There are more and less effective ways to train. To become the best runner you can be, you have to learn the most effective ways to train. For example, to run the best possible marathon you need to do some speed work in training. Early in his career, Bill Rodgers ran a couple of marathons without having done adequate speed work and he bombed as a result. He learned his lesson and never made the same mistake again.
The principle of learning encompasses a pair of rules. The first is, “Don’t reinvent the wheel.” Through generations of trial and error, runners have learned what works and what doesn’t work generally. There are certain standard workout formats, such as easy runs and tempo runs, that every new runner should learn about and begin to practice as early in his or her development as possible. The same goes for basic practices such as the hard-easy pattern (i.e. alternating hard and easy workouts in training).
The second rule encompassed by the principle of learning is, “Discover what works best for you individually.” Each runner is unique and therefore each runner must do things his or her own way to a certain degree. You shouldn’t run 150 miles per week just because Bill Rodgers did.
The real learning in running comes through individual experience. You need to pay attention as a runner so you can see what works and what doesn’t work for you, and alter your practices accordingly. In Marathoning, Bill Rodgers hammers this theme. “You learn through your own experience,” he writes. “I keep stressing that, but it’s true. You know your body better than anyone else. You know it better than orthopedic specialists, cardiovascular surgeons, podiatrists.”