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HALF MARATHON

Female Equivalent of the Two-Hour Marathon

Female Equivalent of the Two-Hour Marathon

Doctor Michael Joyner M.D. is a renowned scientist studying the limits of human physiology, he is well-known in running circles for his paper in the Journal of Applied Physiology, back in 1991, that speculated that the “hypothetical best subject” could run a marathon in 1:57:58. This was at a time when the current world record was 2:06:50, set by Belayneh Dinsamo in the 1988 Rotterdam Marathon. The variables that went into formulating this prediction were maximal oxygen uptake (VO2 max), lactate threshold (as a percentage of VO2 max) and running economy. For those interested, the hypothetical values he used were “a VO2 max of 84 ml kg-1 min-1, a lactate threshold of 85% of VO2 max, and exceptional running economy.” His paper at the time left a lot of people confused and very sceptical, but with Kipchoge’s recent performances closing in on this hypothesised ideal performance (albeit with a long way yet to go), Joyner’s prediction no longer seems so far-fetched.

Why am I talking about Michael Joyner’s predictions of the fastest conceivable marathon time? Well, Joyner and a number of other researchers have published a paper (again in the Journal of Applied Physiology) on the female equivalent of the two-hour marathon, addressing “physiological, historical, and social factors that contribute to current and past sex differences in marathon performance.”

This paper was published in 2015, when the world records stood as follows: 

Men: Dennis Kimetto, Kenya – 2:02:57 (2014 Berlin Marathon)
Women: Paula Radcliffe, UK – 2:15:25 (2003 London Marathon)

Their initial approach to establishing the equivalent mark is to determine the difference in marathon performance by elite athletes of each gender in terms of a percentage. The difference between these two records was approximately 10%, meaning that the equivalent to a two-hour marathon for women would be 120 minutes plus 10%, 2:12:00. However, when analysing the top marathon times (at the time of writing their study), it appeared that the difference between men and women was more significant than 10%, coming in at closer to 12-13%. Interestingly online predictors such as the Mercier Score suggest that the two-hour equivalent sits at 2:15:34, and this had already been achieved by Radcliffe (and subsequently smashed by Kosgei).

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Boston Simulation: Hidden Hills 21-Miler

Boston Simulation: Hidden Hills 21-Miler

Durden would complete his preparations for the Boston Marathon with a long run that started with a five mile (~8km) warm up to the track at Stone Mountain High School in Georgia. Then the real workout would begin. Durden would run 1km hard – in around 2:50, followed by a 200m jog, followed by a 2km in around 5:50-5:55 (2:55-2:57/km). He would repeat this 3 times through, finishing with a 2km interval which would mean completing the 10km in around 29:00-29:30. But that’s not all…

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The Importance Of Consuming Carbs During A Marathon

The Importance Of Consuming Carbs During A Marathon

Due to circulating levels of glucose and the storage capacity of the body, taking in nutrition during events shorter than an hour or so is generally accepted to be unnecessary, although interestingly Geoffry Kamworor consumed some Maurten on his way to smashing the half marathon world record (58:01) in Copenhagen earlier this year. Is this merely for publicity for the company (of which there is no shortage given it has been used by the vast majority of major marathon winners in recent years, as well as by Eliud Kipchoge in the Ineos 1:59 Challenge), or is there more to the story? 

Replenishing the calories that are being burnt during exercise is clearly important to maintain consistent output, but how much do we need to be putting in? Running at a reasonably high intensity (such as the pace in a marathon or half marathon, or competing in a longer event such as an Ironman or ultra) will burn through upwards of 1000 calories per hour, which equates to roughly 250 grams of carbohydrate – or 15 bananas!

Fat oxidation will also be contributing to energy production, the proportion of energy substrate which fat supplies is inversely proportional to exercise intensity. As intensity increases more glucose is used in the place of fat, a proxy measurement for this is the respiratory exchange ratio, which is a ratio of the volume of carbon dioxide released to the amount of oxygen used during exercise. Sitting at slightly below threshold pace fat oxidation will be providing roughly 50% of substrate. However, that still means that, ignoring glycogen stores, you want to be taking in 125 grams of carbohydrate per hour just to replace what is being used. Importantly, endurance training prior to an event increases the mitochondria content in adipose tissue, essentially allowing greater energy production from fat sources over carbs. Efficacy of fat oxidation can further be enhanced through training in a fasted state. Ketogenic diets rely almost completely on fat oxidation for energy production, however we will save rabbit hole for another day. Needless to say, none of the top marathon athletes are adhering to such dietary regimes, but I digress.

