Conversation with Hal Higdon

I enjoyed reading Hal Higdon’s book “Marathon” back in the spring and hardly a week goes by without me looking at his half marathon and full marathon training plans.  So, I opened up a free account at Training Peaks a few days ago and I immediately went to the ask Hal forum and posed a question to him.  

I mentioned that I prefer to avoid speed work and pace runs (running at the pace one expects to race at) and that I thought that I viewed the 3 mile mid-week runs in the half marathon training plans as too short for my enjoyment.  I wanted to run a lot of miles.  So, I decided to follow Hal’s intermediate 2 training plan for the full marathon, even though I was only training for a half marathon.  I made some adjustments, though, to the intermediate 2 full marathon plan.  

  1. If the long Sunday run called for more than 15 miles, I would just run 15 miles.  
  2. If the Saturday run called for a pace run, I would still run at a relaxed, conversational pace.  

Then I asked Mr. Hidgon if he could speak of the advantages and/or disadvantages of the way I trained, having told him that following this training program did allow me to reach my goal of finishing a half marathon in under two hours.  I also asked if there could be a point at which I would no longer improve my time at the half marathon if I continued to train at high mileage (in a relative sense) at the expense of “quality” runs like speed work at pace runs.  

His response was basically that what I was doing could result in better results if I continued doing what I was doing and perhaps increasing my mileage, as long as the aging process didn’t counteract the impact of my training.  I took this to mean that since he did not know how old I am (I’m 46), he wanted to mention the “aging curve” and its impact on performance.  But then he did encourage me to do some tempo runs and perhaps 3 to 6 miles of pace runs most weeks.  

It is interesting how different coaches have different views on the value of “quality” runs such as speed work and pace runs.  As for me, I might throw in a “quality” run every so often.  I don’t think it will have an impact in my next half marathon, coming up in four weeks.  But perhaps I will notice the difference in April of next year, when I run the Carmel half marathon for the 2nd year in a row.  


One thought on “Conversation with Hal Higdon

  1. I picked up Higdon’s book a while back and have read some, so now I understand where you’re coming from. Runners typically train by pace (speed) but I come from a cycling background, and cyclists usually train by heart rate (intensity). Roads aren’t flat for long, and traffic always interferes, so we think of a workout as “I did x hours at zone 2” etc. The problem I have with training by speed and distance is that the body doesn’t really understand it. What matters most is which energy system you’re training and how long you need to be able to last. To apply it to your schedule, once you know mentally that you can cover 13.1 miles under your own power, do you need to do it over and over againEven elite marathoners never run longer than two hours, why should the rest of us? Will we get some additional benefit? As for “quality” sessions, how do you know you’re running at he right intensity? That’s why I like heart rate. Otherwise, it all makes my head explode!

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