Daniels Running Formula and easy run pace

Daniels’ Running Formula is an excellent book. It contains tons of detailed information on the physiology of running that I think can benefit anyone who is serious about understanding the sport and understanding and training to the best of their abilities.

I own a print copy of the first edition and recently bought the Kindle edition of the second edition and was doing some comparisons between the two though and was surprised to find one significant difference.  Ultimately a the book’s value comes from its tables that help you do three things:

  1. Identify your fitness level using a metric he refers to as VDOT. This is something that can be measured using some complicated sports medicine assessments that most non-elite runners would never do, but which can also be approximated by taking measures of fitness from events of different distances and projecting from there.
  2. Recommending performances to aim for in workouts that you should conduct given that fitness level.  If you run a 5k in XX:YY minutes and seconds, how fast should your typical easy or long runs be?  How fast should you do 400/800/mile workouts?
  3. Providing workout plans to train for the marathon and some other races.  How far in advance should you train?  What should you do 10 weeks before the race?  8 weeks before?  4 weeks before?  How should you taper? And given your goals and fitness level, how fast should all those workouts be (this comes from the recommended workouts in 2).
Daniels is not the only authority on any of these things – there are other guides and if I’ve learned anything from running, it’s that there is no single textbook solution that every single person can apply and expect the same results.  But within some margin of error, I also believe it’s fair to say that if most people want to run a 3 hour marathon, they will probably be performing at similar levels in some races of other distances, probably be putting in pretty similar total weekly miles, and probably be working out at pretty similar levels of intensity in the workouts preparing for that stab at 3:00.
Daniels has made one interesting revision between the editions that I had not noticed until today, though, and it’s in his recommended running plans for people of specific VDOT values.  Between the editions he has not changed his assessment criteria for measuring VDOT.  This is an abridged table of how he assesses some VDOT values given performance in 2mile and 5k distances (there is a lot more detail in the book – go buy it). My current 2mile and 5k times put me in the ballpark of this range, which is why I chose these examples:
VDOT 2mile 5k Marathon
52 12:02 19:17  3:04:36
55 11:28 18:22  2:56:01
58 10:56 17:33  2:48:14

That hasn’t changed between the editions.  However, I think a lot of people (including myself) would argue that these equivalent performances might overestimate the results in a marathon based on those performances at the shorter distance (and vice versa would project a runner completing a marathon in those times might run a faster 5k and 2 mile race).  What has changed are his recommended workouts for athletes at those VDOT values:

VDOT easy/long pace (1st edition) easy/long pace (2nd edition) MP / T / I / R pace
52 7:59 8:16 Unchanged between editions
55 7:38 7:44 Unchanged between editions
58 7:19 7:34 Unchanged between editions

I haven’t taken the time to think about this change or try it in my own training.  The preparation I’ve done for marathons over the past 4 years has led me to consistently falling short of my marathon goals and my easy and long run pace has more closely matched the recommendations in the second edition (I tend to run my easy and long runs at 7:30-8:00 and my long runs have almost exclusively been 8:00 or slower when I run with people from my running club).  It’s possible that for me, sticking closer to the old edition’s recommended paces would have gotten me to not bomb in the marathons I’ve done, but I don’t know.  I emailed my coach for his input on this and might try to change this up a little in my training and see what happens.  One thing that’s usually pretty clear is that harder / faster training will lead to faster performances in races, though there is obviously also the potential for earlier burnout.

If anyone reading this has consulted with this book or has any thoughts on any of these projections, I’d be really interested to hear your experiences, too.

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