Do we really need training plans?

Do we really need training plans?

I’d bet that if you did an analysis on the most written and talked about subject for us runners you’d find it is probably training plans. Or maybe injuries.

Not so long ago I had a bit of a surprise when I managed a 10K PB, breaking my previous best by nearly a minute. In truth, most of could take a good slug off our PB times with the proper application; follow a decent training plan with event specific sessions and the appropriate intensity, duration and frequency. And for most of us, when we get bitten by the bug (or become boring and obsessed as our non-running friends would have it), finding the right training programme is one of the first things we do. Some of us get past the first week, and some of us even manage to mostly see it through.

So what was the surprise? Well, oddly it was that the PB result seemed to come out of the blue because I definitely wasn’t training for it. Sure I was still running, but my focus (such as it was) was on longer runs at much easier pace. Generally accepted wisdom is that to train for a 10K, once you’d got your base miles in, best results would come from a programme which included intervals and tempo runs – but I’d hardly done either for months before the PB.

I think there were possibly a couple of reasons for this result;

Firstly, training programmes seem to work very differently for different people, and although what I did in the run up to the race would never be recommended by anyone, it clearly worked for me.

Secondly, I’m wondering whether the key is, in fact, in the longer runs. A longer run helps build up endurance, of course, and that’s a pretty useful thing to have when you’re running at threshold pace. So maybe, while they don’t help you go faster, they do help you sustain the pace so there’s no slump as the race goes on. I’m also wondering whether the significant increase in mileage simply helps you get better form and become a better runner generally – so if your number of opportunities to run is limited, then running longer when you can is the better option.

So I’m off intervals, at least for now. I’ll probably not have quite the same sprint finish, but at least I’m less likely to sprint off insanely fast at the start – and I bet that will help too!