5k: How much mileage do I need to do, how much do I need to train.

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I come from the ‘do as little mileage as possible’ school. Before you say I’m wrong the key is ‘as possible’. Obviously you need to get those longer slower miles into your bags before doing the quality work.

So how little do you need to do (of the longer stuff!)

Former US Marathon record holder and performance coach Ken Young determined a ‘collapse point’. After this point you cannot compete effectively as your performance drops. It’s NOT THE “MARATHONER’s WALL” but is similar and related. This point is largely determined by your average weekly mileage. Brown & Graham agree with this, others do not. There’s more discussed (here).

So, he says, for 20 miles (32km) in total per week your collapse point is 9 miles (14.5km). Therefore you can race effectively over 10k (as 10km is less than 14.5km). Level 4 UK Athletics coaches will talk about this ‘collapse point’ so I’m not inventing it.

But of this mileage how much quality do you need:

The accepted norm for training for 5km is:  90% aerobic – 10% anaerobic.

My musings would then be based upon how that translates into a duathlon or triathlon. Yes aerobically your cycling/swimming will help your running to a degree but you won’t necessarily be training the right fast/slow twitch fibres in your muscles. So do you do less than collapse point mileage or collapse point mileage.

During my last proper 12 week race build up I did, inadvertently, somewhere near the collapse point mileage but definitely less. I did cycling as well of course. I could not have trained more intensively (in fact was unable to quite meet the plan). I did however go into the plan with a good endurance/distance base.

All that I could have added to my regime would have been one longer run and/or recovery run. But I didn’t have the time.

I think my performance was fairly close to my personal peak performance at the time and certainly I improved a lot over the plan’s duration.

So my tentative conclusion (for 5k) would be that you can’t ignore distance work in the long term. But for specific race build ups you probably can sacrifice some of the mileage that others might tell you you should be doing.

A: 5k race = 15k training collapse point but I reckon you should do more than that!

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