I will commence this post by putting my hands up and saying that it has taken me the best part of the past 15 years to appreciate the point which I am preaching today
It is true that there will be times when running high mileage will be a necessity. The clearest example is when you need to develop the requisite endurance, aerobic capacity and running economy to run a successful marathon. However, outside of this, running high mileage just for the sake of it is counter-intuitive.
A high weekly volume of running automatically comes with a number of trade-offs. The higher the volume of mileage, the more pronounced these trade-offs will be.
The biggest drawback associated with high mileage is the increased injury risk which it poses. Running is unfortunately a high injury sport, and one of the main reasons why I have studied strength & conditioning in recent years has been to try to identify solutions to this problem. In short, the more you run, the more of a chance you have of sustaining an injury. There are ways in which this can be mitigated but one of the best is not to run any more mileage than is necessary.
Secondly, like most other activities in this world, running is subject to the law of diminishing marginal returns. Essentially, after a relatively early point, each additional mile you run will lead to a correspondingly lesser gain or benefit than the mile which immediately preceded it. This is not of any great concern on its own but for the fact that we can take the point a step further. This is that it is possible for each of us to reach a point, beyond which we will actually start to disimprove if we keep adding mileage to our programme. This point will differ from individual to individual but there are no exceptions to the rule. Independent of the risk of injury, the reason for this is that the additional mileage will compromise the adaptation process. Just take a pause now in order to let that set in – running more isn’t necessarily always better.
In a similar vein to the preceding point, an over focus on mileage can detract your attention from the precise training variables which you need to develop in order to move to the next level as a runner. Every good training programme should incorporate recovery runs, easy aerobic runs, long runs, anaerobic threshold sessions, speed endurance sessions, pure speed, strength work and mobility work in varying degrees. As a coach, in every training programme that I write, my goal is always to blend these training components in the correct ratio and to try to pinpoint the optimal level of running mileage for the individual in question. Whether are preparing for a 5k, 10k, half marathon or marathon will have a major bearing in this regard.