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Specific Marathon Training: Simon Says 3 x 10km Repeats

Specific Marathon Training: Simon Says 3 x 10km Repeats

Runners wanting to do this workout need to work up to it over a period of years. Those preparing for their first Marathon can modify the workout by doing 2 x 10km or 3 x 5km. Simon notes “It is a hard workout to get ready for, but take your time and it will pay off.”

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Darya Mykhaylova – Training (2:28 Marathon)

Darya Mykhaylova – Training (2:28 Marathon)

The training volume from Darya differs throughout the season. When she prepares for 10k or half marathons she trains around 130 to 150 kilometres per week. In race season from April to July she covers only 70 to 90 kilometres to be fresh for the competitions and recently she covered 180 to 200 kilometres to prepare for the upcoming marathon. After this high-volume block in Kenya, at 2400m altitude from 16.07 to 29.08 she ran her personal best in 10 kilometres (32.31) on the road and half marathon (71:36). Darya trains with a heart rate monitor and the intensities are controlled in different heart rate zones. For her example the different heart rate zones are: until 142 HR (L1), 144-156 (L2), 156 – 162 (L3), 162 – 172 (L4) in her case. These values are individual and are usually based on the maximum heart rate of the given athlete.

As it should be for a professional runner, the training program needs to be well balanced and that’s also the case for Darya. She usually doubles (two running sessions per day) 5 days per week and one day per week is only one short run, which is her recovery day. Her coach says, if you rest one day per week fully, you lose 52 days of training per year. The following described training log of a full week, was done in Iten, at high altitude and on a dirt track or hilly rough roads:

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Brigid Kosgei Training (64:28 Half Marathon, 2:14:04 Marathon)

Brigid Kosgei Training (64:28 Half Marathon, 2:14:04 Marathon)

Brigid Kosgei trains in Kenya, a specific place called Kapsait, which is located more than 3000m above sea level. Her manager is Federico Rosa and she is coached by the former Kenyan runner Erick Kimaiyo. She stays in the Rosa training camp and trains with a big group of male and female runners. One of her training mates is Vivian Kiplagat, who won this years Milano marathon in a new course record of 2hours 22 minutes. The training of Brigid is characterised by long and hard runs. It’s stated that she does up to 50 times 400m repeats on a grass slope and once per week long runs of 40 up to 45 kilometres with around 4.00 min/km during her build up.

One of the craziest things in the lead up to the Peachtree roach race were 4 times 3km reps on a flat piece of road, near Kapsait at around 3.00 min/km pace. As well she does sometimes long, and hard tempo runs on a hilly tarmac route at 3000m altitude, for example an 18 kilometres tempo run in slightly under 60min. She rarely trains on track, and even to run on a flat road is more the exception, than regularity. Sometimes her training group drives towards Eldoret to do long tempo runs on a flat road. Only five weeks after her win at London marathon she did a track session, 9 times 1000m and started right away with 2.58 and finished the last one with 2.52.

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400m Repeats – “The Ultimate Workout”

400m Repeats – “The Ultimate Workout”

This type of workout has a long and colorful pedigree. Legendary runner Emil Zatopek of the Czech Republic, who won the 5,000, 10,000, and marathon at the 1952 Olympics, reportedly ran 20 x 400 with 200-meter recovery every day before the 1948 Olympics, with hard 200-meter repeats before and after. Before the 1952 Games, he upped it to 40 x 400 daily.

Then there was Jim Ryun, the last American to hold the mile world record, who did the same workout in high school in the 1960s (also completing as many as 40 repeats). The 400-meter distance was ideal, Ryun said, because “it’s short enough that you can run pretty fast, but you can recover and do it again and again.” Here’s how to harness the power of repetition in your own training.

