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Why that question about kilometres might be wrong.

Why that question about kilometres might be wrong.

Marcel is a Foundation Run member training for his first ultramarathon. He’s sharing his thoughts and tackling it one run at a time.

What’s the most common question you get asked about your running? For me the question tends to be: “How many kilometres are you running each week?”

Distance is the chief currency of ultramarathons, so I get why the conversation goes there. Not so long ago I would have asked the same question, back when I thought the best way to train for a really long run is to go for lots of really long runs.

It’s not.

The schedule that Foundation Run puts together for me hardly ever uses distance as a target. It’s more about time and effort. Some of my runs are hard, some are easy. Some are on hills, some are flat. There’s long and cruisy, and there’s short and intense. They each have a specific purpose.

It’s like a balanced diet with complementary ingredients that cater to the whole body. Instead of just eating porridge all day.

If I were doing this training by the old playbook, by now I would probably be trying to run a marathon every weekend. That’s not sustainable at all. This other approach requires a paradigm shift and a bit of trust, especially if you’re used to clocking up lots of boring kilometres. Hill repeats? Interval training? What is this dark magic?

It’s paying off. My first ever speed session was 10 hard intervals of 70 seconds. Compare that with last week’s speed session, where I had six high intensity bursts of 1.5km tucked inside a 90min run. It was satisfying learning that I could hold my pace through each interval. My endurance and speed are picking up. I’m breaking through the ceiling of what I used to assume my limits were.

I won’t pretend that it doesn’t feel awesome to see big fat distances accruing on Strava as my training progresses. But distance isn’t the main point. Strength, speed and endurance: that’s the currency that matters right now.

November 3, 2017

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