The 40-Mile Week

An article about the benchmarks we strive for in our training volume and quality.

By on September 30, 2022 | Comments

AJW's TaproomThree years ago, I wrote an article here on iRunFar about benchmarks. At the time, I was returning to running after a painstakingly slow recovery from hip surgery. As is often the case, my recovery had its ups and downs, and I was having particular difficulty gaining any day-to-day consistency. Ultimately, a full 18 months after my surgery, I finally achieved my long-sought-after benchmark, which for me has always been a 40-mile week.

In the article, I invited readers to comment on what their benchmarks were, and the responses were interesting and disparate. Some folks, such as myself, are numbers people and focus on miles or hours in determining their benchmarks. Others, perhaps the more sanguine types, focus on soft metrics like happiness, healthiness, and camaraderie. Whatever the source, it is clear that we runners are a goal-oriented lot.

AJW training in Cunningham Gulch before 2016 Hardrock

AJW training above Cunningham Gulch in Colorado before the 2016 Hardrock 100. Photo: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

With all the changes in the world since we published that article in September 2019, I thought it might be fun to perform an unscientific study on social media on the topic of the 40-mile week. My query went like this:

“As an old school guy, I’ve always thought of a 40-mile week as an honest training week … What’s your minimum honest training week?”

Interestingly, right out of the gate, many of the respondents concurred with the 40-mile benchmark. Some cited steering clear of injury as the reason to keep it to 40, while others remarked that 40 miles a week allowed them to get quality workouts done as well as a recovery day and a rest day. My former coaching colleague, Adam St. Pierre, remarked that for him 30 miles a week was plenty as long as he was getting 10,000 feet of vertical climbing packed into that 30 miles.

Renowned race director Candice Burt said, “Forty miles is solid. For me, I like to get over 60. Ten miles a day with a day off if I don’t have time for a long run. Otherwise, 70.”

One of the key metrics that seems to have evolved in the last decade or so is the large number of runners who track their training in hours rather than distance. Coach Jason Koop, one of the staunchest advocates of this approach, says simply, “Track volume by time, not distance,” and this approach certainly seems to work for Koop’s stable of athletes. Several of the folks who responded to my query concurred with Koop with ideal weekly hours ranging from eight to 10 hours and a few high-volume folks suggesting 12 weekly hours was their key number.

Finally, quite a few people commented with the classic, “it depends,” and that mainly had to do if they were running in the hills or on the flats or on the roads or the trails. In general, the trail folks are more likely to track in time rather than miles, although there were a few old-timers who stick to tracking miles regardless of where they are running.

Best GPS Running Watch - mountaintop

iRunFar’s Craig Randall checks his GPS watch on a mountaintop. One of the many reasons for our reliance on such pieces of technology is the need to easily track our weekly mileage. Photo: iRunFar/Christin Randall

What was the takeaway for me? Three years after the first time I asked this? It seems like the 40-mile week is still a thing and something that many runners seek in their training. That said, as with many things in our ever-evolving sport, the times are changing and the one-size-fits-all method of assessment and evaluation seems further and further from reality every day.

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

This week’s Beer of the Week comes from Bent River Brewing Company in Rock Island, Illinois. Their Uncommon Stout is a surprisingly sweet and smoky stout that tastes good all year round. A particularly good beer to drink with barbecue, Uncommon Stout is a refreshingly fresh take on this long revered variety.

Call for Comments

  • What’s your benchmark for an acceptable training week, if any?
  • Do you plan your training based on time, hours, or a mixture of the two?
Andy Jones-Wilkins

Andy Jones-Wilkins is an educator by day and has been the author of AJW’s Taproom at iRunFar for over 11 years. A veteran of over 190 ultramarathons, including 38 100-mile races, Andy has run some of the most well-known ultras in the United States. Of particular note are his 10 finishes at the Western States 100, which included 7 times finishing in the top 10. Andy lives with his wife, Shelly, and Josey, the dog, and is the proud parent of three sons, Carson, Logan, and Tully.