Norwegian training – Grete Waitz

The Training of one of the Greatest – Grete Waitz

The training of the great female distance runner and legendary marathoner Grete Waitz

Short info. : 1500 m. 4.00.55, 3000 m. 8.31.75,  9 time winner of New York Marathon, four unofficial Marathon world records, two world records in the 3000 meters and World Champion in the marathon 1983.

The information in this article about the training of Grete Waitz is based largely on an article by Leif I. Tjelta posted in the magazine ”Kondis” (www.kondis.no) in 1997 and information given to me from one of the people who guided her in her training (as a marathoner), Johan Kaggestad.

Tjelta bases the training information on the training diary of Waitz from 1973-74, talks with Waitz herself plus information from Kai Møller who was the Federation coach at the time. Kaggestad got involved with Waitz more after 81-82, as a marathoner, and bases the information on first hand knowledge.

Waitz was fast by nature and as a 19 year old, she had personal bests of 2.05.7 in the 600 and 4.17 in the 1500 meter. From the age of 17-19, she ran about 5-7 times/week, at relatively fast steady speed, and building good endurance from early on.

Figure 1 : Number of sessions for Waitz, the season 1971-72 and 1973-74. ( Møller, 1985a, from Tjelta article)

Month
Nov. Feb. Apr. July Aug. Sept.
Sessions

1971-72

28 32 30 21 31
Sessions

1973-74

40 38 36 41 42

The season 73-74 marked the change from a middle distance runner to a long distance athlete.

Figure 2 : Waitz’ type of training in % for the season 1971-72 and 1973-74. (after Møller, 1985a, from the Tjelta article)

Month :

Type of training Nov. Feb. Apr. July Aug, Sept.
1971 1973 1972 1974 1972 1974 1972 1974 1972 1974 1972 1974
Distance runs

over 10 km

28% 60% 28% 63% 23% 25% 9% 24% 16% 38% 43%
Distance runs

under 10 km

14% 15% 15% 18% 3% 25% 19% 39% 0% 30% ‑‑‑‑ 35%
Fartlek 18% 5% 8% 3% 24% 9% 9% 5% 6% 0% ‑‑‑‑ 0%
Long intervalls 3% 5% 18% 6% 10% 9% 5% 5% 0% 0% ‑‑‑‑ 0%
Short intervalls 21% 7,5% 18% 10% 13% 19% 14% 11% 13% 11% ‑‑‑‑ 0%
Tempo runs 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 12% 4% 35% 11% ‑‑‑‑ 0%
Hill training 0% 0% 0% 0% 10% 3% 0% 0% 0% 0% ‑‑‑‑ 0%
Competitions 0% 0% 3% 0% 7% 6% 24% 10% 19% 12% ‑‑‑‑ 11%
Skiing 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 6% 0% 0% 0% 0% ‑‑‑‑ 0%
Strength 14% 7,5% 5% 0% 10% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% ‑‑‑‑ 0%
Sprints 0% 0% 5% 0% 0% 0% 8% 0% 6% 0% ‑‑‑‑ 0%

Waitz ran between 80 and 116 km/week in 1973-74 . From that year, the training increased steadily. In 1975 it was 132 km/week average (with results of 8.46 in the 3000 m.and 4.07 in the 1500 m.), and in 1976 the average was around 160 km/week. At this volume she stayed until 78/79 when she ran her best races on the track – 4.00.6 in the 1500/8.31.75 in the 3000 meters, results that still would be absoulte world class. The most mileage for one week came in 1976 with 180 km/week. Her mileage at this time was never long and slow. She often ran it with the boys at a steady 3.30-3.45/km pace, which is quick for a female athletes (according to Kaggestad). This indicates a sub AT type training to build endurance. This endurance would show later in her marathon career. As a marathoner she stayed at much of the same training principles, but some of the long distance runs became longer and a bit slower.

Example of training week in February 1974 (Tjelta)

Mo    04.02                  Long distance run 14 km

Tu      05.02                  Long distance run14 km

We    06.02                  Long distance run with increasing speed 14 km

Th      07.02                  Long distance run14 km

Fr      08.02                  a) Intervalltraining,  4 x 1000 m, rec, 1 min.

b) Long distance run 6 km

Sa      09.02                  Intervalltraining 25 x 300 m, rec, 15 sec.

