What is 'slow pace' 80/20 etc

I’ll have a dig around some of the science as I’m very interested, I’ve known about the concept for years but as I said I think my idea of easy has still been too hard (typically about 130HR which for me is middle of zone 2 I reckon).

So how often do you put a ‘race pace’ effort together in that middle zone? Every 8 weeks or so? Never for a 12 week block? A bit of a gamble if you only do 2 races a year hoping that it will all come together on the day.

Thank you.

My thoughts. I haven’t read up on ‘the science’ but I buy in to the theory that easy must be easy to be able to work hard on the hard days, otherwise everything turns into a moderate effort. The actual pace of the 80%* doesn’t matter. It just has to be easy enough to make sure you can run/cycle/swim the hard days at the hard pace. If you aren’t hitting the required effort on for the hard sessions then chances are you are going too hard on the easy days.

*I think it was hammerer who said 80% becomes 90%, because even for the hard sessions, 50% of the session is at easy pace.

As for never doing race pace or faster. There may be gains to be had from the increased volume that outway the gains from fast running, so you can run a 10K PB off marathon training. But it’s not going to be optimal, if you are training for a 10K, your over/under runs would be at 10K pace not marathon pace. And I personally find benefit from running at race pace, just to feel comfortable on race day. If you have always run faster or slower, sometimes race pace can feel awkward. But that may just be a personal thing.

Oh for sure. But the point I was countering was that if you don’t ever run at, or faster, than a certain pace, how can you expect to be able to run at that pace for any duration at all. That’s just simply not true.

When I’ve had HM focus in the past, then all my hard sessions have been at or around target HM pace.

I can say quite comfortably my coach doesn’t apply 80:20. The focus for him would appear to be specificity. Depending on the race, I spend a significant chunk of time at or around the target pace for that distance event. I only commented on the post to evidence the fact that building a lower paced engine can still enable you to run significantly faster than that with no time spent at that pace at all.

Myabe there’s not one single way of doing it?!


I’d agree with that. Over my running ‘career’ I have run pretty much identical 10K PB times (i) when training primarily as a track runner and 10K counted as a long run (ii) in the middle of XC season when doing lots of 30-40min hard runs (iii) As part of a marathon build where 10K was my speed session.

In the case of (i) I would run the 1st mile way too fast, as it felt easy. I would then be hanging on for the rest of the race! Not a fun way to run 10K, these days I couldn’t run a fast 1st mile if I wanted to.

What sort of run volume have you been doing? The point being that your relative overall focus on running and the commensurate volume might be contributing significantly (if that’s what you’ve done).

I think the research shows the human body adapts best in “one single way”, but how that knowledge can be best applied can vary due to constraints like time, health, age, etc.

But all other things being equal, a BOP amateur and a race winning Pro benefit from running significantly below marathon pace.

Nothing crazy in all honesty.

What’s that … three weeks of 50+ miles, but most are more like 40 odd miles. That’s low in a general running sense as far as I understand.

The big change has been the intensity of long runs. Excluding this past week, I’d had more than a month of a 20+mile long run at the weekend, often with (ever increasing) chunks of MP incorporated, supplemented by a midweek long run that was generally in excess of 25k that was largely MP focused, either consistent MP work, over/unders, or a ramp to above and beyond MP.

yes that is very much the case, if you are doing 10 * 1 hr sessions a week, 2 of those sessions may be hard, but only half of each session will be actual work.

You need to periodise the efforts also as said above if you want to run a marathon at 4min/k you need to run at 4min/k during training. You may need to spend more time that 10% out of the comfort zone as you build into your race to accommodate this. Also if you are time crunched and only doing say 5 hrs a week, then 4 hours easy might not be the best bang for buck for an experienced athlete. For most of us “It Depends” is always the answer


Yes. I think what is often forgotten with the ‘Maffetone’ approach (or whatever else you label it) is that people who reap a lot of success from it, are generally doing big volumes in that discipline. Most notably professional athletes, and single-sport practitioners e.g. good club runners.

If I were to focus on running and maintain a volume of 10-12h a week, then that’s a very different kettle of fish to Triathlon. In this case, ‘Maff’ could definitely be a successful option. For starters, I’d have to take a lot of those running hours very easy to avoid burn-out/injury (replacing my soft pedalling to work).

When training for Triathlon, taking the Maffetone approach, does it matter whether the low intensity work is on a bike or on a run? so long as you do regular high intensity on run and bike

This seems logical, but imho, the crossover is not enough to get the same adaptation as you would by churning out the same volume in one discipline.

Not sure I agree with this, I’ve always found that target marathon race pace feels harder in training than it should do (what with being fatigued, not tapered) and it can be a bit demoralising. I think it’s better to do faster stuff at above marathon pace, and maybe finish long runs with a few miles at target pace as the race approaches


you missed that bit :wink:

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I don’t disagree, but conversely, by training specifically for the paces you want to run at, you’re getting the body accustomed to working at that pace. Not necessarily cardiovascularly, or even on an RPE basis, but surely from a muscular movement pattern basis?

When I started my training block after Nice, I initially did some longer weekend runs of 20k+ generally steady, but then they started to incorporate MP work. Initially 25k with the final 5k at MP, then 25k with the final 8k at MP, etc.

Yes, initially those MP efforts felt hard. And you begin to question how you’re ever going to run a full marathon at that pace, but over time the body just seems to become more accustomed. To the extent my main long run culminated with 10k steady into 22k at MP into 6k steady. That 22k went by easily, and I actually got faster and faster (starting at sub3 pace, and ending at sub2:50 pace). For me, that has come from the progressive development in the time, volume and frequency spent at MP, with a lot of easy recovery running mixed in.

I’d finish by saying that by running at target race pace, it also gives me some confidence in what lies ahead. All of this in conjecture at this stage however. Ultimately we’ll have to see what transpires in the race itself! That said, it’s worked well previously with HM’s and HIM’s

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This is all very good, but when is this marathon you’re supposed to be going for 2:50?!

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I’ve not hidden it

To add my experience. The last marathon I did I had trained above and below MP, but not at MP. From the gun I felt uncomfortable at MP, and never really settled into a rhythm, each mile felt forced. I later concluded that I would have been better off going off at my fast pace - that I was at least comfortable running - as I died a death anyway!

For a recent half marathon I did lots of HMP runs, they were not easy but they did lock in how I should feel. On the day I was able to run on feel, and I felt comfortable. My actual pace was a fraction quicker than the training runs, thanks to tapering, race day hype and of course the 4%, but the RPE was consistent.


Back to my original point, there isn’t a single best approach. There are too many factors. Maybe if exercise improvement was undertaken in a lab in controlled conditions, then 80:20 would be THE way. Maybe not. I’ve not read enough on Yeh subject, but that’s ignoring the multitude of other factors, including the mental side of things (pain tolerance etc).

My half mara pb was achieved off zero fast running. Literally ( :wink:) zero. But big mileage, all slow and steady. My last mara was done on the same approach. Unfortunately picked up a niggle, but I believe I was on course for a huge PB. I believe I was in 2.42 shape. I didn’t once run faster than about 4.30 pace.


Well the science says you get benefit, but not as much as if you polarise your training. And at less cost.

As others have suggested, the occasional long run, shortened significantly, can be done at goal pace without losing or risking too much.

But you don’t need to do it all the time, because the best way to train the systems you’ll use on race day is at lower speeds.