Thursday, 30 November 2006

30 days hath November

Posted by speedygeoff on Thursday, November 30, 2006 with 2 comments
“Coaching Middle and Long Distance Runners” – Part Two

Article by Nic Bideau

Key elements
• Regular long runs
• Fast distance runs at around the anaerobic threshold
• Intervals or repetition work
• Speed work
• Recovery runs
• Gym sessions

The long runs should be of 90 minutes to 2 hours duration — longer for marathon runners - and at least once per week, and in some periods twice a week. The key Lydiard principle of maintaining continuous pressure on your heart for long steady periods of aerobic activity builds a fantastic aerobic fitness base and it is aerobic fitness that is a key factor in the success of athletes in all events from 800m upwards. I’m often challenged on the importance of these long runs for 800m runners. Some athletes have even suggested to me that they are damaging, but I have no doubt they are relevant. It worked for Peter Snell. He ran 1.44.3 on a grass track off long aerobic runs. In later years much has been made of the Great British 800m and 1500m runner, Seb Coe’s speed, but Coe also possessed outstanding aerobic endurance. He demonstrated this when in 1978 the year before he first began setting world records at 800m and 1500m races, when he beat Eamon Coghlan, who was later to win a world 5000m title and Mike McLeod, who later won an Olympic 10000m medal in a 4 mile road race in Ireland. I’d be surprised if any of our current top 800m runners could get within a minute of Craig Mottram over 4 miles today; and I see our lack of success in this event as relative to a lack of aerobic endurance in the athletes doing these events. Mottram has run 1.46 for 800m in training two weeks after he won his world championships 5000m bronze medal so his regular long runs don’t appear to have greatly reduced his ability at 800m.

I prefer these long runs done in a group as that helps runners stay relaxed and enjoy them more. I also like them to run in nice scenic surroundings on soft surfaces and on hilly courses. Hills help build strength and maintain the pressure on the heart without requiring the athletes to run faster. Hills also require athletes to vary the requirements of the key working muscles whether they are going up or down. I like big challenging hills in the second half of these runs as I believe it helps an athlete develop efficient technique and rhythm running up these hills when they are already feeling fatigue. I tell athletes that the first 75 minutes of these long runs is to get them sufficiently tired so as they are in a position to really affect their fitness in the last 15 to 45 minutes when their glycogen stores are getting seriously depleted.

In any training program, the first time an athlete is able to achieve a milestone builds confidence and I’ve often seen that when an athlete completes their first 90 min run of a preparation, or their first 2 hour run. They soon notice a big step up in their aerobic fitness in the following weeks. This increased aerobic fitness needs to be constantly monitored with regular 90 min runs throughout the year. I don’t believe that these long runs necessarily leave residual fatigue in athletes’ legs harming athletes going into important races. I see many athletes run very well within a few days of a long run. Mottram ran a 90 min run seven days before setting his Australian 5000m record of 12.55.76 and Benita Johnson ran a 90 min run six days before she won the World Cross Country. Any time I look at an athlete’s diary and I see regular long runs it usually translates into consistent form. In contrast, when I see big gaps from one long run to the next recorded in an athlete’s diary it often corresponds with a gradual decline in form.

Nic Bideau "Coaching Middle and Long Distance Runners: A Commentary" - Modern Athlete and Coach, Volume 44, Number 3, July 2006.

To be continued …


1. Thirty days dirty days. So today is 30 November. At the BBQ Stakes at lunch time yesterday it was about 30 degrees. My name on the starters' list had a "30" alongside it as I had completed 30 runs. So off I set with Roger; we started fairly slowly in the heat and built up momentum later. I sprinted at the end to pass Ted who had also built up momentum over the last downhill bit. The time on my watch read 30:30. What place tag was I given after I had crossed the line? Yes you are right. 30.

2. Thirty days hath September April June and November all the rest have 31 except blah blah blah blah blah. I cannot remember. A nifty mnemonic which gets very boring very quickly.

3. Thirty degrees. Welcome to summer tomorrow! Except that summer in Canberra lasts five months so we are already one month into it. Was it twelve days in a row with temperatures 30 degrees or more in November? That must be some sort of record.


  1. All those 30s - how bizarre, how bizzare.

  2. I came over via a link from Ewen. Thanks for bringing us the Bideau article. I'm not sure thatI have learned anything new yet, but it is good to see it laid out as reinforcement. I am looking forward to seeing whether he talks about how to combine the various types of training runs into a coherent program, and especially, when to shift the emphasis say from long aerobic to more speed and anaerobic threshold stuff. I had better subscribe to you so that I don't miss the next exciting installments.