Hadd’s Approach To Distance Training: Frequently Asked Questions[This is a first draft for people on the Hadd thread to add to, comment on and edit. Please don’t use for any other purpose at the moment.]
Disclaimer: This article tries to explain some of the practicalities of John Hadd’s approach to base training from what’s published on the web and what some fetchies have tried out. All the usual rules apply. Go to see a doctor before starting any fitness program, don’t expect miracles from any training and apply common sense and caution when it comes to illness and injuries. Oh, and Hadd says he wouldn’t recommend this training for under-18s.
So what’s this all about?A few years ago a coach called John Hadd was posting on the Letsrun message board about his approach to training. A number of fetchies have followed this training to some great success, particularly at marathon distance. However because the training was described in lots of message board posts it doesn’t read well and it also contained lots of discussion on the physiology of rats and the like, so can also seem a bit technical and convoluted, hence this attempt to try to simplify.
What’s Hadd’s big idea then?Hadd’s basic idea was that for a distance runner to perform to their best ability (squeeze as much toothpaste out of tube as possible is the analogy he uses) he or she needs to first develop a strong aerobic base. Many runners fail to do this either because they don’t run sufficient mileage or because the mileage they do is run too fast and so the muscles don’t have the correct adaptation. By training at the key aerobic training paces, and therefore developing the muscles correctly, a runner will improve their ability to race at pace over all distances from 5k upwards.
According to Hadd, muscles with better aerobic capacity accumulate less lactate which is why increasing the aerobic base makes you faster at all distances, not just those at distances like the marathon which are 99% aerobic. In addition to having a good aerobic base the other key to running faster at longer distances is to raise the Lactate Threshold (LT) pace, by training the muscles so than can maintain a higher power output for longer.
How does he suggest I build aerobic base?There’s no great magic to building aerobic base. It just involves lots of controlled aerobic training. For Hadd this means running at a HR about 50 bpm below Maximum Heart Rate (HRmax) or in the range 70-75% of HRmax. For example for a runner with a HRmax of 193 bpm, 75% HRmax is 145bpm so the easy training needs to be at or below that level. This is the running intensity for all but a couple of the runs per week and this intensity does not change through the base phase.
And how do I move the LT pace?To move your LT you must work below (slower than) the pace at which your LT currently turns. Therefore Hadd proposes a way of determining a HR/pace below current LT (but above the low aerobic conditioning pace). He suggests two long runs of an hour/ 10 miles at this HR per week as a way to move LT during the base phase. These runs are termed sub LT HR runs. The initial pace when starting Hadd training is determined as roughly 35-40bpm below HRmax or at 80% HRmax. However gradually over the base phase this sub LT HR will rise. When at this HR a runner can run for 10 miles with no noticeable HR drift or drop in pace over the 10 miles, then this HR is clearly below LT HR – because there is no apparent increase in lactate that is slowing the runner down. At this point the HR for the sub LT HR runs should be raised by a few bpm, no more than 5. Over time the HR at which it is possible to run comfortably without accumulation of lactate will increase. Hadd reckons the limit on this increase is that it is unlikely that a runner can sustain a HR of less than 15-20bpm below HRmax over a marathon. In other words a well trained runner according to Hadd is unlikely to be able maintain a marathon HR more than 90% HRmax and 87% HRmax may be a more reasonable estimate. (He estimates that Paula Radcliffe was running at 92% HRmax when she ran her 2.15 marathon but it’s not clear on what basis.)
Ok, how do I start in practice?First, you need to get yourself a Heart Rate Monitor (HRM) - a bog standard one will do but one with a GPS or footpod to measure approximate distances is nice to have.
Second, you need to do a Maximum Heart Rate (HRmax) test. This can be done by doing a couple of flat out efforts at 800 and 400 metres, or by running a few intensive hill repeats. You take the maximum heart rate reading in this session as your HRmax. It important you’re doing these at full effort so that you get a measure of your maximum that you can be confident in – doesn’t matter within 2-3 beats but shouldn’t be further than that out – because the HRmax determines the HR intensities of your runs.
Third, Hadd suggests doing a 5x2400m test. This involves, on a windless day when you are well rested, running 6 laps of a track (or an accurately measured 1.5 miles on a flat traffic free loop if you don’t have access to a track) at 5 different HRs. Starting with a low aerobic conditioning HR (e.g 140bpm for HRmax of 193) and adding 10bpm for each set of 6 laps (1.5 mile). So you:
Run 2400m at a steady 140 HR (Stop 90 secs and record time)
Run 2400m at a steady 150 HR (Stop 90 secs and record time)
Run 2400m at a steady 160 HR (Stop 90 secs and record time)
Run 2400m at a steady 170 HR (Stop 90 secs and record time)
Run 2400m at a steady 180 HR (Stop 90 secs and record time)
At all times, adjust the running pace to maintain a stable HR. On each new stage slowly edge the HR up (it is ok if the HR takes the first 600-800m to reach target level), then simply maintain HR. DO NOT start fast and have to slow to maintain target HR.
Fourth, you need use your HRmax to calculate the HRs for easy running and initial LT HR runs. You can calculate these from the rules described above and there are a number of examples on pages 23-25 of Hadd’s Approach to Distance Training document linked below.
Five, away you go.