What Does it Take? The Longest Mile

An Average Runner’s Journey to Become a Middle Distance Runner…

So I’ve decided to try and become a middle distance runner. After years of running below my potential, I finally want to see what this body of mine can do. Thank you for checking out the Longest Mile Blog! Any feedback is hugely appreciated 🙂


What does it take to become a successful middle distance runner?

What a question! We asked Southampton Athletics Club Coach Steve Phillips what he had to say…

[Steve has run some pretty handy times himself and has provided much advice on this subject. Steve even let me join in with one of his training sessions this week. He wasn’t so nice to me then.]

From reading around and from talking to experts like Steve, there is a clear path for me to take. During the winter middle distance runners usually focus on longer events (XC/5k/10k). This is to build an endurance base for the start of the track season in spring. Why is this?

Let us look at the approximate energy system breakdown of the 1500m event. (Source: Martin/Coe, Training Distance Runners. P. 127):

  • Aerobic: 76%
  • Anaerobic: 22%
  • Phosphate: 2%

Without getting too physiological, it is clear that the 1500m is an aerobic event. As Joe Rubio describes in his ‘Middle Distance Guide’:

Because 5k training centers primarily on the same aerobic paces that the 1500 runner should focus on to improve their aerobic component, spending the summer, fall and winter months training as a competitive 5k/XC runner is the basis of the most significant improvements the competitive 1500 runner is likely to make in their careers….Sub 4-minute miles were the byproduct of their largely competitive 5k based training efforts.

In other words: To be a good 1500m runner, one should also be a good 5k runner. And until the spring, that will be the focus of my training. A couple of weeks ago I ran an 18:34 at a local flat parkrun (5k) which gives me an immediate short(ish) term goal. Sub 18.

Over the next few months my two longer terms goals, to prepare for the start of the track season in April, are:

  • Lose weight. It sucks. But over the last year, I have packed on the pounds. Although not ‘overweight’, this excess is definitely slowing me down. I weighed in at 78.1kg the other day. I should be no more than 70kg for my height, if I want to be a competitive runner. (Martin/Coe) Drop the doughnuts and get into racing shape for spring!
  • Run a sub 17 min 5k. I have never done this. This alone would be a huge achievement for me and would mean I was in the best shape of my life going into the track season.

Week 1 training has been cracked. Over the next few weeks, we will start looking at the training in more detail. With the help of coaches like Steve and other runners, we will look at each training session and explore the ‘hows’ and the ‘whys’.

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
45 min steady hilly

+plus hill reps and flat strides

VO2 max session with Steve

(Long reps, short recoveries!)

10 min easy + 30 min steady

+plus strides

20 min tempo

+plus warm up, strides/drills, and warm down

Rest 20 min easy + 25 min steady

plus flat strides

90 min easy