If you were to line up 5k & 10k runners in order by the following criteria, which would be the best predictor of race performance?
- Weekly Training Mileage (total miles)
- VO2max (the maximum ability to process oxygen)
- Running Economy – RE (the oxygen consumption at a particular pace)
- Lactate Threshold – LT (the pace above which lactate begins to accumulate in your blood)
- 50 and 300 meter Sprint Times (applied to distance runners not sprinters trying to run distances)
Recent research is actually quite definitive that the first two items (total training mileage and VO2max) are poor predictors of racing success. RE is good but the best predictor is your LT pace! And lo and behold, sprint times for distance runners are very reliable predictors of the longer distance results as well. What this means is that if you lined distance runners up by each of these categories of training in order – highest to lowest rated – the last three line ups will be most like the 10k race results (or even up through marathons). What does this all mean to you? Stop the mileage madness. You improve the most when you incorporate running-specific strength training, hill work, vVO2max running and race-specific pace training.