EDITORS NOTE:  This is from a Youth Runner Coaching Series Crowdcast with Coach Bob Williams


What I want to talk about now is, training. There are about four or five things that coaches on a national and international level do with runners.  Lets go through these and attach it to the Rating of Perceived Effort (RPE) breathing challenge. The chart is here…..


Do you all know what it’s like to breathe really hard that last lap of a race? How many of you have never experienced that feeling of breathing so hard that you’re not even sure you’re going to finish.  The question now is, what do you want to do with that?

Do you know what Fartlek means? It means speed play in Swedish. Basically Fartlek means, utilizing all the elements of training and competing in a 20-30 minute loop or training session.

If you’re talking about speed play, you’re talking about easy running, then running really hard. Well how much hard training can you really do in a session? Can you do an hour of really hard training? Well, maybe, maybe not. You may feel dead after about 30-40 minutes of that because your body can only take so much.


So with Fartlek you cut it into pieces of short bursts of 200m, 400m, 15 seconds, 30 seconds, maybe 45 seconds with equal amounts of recovery. Maybe you do a two-minute pick up that goes something like this. Your first 30 seconds your RPE is at a four, the next 30 it’s at a five, then you go to a six, then you go to a seven, maybe an eight. When you get to an eight or a nine, how hard do you think you’re breathing at an eight to a nine? Really hard! A ten is all-out, right? A two or three is like jogging in place and hardly feeling any effort, right? The effort is based today, off of the breathing challenge. We could be talking about how it feels in your legs but right now we’re just talking about the breathing challenge. Fartlek is basically a 20-30 minute fun, play time doing what you want to do. How many of you have gone on long runs? Right! Long runs are anywhere from 35-45 minutes up to two hours. What do you think the RPE should be during a really long run? Right, a three to a four unless you hit the hills, then it’s going to go up, right? When you come off the hills it should go back down to a three to a four. I was at the track last week and I watched Alberto Salazar with Galen Rupp doing a 22-mile training run. The four miles I saw him running, and he had been running eight miles by then, he was running a 4:41 pace. This was on a track. He’s basically learning to take on high amounts of discomfort in the middle of a long run. Galen was a medalist in the Olympics. He can do that! You probably don’t want to do that. Which means you can pick it up to an RPE of a six to a seven and try and hold it. Long runs are comfortable. What do long runs do? They build capillary beds.

When he was running the 22 miles, was it all on the track?

He ran four miles on Hollister Trail, then he ran four miles on the loop around the campus, then he came to the track, went off the track, and back to the track. Alberto was following him on his bike so he could hand him fluids.

Long Runs:

We know that long runs are done for your development. You can run anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour. That’s a pretty good run for a young person. The next two are a little more sophisticated. One is called a Lactate Threshold Run.

Has anybody ever heard of a Lactate Threshold Run? Well, Lactate is a byproduct of muscle work and it is the feeling of getting harder, and harder, and harder to run in a particular distance and time. In other words, your RPE that was once a three to four is going to go to a five to six. The sweet spot in a Lactate Run is to get your RPE between a five and a six. Your breathing is deeper, but you can manage it. All the research shows that 20-25 minutes is all you need at a really strong run. That is going to build your ability to manage higher levels of lactate. They measure this in mmol/L of lactic acid. This is done by drawing blood and putting a sample on a little stick. They put it in a device and they read it. Most colleges and universities don’t have these lactate analyzers. So how do you know? Well, you know based on stress over a period of time. Some people call them Tempo Runs. That’s just a way of managing the stress as a training technique.

Then you have Long-Distance Repetitions.

Repetitions can be anywhere from 100-400 meters. Some repetitions can be 800-1600 meters.


How many of you have run 4x800 at a certain race pace? Most races are run the first lap at about a five (if it’s a 1500m), the next two a six or a seven, the last lap a nine, maybe a ten the last 50 meters or so because you can barely hold onto it at that point. You probably don’t want to do that with a lap to go. This is how you learn to compete. It just takes time and races to learn how to do that. How many of you have run 1000m repeats? That’s kind of a long time out there to be running at that distance. Some people say that’s the sweet spot to be running three to four minutes at a five, and with two or so minutes left to go bump up to about a six, then gradually up to a seven. If you did that three or four times, 3000m, 4000m that repetition with good recoveries, your body is going to adapt to that. The next week, your body will be stronger. Your body will have set itself or reset itself for that to happen again. It’s going to repair, recover, and regenerate. Then it’s going to prepare to go through that again. The next time, assuming the weather is the same, you’ve had enough food, and all that, the next time instead of running 3:55 1000m reps you may be running 3:50. That is your body adapting and that is really what training is all about. It’s learning how to adapt. You have your recovery days where you train and recover. The next time you run your 1000m, 800m, 400m, or whatever, you do your training run.  Then, do your stretching, and then your recovery.

So you have four training types: Short Reps, Long Reps, Lactic Threshold,for developing intensity to manage that level of stress, and  Long Runs for your mitochondria to power those cells in your muscles and capillary beds. This develops the ability for your blood to be passed along to those muscle groups. You have your Fartlek and of course you have your regeneration.


Questions from the Campers:

What’s a good RPE for recovery?

Yes, about a two or three. There are some coaches that mix in walking. It’s a recovery day so they make them walk. It’s great! You get your full recovery and you feel awesome the next day. That’s really what you’re after.


If you’re doing the 3000m, should you go out at about a five?

That should really be between you and your coach and how fast you want to run that.


If the 3000m is at nationals the kids my age will be running between a 10:30 and the last runners around 11:45. I run an 11:05.

Okay, so an 11:05 is like running 88 seconds per 400m. Starting at a five is a smart way to go. How many of you have started out too fast and created an early oxygen debt and thought, oh no, I’ve got about 3000 more meters to go?  I’ve done it. Everybody’s probably experienced that at one time or another. So how do you save yourself? You don’t go out really fast. You go out at an effort you know you can still finish with a really strong sprint. You only know that after you have practiced a number of times. One of the best ways is to run on the same course a couple of times so you really know how to run that course. XC is not easy, it’s hard. You have all these elements, kids bumping you, you bumping them. You want to put out the least amount of energy possible to get to the finish line as soon as you can. 

Check out the replay and answers to more questions from the Youth Runner Coaching Series with Bob Williams and Pat Tyson here. www.crowdcast.io/youthrunner

See the RPE Chart at www.youthrunner.com