Marathon World Record holder Eliud Kipchoge schedules 400m repeats into his training at least once every month – sometimes running workouts such as 25-30 x 400m repeats in 62-64 seconds with 30-60seconds rest. Another common workout Kipchoge incoprorates 400m intervals into is 10 x 800m (in around 2:10) followed by 10 x 400m (in 62-64).

Other elite athletes known to include 400m repeats into their training include Mo Farah, Paula Radcliffe, Kenenisa Bekele, Matt Centrowitz.. the list goes on.

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Eliud Kipchoge – A Typical Week of Training – Preparing For A Sub 2 Hour Marathon

Eliud Kipchoge – A Typical Week of Training – Preparing For A Sub 2 Hour Marathon

As we said in the last article which looks at Eliud’s build-up to the INEOS 159 Challenge, little has changed in Eliud’s training in the last five or so years, bar the addition of a more significant amount of strength and core work. This article looks in more detail at a typical training week for Eliud.

The general structure of the training week is broken down by Patrick Sang in the second part of the documentary released by INEOS.

Monday

AM Easy to moderate run: 16-21km
PM Easy Run: 8-12km

Tuesday

Tuesday is usually a track session. They basically do two kinds of workouts on Tuesdays and cycle them in two-week blocks:

– 15km of goal marathon pace work.

15km worth of intervals at right around their goal marathon pace (so 2:55min/km for Eliud). This is actually a bit harder to do on dirt and altitude than on road at sea level, but of course that is part of the training.

*Example workouts:
– 15x1km (90sec rest) in average of 2:50-2:55. They might start closer to 3min and end closer to 2:50, but the average is normally between 2:50 and 2:55.
-12x1200m (90sec rest) in average of 3:24-3:30.
– 5 sets of (2km, 1km) in 5:40-5:50 and 2:50-2:55.

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Eliud Kipchoge’s Preparation For The INEOS 159 Challenge

Eliud Kipchoge’s Preparation For The INEOS 159 Challenge

Following this build up period the group shifted back into their normal training cycle, which we explore in more detail in Eliud Kipchoge – a typical week of training but is summarised by Patrick Sang, Eliud’s coach, in the second part of the documentary. The training week can be summarised as: Tuesday – track or fartlek, Thursday – long run, Saturday – fartlek, other days – easy. A notable addition to this training is the core work that can be seen in the videos. It is also interesting that it appears that Eliud is now using nutrition during some of the sessions, handed to him from the team van… this was not something that we observed during our time with him in 2017 in the lead-up to Berlin. 

Sang is interviewed at great length throughout the three parts of the documentary, discussing his relationship with Eliud and how it has transformed over the years, admitting that much of the time he now feels that he is a student of Eliud himself. The reverence that all involved with the project have for Eliud is clearly discernible, his self-belief is inspiring and a major focus of the videos.

When discussing Eliud’s nervousness regarding his performance and the pressure he is under, Eliud’s manager Valentijn Trouw says that “He wants to do it for himself, but at the same time he wants to do it for everyone that is involved in the event and everybody who believes in him.” His teammates clearly believe the barrier is within his grasp, when asked to predict his time, assuming all goes perfectly on the day, some respond that he could even go 1:58-low.

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Ingebrigtsen Brothers and Norwegian Training Insights

Ingebrigtsen Brothers and Norwegian Training Insights

Please note: this article was written by a European coach familiar with the Ingebrigtsen’s (and other Norwegian distance runners’) training. The article hasn’t been edited to correct grammar or brevity but rather published as submitted.

Norwegian long-distance runners are on the rise in athletics scene in the last two to three years. Especially the success of the three Ingebritsen brothers and the former European marathon record holder Sondre Moen. But already Ingrid Kristiansen was an outstanding runner from Norway in the 1980’s who has broken several world records from 5000m to marathon. She ran for example 14.37 in 5000m and marathon in 2.21.06 in 1985 and trained with a heart rate monitor and controlled her training by heart rate zone, which was very unknown in the 80’s But also Marius Bakken from Norway ran in the early 2000’s 13.06 in 5000m and he trained in very scientific way, by measuring lactate almost in all his training sessions.

