Eliud Kipchoge is one of the best athletes ever. How did he become the marathon đź‘‘

By Shawn Smith,

Published on Sep 29, 2022   â€”   2 min read

Most of Kipchoge’s training is very easy. The Outside article has so much fantastic insight, and it wastes no time getting to the sexy stuff.

For Kipchoge, recovery runs start at a shuffle, typically an 8:30-to-8:45-minute-mile pace, and slowly build up to finish around 6:30 to 7 minutes per mile.

Want to see my favorite video of all time? Check out the Kenyan shuffle to start one of their double runs, filmed by Dennehy. Some people put up a poster of Koufax winding up for a pitch or Jordan taking off from the free-throw line, but I want a poster of Kipchoge shuffling his way to greatness.

Okay, time to put on your speculation helmets! For an athlete like Kipchoge, 8:30 pace is nearly double what he does in a marathon, meaning his heart rate may be as low as 100-110 to start. Even if he accelerates to 6:30s, that’s still a huge percentage slower than his marathon pace, probably equivalent to Zone 1 heart rate in a 5-Zone model.

Now, buckle up your conjecture belt, because it’s MATH TIME. Dennehy broke down an entire training week that gives us clues into the start of one of Kipchoge’s builds (disclaimer: perhaps his training changes a ton later in cycles). It seems that 4 of Kipchoge’s training days are purely easy, consisting of 3 x 18 mile doubles (as 12 miles in AM and 6 miles in PM) plus 1 x 2 hours at easy effort (maybe 16-18 miles). Add onto that 2 x 6 mile easy doubles on his workout days. That puts him around 84 miles that are almost purely easy, and I am guessing firmly in Zone 1.

Training Principles

Most training easy, possibly 60%+ in Zone 1. High but sustainable volume. Controlled, 80% effort workouts. Long runs w/steady tempo

There are probably some miles of warm-up and cool-down for workouts on top of that, also very easy. Let’s estimate 100 easy miles in a week around 130 miles.That would indicate that 77% is in Zone 1 or just a bit higher! Perhaps that approximation is wrong and some of those miles are in lower Zone 2, or maybe there is more steady running on some of those recovery runs than is reflected in the article.

But still, that’s a lot of easy running. People gasped when Jornet’s training summary included 58% in Zone 1, but perhaps that was just a normal range for the GOATs.The low-end aerobic training supports the high-end training in athletes doing very high volumes. On our podcast, we discussed where an athlete might want to start thinking about specific Zone 1 work as a training focus, and we approximated around 8-10 hours a week. So it doesn’t mean you need to go this easy, but you should definitely feel permission to go very easy relative to your physiological limits. Again, no pace is too slow for aerobic development.If the GOAT can start at a shuffle, we can all start at a shuffle.

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