Shelter Masthead

Where to Start

IN SUMMER, 1983, 1 got a call from Marlene Cimons, a runner and a staff writer for the Los Angeles Times. I'd met Marlene earlier at the Boston Marathon and she'd been interested in my new approach to training. “Do you think I could improve my marathon time of 3:53?” she asked.

I asked a few questions about her background and then said I could practically guarantee better performance if she followed some different training principles. Marlene was eager to give it a try, so I set up a running program for her. We agreed we’d talk on the phone every few weeks so I could monitor how things were going and recommend any necessary adjustments.

As she got into her new routine, she decided it might make a good story for her paper. Would this new approach—planning her training in advance and emphasizing long, slow runs—lead to better performance? She sent away for an application to the Nike-Oregon Track Club Marathon in Eugene, Oregon, that fall and I agreed to run with her in the race, to keep her on pace and provide psychological support.

Marlene followed the major points of the marathon training program (see the chart on p. 126), but one thing she had trouble with, and that we argued over, was the long run. She got up to 20 miles and didn’t want to run farther. (As you’ll see in the following pages, the program recommends that you work your way up to running at least the race distance before the race, so your body is prepared for the strain.) She had a mental block, based on painful experiences “crashing” each time she’d gone 20 miles, either in practice or racing. She was afraid she’d hurt herself before the race.

I explained Arthur Lydiard’s theory of long, relaxed running. I told her to go slow, to stop and walk when tired, but to be sure to go farther than the race before the race. This way she shouldn’t hit “the wall” she so dreaded. I also pointed out how this principle of easy long runs had not only been used by Lydiard’s Olympic champions, but now by neighborhood runners throughout the country to run (and finish) marathons.

I finally convinced Marlene to continue her long runs and to build up to 26 miles. We met in Eugene that September and Marlene ran 3:44:49, improving her previous best time by 81/2 minutes—even on a very warm and humid day. She not only didn’t “die” at the end, but managed a final sprint the last 200 yards. She was inspired and elated, and wrote an article on her experience.

Running Slow in Order to Run Fast: Marlene’s experience is typical for runners at all levels. Steady, relaxed running over several months is not only enjoyable, but cuts down on injuries and is the best base for competitive running. Not only can you run slow in order to run fast, but by carefully organizing slow running into a planned schedule, you can probably run faster than ever before.

Lydiard’s Strategy Applied to Everyday Runners: Over the past 12 years I’ve worked with runners at clinics, in running camps and in our running stores and I’ve developed a series of innovations and planning techniques that allow everyday runners to tap into the successful concepts developed by Lydiard. I’ve come to visualize this program as a pyramid with a strong foundation of easy running, a transition zone of hill training and finally a speed program that brings a runner to his or her peak for a race.

What’s interesting is that these same principles used by world class runners apply to runners of all levels. With these basic training concepts, not only do elite runners achieve world records, but beginners will get fit and have fun, joggers will be able to run their first marathons and experienced runners will improve their personal records.

Starting Your Program: Your training program has already started. Your past exercise activity will be the basis upon which you’ll build your long-range program. Adults who were active as children have a headstart. So don’t be surprised if a fellow sedentary office worker takes up running and improves faster than you. Start with what you’re presently doing, so long as it’s not already too much; then build in the specific workouts, rest and other adjustments described below.

Most of the runners I have counseled have initially decreased their mileage by adding strategic rest. This has allowed them to increase the quality of work on the hard days—and has invariably led to better performance. But even if you’ve been sedentary for many years, don’t be discouraged; you can probably do things you never believed were possible.

Define Your Goals: First think about your goals. Why do you want to run? To lose weight, feel good, regain muscle tone, stay fit year-round? All of these plus enter some races? Or become a competitive runner and race frequently? Think about what you want out of your running. What do you want to achieve in the next six and 12 months? Asking these questions will help you organize a plan and make your pursuit more effective.

Don’t Use Anyone’s Program But Your Own: The best training program for you is the one that meets your particular needs. This applies to beginners as well as to world-class runners. Don’t adopt the successful program of a friend. Although he is succeeding, he may be improving on inborn talent “in spite” of his program, All of us have strengths, weaknesses and limitations which need to be considered in customizing a program. It’s fine to try new training ideas, but experiment with only one at a time. Then blend the successful ones into your program to fit your own demands, rest needs and current level of performance.