Beginning with Ingrid, who won the London marathon in 1985 with a WR and came from cross country skiing, I want to bring the connection of the training philosophy from cross country skiing in Norway and her training approach in running up. In Norway cross country skiing is a national sport and has far more importance and financial support than long distance running. But the training for both sports has a lot of similarities in terms of distributions of intensity and training volume, as well the movement itself. For example, one of the best cross-country skiers in the world, Therese Johaug, just won recently the Norwegian 10.000m championships on track in 32.20 without specific preparation. Only 30 sec shies of the qualification standard for the world championships this year in Doha.

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Jim Walmsley – The Road to Atlanta

Jim Walmsley – The Road to Atlanta

His training is heavily volume based. Jim’s huge aerobic base that has served so well in the ultras is the foundation for his performance in these shorter road races too, with the speed work and increased leg turnover serving as the icing on top. At the end of a 283km/175 mile week in December, balancing heavy training with the stresses of having family in town over the holiday season – think, fitting in Christmas celebrations around a 49km run… – was becoming a bit much. Despite feeling strong, the accumulated miles were amassing in the legs, leading to feeling slower and entering the realm of overtraining. It was decided to abandon the plan for a 300km+/186 mile week and hold constant at the 175 mile mark. All of this was relatively slow running, with few structured sessions – but finishing each session with some strides to work on “hidden speed”.

Following this he started to lower the mileage and ratchet up the speed work, preparing for a half marathon in Phoenix. With only three weeks of speed sessions, sometimes two sessions in a day, he jokingly says he was “cramming for the half marathon”. He decided to take to the track, wanting to see some fast times on the watch. “Before the half marathon I was trying to stay on the track a bit more to get the leg speed up, and my confidence with running that speed a little higher.” A lot of these sessions were on a track down at Sedona (4,300ft/1,320m) rather than Flagstaff (7,000ft/2100m) where Jim lives and does most of his training.

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Fitness Loss – How Fast Does It Happen?

Fitness Loss – How Fast Does It Happen?

In a 1990 study Houmard et al looked at detraining of experience endurance runners who were averaging 81km per week in training (~60km at ~75% VO2 max and 21km at ~95% VO2 max). Over a three-week period of detraining the athletes cut their volume by 70% to 24km, maintaining the intensity distribution with 17km at ~75% of VO2 max and 7km at ~90% VO2 max.

The participants in the study had an increase in maximum heart rate (2.3%), and plasma volume decreased (-5.6%) during the period of reduced training, so some physiological adaptations regressed. However, performance saw no change, with VO2 max and 5km time trial results holding steady. Another significant finding in this study was also that time to exhaustion during VO2 max testing increased by 9.5%, suggesting that the decreased training left the athletes much fresher. These results indicate that being smart with limited time or training capacity can still help massively in maintaining running performance.    

These changes also appear to be less pronounced in older athletes and athletes who have trained for a longer time. Which makes sense, the accumulated progression and adaptations from consistent training over a long time are more entrenched, and therefore more resistant to deterioration than acute improvements in performance from relatively shorter training blocks.      

As Ross puts it, defending physiology requires much less work than earning that physiology, and a little goes a long way. With races off and freedom of movement restricted in many places, despondency is pervasive. But lamenting the situation and the certainty of your lost fitness gains won’t serve you well. These studies highlight that even though it may be difficult to stick to training plans and complete hard sessions, a significantly reduced load of training still goes a very long way to preserving the physiological adaptations for which you have laboured.

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Lactic Acid – Friend or Foe?

Lactic Acid – Friend or Foe?

Another commonly held belief is that the warm down after a hard workout or the shake out the next day is important to ‘help get the lactic out of the legs’. However, again the science doesn’t back this up. Yes, walking or jogging does shorten the time it takes for lactate levels to return to normal, but this return to baseline occurs relatively quickly anyway. By the time someone is doing a shakeout the day after a race or hard session, the lactate generated by that effort has long ago left the muscles. And where is it going? This is where lactate being a fuel source again comes into play, according to Brooks, after ‘exhaustive’ exercise lactate then becomes the preferred energy source, being burned up by muscles that are no longer using anaerobic respiration, and by the liver to regenerate glucose.

