Home > Training

Marathon lessons from Molly Seidel: train slow to run fast

The Olympic marathon bronze medallist dedicates the majority of her training to easy running, and so should you

With the Fall marathon season approaching fast, many runners across the country are already deep into their marathon training programs. If you’re like most of us, you were inspired by the athletes’ performances in the Olympic marathon, most notably by American Molly Seidel’s surprise bronze medal finish. Thankfully, the elite runner tracks her training on Strava, and when looking at her stats there is one major takeaway: to run fast, you need to train slow.

RELATED: The case for slowing down your easy runs

Physiologist and Colorado-based endurance coach Alex Couzens broke down Seidel’s training stats on his Twitter page, and the results may come as a surprise to many runners. Out of her typical 193-kilometre training week, she only ran three per cent of that volume at 5K pace or faster — that’s less than seven kilometres. She only ran another 13 per cent (about 25 kilometres) at race pace, and half of her total training volume was dedicated to slow, easy running.

For most of us, this approach may seem counter-intuitive. A lot of time and attention is given to speedwork and tempo runs, and while both are important aspects of training, Seidel’s stats prove that when it comes to success at the marathon distance, slow easy miles are king. Of course, the average recreational runner is likely not running 200 kilometres each week, and Couzens addresses this later on in the discussion thread. In his opinion, even if someone has only five hours per week to dedicate to training, he wouldn’t change the ratios all that much. He provided an example of a basic week of training:

  • Five 30-minute easy runs, with strides after two of those runs.
  • One 60-minute run each week with 30 minutes at threshold pace
  • One 2-hour long run with 60 minutes at a steady pace and 30 minutes at marathon pace

Of course, at that training volume, you likely won’t be joining the Olympians any time soon, but for someone with a busy schedule who not only has less time to train but also has fewer hours to dedicate to rest, stretching, mobility and other recovery strategies, Seidel’s ratios still apply. As long as you’re consistent with your training, this strategy will allow you to get to the start line prepared to handle the distance without injuring yourself in the process.

RELATED: 10 rules of marathon training

So if you’re in the midst of marathon training and are thinking about adding in some extra speedwork, take a page out of Seidel’s book and check your ratios first — it may not be necessary after all.