Saturday, 29 January 2011

Running Review of 2010 - 2276 miles - What Does It Mean?


Yes, I am a little bit late with this, but at least it is still January, just!

For the last 33 years I have recorded my training.  So often as I prepare for a race I dig out the old training diaries and look at what I have previously done.  I tend to find it extremely beneficial as I learn from the experience gained from running 37,443 miles!!!  Having read a few other ultra runner's reviews of their year recently, I will include in my review some of the statistics they have used. 

The number one statistic to start with is my total mileage of 2276 miles.  In a post last April titled Is More Always Better? I reviewed my yearly mileage totals for the previous 32 years.  Well with 2276 miles, 2010 was my fourth highest running mileage year.  My highest since 1984!

So why the increase in miles during 2010?  No specific reason apart from probably enjoying my running even more at the moment. Not really a performance focused motive, as I was not truly convinced that running extra miles would make me perform better in ultra trail races! 

The graph and table above compare my monthly mileages between 2009 and 2010. During 2008 and 2009, I typically only ran 5 times per week, so at the start of 2010 I made the conscious decision to typically run 6 times per week.  Although it felt like I typically ran 6 days per week during 2010, once you add in the extra days rest due to easing off prior to a race, having extra days off immediately following a race, then a week off due to skiing, and occasional extra days off due to other reasons, it actually ends up with an overall average of exactly 5 days running per week!

2010 - 260 runs, 105 rest days, total 2276 miles, average of 8.8 miles per run
2090 - 195 runs, 170 rest days, total 1783 miles, average of 9.1 miles per run
2008 - 199 runs, 167 rest days, total 1806 miles, average of 9.1 miles per run.

The only month during 2010 when I didn't run more that 2009 is the month of August.  This is lower than 2009 as in 2009 I raced UTMB in August.  Having raced the Lakeland 100 near the end of July during 2010, the following few weeks I also took it quite easy.

So looking back at 2010, has the extra day running per week, i.e. the extra 493 or 470 miles over the previous two years respectively aided performance?  I guess to assess this, one needs to look at my race performances over the last three years.

The races highlighted in red are where I raced the same course in different years. Looking at the Beachy Head Marathon and the South Downs Marathon results it tends to indicate that I have pretty well stayed constant in performance over the last three years.  I improved 15 minutes in the Marlborough 33 mile ultra race, but I think most, if not all of this, was largely due to being ill in 2009.

Each year I set myself a target race and therefore gear my training for that one race.  For the last two years, my target race has been over 100 miles, i.e. Lakeland 100 (actually 104 miles) and Ultra Trail Mont Blanc at 103 miles.  Therefore my training composition has recently changed to take account of the 100+ mile focus.  I have therefore decreased the number of tempo/fartlek type sessions, and increased the rhythm/relaxation sessions.  This is in response to 100 mile races being less dependent upon physiological influences, than they would be for say marathon or short ultra races.  In terms of how physiology relates to performance, as I have stated before, my understanding is that the key physiological determinant for ultra running is running economy, which is strongly related to muscular resistance to fatigue.  The longer the race, the greater its importance, and therefore an increased emphasis on rhythm/relaxation sessions, which I believe will benefit running economy and reduce muscular fatigue.

So have my performances in 100 mile races improved?  This is hard to gauge with not having run the same 100 mile event twice, although this will change during 2011.  I have been reasonably pleased with both of my performances in the Lakeland 100 and UTMB, although, I know that there is plenty of room for improvement.  The secret is knowing what it is I need to do in order to turn this underlying belief of improvement, into reality!  What exactly is required to allow it to happen?  Maybe looking at the composition of my running during 2010 may provide some clues?  Below is a summary based on some statistics listed by other bloggers.

Looking at the table, I guess my key physical training consists of the long runs, 16 miles and over, as 15 miles and less isn't really long in relation to racing 100+ miles!  Very seldom do I tend to run longer than 20 miles in training, unless it is a special/unique run.  The eight 20+ mile runs during 2010 consisted of: four race route recce runs (Lakeland 100 - 3 consecutive days, Pumlumon), three runs while in New Zealand, and a Wealde Way run.  Should I be doing more than this?  If you combine these eight 20+ runs with seven races, then it does begin to total up.  Will I look to do more during 2011?  Undecided at the moment, all dependent upon evaluating the purpose/the benefit I will gain, from doing more long runs.  I need more time to think, so it is probably best to leave this topic for my next post: Planning and Goals for 2011.

Just to finish off I will post two more images illustrating my weekly breakdown.  Probably not that overly interesting, but since all my data was in excel, why not produce them!  Note the increase in mileage during December. The benefits of my summer training camp in New Zealand while everyone else in the UK battled with the cold and snow!

Time to sign off with a quote from my What Determines Performance in Ultra Running? - Part Two post from last year, which seems relevant and worthy of repeating:
"In order to address what training is appropriate, one must first consider what limits performance!" Stuart Mills, 2010.
Still more reflection and thinking required!

All the best with your planning for 2011,


  1. Thanks for sharing all that information Stuart. Its extremely interesting to compare different athletes take on training quantity. I do think your amount of miles is remarkably low compared to say Anton Krupicka who is running 'green mountain' every morning at 14 miles and then more in the afternoon, every day. at nearly 200miles a week.

    I think when you get to that amount of mileage the law of diminishing returns comes into play.

  2. Great post Stu.

    I was quite surprised to see how many miles you ran last year. From our chats I got the impression you never ran more than 35miles a week!!

    All the best for 2011

  3. Really interesting stuff. I'm surprised to see how few long runs you do, 13 if you total training runs and races, about one a month. Is this a definite plan or because of time pressures?