Where JSET comes from

In 2011 a scientist named Giovanni Tanda developed an equation that he claimed could predict marathon performance to an accuracy of 4 minutes simply by knowing the runner’s average weekly mileage (in the eight weeks leading up to a race), and the average pace of these miles. This equation received very little attention from the running community, but it was adopted by a group of runners from Cambridge, UK who were looking to train more effectively. With some refinement, this equation has become the basis of the JSET training plan. It has been used by runners to achieve marathon finishing times ranging from <2h30min to 4h.

The equation states that by understanding the relationship between weekly mileage and weekly pace, you can combine these two factors into a measure of training load. This means that the faster you run each week, the less distance you need to run in order to achieve any given race time. Importantly it doesn’t dictate how you should run these miles, it’s simply about the total mileage. Realising that it doesn’t matter how you achieve your miles is a game-changer. You can ditch the gut wrenchingly hard interval sessions and simply do all your training at a steady, talking pace if that’s what suits you.

So, here we see the pace versus distance relationship for a 3 hour marathon. In order to be in 3 hour shape you can be anywhere on the black line. Running 7.5km per day at 4:00min/km or 17.5km per day at 5:00min/km are two ways to achieve the same result.

(In reality it’s a little more complicated than this because you’d need to increase your training load each week; running less distance, slower at the start of your training cycle and then running more distance, faster in the few weeks just before your race. But don't worry, I'll set it all out very clearly in your training plan)

This is the unique thing about JSET; I don’t prescribe sessions or dictate your training schedule like a conventional coach. The JSET system means it’s up to you if you choose to run a huge distance every week, at a slow pace or run really fast, for a short distance. A range of factors come into play when making this choice, for example how much time you can commit to training, what type of training you enjoy and your injury risk are all important to consider. I will of course advise, but the finial decision is yours.

With regards to my own training, I’ve taken this training towards the extremely high distance, low speed side. In the 8 weeks before my 2h28min race I ran an average of 172km per week, at an average pace of 4:47min/km (70% of race pace). That’s almost 25km every single day! However, this is really not as impressive as it first may seem; because a) I rarely ran more than 15k in a single run and b) the only time I ever ran faster than 4:40min/km was my weekly parkrun. Essentially I’d run 10-15k in the morning, and 10-15k in the afternoon / evening. Every run was at a consistent pace, and never so fast I couldn't have a chat with whoever I was running with.

For many people track sessions with a running club are fun, but they aren’t the only way to prepare yourself for a PB. I will provide you with suggestions on how you meet your training target each week but a huge benefit of JSET (over a conventional training plan) is the flexibility I offer. JSET tells you how much training you need to do - you decide the style your training takes.

In order to get a better understanding of how successfully training for a marathon works a short analogy may be useful

Imagine your marathon goal as the summit of a mountain. Standing at the bottom of the mountain you can see many routes up, each with various obstacles. (Reaching the summit is akin to being fit enough to achieve your race goal.)

One option is to scale the steepest face, which is like doing your training as fast as possible. This will feel dramatic and fun, but going up a cliff is tough and you risk falling off somewhere i.e. getting injured.

Another option is to take the long, flatter path up the mountain, which is like doing your training "slow and steady". You’re more likely to be able to reach the top, but this may not be a style everyone enjoys.

There are, of course, a number of other routes, each of varying difficultly and risk. The “best” way to reach the summit is to stand at the bottom and decide which route you want to take. Imagine JSET like a mountain guide, I will advise on the different route options, and trek up the mountain with you, but ultimately it’s up to you to decide which route to take.