The 'Ashenfelter' training session.

Ashenfelter leads Kazantsev at Helsinki

"There are few distance runners who are born great.
You have to work very hard very often."

Horace Ashenfelter - Olympic 3000m Steeplechase Champion 1952
in a World Record time of 8min 45.8secs.

Horace Ashenfelter has escaped my attention completely until the late 60's when Ron Clarke collaborated with Norman Harris to put together a book entitled 'The Lonely Breed' - an interesting and informative collection of anecdotes about distance runners from a wide range of abilities, backgrounds and eras. The chapter on Ashenfelter went into considerable detail about his training - particularly in the run up to the 1952 Olympics. He was, at that time, an FBI agent and working extremely hard - as well as attempting to qualify to represent the USA in the Games. It was therefore necessary to refine his training programme to get the maximum return for the minimum time and effort expended.

My own situation, at the time I read the book, was similar in many respects. I was teaching, coaching and had a young family - time was limited. Blackheath Harriers was in the upper echelons of the newly formed National League. We had several fast, young milers and our distance star Bob Richardson could hold his own against the very best. Circumstances dictated that Chris Haines and I would mainly be required to cover the steeplechase. Points were vital.

I adapted the training session outlined below from the details given in the book. It suited my particular needs perfectly at the time with its variations in pace and quality of effort. It was also a session that I could complete on my own - I found that I became so immersed in evaluating what I had already done, and what I was about to do next, that time usually flew by - and the satisfaction of completing such a demanding routine was ample reward in itself.

A distance runner looks for a training routine that will give him ( or her ) stamina, strength and speed. Ashenfelter's session appears to assist in putting some of these pieces into the jigsaw, as well as sharpening one's pace judgement. Getting it wrong tends to hurt. Good luck if you try it!

The Session.

Warm up

300m          really an 'extended' stride - keeping it smooth / even

90 second 'rest' / jog between each interval

800m          aiming for even effort about 3k race pace

200m          faster extended smooth stride

600m          even effort about 1500m race pace

400m          extended smooth stride again

600m          even effort about 1500m race pace

400m          extended stride - a touch faster

300m          stride - faster again - close to maximum

200m          give it all you've got left!

Warm down - phew!

Still use this one on various surfaces! . . . CPW

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