The longest long runs for our teams (out of season) were 2 hours and 5 minutes, which was 17-18 miles for the most experienced runners (the ones who had built up to that over time and demonstrated that they could handle it). There were two guys who actually went farther than that in training a couple of times (one had a high of 20 and the other had a 20 and a 21) and one other guy did a marathon out of season, but those were the only ones who ever did more than 2:05:00 in a run. The in-season "regular" long runs (for maintenance) were 90-95 min., or 12-13 miles for the oldest, most experienced guys.

Speeds which were faster than "easy" were of four basic varieties: threshold (and sub-threshold) pace, VO2max pace, "speed maintenance", and lactate tolerance.

We used speed maintenance (buildups or even-speed strides of 35 seconds or less, or form drills or hills) year-round. You may have read of Dr. Maffetone's idea of "Maximum Aerobic Function" training, in which all the base training is done at no faster than threshold pace (or heart rate "deflection point"). This is the general idea in our base training - EXCEPT that MAF training is more geared toward triathletes (particularly the non-running disciplines). In running, some degree of alactic fast-twitch fiber recruitment is necessary 1-2 times per week for best results. The need for variety to develop the joint strength and mobility is greater in running than in cycling or swimming. The impact stress can nearly double when switching from jogging to hard running, and the range of motion of some joints can increase by about 35%, so it is vital to prepare the body incrementally to handle these faster speeds BEFORE introducing race-specific running into the training routine. Also, complete lack of variety in rhythm overburdens tendons and ligaments. Furthermore, many male runners notice a loss of vigor when doing lots of volume. The inclusion of speed maintenance stimulates the adrenals and seems to maintain higher androgen levels, so that runners feel sharper and more eager to train (important when doing lots of volume). During the regular seasons, speed maintenance could actually become speed IMPROVEMENT by use of 12-15 seconds runs in which the middle 8-10 seconds were "bursts". Again, this was ALACTIC.

The sub-threshold and threshold workouts comprised the bulk of the "hard" running. It's important to teach young runners to work WITH their bodies and NOT AGAINST them. Tying up and fighting the clock on distances longer than 3 or 4 minutes is counterproductive (except in races, of course). We usually spent from 25 to 35 minutes at threshold speeds once or twice per week (non-consecutive days), either in the form of continuous running or repeats with extremely short rests, so that the feeling of a continuous run was achieved. We also did occasional 45-60 min. runs (out of season) at a sub-threshold pace in order to provide greater stimulus for aerobic improvement.

VO2max running mainly used repeats of 2-4 min. in length, with equal rest to run ratios (or slightly less rest), and a total time spent at pace of 15-20 min. There were also the occasional 12-15 x 400 at a slightly faster pace and stuff like 5 x 1,600 at a fractionally slower pace with 3 min. rest periods. These trained the same systems (stroke volume and respiratory muscles) at different rhythms. A 400-1,000 meters trial (90%-95% effort) at the very end of a speed maintenance workout was done about every 3 weeks during the off season just to maintain a small middle distance component and to keep stroke volume fairly high without any real tying up.

Most of the lactate tolerance workouts involved distances between 45 seconds and 2 minutes, with no more than 4,000 meters of overall distance and rest periods between 1.4 and 2 times the previous run periods. Reps of 45-65 seconds would sometimes be done on hills. We would also use a short sequence of workouts with only 2-3 reps of 200-500 meters per workout (at 98% to 100% effort) designed to drastically improve ability to both fortify creatine phosphate stores and handle muscle lactate. It is now known that such sudden flooding of the muscles with lactate induces protein-mediated clearance. Extreme care must be taken with teenage runners, since the CNS gets stressed too much with regular anaerobic tolerance work like this. We probably only did about 6-8 truly intense anaerobic workouts during an entire Fall season and again in the Spring season (none in the pre-seasons).

The "runners" in the second half of the 16 years I mentioned actually did "train" 6-7 days per week, not 3-4. They ran very hard on 3 days per week (sometimes 4). The weight lifting was also highly anaerobic and was so non-transferable to running mechanics that it reinforced the WRONG movements! Their training would have been excellent "basic conditioning" work for a DECATHLETE, but (with painful clarity) had no bearing on competitive distance running. Alas, training to run a decent 1,500 at the end of a decathlon has NOTHING to do with training to run your BEST 1,500 (or longer).

The 60-65 mile weeks were average IN-SEASON mileage levels for the older guys. The main thrust of progressive periodization is limited periods of "pushing the boundaries out" with higher and higher mileages during the off-seasons. We stair-stepped the weekly volume with a high followed by a low (paying attention to individuals who needed more recovery), and often used the same scheme in the competitive season (without increasing the high weeks). As runners mature, the mileage in the "high block" periods gets even higher AND the lengths of those periods increase. By the mid- to late 20s, a male runner can often have an entire base period of 10-12 weeks at 140-150 miles per week.

