Base mileage training is the foundation of distance running.
Whether you’re planning on training for a half marathon, marathon or other distance event, a solid base will allow you to begin to pack on the miles and introduce effective and more challenging tempo and interval workouts to your weekly regimen.
So, what is base training and how do you develop a strong base?
What and Why
In general, base training focuses on less intensity and more on volume. Intensity is controlled to keep the stress/rest cycle in balance and the extra volume adds important components to the muscular system that helps deliver oxygen to working muscles – a critical factor in training your body to run faster.
You may not know this, but adding volume to your training actually begins to build additional capillary beds around working muscles. These increased numbers of capillary beds are then capable of delivering more oxygen-rich blood, which allows muscles to perform better.
Also, base training builds mitochondria within the muscle cells themselves- making them bigger and more capable of delivering more energy. Building your base stimulates the body to build more enzymes that aid in aerobic energy production.
Finally base training increases the durability of important musculoskeletal systems like tendons, ligaments and bones- making them less prone to injury over time. All good.
I am sure that you have heard “Be sure you have a solid base of at least 20 miles a week before (adding interval or speed workouts / start marathon training, etc.”) OK. But what can be confusing is learning how to build that base properly and without injury. Overuse injuries are the most common among runners and they will stop training in nothing flat.
Base training is not just for newbies. If you’ve been on injury layoff, winter layoff, or have simply cut down your mileage for more than a month or two, it’s important to properly build a base to avoid injury.
It’s general knowledge that weekly mileage and/or long run mileage should only be increased by a factor of 10% each week, week over week.
Following is a really good Mileage Buildup Schedule from marathontraining.com that provides an excellent guideline to follow as you build your base.
Find your current total weekly mileage at the total column on this chart and proceed on the chart from there. Once your total weekly mileage is between 20-25 miles per week, and you are injury free, you can begin introducing speed work and more high intensity tempo runs into your weekly training plan.
Your base distance building runs should be done at no more than a 70% effort (70% of maximum heart rate).
Once you have a solid base, serious training for distance events can begin. You may be tempted to skip this important phase, but rest assured, you are much more likely to reach the starting gate confident and injury free if you develop a solid base as preparation for the tough training and longer, higher-intensity workouts that guarantee success on race day.
Base Training Basics
Base Training for Marathons Under 3 Hours