The most often asked question is why do train slower than race pace?
Amateur and experienced athletes often believe they must train at race pace to improve their performance, but this could not be further from the truth! Unless you are an elite athlete logging 100 miles a week, most amateur athletes lack endurance to hold a specified VDOT pace over 26.2 miles. This is why we will focus on long slow runs (aerobic) at about one minute slower than race pace. This is probably the hardest lesson in the training program for any athlete, but the results won’t lie! You should run 80% of your runs nice and slow to be able to run fast!
To help support my position above, according to a Runner’s World magazine article (1) the average male/female Boston Qualifier runs 560/482 miles respectively, in the twelve weeks (47/40 weekly) leading up to their race, as compared to non-Boston Qualifiers at 298/281, respectively. Furthermore, male/female Boston Qualifiers averaged only 15%/23% of their miles at race pace or faster while the balance of training was slower than race pace.
My training philosophy follows a combination of Coach Jack Daniels’ philosophy of zone training and the principles of Arthur Lydiard’s three phases of training. Please see the following three phases of training, as the phases are important for you to understand before we discuss Jack Daniels’ Zone training.
Phase I— “Base Building” is designed to slowly adapt an athlete’s body to the necessary mileage volume and time on feet to build consistent, easy-to-moderate effort levels needed to progress into the next phase of training. This phase consists mostly of slow aerobic runs approximately 60 seconds slower than your current race pace. It’s denoted on your training schedule as “AR.”
Phase II—“Strength and Speed Training” prepares the athlete’s body for his/her anticipated race pace. This phase involves the introduction of speed and race simulation training. This phase still consists of slow aerobic runs (80%) with one or two training sessions a week (20%) approximately 30—60 seconds faster than your current race pace. It’s denoted on your training schedule as “AT.” In this phase, athletes will notice their endurance and speed will vastly improve.
Phase III—“The Taper” is a progressive reduction of training load (mileage) in an attempt to reduce the physiological and psychological stress of daily training to optimize your performance.