Appreciate your questions. I really do. It forces me to think and put it down in words; and also recognize what general audience is thinking and where and how the Lydiard system is misunderstood. I’m not mocking you; I’ve been there myself!
Where did Lydiard come up with 100 miles a week program? Well, I guess he was lucky because New Zealanders weren’t using metric at the time! 100 sounds just so nice and round number, doesn’t it? 160km wouldn’t fly as nicely. Of course, Don Kardong thinks that 88 is even more round… At the time, with Arthur and his runners, they were very fit and they could handle running 10 miles in about 55 minutes; 15 miles in about 1:30 and 18 miles in about 1:40~1:45. 22 miler was 2-hour plus. That’s a good training load. Nearly an hour of good tempo is fast enough yet not too stressful. 1:30 to 2-hours is proven to develop general cardiac efficiency best due to development of underdeveloped capillaries. Alternating the distance, or the length of the runs, is a good way to perform Hard/Easy principle. He figured all that out from his practical experience and, it so happened, the total mileage was somewhere around, in British mileage system, 100 miles a week.
High volume is not the only answer? Yes, you’re correct and guess what? Lydiard himself would be the first one to agree with you. In fact, his 100MPW training is only a half of his overall program. In fact nothing annoyed him more than people considered him “the 100MPW man”. Over the years (and quite a few years, I might add) of his coaching, there had been several occasions when he advised people to cut down mileage and work on their “speed”. If you think his program is “only” high volume, you need to keep reading his book till the end of the program. There’s a whole lot of “Daniels” toward the end of his program.
Aerobic only for the extended period… That’s yes and no. Yes, because you will spend some designated period doing lots of relatively slow distance work. But you should not only do that at jogging speed. As I said, Snell and others were doing their 10-miler in about 55 to 52 minutes. That’s hardly “jogging”. Lydiard didn’t want to tell people to “run at 5.5 minute per mile pace” yet, somewhere in the world (incidentally it was the US) people twisted his idea and created LSD. Even after LSD became the household name, he insisted NOT to call it “Long Slow Distance”. In stead, he adamantly called it either “Long Sunday Distance” or “Long Steady Distance”. Also consider the terrain they ran on—New Zealand is very very very hilly. They were doing hill training of a sort without thinking about it. One of the most common mistakes people make is to spend 3 months doing nothing but “jogging” on flat area and jump into hill training phase and get injured. “Lydiard ruined me!” Well, perhaps he didn’t explain in detail but he/she didn’t use their brain either. Be prepare for the next phase gradually and ease into the new stress. When you look at Lydiard “effort” system, you’ll know it’s not “just” same pace easy distance. Greg McMillan, when asked when he heard “Multi Pace Training” first, said that he heard it from the Lydiard program first.
2 hours! Why not 90 minutes? Well, why not? Why don’t you just do 90 minutes? That’s better than 60. The idea is to engage your body into a long prolonged exercise to develop muscular endurance (capillaries) to achieve what Lydiard termed “tireless state” so basically you can do more race specific training. Once you move on to the track schedule, which one do you think is better for 1500m runner, doing 20X400m in 60 seconds (which incidentally Snell did), or 10X400 in 60 seconds because you couldn’t go on because you were too tired? Also, in the championship situation, which one do you have the advantage; someone who can run heat, semi-final and final and still kick it in as fast as he can in the last 200m or someone who can run very fast in the heat but too tired to even run semi? Where do you think that stamina comes from?
Peter Snell, incidentally, is now Dr. Peter Snell and is one of the experts on exercising muscles. He has been researching various types of exercise to have come to the conclusion that he would not change what he did in the 60s much at all. In fact, his theory is that, during the long run, particularly over 90 minutes up to 2-hour or more, you’d deplete glycogen in the slow twitch muscle fibers and start to tap into fast twitch muscle fibers; stimulating the FTMF. In other words, you may still run fairly slowly but you will not get “slow”. This does not occur, however, if you run shorter than 60 minutes (or thereabout) or too slowly that you don’t really deplete glycogen in STMF. Back to 2-hour runs, German exercise physiologists proved that if you continue certain exercise for a long period of time, particularly longer than 2 hours, you develop underdeveloped capillaries and develop new ones as well. I used to run with Ray Puckett when I visited New Zealand, one of the original Lydiard runners. When we used to go for a long Sunday run of, say, 2:20 or 2:40 (up to 3 hours), he used to turn around after 2 hours and said, “Now warm-up is over!” As far as what’s going on inside of your body, this is not too far off from the truth.
Why must “maximizing mileage” be the training goal? Seriously!? Really, who said that? I NEVER heard Lydiard say that it the goal. His goal always is to improve performance. If running 100MPW hinders your chance of winning the gold medal, Lydiard would be the first one to tell you to throw that out the window. Maximizing your potential is ALWAYS his goal. That’s why he despised those who whip young athletes on track and have them do endless repeats till they puke without any aerobic base because, regardless of how you think you’re improving the following week, you’re actually jeopardizing to fulfill your true potential. It won’t happen in a months or two. It takes years of gradual training. And the first step for that should be to go easy and far.
By the way, if you want to know what top ten 800m runners and 1500m runners train for the purpose of statistics, go ahead and do the research. But if you want to find the way to improve your own performance as an 800m and 1500m runner, don’t even bother researching. Understand what works best for you. If you absolutely insist, then find out what those top athletes were doing 10 years ago when they were developing. The same argument about Henry Rono’s training; don’t look at his track training; but look at his base-building training. Without that part, his track training will do nothing but kill ya!
Hope this clarify some of your questions. Believe me, I’ve been there. I know your dilemma. Our goal for the Lydiard Foundation is to clarify some of the myths and frustration of not fully understanding what the system is all about. If I can be of any help to clarify certain things, I’d be more than happy to assist. And hope I’m not misleading you further! :o)