TRAINING: The Lydiard Experiment

Right, in my new "role" as Lydiard prozelytiser, time has come to reveal how I want to turn my half-marathon pace from 15kph to 17kph and, in the process, move from being a TPL (Target Pace Level) 25 to TPL 17. A TPL 17 can run 10k in 33:50, so this would bring me close to the promised land.
The 100 Mile Accusation
Detractors of Lydiard often condense (falsely) his system into "running 100 miles per week slowly". Lydiard did indeed suggest that athletes run around 100 miles per week for peak performance during the conditioning phase (what is today often called "Base" or "Foundation") and that all of this be aerobic.
The story doesn't end there, however, it is largely the beginning. Lydiard experimented on himself running distances of up to 400 miles a week (apparently this made him sluggish!) and eventually settled on the 100 miles as optimal during conditioning. He always ran 7 days a week and imposed this demand on his elite athletes (to great effect).
However, this was the mileage done by himself (Lydiard was no mean contender) and his band of elite athletes (the most well-known being Peter Scnell, Murray Halberg and Barry Magee). These athletes could run around 15kph even when taking it easy, so its fair to say they would only be running around 10.5 hours per week whereas runners like myself would probably spend more than 13 hours to accomplish the same feat.
The second misconception was that aerobic meant slow. As I noted in my earlier post, my 15kph in Saturday's half-marathon was largely aerobic, yet it was by no means a "slow" workout. Lydiard ensured his athletes ran workouts at a number of aerobic paces. Using Matt Fitzgerald's system, this would mean mixing between running at Base pace, marathon pace and half-marathon pace during the conditioning phase. How your body reacts to the volume will automatically moderate the volume of higher paced aerobic work you can do, and as you get fitter, you can do more.
Finally, I should note that Lydiard himself noted that his athletes actually run more than 100 miles per week. The trick here was that the 100 miles was the goal for the "sessions". Apart from the planned 100 miles, Arthur Lydiard encouraged his runners to do as many very slow miles in the morning, 6 days a week, as they could manage. As he was quoted saying "hell, Peter (Snell) runs more than 200 miles a week". Apparently, a 10k slow run was standard fare for the New Zealand group in the mornings.
Lydiard for Non-Elites
In order to make his system accessible to non-elite runners, Lydiard used time goals instead of mileage in his later work. He also provided a loose rule of thumb that average club runners could employ 120km per week as their goal instead of 100 miles (161km per week). The mathematics are reasonable sound as it would take me 10 hours to run 120km if we assume my "base pace" is 12kph rather than the 15kph of Peter Snell and his fellow internationals.
If you want to make it easier on yourself, you could simply use 10 hours as a good starting point, but for the moment I was happy with 120km as my goal and looked again to Lydiard to find guidelines on how quickly you can get there. Lydiard did seem to think that both modern runners and a large amount of modern coaches had "gone soft" and his assertion that you could reach 120km within a number of weeks will not sit well with many. It sits pretty well with me.
One Lydiard author proposed 9 weeks as a good run-in and I took this up as a challenge and picked 80km per week as my starting point (well within what I've achieved in training before) and decided on a ramp-up of 5% per week leading to exactly 120km in week 9. If I can do any additional mileage as morning runs, I will, but if I don't feel ready yet, I'll phase them in later.
How to get from 120k to 100 miles
The way I read and understand Lydiard, once you can churn out 120km at varying aerobic paces, the way to increase your mileage further is not to add time, but to let your higher and higher base pace do the work. Simply keep the time the same (say 10 hours) and focus on improving your Base pace, your marathon pace and your half-marathon pace. If you do this long enough, year-on-year, there should be a pretty good chance, 100 miles should eventually come naturally.
After this I believe it is key not to get frustrated if your results don't keep improving in great strides. It takes years to build a good runner and while the major breakthrough is often seen in year 3 or 4, your aerobic base has an almost infinite capacity for development. So I would stick with 100 miles, perhaps increase the amount of marathon pace runs, but otherwise focusing on polishing off other parts of my running (the technical, strength and anaerobic elements) in the much shorter phases focusing on these element every season.
So it begins...
I have started my journey today with a 7k run, relatively easy to give the legs a bit of rest after the half-marathon and yesterday's 14k hill run. The first weekly plan looks like this:
  • Mon: 8k (marathon) Done as base this week due to race
  • Tue: 12k (base)
  • Wed: 8k (marathon)
  • Thu: 14.4k (base)
  • Fri: 8k (fartlek)
  • Sat: 12k (base)
  • Sun: 17.6k (slow, hills)
  • Total: 80k

The 9th week like this:

  • Mon: 12k (marathon)
  • Tue: 18k (base)
  • Wed: 12k (fartlek)
  • Thu: 21.6k (base)
  • Fri: 12k (marathon)
  • Sat: 18k (base)
  • Sun: 26.4k (slow, hills)
  • Total: 120k

I consider performing this experiment on myself essential for the future. I need to find out exactly how to organise the increasing mileage practically and what it takes to recover from it. Its possible I'll have to spend more than 9 weeks doing it, but that's ok, the main thing is to slowly move towards it and spend the next 3-4 months building huge amounts of aerobic base while approaching this goal. This will provide a more than ample foundation for the 2010 season.

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