The First 6 Weeks
The next phase of my 20-week hard-training cycle differs depending on whether
I am preparing for a 10-km race, a standard marathon, or an ultramarathon. The essential difference is that for the 10-km race and the standard marathon, I mostly emphasize speed training and maintain a weekly training distance of about 120 km/week; for the ultramarathon, I emphasize distance training and long weekend runs and add speed training only when I have completed the heavy distance training.
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My training for the 10-km race and the standard marathon differs from that in Exercises 6.6 only in that I will emphasize speed-training sessions either on a Tuesday or a Thursday each week and will run 2 or 3 races of 10 to 16 km but no further under any circumstances. I have found that these are, for me, the optimum racing distances to prepare for both the 10-km race and for the marathon. Longer races tend to cause more severe damage to my muscles, which slows my recovery. Also, from a psychological viewpoint, the marathon breaks up neatly into two 16-km and one 10-km race, so that during the marathon race, I concentrate on running as close to my best times for each of these distances as is possible. When properly prepared, one can come remarkably close to this goal.
As far as speed work goes, I have observed the following:
1. Proper speed work probably requires the presence of a coach (llth law of Training). Speed work requires more finesse and understanding than does long-slow-distance running because speed work is more likely to cause injury or physical breakdown. For these reasons, it is essential to work with someone who can objectively analyze whether the speed work is having the desired effect.
The following statement by Lydiard may at first seem to contradict this advice.
There is no coach in the world who can say exactly what an athlete should do as far as the number of repetitions, distances, and intervals are concerned. Not even physiologists can tell an athlete that. The important point is that the athlete knows what he is trying to achieve and goes out and works at it until he does. (Lydiard & Gilmour, 1978, p. 12)