Sun    10.02                  a) Long distance run 10 km

b) Long distance run  10 km

Example of training week, August 74

Th      01.08                  a) Long distance 30 min.

b) Fartlek 12 km

Fr      02.08                  a) Long distance 6 km

b) Long distance 11 km (last 5 km fast)

Sa      03.08        a) Long distance 7 km

b) Short intervalls 2 x 15 x 200 m, rec. 10‑15 sec., set rec. 5 min.

Su      04.08          a) Long distance 7 km

b) Long distance 12 km

Mo    05.08            Tempo/track intervalls: 1000 m (2.50), 600 m (1.37), 300 m (43,2).

rec. 7.30 min.

Tu      06.08          Long distance 14 km

We    07.08           Short invervalls: 2 x 12 x 150 m. rec 10‑15 sec, set rec. 5 min.

Last two weeks before the European Champs in 74 with a bronze medal

Fr      23.08           a) Long distance 7 km

b) Long distance 13 km

Lø     24.08            a) Long distance 7 km

b) Long distance 13 km

Sø     25.08           a) Long distance 7 km

b) Long distance 13 km

Ma    26.08            a) Intervalls on the track : 1000 m (2.47,5), 600 m (1.36,1), 300 m (43,6), rec. 7.30 min.

Tir     27.08           a) Long distance 7 km

b) Long distance 13 km

On     28.08                  No training, injured in leg

To     29.08                  Jogg 20 min.

Fr      30.08                  Long distance 13 km

Lø     31.08                  Intevalls on the track : 1000 m (2.42,6), 600 m (1.34,9), 300 m (43,1), rec. 7.30 min.

Sø     01.09                  Long distance 8 km

Ma    02.09                  Fartlek 11 km

Tir     03.09                  Long distance 8 km

On     04.09                  Short intervalls 12 x 150 m + 10 x 100 m, rec 10‑15 sec. Set rec. 5 min.

To     05.09                  25 min. jogg + some accelerations

Fr      06.09                  a) 4‑5 km jogg + some accelerations.

b) European Champs. 1500 prelims : 4.11,5 (67 ‑ 2.15 ‑ 3.23 = times at 400 – 800 -1200 m)

Lø     07.09                  25 min. jogg + some accelerations

Sø     08.09                  European Champs 1500 m FINALE, nr. 3: 4.05,2 (63 ‑ 2.10 ‑ 3.16 =times at 400 – 800 – 1200 m)

Comment on the training :

One thing worth noticing right away is that the specific training shown here, is for a 1500 meter athlete.

Another thing to be aware of is the speed on the distance runs. Per Halle, one of my close helpers, was at his best at this time (13.27 5000 m. in 74), and on training camps and even before Championships, Waitz was known for her extremely steady pace on the “easy” days. She ran with the men, at a pace from 3.30-4.00 on most of them.

This would correlate to sub AT training. AT for Waitz at this time would be around 3.25, if you compare her to Ingrid Kristiansen and her lab tests when she was at Waitz level. This is very interesting. Kaggestad was clear to point this out, when I discussed training with him : both Grete Waitz and Ingrid Kristiansen almost never saw the 4.number/km when they ran “easy”.

They built endurance through sub AT running – much like what we see in todays Kenyans and Maroccons. This is combined with fast Vo2 max sessions, like we see in the training of Waitz. Kaggestad also explained how Watiz from the fall of 82, when training specifically for the marathon in the World Champs. in 83 (where she won), almost never trained on the track anymore.

The total mileage of Waitz is quite interesting. She found 160 km to be “perfect” for her. A number of top class athletes have found themselves averaging around 160 km. at their top with great success. Many have tried more, without making it. For example, a runner like Viren did 7500 km in 1972 when he won double 5/10000 m. in Munich. Around the same average had Waitz, Kristiansen and many of the Kenyans.

It seems like (also based on studies from the Russians, collected from world class long distance runners training logs) that 160 km/week rawaverage (that means including the summer and rest period ! = in the winter over 200 km. at times, down to maybe 140-150 in the summer ) is the minumum average for really running at your best. And – that AT training is something we find – together with Vo2 max sessions, in almost all of these athletes training. Either in pure AT sessions or fast distance runs on “easy” days.

Written by Marius Bakken, May  2002

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