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Train Like a Miler

I find no greater joy than using the first outdoor track meet to enter every last one of my high school kids into the Mile. It's the easiest meet entry I ever do. Admittandly, not everyone is happy. Some kids surely cuss under their breath and swear this will be the last time they run the event (they're often mistaken), while others have dreams of Mile immortality.

Regardless, everyone is going to run the Mile. At least once.

On Saturday, I delivered a presentation titled, "400 to 5k: Long Term Development for High School Distance Runners." In hindsight, the clinic could have been called, "Training for the Mile", as the concepts covered: structured progressions, multi-pace training and biomotor skill development all lend to running a fine Mile in high school and set the stage for future progress.

Training for the Mile fits nicely with developing a balanced skill-set that young runners need for long term development.

Structured Progression

Depending on which study you declare gospel, the Mile is somewhere around 80% aerobic. A consistent diet of daily volume, tempo runs, lactate threshold training and longer intervals are necessary to address the aerobic realities of the event. By training for the Mile, your athletes will be be able to race well in its' physiologically close cousins: the 3200 and 5k.

The biggest mistake I made early on when assigning aerobic training was programming training by ability rather than experience. Maybe you've done this. I would have have fast freshman running the same workouts as the fast seniors, and then everything would be the same as sophomores except they had a birthday somewhere in there.

There were no next logical steps being taken or thoughtful career progressions considered.

Our yearly improvement wasn't what other teams were experiencing and I knew it was because of me and that we had to do something different.

Now I assign training volume by minutes over mileage and experience over talent.

For example, the progression of everyday Endurance Runs now looks like this:
  • 1st Year: 35 minutes

  • 2nd year: 40 minutes

  • 3rd year: 45 minutes

  • 4th Year: 50 minutes

All of the aerobic components now have set progressions and weekly mileage - or more importantly, annual volume- increases in a similar, natural fashion.

Multi-Pace Training

I've never been a huge fan of copious amounts of singular "race pace" training, per se; like just doing Daniels' R-pace work. If one is training for the Mile, it's prudent to spend time at a variety of speeds around that event. Frank Horwill of British Milers' Club lore developed the concept of the 5-pace training theory. It's simple, yet one of my favorite concepts in sport.

Here's a "ladder" of paces (five, right) that surround and encompass the Mile.

  • 5,000m

  • 2 Mile (3200)

  • Mile (1500/1600 meters)

  • 800 Meters

  • 400 Meters

By using the Mile as the focal point, you're going spend time training at every high school race speed, thus becoming proficient in every race from the 400 to the 5k. Individual physiology, experience and race preference will help determine best the best fit for your runners when it's time to score points.

Add in a weekly true speed session (ie. 4-6 sprints of 3-8 seconds) and longer endurance runs and you have a well-balanced, multi-pace program.

Biomotor Skill Development

For high school runners, I love establishing training balance and Frank Dicks' five biomotor skills of Stamina, Speed, Strength, Suppleness and Skill offer clues on the menu items that need balance.

In my opinion, it's the non-running ancillary work that serves as the glue that holds everything together for the high school runner. Ancillary work connects endurance with speed and helps convert those qualities into performance.

If your aim is to train consistently, and do so for years to come, it's smart to program ancillary work into your schedule. Now, I personally think there is too much information out there in regard to programming strength and ancillary work..and don't tip-toe into Strength and Conditioning Twitter, it will get even more confusing.

So I'll do you a favor and direct you do Boo Schexnayder's clinic he did for Coaching Distance: Speed and Ancillary Training for Endurance Events. Watch this first to see how one of the world's experts goes about ancillary training.

Include elements of strength, mobility and skill before and after runs.

If you're brand new to strength training and want ideas on what a comprehensive program looks like, you need James Radcliffe's book, Functional Training for Athletes at all Levels.

For examples of programming for strength, mobility and skill for a high school team, take a look at the 12-Week 800-3200m Off-Season Training plan on the website. It's free for D-Crew Members with the code found in the Member's Hub.


By training your high school kids like Milers, you'll set them up for immediate success in every event from the 400 to the 5k and give them the tools to grow for years to come.


* disclaimer: there might be affiliate links in this article & the author could earn like 12 cents from a purchase.

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