How high mileage can make you a better runner

I read a book on running where the author said that less is always better. This means that you don’t need to run a lot in order to be a faster version of yourself. The title of the book was “Run Less Run Faster”

The main Idea of the book is that you do all of your training runs at a fast pace and eventually you don’t need to run as many miles as conventional wisdom says. What is conventional wisdom? Well, that is to build a solid running base by running tons of slow miles.

I came to know both ideas while my goal was to lose weight and run a marathon little faster. I tried both of the approaches.

The idea of running less and running faster did not really work for me and therefore I switched back to conventional and boring method of running slow and running lot of miles.

In the article, I will tell you how I increased my mileage slowly and how that have changed my running performance over the last 4 years.

Year 2015

I started working in the department of food science at the UW Madison as a postdoc. My mileage at that time was hovering around 45-55 miles week. I decided to get at least 40 miles by the end of each Friday and then try to run 30 miles on Saturday and Sunday combined.

I used to run to my office from home with my laptop and lunch and that run from home to office to home was very slow. It was somewhere around 10-10:30 mins per mile. I never tried to push it hard and always took it very easy. Even with that pace, I used to feel tired. Why? I think partly because of my body weight!

In year 2015 I was able to go to 70 miles per week and felt pretty tired because of this high mileage.

I ran 1800 miles in the year 2015

Year 2016

Since I wanted to take my running to the next level and run Boston marathon, I decided to see if there is any way I can increase my mileage to 80-90 miles per week. I tried that and felt pretty tired. This was because of two hard workouts each week. One was track workout and second was a 11 mile rocket run after 20 miles on Saturday.

I read an article by Rob Krar who said exactly the same thing. He says do majority of your runs slow and don’t do more than one hard workout per week. Learning from him I decided to do either rocket run or speed workout. That changed a lot how I felt after each week. Now each week did not feel that tiring and I easily manage 75-85 miles per week during whole year.

I ran 2600 miles in total in the year 2016.

Year 2017

After a disappointing performance in Boston marathon and then in iceage 50 miler that I ran in 8 hours and 38 minutes (my goal was 7 hours and 30 minutes), I decided to ramp up my mileage again to 90 miles per week before I did Heneppin 100 miler in that year. My Heneppin 100 miler went well and I was able to run that race in 18 hours and 22 minutes.

I consistently ran 80-90 miles per week without worrying about my pace but 80% of my runs were at 9:30 mins/ mile or slower.

By now 80-90 miles per week with only one hard workout per week did not feel that bad but I must admit that I felt tired.

Total mileage for 2017 was 3640 miles.

Year 2018

I stared this year with a disastrous race when I ran madcity 100k. I felt horrible in that race. Although I have trained really hard for it but the race day was not my day. I was hoping to finish the race in 8 hours 30 minutes and did finish almost an hour later in 9 hours and 22 minutes. I am glad that I failed that time otherwise I would not have changed my diet.

Anthony Kunkel (who later on became my coach) won that race by running the same distance in 6 hours and 52 minutes. 2 hours and 30 minutes ahead of me!

I was so impressed with his performance that I contacted him the very next day and asked him if he train athletes.

Anthony kindly agreed to coach me. Not surprisingly, he advised me the same thing. Slow miles and lot of slow miles. Additionally, he asked me to try high fat low carb diet (also known as ketogenic diet). I followed him religiously and results were Fantastic. Best thing happened to me was the PR in 100k (8 hours and 22 minutes) and I did not feel as tired as I used to feel in my previous years.

I ran 3250 miles in 2018. 400 less than year 2017 but I have a reason as to why did that happen. Hard time in my life made me skip couple of months of running. My goal was to run 4000 miles in year but could not do that.

Year 2019

In my quest to achieve new mileage goals and eventually run faster ultra marathons. I kept running slow miles.

I noticed that my consistent high mileage started paying off when I won my first ultra marathon. It was bitter cold there and there was a feet deep snow on the hilly trails. I won John Dick 50K by running the distance in 4 hours and 51 minutes. Although that was a very small race and not many people know about it but winning something felt good. It was the reward of consist hard work that i have been putting over the course of 4 years.

Things have been great this year so far. I finished 3rd in Madcity 50k. That race was US national 50k championship and finishing just behind some 2:2x marathoner felt great. I was also awarded the 50k Wisconsin Champion in that race. That had boosted my confidence and so I went to iceage trail 50 with the hope that I will finish on top 10 among 400-550 participants. My secret goal was to run 6:40-6:50 but due to some issue after mile 40 I could not achieve my goal. However, I was able to run the race in a decent 7:07 with 4th place overall.

After that race, I kept adding more miles to my training even at pace slower than 10 minutes mile.

As I write this blog post I am at 2640 miles so far in year 2019. If things do not go south in life, a dream of crossing 4000 miles per year is only 5 months away! By the way, I had my fantastic week this July when I ran 132 miles. This is my biggest week ever.

Average miles per week this year is 88 with a few weeks of 0 miles.

Keep working hard fellas. Things will be better than they are today!


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