The mystical 100-mile week – kilometres do not count. All you need to do to be a good runner is complete 100 of these old-fashioned distance measures in seven rotations of the sun.
What is it about 100 miles that makes runners so enamoured? Just a nice round number, the first one so big it needs three digits to make it happen. 161 kilometres doesn’t have the same ring, even if the number is bigger.
Yet, you may be surprised to hear, not all 100-mile weeks were created equally. For those just churning out 14.285 miles a day, wash, rinse, repeat, this may come as a shock. It’s not just about the number.
Whilst there is going to be benefits to high mileage on its own, it’s not the ultimate answer. It might not even be the magic 100 number either, mileage is a very individualised thing.
The amount you run in a peak week, whatever it tops out as, should be your own progression. If a runner just looks at what his hero is doing on Strava and copies then it’s a recipe for disaster. Especially if that hero is Steve Way, or 120 mile a week man, Aaron Scott.
Progression is key
Progression is key to many aspects of mileage. Week on week, month on month, year on year it should be something you consider.
Jumping straight into high mileage will cause injuries – fact. Rest is key too, on all scales. We can’t just keep progressing constantly, downtime is part of the equation for growth.
In a previous interview “aerobic monster” Way discussed how individualised progression is, even for himself at different ages. Younger Steve could jump up the mileage over a couple of weeks, but now it takes a couple of months or more.
So what does a hypothetical 100m mile week look like if it’s not a 14.285 mile run each day?
First, you have doubles and singles. Singles are what is mentioned above, one run a day. Iconic American collegiate book ‘Running with the Buffaloes’, a story of a US college cross country team’s season was the first time I heard the term.
Running big mileage on singles is done, but generally not equal numbers each day. You might have some shorter or rest days to allow the body time to recover.
Doubles, running twice a day, makes everything seem a little more manageable. Not only is it less long runs, but it’s also more recovery time between those miles. Generally, someone running 100 miles a week is running doubles on most days.
If you’re working 9-5 then this could be to and from work or even with a lunchtime run. If your boss is sensible enough they’ll know that a little extra time to fit in a midday day bout of exercise will make you more productive for the time you’re sat in your chair. That’s just science.
So it’s just doubles or singles?
It is important to note that this is oversimplifying the situation as we’re not discussing intensity. Stephen Seiler has done some excellent research into the training patterns of elite and non-elite athletes. It’s where the 80-20 figures for easy and harder running have come from.
RELATED: How easy should your easy runs be?
The first step to consider is that not all miles are created equal. Whilst it may be great to look at Allie Kieffer or Aaron Scott’s training, they are not running miles as you run miles. For a start, their miles may be flatter, easier road miles compared to someone running hilly or trail miles.
It’s also time on feet you need to consider. Steve Way running 100 miles a week takes him 10-12 hours. Joe Bloggs, a 4:12 marathoner copying Steve Way, runs those same miles in 18-20 hours and works even harder to do so.
Should you be training twice as long, harder and with less rest than an elite runner?
Time is a much more effective way to look at your training, especially if you’re comparing it to someone else’s.
So what might a hypothetical 100-mile week look like? Well as a 24hr runner you might expect me to have to run even more than the mystical 100 miles – but that’s not the case.
Over the course of my running career, I’ve probably only run 10-12 100-mile weeks (not including race weeks). These were all peak weeks in a training block, not all at once.
Monday – AM – Rest PM – Easy 45-60 minutes (8 miles)
Tuesday – AM – Easy 45-60 minutes (8 miles) PM – Tempo (60-75 min inc. some controlled faster running – 10-11miles)
Wednesday – AM – Easy 90 minutes (12 miles) PM – Easy 30-45 minutes (5 miles)
Thursday – AM – 60-75 minutes easy (10 miles) PM (Interval or hill work – 8-10 miles)
Friday – Rest or Easy 30-45 minutes (0-5 miles)
Saturday – Race to threshold session (8-10 miles for session) PM – Easy 45-60 minutes (8 miles)
Sunday – Long run 2-3 hours on trails (15-20 miles) PM – Easy 45-60 minutes (8 miles)
Now that doesn’t sound like a massive week, only one long run and not that big for an ultra runner at all. The aim is consistency and making sure that the week is sustainable, not destructive.
Adding up the minimum listed for each, including taking Friday as a rest day, that’s 100 miles.
Is that what you expected the week to look like? Who was expecting more long runs? Less easy running?
74 of those miles are solely within easy sessions. The harder sessions still contain a large amount of easy running too, warming up, cooling down. It fits within the 80/20 rules but actually has a fair amount of intensity in there.
Remember this is a peak week, surrounded by smaller weeks and often followed by recovery. It’s all relative too, having taken years to build up the peak mileage, gradually increasing once you know your body can handle it. It’s a tiny snapshot example.
Another option is to reduce the number of higher intensity sessions too. Way and his Bournemouth AC cohort do a bigger rep session on a Wednesday night. Lots of marathon paced work, but the only higher intensity workout in the middle of a sea of easy running.
So what’s the point of this article?
It’s certainly not to tell you all that you need to run 100 miles a week. You don’t.
There are plenty of examples of runners going super quick on less mileage than the magic 100. There will be examples in your local club, but online it’s often the ones boasting that shout loudest. Everyone shouts when they’re doing the high mileage, but they stay quieter when they are injured or exhausted.
The point of the article was just to show how it could be done. Rather than massive 30-40 miles days or 5 x 20-mile efforts that leave you broken after a few weeks.
Distance running is a long game. There are no shortcuts (legal ones). Consistency is the way to being the best runner you can be and that should always be at the forefront of your mind.
Ask yourself these questions: Why? How? Can I recover?
UKAD’s approach to supplements works well for 100-mile weeks as well; Assess the need, assess the consequences.
Now go for that easy run.