"How to Run a Personal Record: Cover the Ground in Front of You Faster Than Ever Before," by Dave Kuehls, pg. 9 - 13.
How to Train for a PR
There is no completely right or wrong way to train - there are training philosophies that work for some, and different training philosophies that work for others. For example, many successful distance runners train at altitude. Many successful distance runners do not train at altitude. There's no one way.
That said, the training philosophy behind this book is based on a solid three-pronged approach that has been used for decades by many runners - elite athletes as well as every day joggers. The guiding principle is that in order to run fast, to run a PR during a race, you must work through three stages of training: Road Work, Strength Work, and Track Work, which includes a secret workout.
Road Work (8 weeks)
Road Work (a.k.a. distance work) is often given short shrift - sometimes even overlooked altogether - when a runner is concentrating on running a PR. Training manuals paraphrase the weeks and months of boring distance work a runner needs to do in preparation to race, and this has a tendency to belittle the phase, as though you can get by without it (or at least some of it), causing many runners to try just that. For example, they will be instructed to put in six weeks of Road Work prior to hitting the track, but they cut that down to perhaps three or four and then jump right in.
This is a mistake. Traditionally this phase has been known by other names, like the Endurance Phase, but for this book, I have renamed it Road Work for a singular reason: "Road Work" is a boxing term. It refers to the long, slow miles a boxer will put in (often behind a car driven by his trainer), and as any boxer knows, Road Work is vital to his success. It literally gives him the legs to stand on when he is in the ring, particularly in later rounds. Without Road Work, a boxer cannot compete with another in the ring. And without Road Work, a runner cannot compete with himself (or herself!) during a race.
What is it?
Road Work consists of the long, slow runs you do exclusively in the first half of your training program. It also encompasses the runs you do once or twice a week later in your program., during Strength and Track Work.
What does it do for you?
Road Work builds up a well of endurance that enables you to "race" the distance. It also provides a base upon which you can add strength and speed without breaking down or becoming exhausted.
What workouts does it include?
In this training program, the weekly long run, the midweek medium run, and the short, slow recovery runs in between make up Road Work.
How do I do it?
You should start slow (at a conversational pace, a pace during which you can carry on a conversation) and finish slow. Run on a relatively flat surface (distance, not hills, should be your challenge), and build up the distance of your runs every week or two weeks. This is done by targeting a long run once a week but also by upping the mileage of some of your other runs during the week. The end result is that you gradually cover more miles in your long run and also run more total miles during the week.
What mental approach should I take to Road Work?
After a few weeks, Road Work can become boring - you are running slow miles every day - and the temptation is to pick it up on some runs and sooner or later you are no longer running long and slow but short and fast, and your eight weeks of Road Work has been cut in half. Therefore, it is helpful to remind yourself of your goal each day during the Road Work phase: to complete the distance at a slow pace. That's because endurance comes from one thing: time spent running.
What distances for Road Work should I expect?
For a long run, expect to run up to 8 miles while training for a 5K, 10 miles whiles training for a 10K, 16 miles while training for a half marathon, and 23 miles while training for a marathon. For weekly mileage, expect to work up to a 30-plus miles a week for a 5K, 35-plus miles a week for a 10K, 40-plus miles a week for a half marathon, and 50-plus for a marathon.
THE ROAD WORK PHASE: THE ESSENTIALS
The Long Run:
THe long run is the cornerstone workout in the Road Work phase. The long run preferably occurs on Saturday so Sunday can be spent in recovery, and should take place on a flat, soft surface ... (edited) ... Loop courses might be preferable to train on if you are prepping for a half marathon or marathon, because more half marathons and marathons are not out-and-back and you want to simulate the nature of the course. Overall pace is conversational, and the run can be divided into psychological chunks to help you get through it. For example, if a 16-mile long run is thought of in its entirety, it will make the run seem interminable. But if you can mentally divide the distance into two 8-mile chunks or four segments of 4 miles, this will lighten the load.
Also, the longer the long run, the more helpful it will be to run it with a training partner.
The Midweek Medium Run:
The midweek medium run is a supplemental run in the Road Work phase. This run usually occurs on Wednesday (Note: Thursday in my shifted program), after you have had adequate time to recover from the last long run and have enough time ahead of you to prepare for the next long run on Saturday (Note: Sunday in my shifted program). Preferably run on a soft, flat surface, if you are training for a marathon and race day is coming up, the midweek medium run might be a good time to "hit the road" to simulate the surface conditions of race day. Run at a conversational pace or slightly faster (this is simply the nature of going less distance), yet monitor the run so as not to become too fast. Distances vary depending on your race distance.
The Recovery Runs:
Recovery runs are the short-distance workouts you run on days when you are not engaged in a long run or a medium distance run. Recovery runs should be done on a soft, flat surface (to promote recovery) and run at conversational pace or slower. There is a big temptation to run recovery runs fast (since they are so short)and this should be avoided at all costs. Without true recovery during your recovery runs, the Road Work phase will break you down in a matter of weeks. In that respect, slow recovery runs are most important run during Road Work. If you choose to run them too fast, you will not be able to go on.
The day, usually Sunday (Note: Monday in my shifted program), following the long run is a day off, a day of rest. This is part of the training process, which can be boiled down to this principle: You stress the body during a long run, then you let the body rest and recover so that it grow stronger. The Sunday day off is the first day in a three-day rest cycle, which is as follows: Rest day, recovery run, recovery run. It is also the most crucial. The day following your long run is the day when muscle tissue is at its most sore, tendons are their most tender, and the body is most fatigued. You need to rest. Without it, you will be too fatigued to continue training, and eventually break down, becoming injured or ill or both.
A few weeks into the Road Work phase, you will do striders following select recovery runs. Striders are short, 80-100 meter runs on a flat, soft surface. They are not sprints, but "pick-ups" run at a fresh pace. They serve two purposes. They let the legs run faster, after weeks of long, slow running. And they prepare the body for faster work in the Strength Work phase, when you will be running hills and tempo runs.