“The key to my conditioning training is one hundred miles a week.”
— Arthur Lydiard, 1962
I am going to leave my commentary out of Part One..though I want to say…I am in full agreement with Arthur here…here is the crux of the chapter. I will share my thoughts in Part Two.
One hundred miles a week may sound a lot of miles but it is well within the compass of a well-conditioned athlete.
I ran myself to this minimum-maximum by sheer trial and error. To hit on it as the perfect distance, I spent weeks running over and under a hundred miles a week. For one six-week stretch I piled up two hundred miles a week. I finished up so tired that I could hardly move above a shuffle and it became obvious to me that I was not gaining anything from the effort in the way of added stamina. I was stretching myself beyond the physical recovery limit. My body was always too tired by the succession of long runs to consolidate the benefits of any one of them.
I spent many weeks running well under a hundred miles a week. I did not become tired, certainly, but there was no subsequent improvement in my ability, either. My runs during this trial period were too short, too easy, to call out the extra effort that could be subsequently consolidated and stockpiled for future use. In other words, I wasn’t building stamina.
One hundred miles a week enables you to alternate between ten and twenty miles a day without every become completely fatigued – and there is a difference between fatigue and exhaustion. The twenty-mile run may be exhausting, but it is quite possible to run that distance the following day comfortably. The shorter run provides a recovery period, consolidates the effort put into the longer run, and makes the next run over the longer distance relatively easier. Temporary exhaustion is not dangerous, but permanent exhaustion, or fatigue, is.
You will also see in the schedules detailed later in this book that, besides varying distances to alternate long and short runs, my system recommends variations in the training course between comparatively flat running and hill running, and variations in the effort put into running between quarter-effort and three-quarter effort. All these variations I worked out over the roads of Auckland during my long search for the key system. I tried dozens of variations and I have rejected all but those which I now recommend.