Two-a-day workouts were also introduced incrementally, starting with one per week for 2-3 weeks, then building up to 3 or 4 per week (with some lower weeks having only 0-2 doubles), depending on age and experience. Occasional days completely off were also an important part of the training, particularly with younger runners or beginners, but the fewer of those as runners mature, the better.

The down side at the school was the parents and athletic department administrators not understanding what distance running is all about. Not that they were (all) MORONS or had BAD intentions or DIDN'T want to succeed; it's just that they were not runners and simply "didn't get it". Think of it this way: If only one person in 1,000 ever learned so much as basic arithmetic, it would probably be pretty easy for a scam artist to walk into a school and pass himself off as a math teacher without having to worry too much about some real math guy stumbling into one of his classes and exposing the fraud. Even if that DID happen, it would be the phony's word against that of the real deal. Suppose also that the charlatan allowed the students to play cards and eat ice cream cones during class and said it was "part of the learning process", then gave them advance copies of his own tests complete with useless non-problems and (mostly wrong) answers. Memorize the bogus answers, write them down on the test paper, and get an "A". Woo-Hoo! The students would WANT to be "taught" by this clown! They'd have a blast, get some false sense of self-accomplishment and an "A" to pad their GPA, but they wouldn't learn any math and nobody would know the difference until one of them later came across a real math class taught by one of those one-in-a-thousand guys. By then, that poor student would be so poorly grounded in math that he'd be hopelessly lost and would probably ARGUE with the teacher that "we learned it a DIFFERENT way". Same deal with running. That school (and the entire country for about 15 years) has been duped into believing there is more than one path in this sport. There isn't.

Grades? Almost every kid in the school did at least one extracurricular activity (the school was big on that), so people were often short on time and sleep whether they played a sport or not. The X-C guys had by far the best grades of anybody in athletics, and were among the top students overall. Injuries? We did have a few, but no more than they had in the following 8 years and far fewer than occurred in football. The season-ending injuries (such as stress fractures) were few in number (probably about 6 or 7 during the entire 8 years), and in every single case, they happened to the guys who came into school with no Summer running (after they were told repeatedly that if they DIDN'T run in the Summer, they would be risking INJURY in the Fall - now, whose fault was THAT?). Funny how, in football, the parents acknowledge that a damaged knee requiring surgery is all just "a risk of the game", but if a kid is asked to RUN during the Summer, doesn't do it, and then gets an overuse injury in the Fall, it's because the X-C coach is a psycho for forcing the kids to run some insane distance of more than a mile a day! Even Joe Newton, after 20 Illinois State X-C titles at York, admits that perhaps the toughest challenge for him was to convince the PARENTS and ADMINISTRATORS how much running it takes to be a champion in this sport. And of course there are always plenty of candy-@$$ed doctors (non-runners, all of them - imagine that!) who will back up a skeptical parent's claim that "running is bad for a kid's health". We who know the truth face an uphill battle even AFTER we have already PROVEN how to win.

I've used probably FIFTY different handles on Internet forums and mailing lists over the last few years, but I like "TG&P Oz" the best. In the movie, Oz spoke through a huge, smoking visage with a booming voice which invoked abject terror in those who didn't know who he really was. "SILENCE!", he screamed, as if to say, "I am superhuman and I am IN CHARGE HERE!" Once they found out he was a mere human (seemingly like any other), at first they felt cheated. Who was this little man behind the curtain to tell them what to do? Why had he sent them on that perilous mission to get that broomstick (saying that they MUST do it to get what they wanted) only to tell them the broomstick itself was worthless? He seemed to be a complete fake! But once unveiled, his words never rang truer. He DID have the answers after all! He only used pomposity and arrogance as a crutch for leadership because he NEEDED to inspire AWE in them. The travelers never would have gone after that broomstick if they hadn't believed in Oz's POWER to magically grant them what they wanted. But getting the broomstick was not a mere test to "earn" any rewards at all. It was self-discovery. In the end, they found out that they each had the very thing they sought all along. That first trip down the Yellow Brick Road to the Emerald City wasn't enough to show them what they already possessed. It took that last journey into darkness (with the chips really on the table) and back out again for them to find their brains, heart, courage, and home (sense of belonging and being dear enough to others that they would risk their hides). There WAS no omnipotent entity who could ever bestow these qualities on them as GIFTS (which is what they all originally WANTED to happen). The working together to discover their inner qualities was the REAL "Wonderful Wizard". The little man only had the PLAN to GUIDE them toward that discovery. And a wise one it was!

I am arrogant and one million percent unapologetic about what it takes to be the best in this sport (progressively higher mileage is a huge part of that). Why do I pose as "Oz"? Because I know which mission to assign to help runners discover their potential. But I can't give them any results through magical powers; I'm just a human like the little carnival man from Kansas. I can only guide them. THEY have to DO it. It's neither easy nor free. Many walk away from the Emerald City and remain searching for whatever, lost "over the rainbow" somewhere because they're afraid of what that arrogant, artificially amplified voice is telling them to do. Listen, take that step to get started on the road to self-discovery, and use the brains, heart AND courage (together) that you already have. Then you can find your way home.