Run durability is not one of the most glamorous topics in triathlon. There’s aerodynamics, weight, nutrition, so many topics that are way more fun to talk about. But, the seconds you save on that fancy aero bike that costs more than my car (both of them… combined…) won’t matter much compared to the minutes you loose because you have no run durability.

For that sentence to make sense, we need to clarify what run durability is, and then we’ll transition into how you can build it. 

What is run durability?

First, run durability is simply to ability to put in miles while training without getting injured. Obviously, if you are not able to put in the training, then you are going to suffer on race day.

The second side of run durability is the ability to run a long distance without breaking down. Obviously this is more important for long source triathletes than for short course triathletes, but it is still important for all of us.

How to develop run durability?

I’ve been giving this a lot of thought recently with my upcoming challenge of ITU Long Course Duathlon Worlds (Powerman Zofingen) in 2018. With a 10k before a 150k bike and then a 30k to follow, I’ve got 25 miles of “not flat” running I’m prorating for. Run durability is the biggest decider of outcomes in that race. So how do I develop that?

1. Consistent, gradual overload 

This is the biggest of the two points. Consistent, gradual overload needs to be the theme in all our training, but in running more than anything.

Let’s break this down. First, the overload needs to be consistent. Taking a week off of training won’t drastically hurt your aerobic fitness, but your run durability will suffer. The other side of this coin is a focus on weekly mileage/TSS versus a focus on the long run. Durability is built with consistency, not in one run a week.

Second, the overload needs to be gradual. Most coaches recommend at MAX a 10% increase from week to week. Again, this goes for everything, but running most of all. I like to calculate this based off of time versus mileage. This means your long run starts at 1 hour, so the next week you do 1:05. That’s not a big increase. This means to switch from a half iron distance to the full iron, you need to plan a long, steady increase of your mileage. But again, the focus is on weekly mileage. Add a couple minutes to a recovery run to keep your joints and tendons use to the pounding they will receive on race day.

2. “Prehab”

We know what rehab is: specific condition to get us back to where we were before an injury. No one wants to go through that. What we should focus on is prehab: specific conditioning to prevent injury.

There are a few things you can do for prehab that I can’t go into full detail explains here, but look them up and learn more about each of these.

First, stretching is a well known prehab mechanism. Don’t stretch before running. It’s more recently been documented that static stretching before running actually can lead to injury or at least decreased performance.

Second, warm up before you run. A dynamic warm up with sport-specific movements is what you are looking for.

Next, you should foam roll. Get a roller and massage any tight muscles. This will help you get some more range of motion and speed recovery.

Lastly, strength train. Don’t go an try to bench as much weight as possible, but a few simple movements that work your running muscles and prevent imbalances is amazing for injury prevention.

3. Proper Equipment

I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this since I’ve written on it before. Check your shoes. Running in old shoes is a sure way to get an overture injury. Good shoes are expensive… but you get what you pay for!

Between all the prehab and the consistent, gradual overload, you should be well on your way to producing run durability. Just remember this is a slow process that it built starting in the off season and continue in all the way up to your A-Race. Be patient. Be consistent.

If you like what you’ve read, I put out a new post every week and would love to make sure you get that in your inbox! You can sign up for my email list and I’ll also send you both a beginner Sprint triathlon training plan and a beginner 5k training plan!