Chanman's Blog


Multi-Tier Training

Posted in Coaching,Training Thoughts by Andy Chan on October 21, 2007
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One of the most important training theories relating to distance running is the 5 pace training theory.  This concept was invented in 1970 by Englishman Frank Horwill.  Peter Coe used the system to coach his son, Sebastian Coe, to 4 Olympic medals (gold at 1500 meters and silver at  800 meters in both 1980 and 1984) and 11 World Records (the most famous of which, the men’s 800 meter record of 1:41.73 stood from 1981 until 1997).

The training theory is based on the belief that runners slow down 4 seconds per lap as the distance doubles.  This is what is known as the 4 second rule.  Horwill’s training called for athletes to train at their chosen race distance pace as well as two paces above and two paces below (i.e. 5 different paces).  Thus, the name, 5 pace training.  Today this system of training is often called multi-tier training.

How does this work and how can you apply it to your training?  Take a recent PR for a particular distance.  This is most likely a 5K, 10K or half marathon (unless you are in high school you probably do not have a recent PR for the 200, 400, 800, mile or 2 mile).

EXAMPLE – Danielle (1:32:54 at the Kaiser Permanente Half Marathon last February)

(Warning – the below calculations require some converting of minutes and seconds to decimal and back or a special coaches’ calculator).  So that’s 7:05 per mile (1:32:54 divided by 13.1) for the half marathon.  Which equals 1:46 400 pace (7:05 divided by 4 because there are 4 laps or 4 400’s in a mile).  Write that into the chart.

Distance 400 pace for that distance Per Mile Pace Overall Time
Full Marathon (26.2 miles)      
Half Marathon (13.1 miles) 1:46 7:05 1:32:54
10K (6.2 miles)      
5K (3.1 miles)      
2 mile (2 miles)      
1 mile (1 mile)      
800 (0.5 mile)      
400 (0.25 mile)      

 

Now you can add/subtract 4 seconds per 400 pace for the rest of your distances.  Write those into the chart.

Distance 400 pace for that distance Per Mile Pace Overall Time
Full Marathon (26.2 miles) 1:50    
Half Marathon (13.1 miles) 1:46 7:05 1:32:54
10K (6.2 miles) 1:42    
5K (3.1 miles) 1:38    
2 mile (2 miles) 1:34    
1 mile (1 mile) 1:30    
800 (0.5 mile) 1:26    
400 (0.25 mile) 1:22    

 

Finally, calculate what that 400 pace equates for the whole distance.  You can do this by multiplying your 400 pace by 4 (to get a per mile pace).  Then multiply that mile pace

by an appropriate amount to get the overall time (I’ve listed the mileage for each distance in () after the distance).  Write those into the chart and now your chart is complete.

Distance 400 pace for that distance Per Mile Pace Overall Time
Full Marathon (26.2 miles) 1:50 7:20 3:12:08
Half Marathon (13.1 miles) 1:46 7:05 1:32:54
10K (6.2 miles) 1:42 6:48 42:09
5K (3.1 miles) 1:38 6:32 20:15
2 mile (2 miles) 1:34 6:16 12:32
1 mile (1 mile) 1:30 6:00 6:00
800 (0.5 mile) 1:26 5:44 2:52
400 (0.25 mile) 1:22 5:28 1:22

 

This is what those online race predictor calculators are doing.  It’s a nice way to project race times for a new distance.  If your PR is much slower than your projected time, you are under-achieving at that distance.  If your PR is much faster than your projected time, then you probably have great potential to improve more at the distance you used for the initial calculation.

What’s really great with this knowledge is you now know your pace to do workouts like:

Workout Goal times from this example
200’s at 400 or 800 pace 1:22-1:26 pace à :41-:43 for 200’s
400’s at mile pace 1:30 pace à 1:30 for 400’s
800’s at 2 mile or 5K pace 1:34-1:38 pace à3:08-3:16 for 800’s
1600’s at 5K or 10K pace 1:38-1:42 pace à 6:32-6:48
Tempo Run at half marathon pace 7:05 per mile pace
Long Run at marathon pace 7:20 per mile pace

 

So even if you don’t run the 400, you can use this theory to calculate what your 400 pace should be.  And even if you have never run a marathon, you can still do a long run at your marathon pace.

If you come to the Thursday Night Track Workouts, I do the planning and math for you.  I mix up the workouts so you train in different pace zones and I come up with goal paces for you to hit in order to get an effective workout.  So that just leaves the work of running the distances and times to you.

One reason I like this theory of training is that it is intuitive to me.  Long before I read about this training theory, I was using it.  Early in my coaching career, I made race time projections and workout pace calculations using the principle of the 4 second rule.  To me it just makes sense.  

The importance of doing workouts at different paces is so you work different muscles and different energy pathways.  Doing 3X1600 every week won’t help your speed.  But doing only 200 intervals will not improve your strength/stamina.  That’s why I cycle through different workouts that require you to run at different paces.  On Power Week, I usually have you run two or three different paces within the same workout.

There are probably some workouts (or types of workouts) you like better than others.  You probably like the workouts that you are better at.  For Frank, that’s 200’s.  For Heather, that’s miles.  Again, that’s why you have a coach.  If all you ever did was run workouts you are better at, you would not be working on improving your weaknesses.  So get out there and run some long repeats, Keith.  And even though you hate them, those 200’s and 400’s are good for you Adam.

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3 Responses to 'Multi-Tier Training'

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  1. […] the drills, Coach Chan sat us down and explained the concept behind multi-tier training and how to know your paces for the training. Basically, using different paces during a workout, […]


  2. […] the drills, Coach Chan sat us down and explained the concept behind multi-tier training and how to understand your paces for the training. Basically, using different paces during a […]


  3. Great stuff! Thanks for sharing!

    I took your table and developed a Google Spreadsheet calculator where you can plug in your goal distance and time, and the paces are generated automatically.
    https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1tlHuiV33uzSBGBPJ6zcik9BDAeRcoO_jT_RvF88VQ1U/edit


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