The Training Pyramid

The training pyramid is normally a 4-6 month cycle with each stage building to the next. As I mentioned before, it is used by elite runners to improve endurance and speed, but in the following pages I’ll show how you can use the pyramid concept to achieve your goals, whatever they may be. At the peak of the pyramid is the race the runner is aiming f6r. You can use the principles to achieve your race goal, or as a general guide to a balanced running program. Whether you race or not, these concepts will improve your running, make it more enjoyable and develop your overall cardiovascular capacity and fitness.


Daily Runs: Your ultimate performance is governed by your base work—aerobic training. You can only improve a certain amount by speedwork. But it’s the sustained period of long, steady running that is the foundation for running faster.

The base part of the pyramid consists of several months of steady aerobic running. Aerobic running develops a better circulatory system by strengthening the heart and increasing the amount of blood pumped through the circulatory system. This means nutrients and oxygen can get to the muscle cells more efficiently and wastes are more easily removed. Your muscles can do more work with less effort. You are building up your vital transport system in preparation for the speedwork phase which will ultimately help you run faster.

Long Runs: Long runs develop cardiovascular efficiency to its maximum. They are the single most important element in your program. The sustained pumping of the heart helps the heart, arteries and veins become more efficient in transporting the blood and allows the lungs to absorb oxygen more efficiently. When the muscles are pushed to their limits (as in a race) they will respond better and work longer because of this strengthening of the circulation system.

How long? If you’re interested in running faster or racing—no matter how far down the line—here is what you do: Start with the distance of your longest run in the last three weeks and increase by one mile a week until you have reached 12 miles. At that point, increase by two miles every two weeks. The intervening weeks will give your body a much-needed chance to recover and rebuild for the next long one. When you get up to 20 miles for a marathon, 16 for a 10K, go into a holding pattern. Don’t go beyond these distances until your speed phase.

In the speed phase of your pyramid, you’ll continue these long runs and for top performance, extend them to beyond the distance of the race you’re aiming for. Ideally you should build up to a run of 16-18 miles for the 10K, 28-30 for the marathon.

The other runs in your program will not change very much, if at all. You will be increasing distance primarily through the long run, not through more miles each day. You can run races during the base period, but don’t need to. If you do, they should not be run at top speed, and should be run on weeks when there is no long run.

How fast? Long runs should be run very slowly—at least 2 minutes per mile slower than your goal pace for your target race. When in doubt, slow down and take more walk breaks, from the beginning. You can't run the long runs too slowly.

Note for Non-Competitive Runners: Long runs are used by competitive endurance runners of all levels. World-class racers have been using the principle for years now, and more and more weekend 10K or marathon runners are recognizing its value in improving overall speed and race performance. But the principle of the long run can be used by all runners, even those who run only 2-3 miles a day, three times a week. If you are not interested in racing or competing, just scale down tile length of the long run as described above. The idea is to run longer one day every two weeks. If you run three miles a day during the week, start going four miles one day, then two weeks later, five miles. If five miles feels long enough, hold it at that, and have a five-mile run every two weeks. But if you want to, keep increasing a mile every two weeks—make that be a special day. It will give you more endurance, help burn more fat, get you in better condition—and make you feel better, even if you never intend to race.

The long run is described in detail on pp. 119-120

Pace: In both daily runs and long runs, go 1 1/2-2 minutes slower than your current 10K race pace. I run 2 minutes slower. Even if you feel comfortable at a faster pace, slow down and learn to enjoy the slower running. This will give you the rest you need to run faster in races.

Form Work: Twice a week, on easy days, run 4-8 accelerations during the run with complete recovery in between. For 100-200 yards accelerate to a speed that is fast but not all-out (about current one-mile race pace). Keep it under control. Think about your form then, but don’t worry about it at other times while running.

Form is described in detail on pp. 146-157.

Races: Races can be run for practice, as stepping stones to the big race you are aiming for—but no more often than every other week. One per month is a better policy. Don’t run them all-out, but use them as harder-than-normal runs (no faster than half the time difference between your mile pace for a 10K and your relaxed training pace).


