Thoughts on Middle Distance & Distance Training


Here are some of my thoughts on training middle distance and distance runners. I continue to be amazed at the things that I see going on in training. We have been down this path so many times before I am amazed that the same questions are being asked and the same mistakes are repeated. In my 41 year coaching career I have been fortunate to work with some great middle distance and distance athletes (male & female) and some great coaches. Here are some of the things I have learned.

Anyone can run miles- It is what you put into the miles that count. More miles can make you tired, but they do not necessarily make you better.

Stop slogging- Slow running and shuffling are poor foot strikes that just reinforce poor biomechanics.

Work on race distribution not race pace. Races are never run at even pace. Learn to change gears. Learn your race and how you best need to run that race and train accordingly.

Become race “hardened”- Learn how to race. The only way you can learn how to race is race, race over your race distance and under your race distance. If you are an 800 or 1500 meter runner try to run the second or third leg in a 4 x 400 relay as much as possible.

ALWAYS include an element of speed in training at all times of the year. If you are waiting to start speed work you are waiting to get beat.

Running strength comes from an accumulation of training over time.

Progress in your volume by adding training sessions, not by adding more to a session. If you are running once a day add two morning sessions a week. If you are running five days a week add a day. Progress gradually, never compromise good mechanics or quality.

Strength training must be an integral part of the runner’s preparation during all phases of the year. You must train leg strength. Strength is the basis for speed and injury prevention. A good comprehensive functional strength training program will help with postural integrity, joint integrity and shock absorption.

Use Bowerman’s axiom of a hard day followed by an easy day. Make hard/easy your mantra.

Read Run, Run, Run by Fred Wilt and Modern Training for Running by Ken Doherty. Both were written more than forty years ago. I know you will think I am living in the past, but both these books are spot on with clear messages and information that today’s coaches need. They are not confused by scientific gobbledygook, just good coaching information.

Vern Gambetta

Vern Gambetta

Director at Gambetta Sports Training Systems
Vern is the Director of Gambetta Sports Training Systems. He has been the a conditioning coach for several MLS teams as well as the conditioning consultant to the US Men's World Cup Soccer team. Vern is the former Director of Conditioning for the Chicago White Sox and New York Mets. He has lectured and conducted clinics in Canada, Japan, Australia and Europe and has authored six books and over one hundred articles related to coaching and sport performance in a variety of sports. He has a BA in teaching with a coaching minor and an MA in Education with an emphasis in physical education from Stanford University.
Vern Gambetta


Athletic Development Coach & Consultant. Founder of GAIN Network. Proud dad. Love to read everything.
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Vern Gambetta

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