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Training

Workout of the Week: David Laney’s 5-4-3 Progression Run

This aerobic threshold workout can easily be modified for runners of various ability levels.

David Laney found his stride on the trails in 2015, kicking off the year by winning a national title at the Bandera 100K in January, and following that up with a victory at the Chuckanut 50K in March, improving upon his second-place finish from 2014. Those impressive victories aside, the Nike Trail-sponsored Laney may have shined brightest over the summer, battling to an eighth-place finish at the Western States 100 in June (a 12-place improvement from the year before) and a podium finish at the grueling 104-mile Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB) in August, where he placed third.

Next up for Laney: the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon on Feb. 13 in Los Angeles. Laney qualified for the Trials with a 2:17:02 personal best clocking at Cal International in late 2014, evidence of his impressive road-to-trail versatility.

One of Laney’s key workouts for developing the fitness necessary to run a solid marathon while also being able to compete at the front of long trail races is a 5-4-3 mile progression run, which he typically does once or twice during a marathon or 50-mile buildup. The last one usually falls 5 or 6 weeks out from his goal race.

“For me, it’s a challenging but fairly controlled workout,” explains Laney, who also coaches runners at Trails and Tarmac. “The workout gives you a ton of volume around marathon pace and a ton of work at your aerobic threshold without the effort of hammering a half marathon at race pace.”

Following a 3-mile warmup at an easy pace, the workout starts with 5 miles at 10 seconds per mile slower than your marathon race pace. After completing the 5 miles, “recover” with a cruise mile that’s roughly 45 seconds per mile slower than your marathon race pace. Upon the completion of your cruise mile, run 4 miles at your marathon race pace—which for Laney equates to 5:15 per mile—followed by another cruise mile. The workout finishes with 3 miles at 10 seconds per mile faster than your marathon race pace. Cool down with 3 miles of easy running.

“The cruise miles break up the workout quite a bit and make it much easier,” says Laney. “I know I’m really fit not when I go faster on the marathon pace sections but on the cruise miles. When those feel really easy and I recover quickly I know I’m ready to go.”

Laney says the workout—which should be done on a flat or gently rolling road or bike path—can easily be modified by doing a 4-3-2 or even a 3-2-1 mile progression in place of the 5-4-3 format.

“This is a great workout because the paces and distances can be easily modified to runners of all abilities,” explains Laney. “For newer runners simply doing 3-2-1 mile progression or 4-3-2 is a great workout.”