A distance runner’s progression

This year is the first year I have taken running seriously. In previous years, I have done some significant challenges, including Sky runs, ultramarathons, and 70.3 Ironman triathlons. I am not a naturally fast runner, I have done ok at the longer events, but I have not been fast, and not fully committed to the training so I never got near to seeing how good I could be. 

This year I committed to becoming a better runner. I signed up for the Tromso Skyrun and several warm-up events, I convinced the five-time Tromso winner and OCR world champion Jon Albon to coach me, and set an annual distance target of 2000 miles (over twice the total I had done in the year before).   

For the first month of the year, I built up to 40 miles per week and then ran a local half marathon event in early February, setting a slow 1:50 minutes, and a 48 minute 10K time trial solo on local roads. With these benchmarks set, I began working with Jon to build intensity in 2-3 runs per week and then slow down the rest of my running to comfortable distance pace. Events had been cancelled, but I managed to get my Half-marathon time down to 1:37 in a solo time-trial before my time with Jon ended. 

The lack of events got me thinking about the progression of a distance runner. What benchmarks should I target at each stage of my training to keep it interesting? I started to look through books and read online about some targets to direct my training towards achieving.

The progression of a distance runner

The term distance running tends to cover events from 5km to Marathon. traditionally younger competative runners would start at the shorter distances, get fast, and then work up to the marathon later in thier career but as I am in my 30s already I can be a bit more created with my running progression. Run Britain have programmes for the following distances and target times. On their website, they list the events by distance, but I wanted to order them based on difficulty to create a ladder of events to target. I have listed these distance and time benchmarks in order of difficulty according to the equivalent race time tool of the Jack Daniels calculator:

  1. 10k in under 60 minutes
  2. Marathon in under 4 hours
  3. 5k in under 24 minutes
  4. 10k in under 50 minutes
  5. Half-marathon in under 95 minutes
  6. 10k in under 40 minutes
  7. Marathon in under 3 hours
  8. Half-marathon in under 85 minutes
  9. 5k in under 18 minutes

On the 20th December, I am going to time trial a half marathon to get under the 1:35 time. I had planned to do this in an event, but this has cancelled too. I have been following a Half marathon programme from Brad Hudson’s ‘Run Faster’ and can highly recommend this book and its included programmes.

Contact me on Twitter if you have an alternative set of targets that make training more exciting or to share your running progress. I am back to work tomorrow after a week off so the next few days will be focused on Learning Design. I will keep Sundays for running-related blogs.