just parts of it, and if it's the latter, how does it differ from interval training?
  • I normally do my tempo run as a constant heart rate run at / or just below my lactose threshold, for 30 to 60 mins.

  • DustinDustin ✭✭✭
    I reduced my marathon pb from 3:58 to 3:45 in 2001 and 3:31 in 2002. My target for 2003 is certainly sub 3:30 hopefully 3:20.

    I prefer running 10milers and halfMs so can understand your sentiments this is because I seem more able to maintain a pace for longer than to run shorter distances quicker (if that makes sense!)

    I put my improvement down to several factors:
    Doing reps,not short speed reps but 6 * 800m / 4 * 1 mile / or 2-3 * 2 mile all at paces quicker than marathon pace (so based off a 3:30/8minmile) then at between 6m30 and 7m15 pace.

    I also do hill reps twice a month alternating short (200m) hills with longer uphill sessions (ie find a steady incline about 800m long and run up fast,steady run back.

    Tempo runs are where you run for say an hour to 90 minutes and after a slow (9min mile) warm up run at constant pace (or HR) that you can maintain until a mile from home then slow jog recovery.Start off with 3miles then add a mile a week (if you can).

    Alternatives include 2min fast (7min/mile)/ 2 min steady (8min/mile) and 'hollow' 5s ie
    2miles at 10k pace (6m40/mile) 1mile easy (8m30) 2miles 10k pace (6m40/mile).

    Also include the weekly long run of 15 miles or more and try to run at almost race pace (the books say these should be slower than race pace) I did most of mine this year at around 8m10/mile pace.

    Include the odd race over 10k/10m to guage your progress and treat it as a training run rather than a race.

    The factors re hydration/warmups and downs and the odd easy week are also naturally important.

    Good luck!
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