Base period training gives you endurance and cardiovascular efficiency. Before jumping into speedwork, however, the body needs a period of transition to build strength. Hills prepare the muscles for faster running without going anaerobic.
Lydiard maintains that hills are the only beneficial type of resistance training for runners, and that hill training will enable you to run better on all types of terrain. I agree. Hills strengthen running muscles while they are running. This gives functional strength as opposed to the specific and limited strength of weight training.

Hills strengthen the main driving muscles— quadriceps, hamstrings and especially calf muscles. As the calf muscles get stronger, you can support your body weight farther forward on your feet and use the mechanical advantage of the ankle. This leads to more efficient running because the ankle is such an efficient mechanical lever.

As the base period develops the internal “plumbing,” hill training develops strength for running. The legs get a taste of working hard without going into oxygen debt and without the hard impact/ trauma of speedwork.

In the hill phase of the pyramid, the only real change from the base period is the hill workout one day a week. All other training remains the same. Most runners do hill work mid-week—on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Find a hill with a moderate grade, about 10-15%,. If it’s too steep you can’t develop a good sustained drive and rhythm. Run at about 85% effort (slightly faster than 10K race pace) and jog slowly down to recover. If you need more rest in between, take it. This is not supposed to be an anaerobic workout. Start with about four hills and increase by one a week until you can run 8-12 hills. Give yourself at least two days rest between hill workouts and races or long runs.

Hill training usually lasts 4-6 weeks. Experienced, competitive runners can run two hill workouts a week, bur be careful about this, because it’s stressful and makes injury more likely.

Hill running form is described in detail on pp. 155-156.


Your base period gives you endurance, and that, along with strengthening hill training gets you ready for speed. So long as you continue the long runs, the speedwork will enable you to run faster for all distances. Each workout pushes the body farther than it went the week before. The working muscles thus gradually experience the increased workload. The rest period that follows allows rebuilding for the next test. The final workouts in the speed phase will gradually build until they simulate race conditions.

In the early part of this century, speedwork consisted of running time trials and races. Athletes ran races without training in between. In between races the more ambitious ran time trials at their race distance. Training this way, they rarely increased their speed.

Interval training and fartlek (“speed play,” see pp. 84-87) were introduced in Europe about 1920. These methods divided the race distance into several parts. Runners ran faster than race pace for a set distance, rested between segments and repeated the process numerous times. The number and speed of repetitions increased each week until the endurance demands of the race were simulated. By breaking up the hard segments with rest periods, the overall stress of each workout was not as substantial as that required by a race. Whereas hard sustained effort tears the muscles down through gradual exhaustion, the rest intervals between speed accelerations keep the muscles from being overly fatigued.

The 8-week rule: After about 8 weeks of speedwork your performance will tend to peak. If you keep up intensive speedwork after this, you’ll be risking injury, illness or fatigue.

Not for beginners: Speedwork isn’t for everyone. If you don’t have a time goal, you don’t need it. It puts a lot of stress on your body and increases the chances of injury. Speed training is potentially more damaging than long runs. On the positive side, however, it can train tired legs to go farther and faster. You should stay in the base period for your first one or two years. During this time, an occasional speed session would consist of merely accelerating faster than normal pace for portions of the run.

Speedwork is described in more detail on pp. 81-91.


When you have finished the speed phase of a pyramid and have run your “big” race, it’s time to recycle and begin the base part of a new pyramid. Going back to another base period is a relief after a hard period of speed and races. The wear and tear of your peaking period will be repaired, muscle fibers restored, and you’ll be ready with greater cardiovascular capacity the next time around.

Like a sand pyramid on the beach, the wider the base, the higher the peak. Start with a solid base, get plenty of rest, and you’ll improve your condition and performances. One pyramid can be the base for the next one, if you plan it that way. For example, a 10K pyramid in the spring will give you the speedwork you need for use in your fall marathon pyramid—which gives you endurance for the next spring 10K and etc . . . . A series of increasingly difficult workouts will lead you from one stage to the next and make possible the fulfillment of your goals.

This has been an overall description of planning, goals, and the basic elements of this new approach to running. The chapters in the Racing section of the book go into all the aspects of such a plan in greater detail.

Excerpted from Galloway’s Book on Running, ©2002 by Jeff Galloway. Shelter Publications, Inc., Bolinas, Calif. Distributed in bookstores by Publishers Group West