My Take on Mileage

My three most recent PodiumRunner articles are all about mileage:

But none of them include my take on the matter–instead, I feature some high- and low-mileage exemplars–so I thought I’d write a personal follow-up here.

Here’s how my mileage has progressed over the years:

  • Fun Run Days (9-11 years old): My first few years of “running” consisted of maybe a dozen runs per year. Most of those were short romps around the neighborhood with my dad, who would swing by our house after his real run to scoop up any of his 4 kids that wanted in on the action. Once or twice a year, we’d all hop in a Dallas fun run like the Turkey Trot and Jingle Bell Run. If I’m being honest, the running was definitely a means to a (t-shirt and post-race snack) end.
    • Typical weekly volume: Less than 1 mile per week, on average
  • Middle School Track (11-14 years old): Other than a very relaxed middle school track season each spring, in which I mostly ran the 100m and 200m (I know–hilarious), I didn’t go on many actual runs. I was so busy with soccer, basketball, swim team, tap, ballet, jazz, piano, cheerleading, etc. that adding runs to the mix didn’t really cross my mind. The only exceptions were our once- or twice-a-year fun runs, and the occasional jog with my dad.
    • Typical weekly volume: ~1 mile per week, on average (doesn’t include running done in the context of other sports)
  • First Half of High School Cross Country & Track (14-16 years old): The summer before freshman year of high school is when I started running with any kind of regularity. Curious but undecided about cross country, I spent that summer slowly building endurance with my dad at White Rock Lake. A few of those runs ended in tears–Dallas summers are no joke!–but mostly they left me with super fond memories: my first 9-mile lap of the lake, post-run Einstein stops, and the sneaky satisfaction I felt every time I ran, showered, and slipped back into my sleeping bag before my friends woke up. I spent my freshman and sophomore seasons adjusting to the training and learning what it feels like to push myself. Come spring track, however, I returned to the sprints and mostly raced the 300-meter hurdles (which, for some reason, I still considered my main event).
    • Typical weekly volume in summer/fall: 20-30 miles
    • Typical weekly volume in winter/spring: 10 miles
  • Second Half of High School Cross Country & Track (16-18 years old): Sometime around junior year, I started identifying more as a distance runner than a sprinter–though it wasn’t until my hurdles coach passed away that I fully made the switch. My last 2 cross-country seasons saw a good deal of improvement, largely thanks to coach Maureen Shinnick–a former Notre Dame runner and amazing person who returned to coaching at the perfect time–and teammates like Allison Devereux, Katherine Devlin, Lee Fountain, Erin Cochran, and my sister Rachel, who kept it all fun. Due to a knee injury the winter of my senior year, I only ran the 1,600m and 3,200m on the track for one season. At the time, I was stoked about my PRs from that season (5:07 and 11:09). Looking back… I’m lucky they caught the attention of any college coaches, and were enough to convince future Rice coach Jim Bevan that I had potential.
    • Typical weekly volume in summer/fall: 30-40 miles
    • Typical weekly volume in winter/spring: 20 miles
  • College Cross Country & Track (18-23 years old): At Rice, it quickly became evident that I could handle a decent load, and that I got better as the reps and races got longer. My weekly mileage crept up from a peak of 55 the summer before my freshman cross-country season to a college-high of 85 for a single week the winter of my 5th year. For the most part, 60-70 miles seemed to be my sweet spot for 5K, 10K, and 3,000m steeplechase training, with a full day off every week or every other week. I will say that I sustained several injuries in those years, including an unidentified knee issue that knocked me out for a couple months my sophomore year, a labral tear in my hip that required major surgery and ate into 2 years of competing, and semi-frequent but not-too-serious aches and pains that each set me back a couple days to a week or so. Looking back, I think that it took my body a few years to catch up to my desire and aerobic capacity. But by the fall of my 5th year, we had things dialed in and it would be almost 4 years before my next big setback.
    • Typical weekly volume: 55-75 miles
  • Pro Road & Track (24-Now/32 years old): My first year after college, I held pretty steady around 75 miles per week while traveling the world on a Watson Fellowship. I ran my first marathon 5 months after returning home, and have been focusing mostly on half marathon to marathon distances since then (with 1 season of steeplechasing and several 10K-ish road races thrown in). At this point in my career, the range I feel most comfortable at is 90-110 miles per week while marathon training (and healthy!), and 70-90 while focusing on shorter distances, which usually happens between a post-season break and my next marathon build. I’ve gone as high as 122 miles in a week, but have learned (especially at altitude) that anything above 115 teeters on risky for me, while also rendering my workouts more hit-or-miss.
    • Typical weekly volume: 75-115 miles

The point of this is not to suggest how other people should structure their training or to pretend like my progression has been perfect. (It most definitely has not.) Instead, I hope to show–as I did in the PodiumRunner articles linked up top–that there are more avenues to improvement than routes to get lost on in Boulder. Mine is just one.

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