Train like a racehorse

There are some fascinating threads in this forum on the rights and the wrongs of established routines. I haven't been running long so can't really pass any opinions on these but I do know a bit about horseracing.

Very few horses require exactly the same programme to reach racing fitness. Some can be got fit with steady uphill canters. Some on a couple of gallops a week. Others - sometimes called 'gross', can take seriously punishing amounts of work, and might still need a couple of races to reach their peak.

The real skill of a racehorse trainer is finding out exactly the right routine for each horse - too little work and they run out of steam on the racecourse. Too much and they're over the top having 'left their race on the gallops'. There is also the talent of 'letting them down' after each race then building them up again again to maintain their fitness, soundness and mental enthusiasm for a full racing season. Many now swim as part of their schedule. I've known some which herded sheep on the hills and stayed fit (especially mentally) just on that.

One horse might relish working competitively with other horses while another will refuse to even trot if another horse is near him and must be worked alone.

I think there's a reasonable chance that humans are the same. While some general training rules might apply to all, each runner needs to find just what is right for him or her. And the mental aspect, especially keeping yourself 'sweet' on training, may well be as important as the physical. Happy running. (And neigh slacking!)


  • Hi Joemac,

    I agree with what you say. I believe we all need differing training in order to get by.

    Personally, I train once on a monday and then once at the weekend, and get by with times like 37:57 for 10km and 1:26 for h/m, so it is fine for me. However I do know of runners that train 6 times per week in order to get the same results, its certainly interesting.

    As I believe half the battle is mental, then I feel the benefit of turning up at races and feeling completely fresh and ready for the event.

    Best Wishes, NN
  • Thanks for the advice. I'm going out to herd some sheep now.
  • Nice analogy Joemac, makes sense.

    NN - do you really only run twice a week?? Amazing results, and turns some theories upside down to say the least!
  • They haven't brought charges yet.

    I insist that I was only with those sheep as I was doing some research on the subject....
  • Humph3, good one mate :)

    Laura L, yes the weekend run is usually a race, and the monday session is a track 5km speed inverval session, normally no other training than that.

    Regards, NN
  • NN - Did you do a bit more to get to this level though ?

    Your 2 runs a week just sound like they maintain you ?
  • Hi csc, No I havent done more previously, I am going to start doing more soon I think though.

    I am definitely still improving with this training, for example I got a PB in September of 39:15 for 10km, then in October got it down to 38:44, then in November down to 37:57. I put it down to the fact that my training is at race pace or higher, I only go out for a slower then race pace run if there are others to run with for the social aspects.

    I also did a run on new years eve and got 38:13, had it not been for a recurring hip problem at the 7km point (damned x-country races) then I would have beetered my pb then also.

    Regards, NN
  • Wow !

    I tend to agree that your fast times must come from your high paces on your training runs. Last year most of my runs were 6 milers flat out (oh and some distance work for FLM) and I got down to 1.26 for the Half, from my first attempt of 1.40.

    I know I don't do as many miles as the schedules say, but I'm quite happy with the less is more theory.

    But as they say - everyone is different !
  • NN-have I ever told you I hate you!!!!!

    Twice a week-you B@st@rd
  • Hi JJ, thats the way I look at it too, at first I couldnt manage the entire distance, but gradually by the end of the year was just getting it right, long may it continue.

    Legless, yes I know you do, hehehe :)
  • JJ, That sounds like a good way to reach a goal time for a distance. For example, I want to do under 40 minutes for 10K, so, after warming up, if I run at the necessary pace, (6:26 / mile) until I can't sustain that pace any more, I should be training myself to run at that pace, and I'll have a way of measuring how far I am from being able to achieve that goal.
    I suppose I could rest, or run slowly for a while after reaching my limit, then start off again at the target pace. It sounds like interval training, but with the intervals set by results, not planned in advance.
    Does this make any sense, and will it work?
  • I try and try and TRY
    I train 5x week ,and i think im getting slower

  • I can see it being a way to self-motivated speed sessions
  • Hi guys and gals, I train at 5% above race pace, this means that when I get to a race I am always running slower than in training, and therefore it seems easier, it may sound silly but it works for me.

    You cant expect to reach your goal distance at this pace, but the energy that you save when running slower in race means that you can keep your race pace for longer!

    Best Wishes, NN
  • NattyN,

    How long have you been running?

    Also I reckon people are a over reacting a little - those times are respectable, good for the amount of training, but not exactly remarkable. Most fit males should be able to crack 1.30 off a couple of days training a week over time - Natty obviously has a bit of talent but there was a guy that ran sub 1.20 with no training on here a month or so ago.
  • Hi popsider, since April 01. I agree with you on your points also and remember that guy that you mention, a 1:20 off no training did make me jealous, but only cos I havent done it yet :)

    Regards, NN
  • MinksMinks ✭✭✭
    I like the idea of training at target race pace until you can't go any further, then aiming to increase how far you get at the same pace each time.

    Very tempted to try it to see if it works.
  • The great Australian runner from the 1960s, Ron Clarke, was a big fan of racing to get fit. He would basically run tonnes and tonnes of miles during the winter and them come to Europe in the Summer and compete in loads of races from 1500m up to 10k - often racing 2-3 times a week.

    In case you weren't aware Ron Clarke was the first man to run under 28mins for 10k - he actually smashed the previous record running 27.40 (on a cinder track). Those were the days...
  • If you can do times like that on two runs a week NN then I'd suggest there's a genetic element there as well. Can't remember where I heard it, but it was some stat like 80% is genetic, 20% is training.

    A bit like racehorses again - they get together the best horses.

    If Queen Paula and Khalid K had a sprog, it would probably run a marathon in about sub1:30!
  • My 18 yr old son can run 5k off his twice a week football training in just under 18 mins. I'm always amazed by his natural speed (used to be an excellent 400m runner in school, where he never seemed to train for a race, just did it!)and how he can do this kind of distance with such little effort. If only he liked running enough to trian..........
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