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Japanese Running: The Perplexing Depth Of Talent (Part 2)

Japanese Running: The Perplexing Depth Of Talent (Part 2)

Discipline, honour, self-restraint. These are some of the stereotypical character traits people think of when considering Japan. However, devotion to athletics and a motivation to succeed are not enough, in isolation, to explain how so many athletes are competing at such a high level in Japan. Ekiden and the elevated position it holds in the collective conscience of the nation explains a bit more of the situation. However, a final factor that we found came up over and again was the integral role of corporations in the fabric of Japanese running culture. I’m not talking about Mizuno, Asics and Nike.

Many corporations within Japan – Honda, Japan Rail, Kanebo Cosmetics– employ athletes to race and train in-house. The living expenses of the athletes are taken care of, food is cooked by in-house chefs that prepare a menu laboriously agonised over by a nutritionist. Training takes place multiple times per day – some runners in the corporate system reportedly average more than 600 miles (965km) per month – and around these sessions the athletes spend time with the team’s physiotherapists, strength coaches and masseurs. In addition to such extensive support from the team, living expenses being covered, and daily tasks such as cooking being taken care of, athletes running in the corporate teams reportedly receive a salary of US$35,000 and upwards each, depending on performance and their stature within the sport – there are plenty of high performers on six-figure salaries.

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Japan Running: The Perplexing Depth Of Talent (Part 1)

Japan Running: The Perplexing Depth Of Talent (Part 1)

Japan. Nihon. The Land of the Rising Sun. A country globally renown for many things. A rich cultural history. A cuisine like no other. The world’s largest metropolis – Tokyo. And… running?

Japan is not one of the nations that first comes to mind when most people think about the global running scene. However, in the marathon distance, Japan comes in third place behind Kenya and Ethiopia when looking at the number of athletes in the top thousand marathon times in history. Japan has over one-hundred athletes that have run sub-2:10 in the marathon. Compare this to the USA: with a population nearing triple that of Japan – and massive infrastructure surrounding their collegiate athletics system – the States have only twenty athletes that have run sub-2:10 (thirteen if you exclude record-ineligible Boston).

Our interest piqued, we decided to plunge headfirst into the Japanese running scene and investigate what was going on.

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How Much Protein Do Athletes Need? (Part 2)

How Much Protein Do Athletes Need? (Part 2)

It’s interesting that despite studies suggesting that the (already elevated) recommendations for protein intake by endurance athletes may be too low – failing to optimise performance – there are many top endurance athletes who controvert this. An interesting study looked at the dietary habits of elite runners in Kenya.

The athletes were consuming a diet very high in carbohydrates (76.5%, 10.4 g/kg of body mass per day) and low in fat (13.4%). Protein intake represented 10.1% of their total calories which worked out to be 1.3 g/kg per day, which matches the recommendations by the American College of Sports Medicine mentioned above. Another interesting point is that the estimated energy intake of the athletes (2987 ± 293 kcal) was lower than energy expenditure (3605 ± 119 kcal).

This aligns with what we witnessed whilst training with Kipchoge and other elites in Kenya. Coming in from a long run, there was no sign of protein shakes. The snacks of choice were bananas, white bread and milky tea saturated with sugar. The authors of this study also noted that fluid intake by the Kenyan athletes studied was modest, mainly in the form of water (1113 ± 269 mL) and tea (1243 ± 348 mL). Their conclusions: “Although the diet met most recommendations for endurance athletes for macronutrient intake, it remains to be determined if modifying energy balance and fluid intake will enhance the performance of elite Kenyan runners.”
Here we take a look at some of the research and recommendations on how much protein athletes should be consuming, and the reasons why. There’s no universal answer but I hope this will provide some interesting points to consider when making dietary choices. Protein is obviously of significance – playing a key role in myriad bodily functions – but figuring out how much, what type and when you should be consuming protein is really quite a confusing undertaking. It’s by no means as simple as protein = gains. I mean, firstly, what is protein?

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