Q & A: Mileage, Pacing, and Balls In/Out

I asked a lot of questions on the fly about mileage and pacing and whatnot, and I try to remember all of them so I can maybe answer one or two on the blog. Alas, my memory is dedicated to school and nothing else. But here are three that I get asked on the regular.

Q. What should my weekly mileage be during marathon training?

A. This is like asking me how you should take your coffee. Iced? Soy Milk? No foam? Foam? Whipped Cream? Stevia? Sugar in the Raw? Goat’s Milk?

Tell me, is this true?

Tell me, is this true?

Guys, I don’t drink coffee. I don’t know these things. I also don’t know what your mileage should be. I can give you a range (40-60, 60+ if you’re seasoned & healthy) but there are numerous factors that go into your training schedule. It would actually take me several days to put together a proper schedule for you, and that would be after you completed a page-long questionnaire (and possibly a phone call) and sending over your recent race times and training logs.

What I’m saying is that it’s specific to you, your goals, and your current fitness level.

Q. How should I pace my long runs. I’m going for a BQ (Boston Qualifying time) and I’m a 29 year-old female.

A. The qualifying time for your age group is 3:35:00, or EXACTLY 8:12 min/mile. Now, the BAA stipulates that it takes the fastest qualifying times first and fills the slots from there. So, you may technically qualify with your time but still not get in. Just be prepared for that.

(Good luck to everyone trying this year! Click here for the latest on 2014’s race.)

This would be so frustrating. (Image courtesy of the BAA and ADIDAS)

This would be so frustrating.
(Image courtesy of the BAA and ADIDAS)

Your long runs, on the other hand, do not need to be run at 8:12 min/mile. In fact, I would suggest you NOT run all of them as fast as you want to run the marathon. I do, however, suggest you get used to running hard when you’re tired. There are several ways to accomplish this during a long run:

  1. Chop your miles in half and run about 8:20-8:30 for the first half and run at or sub-8:12 for your second half.
  2. Do an Over/Under run.
  3. Do ONE of your longest runs at or under 8:12 goal pace (for confidence), if you must.
  4. Split your run into thirds: 1/3 comfortable pace, 1/3 sub-8:12, 1/3 8:15-8:30.

Long runs should feel relatively easy and be somewhere (not > 20 seconds) near your goal marathon pace. But they should feel very manageable and not leave you crazy-sore for the rest of the week.

Q. I was feeling so good on my “easy run” day that I decided to just go balls out and race it. Is that ok?

A. No. I repeat, NO. It is not ok to just go balls out cuz you feel like it. keep the balls in. Why? Easy days are there for a reason. To recover, give your legs a break, and to mix up the days. And when your coach makes your schedule, he/she puts those days in a specific spot for a reason (I hope). Switching workouts around is fine now and again, but changing workouts on a whim defeats the purpose of well-planned, thoughtfully drawn out schedule.



I know, it’s nice outside and you feel like a million bucks, but you gotta take it easy and bank some of that feeling for your deadly track workout tomorrow. Recovery miles should be easy. Save it for later. If you don’t, I promise you runner burnout, or worse–INJURY, will be right around the corner.

Hope you guys are having a great week! And as always, if you have a question, email (runstrongereveryday<at>gamil<dot>com) or Tweet it to me.

Now go out and run!

5 thoughts on “Q & A: Mileage, Pacing, and Balls In/Out

  1. I love this post! I’m also really enjoying all the ‘easy’ run days on my schedule. Running has become so much more enjoyable now that I’m not obsessed with my pace.

  2. I was surprised to read your recommendation of easy runs being not more than 20 seconds slower than GMP. I’ve always read you can (and should?) run up to 1 minute slower than GMP per mile. Does this depend on what your GMP is, or how fit you are?

    • I don’t love that “rule”, Jen. Here’s why:

      1. You should not force yourself to run that much slower unless it feels good. If that’s the case, go for it.
      2. Running at an unnaturally slower pace is hard on your body, requires more energy, and produces an unnatural stride (muscles & joints get unhappy with this).
      3. Marathon goal pace is probably not a typical “race pace” for most amateur runners. It’s a comfortable pace that should feel relatively easy for 20 miles and then tough for the last 6. I can get behind the 1 min+ for faster runners, but not your average everyday runner who’s churning out 8 min/mile+.

      Does that make sense?

      • Yes, it totally makes sense — and I agree that a runner should focus on effort first and pace second. I feel that pace is so variable from runner to runner, but at the same time, telling a beginner to “run by feel” isn’t very helpful since they have no basis for that (and probably *any* pace feels hard at first!).

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