Pete Magill is an absolute beast when it comes to masters running. He’s a 5-time USA Master’s Cross Country Runner of the Year, he’s coached teams to 19 USA national championship titles, and he holds the US record in both the 5K and 10K for men over fifty. In a nutshell, he’s an experienced runner and coach that has a proven history of success. He reveals all of his secrets in his latest book, Fast 5K.
I’ve turned to Magill’s writing for advice on how to further my own running career and I’ve applied many of his techniques when creating training plans for my high school cross-country and track athletes. I’ve sent my distance crew to successive New England Championship appearances as well as the New Balance Outdoor Track and Field Nationals in 2019. Legendary coaches like Magill, Jack Daniels, and Lydiard have served as a foundation for my own coaching philosophy.
Magill offers a fresh take on how and when to increase training volume. The ten percent rule is a training standard that almost any running coach has used at one point or another. It simply states that a runner can withstand a mileage increase of ten percent from one week to the next without risk of injury or overuse. Magill points out that the ten percent rule does not serve beginning or advance runners and actually delays improvement or introduces injury. His alternative is the three-week rule. A much-improved approach that accounts for the slower adaptation of the connective tissues and helps prevent the dreaded runner’s knee or shin splints
One of the most difficult concepts for runners and coaches to understand is the importance of easy days. Many runners fear that they will lose fitness or compromise their speed if they run slowly. Nothing could be further from the truth. Easy days are the bread and butter of a distance runner’s training regimen. Long, easy runs at 2-3 minutes slower than 5K race pace will create new capillaries for oxygen distribution, improve glycogen storage, burn fat, strengthen connective tissues, and create a more efficient stride. And, best of all, these long runs will not stress your body to the point of overtraining. They are a key element to a fast 5K.
“Running your distance runs slowly, won’t make you a slow runner.”Pete Magill, Fast 5K
If the easy days are easy, then the hard days nust be hard. Hill workouts, tempo runs, interval training, and short reptitions on the track are all components of a well rounded 5K training program. Fast 5K covers all of these workout variations in detail. Magill offers readers several different traing plans for runners with varied experience and ability.
One of Magill’s simplest and most effective methods of conditioning his athletes is hill running. Hills provide strength training, lactate threshold training, and recruit all three types of muscle fibers for an incredibly efficient and effective workout. Hills can be beneficial in both directions. Downhill strides improve quadricep strength and resilience to DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness).
5K Race Day
The “hay is in the barn” and race day is fast approaching. This is where many runners make crucial mistakes and unknowlingly sabotage their fast 5K. Several chapters are devoted to the physical and mental aspects of racing. Magill provides a list of racing Do’s and Don’ts. Every runner can benefit from his sage advice, much of it learned the hard way. My favorite tip: “Take out the garbage.”
Legendary runner and now infamous coach Alberto Salazar once said “Standing at the starting line, we’re all cowards.” Fast 5K will give you the understanding, training advice, and confidence to overcome your fears. I highly recomend it for runners and coaches alike. You can see a preview Fast 5K at Magill’s website.