First Man under 3:50 – The Training of John Walker, Part 2 of 2

“I find it impossible to run flat out. I need competition to achieve full results. I usually train at ¾ pace so I’m not leaving all my training on the track” – John Walker

Note: This is the second article of a two-article series. To read part one click here

© 2017 Runner’s Tribe, all rights reserved.

Sources

  • John Walker Champion, Autobiography with Ron Palenski
  • Track Technique Discussions with Arch Jelley
  • IAAF

In the first article, we gave some background and details regarding Walker’s training during his two build-up phases.

Below we have outlined examples of Walker’s training during 1975, as outlined by Arch Jelley, Walker’s coach.

Some interesting points about Walker’s training that was not outlined in part 1:

  • Walker trained all year-round.
  • His training was centred around peaking for two track seasons per year (New Zealand season and European Season).
  • His amazing background of strength and endurance allowed him to compete in 50-60 outdoor track races per year.
  • Walker also raced indoors but he did not take this as seriously and it is not counted as part of his 50-60 races per year.
  • Walker’s training was based of Arthur Lydiard’s methodologies, but was adapted by Arch Jelley to be more specific for Walker.

Training Phases

Walker’s training was split into the following approximate phases, which he did twice per year to allow him to compete in two outdoor seasons per year:

    • Stamina Build Up: 6-8 weeks
    • Speed Build Up: 4-6 weeks
    • Racing: 8-10 weeks
    • Recovery period: 2-5 weeks. After this recovery period the stamina build up period started again.

High Quality Moderate Mileage

When compared to other greats to come out of New Zealand, Walker’s mileage was not excessive. But it was at a high quality pace.  According to reports from Arch Jelley, Walker used to do his steady state running at 6:30 per mile pace but progressed over the years to average around 5:30 pace.

Some examples of weekly mileage during various phases within various years, it outlined below:

1973 1974 1975
Stamina Build Up 5 weeks at 58 miles average 6 weeks at 78 miles average 5 weeks at 92 miles average
Speed Build Up 7 weeks at 57 miles average 6 weeks at 84 miles average 5 weeks at 80 miles average
Racing 9 weeks at 36 miles average 10 weeks at 49 miles average 10 weeks at 44 miles average

Stamina Build Up Phase Examples

Some typical examples of training for Walker during his Stamina Build Up phase is outlined below:

April 1974

  • Monday:   
    • AM: 9.5 miles steady.
    • PM: 6.5 miles steady.
  • Tuesday:
    • AM: 9 miles steady.
    • PM: 7 miles steady.
  • Wednesday:
    • AM: 8 miles steady.
    • PM: 7 miles steady.
  • Thursday
    • AM: 8 miles steady.
  • Friday
    • 9 miles easy.
  • Saturday: 10 miles steady.
  • Thursday
    • AM: 8 miles steady.
  • Sunday:
    • AM: 16 miles on a hilly cross country course.
    • PM: 7 miles steady.

November 1975

  • Monday
    • AM: 15 miles steady.
  • Tuesday
    • AM: 10-mile fartlek.
  • Wednesday:
    • AM: 18 miles on the road, hilly (1hr 39 minutes).
  • Thursday:
    • AM: 12 miles steady.
  • Friday:
    • AM: 9miles steady.
  • Saturday:
    • 22 miles on the road, hilly (2 hrs 12 minutes).
  • Sunday: AM: 15-mile easy jog.

Speed Build Up Phase Examples

Some typical examples of training for Walker during his Speed Build Up phase is outlined below:

May 1975

  • Monday:   
    • AM: 7.5 miles steady on the road in 42 minutes.
    • PM: 3200m in 8:46 with warm up and warm down jogs.
  • Tuesday:
    • AM: 7.5 miles steady.
    • PM: 8 x 200m in 27.1 seconds average, 200m jog recovery.
  • Wednesday:
    • PM: 8 x 150m strides; then 400m in 53 seconds.
  • Thursday
    • AM: 8.5 miles steady.
    • PM: 1600m in 4:05.6 at ¾ effort; 15 min jog; 1600m at ¼ effort in 4:14
  • Friday:
    • PM: 4 x 150m strides.
  • Saturday:
    • AM: 2 mile jog.
    • PM: 1500m relay leg in 3:36 in attack on world record.

June 1975

  • Monday:   
    • AM: 8 miles steady on the road in 44 minutes.
    • PM: 8 x 300m in 40.5 with the fastest in 39.8. Recovery of 300m jog between reps.
  • Tuesday:
    • AM: 8 miles steady on the road.
    • PM: 600m time trial in 1:19.20
  • Wednesday:
    • AM: 8.5 miles steady on the road.
    • PM: 8 laps of 50 yard fast followed by 60 yards float (4 surges in each lap; each lap in 69-70 seconds).  
  • Thursday
    • AM: 6 miles steady.
    • PM: 6 x 400m in 57.1.  400m jog recovery.
  • Friday:
    • PM: Rest
  • Saturday:
    • AM: 2 mile jog. Then 2 x 200m stride outs. Then 1000m time trial in 2:21
    • PM: 1500m relay leg in 3:36 in attack on world record.
  • Saturday:
    • AM: 18-19 miles on hilly roads.

Racing Season Phase Examples

Late June – early July, 1975

  • Monday:
    • Mile race in 3:52.2.  Then a 4 mile jog.
  • Tuesday:
    • 7.5 mile jog.
  • Wednesday:
    • 1000m race in 2:17.20
  • Thursday:
    • 6.5 mile jog.
  • Friday:
    • 2000m race in 5:00.6
  • Saturday:
    • AM: 8.5 mile jog.
    • 5.5 mile jog.
  • Sunday:
    • 7 mile jog.

August 1975 leading into 3:49 mile

  • Wednesday 6th:
    • 6 mile jog in 36 minutes.
  • Thursday 7th:
    • 800m race in 1:46.50 (3rd place)
  • Friday 8th:
    • 8 mile jog.
  • Saturday 9th:
    • 5 x 200m stride outs varying from 25.7 to 30.0
  • Sunday 10th:
    • 2 x 200m in 23.0 and 22.9; 300m in 38.4, 2 x 150m in 15.1.  Slept 10.5 hours
  • Monday 11th
    • Jogged 4-5 miles and did a few untimed strides
  • Tuesday 12th:
    • AM: 20 minutes easy jogging plus a few stride outs

      PM: Mile World Record in 3:49.40

Watch the race here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EmwYyBJOu6U&t=2s

Sources

  • John Walker Champion, Autobiography with Ron Palenski
  • Track Technique Discussions with Arch Jelley
  • IAAF
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