As 2:13 marathoner Keith Dowling said, Some say there’s no magic formula. I say there is. It’s just that the magic is different for everyone. I believe that even most seriously competitive runners fail to realize their full performance potential primarily because they fall short of developing their optimal training formula. The most successful runners are not always more gifted than those who finish a few steps behind them in races. Often their true advantage is that, whether by luck or by their own wherewithal, they have found their best way to train and thus get more out of their talent. One of the best ways to appreciate just how disparate optimal training formulas can be is to consider the training methods of world beaters whose optimal training formula is especially unusual. Ethiopian runner Tirunesh Dibaba, who holds the women’s world records for 5,000 m on the track and 15 km on the road, is such an athlete. Dibaba trains far more lightly than almost every other world-class runner of her generation. Her longest runs are 80 minutes. She hits the track twice a week, but her interval sessions are almost shockingly mildjust a handful of short intervals (150 to 400 m) at very high speeds with short recoveries. This formula obviously works for her, because no woman in history has ever run faster than she does at her specialty distance. But her closest rivals would probably not move any closer to Dibaba by copying her methods. They have their own magic formulas. Whether or not they ever discover them is another matter.



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