Legendary Workout: The Michigan – Your PR starts at ProRun

A wonderful, challenging training for mile eaters; The Michigan. This training was devised in the 1970s by American coach Ron Warhurst, who in turn was inspired by Steve Prefontaine.

Sometime in 1975, two American running trainers meet at an airport. They talk about Steve Prefontaine, the great star of American running who recently died in a car accident. Of course they are talking about Pre. Bill Dellinger has coached him for the last three years and Ron Warhurst, like any other running enthusiast, is fascinated by the quirky middle-distance runner. And of course they talk about training.

Steve Prefontaine

Dellinger recounted one of the last workouts he had Prefontaine do. Pre had to alternate 1200 meters on the track at 5 kilometer pace with 2 to 3 mile pace on an unpaved course during those workouts. So hard on the track, a little longer and a little less hard on the nearby trail. And that a few times.

That workout lingered in Warhurst’s mind, who was drawn to the combination of fast intervals and tempo work. He thought it would be a good way to create a simulation of a cross-country race in training, one of about 8 to 10 kilometers. Go really fast for the first few minutes after the start, find a steady rhythm, then someone to pick up the pace again to see who can come along, get back into the steady rhythm, speed up again to stay with the fastest , consolidate one more time and finally the final sprint. The story goes that Warhurst worked out the training that would be called The Michigan in the pub and wrote it down on one of those napkins that Americans usually slide under their glass.

On a beer mat

That effect came out like this: a warm up of 3.2 kilometers (two miles), 1600 meters at 10 km pace (after the starting gun), 2 kilometers off track at a pace that is about 20 to 30 sec per kilometer lower, 1200 meters at 10 km pace (first gear), again that 2 km, then 800 m at 5 km pace (second gear), another 2 km pace and finish with 400 meters (final sprint). Dribbling a few hundred meters between the track and the 2 km round. For those last 400 meters, his runners were given the designation AUG. All U Got. And then quietly walk out.

The Michigan now has the necessary forms and there are discussions about how to implement it exactly. When Warhurst was recently filmed getting his athletes to do a slightly different version, the ever-alert keyboard trainers on running forum letsrun.com pointed out immediately that he was doing it wrong. His own workout! Warhurst himself could laugh about it.


Because of the considerable volume – you can easily reach 15 kilometers with running in and out – in our opinion it is also a nice training for marathon runners (or half marathon runners). Then you could possibly do those 1600, 1200, 800 and 400 a little slower; for example 1600 and 1200 at half-marathon pace and 800 and 400 at 10k pace and those 2000s in between at marathon pace. Spicy, but tasty!

Warhurst is still active as a trainer at the age of 79. And he still works on the site where he had The Michigan performed for the first time, no longer for Michigan University, but with his own Very Nice Track Club. Should he ever retire, he will be long but respectfully cursed by runners worldwide.

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