Those of you who follow elite running know that Dathan Ritzenhein set a new American record in the 5000 meter run. His time of 12:56.27 broke Bob Kennedy’s old record of 12:58.21 set in 1996. Although this time, which equates to running three consecutive 4:10 miles, is way out of reach for recreational runners, Dathan’s run can give us insights into what generally works well for training.
In the months before setting the record, Dathan focused on 10k and marathon training. He ran a 2:10 marathon in April and ran in the 10k at the world championships (coming in 6th). He put in an enormous amount of miles in training for these long races, and only ran a few 5k workouts before his record run.
The point is this: The best way to run fast for races from the mile to the 5k is to build a large base of mileage before running fast workouts. The common trap many runners fall into is to skip the base building and jumping right into interval workouts. In doing so, runners rob themselves of the chance to truly realize their potential.
It is important to put in at least 3-4 months of high mileage before transitioning into the sharpening phase that involves track workouts. In other words, runners who have patience to steadily increase mileage and increase their aerobic fitness will reap the rewards when it comes time to race.