There’s no way around it, the importance of base training and running mileage year-round is crucial for getting faster and becoming a stronger runner.
In 2011, here were my 10K, half marathon, and marathon times:
Pirate 10K 45:03
Mayor’s Marathon – 3:44
The next summer in 2012, I set new PRs in all 3 distances. I didn’t improve by a few seconds but several minutes in each distance.
Alaska 10K Classic – 41:49 (3+ minute PR)
Trent/Waldron Glacier Half-Marathon – 1:31 (8 minute PR)
Grandma’s Marathon – 3:26 (18 minute PR)
Twin Cities Marathon – 3:21 (5 minute PR from Grandma’s)
The I took some time off to have a baby, recover, and came back even stronger in 2015 and 2016:
Pulsator 10K – 40:09 (1 minute, 40 second PR)
Trent/Waldron Glacier Half-Marathon – 1:24 (7 minute PR)
Moose’s Tooth Marathon – 3:06 (15 minute PR)
The main reason for these huge improvements: more base miles during the winter. There’s no way around it, I had these improvements because I ran more during the off-season, which gave me a stronger base going into the spring and summer months.
Since college–which was over 10 years ago–I’ve run year-round. However, I haven’t always run a lot of mileage during the off-season. In 2011, I would run about 40 – 50 miles a week during the winter months, but then in 2012, I bumped that up to 60 and 70 mile weeks. I also started doing interval and tempo workouts during the winter months in 2012. (Previously I hadn’t done then until the snow melted outside, which was usually April.) I then had another bump in mileage last winter. Last year at this point in my training, I was running 70 and 80 miles a week, which brought me into being in the best shape of my life last summer.
There is a tipping point, though, when too much mileage becomes detrimental and causes injury. For each person that tipping point is different, so proceed with caution and listen to your body. But no matter what distance you are training for: the 5K, half marathon, marathon, ultra–it is crucial to have a good, strong, solid base.