What Is The Right Amount Of Mileage For An Athlete?

Abby Lopez continues to impress despite having a light running resume

As a coach I have always been intrigued by training. I remember as a youngster hearing about the exploits of high mileage legends Steve Prefontaine, Craig Virgin, and Rudy Chapa. My high school coach would always brag to my teammates and myself about wild running stories. At the time they seem so crazy that I thought of them as fairy tales. For example, he once said Chapa and his Hammond HS (Indiana) teammates ran a track meet cool down from Bloom Township High School back to their school. That's 18 miles! Hammond Coach Dan Candiano and my coach knew each other so the stories could not have been made up I suppose. I asked coach one time what was the purpose of running back to school after a meet. Two things he said: "Coach Candiano was either dissatisfied with their performances or they did not get in their morning runs." 

I've had several great runners in my lifetime, but I don't think I would have conditioned them to run 100 miles per week in high school. Even if I were a college coach I would still stick by my mild mileage pedigree. Besides I love the middle distances and there is no way high mileage equates to fast times in the 800/mile.

Earlier this season while I was going over stats I noticed a time from a young lady that I never heard of. Her name is Abby Lopez and she is a sophomore at Argo High School in Summit. At the time I was researching her profile, she did not have a school year attached. I googled her and found nothing. I contacted her school and could not get any info. I think I was more puzzled by the fact that she ran 17:19 at the Rich Dust Invitational. What? Who? Plus, her mark appeared on all stat platforms as the second fastest time in the state behind Katelynne Hart of Glenbard West.  

Weeks went by and finally another Lopez sighting. She had competed in the SSC Red meet with a time of 19:16. Not impressive until I saw she won by over a minute in very tough conditions. Now, are here today and finally caught up to Ms. Lopez. I asked her about her training and she made it clear what she said on camera was not misspeak. "I started running this past spring after playing basketball," she told me. When I got a bit deeper into her supposed high mileage training she was not shy. "Yes this is correct, sometimes I would run more [90 miles] per week. I amped up the miles so that i would improve. Sometimes up to 100. But yes on the average was 90.

As crazy as this may sound for a high school athlete, especially a first year runner and female, Lopez was not training for a marathon or ultra-marathon. "I am not training for the marathon...I really didn't seek out advice. I really just looked up how much the elite Olympic runners ran and I started to build up to running that much. And also it just helped me think and I just loved running. So I pretty much ran and ran without thinking because I love it so much. I also thought I would become a much better runner." But as I suspected with the gaps of races in her profile, Lopez got injured by the excessive volume. Now she says she is running tempos and decreased her training to 40 miles during sectionals week.

She is looking forward to the state championship this week and her match vs. Katelynne. "I am aware of Katelynne Hart and I know she is an amazing runner. I'm looking forward to being in the same race as she."

There you have it.