TRAINING: One run to track progression

As I was walking up Scarr with friends today, I needed only look down on my left to catch a glimpse of the road to Glenmacnass which I have used for the entirety of this season for the Saturday staple session: Lydiard’s “Out and Back” run. Having moved out of my aerobic phase, where the goal was to build the strength and base fitness to last me the season, this run has now been shortened and made a bit faster and bears a new name “PCR” (Progress Calibration Run") but essentially it is the same and in the Lydiard system you can practically set your own personal fitness clock by this run.


I always perform it over the same course and in the same way, week in and week out (this rhythm only broken during the hill phase and my injury period). I start at the foot the laneway leading up to my house and then take off past the back of the hotel and towards Laragh. This way is already fairly bumpy, mainly in the way that is bad for you, as in: uphill, but once you turn up left towards Glenmacnass you have a strong gradient for most of the run until the turning point.

The Plan

Today’s run was sixty-six minutes at intensity 6-8 (on the “Rate of Perceived Effort” scale from 1-10). My target pace according to program was 4:12min/km (6:46min/mile) but in general I am ahead of program in these workouts for some reason. I decided to just go for around 34 minutes out and 32 back and try to run around 5 miles each way in honour of last Friday’s race with 4km warm-up and cooldown for a total of 20km.

I always step up at the Kevin’s Way marker with the contradiction of jitters and anxiety almost resembling a race. This is one of the runs in the Lydiard program that really turn you from plodder into workhorse: a tireless tarmac-pounding machine.


Because of the 131m climb on the way out, I am always below target pace until the turn and you generally have the worst of the pain behind you by the turn. But it is not all plain sailing despite a fast return: Keeping the pace fast and strong after 5 miles of uphill takes properly developed endurance, so if you do this run right, you can see how your effective VO2 max is developing compared to the program’s predictions.

I hit the turn in 34:33 feeling hit by a fair bit of work yet the momentum didn’t let me down once again (it never has so far in this training cycle) and the recent fast workouts showed as I was quickly hitting 6:15min/mile pace, something that did not happen at this point of the run during the aerobic phase.

It never stopped feeling like hard graft but I was well-rewarded running the last 10k in 39:39, the last 5k in 19:27. I arrived home in 66:03 for the ten miles having run 31:30 for the last half. No wonder 30:02 felt reasonable comfortable a week ago!

How to use the figures to track progress

Here’s an example of “Out and Back” and PCR progression showing the overall distance and pace of each run, the pace on the “Out” part and on the “Back” part as well as the target set by the Lydiard program for a runner with an estimated VDOT at the outset of 56.44. Using a simple algorithm I can calculate the current performance level of any runner based on their “Out and Back” and PCR workouts.

PCR progress

The workout in red must be discounted as it was too short and had it been entered in the program that way the target pace would have been much faster. That aside, this is the sort of progress a coach wants to see in his athletes, pace progress is clear at comparable heart rates and at similar distances for each run.

Great workout today and definitely one that will make or break my half-marathon aspirations this season. Now for tomorrow’s long run….