The MAF Method: Maxing Out the Navy PRT

Running has never been something I’ve excelled at, which probably explains why I never do great on that portion of the Navy PRT. I’ve always thought of myself as a below-average runner and on a scale from things I love to things I hate, I would put my love for running about as far away from the “beer” end as possible: right next to anything to do with trying to get printers to work.

Why Run When You can Fly?

With that groundwork laid, I’m going to now tell you something rather paradoxical: I want to build a “world class” running ability. Why? Mostly just so that I can be a better, more balanced athlete but also so that I only have to run the Navy PRT once a year. I think we all know which is more important.

In this context, I will defer to Tim Ferriss’s definition of “World Class”: being in the top 5% of the human population at doing something (see his book, The 4-Hour Chef for further information).

According to RunRepeat, a 6:08 min/mile pace for a 5K would put you in the top 1% of runners in the US. Being in the top 1% of runners (an already more elite sample than simply all Americans) should easily put me within the top 5% to be considered “World Class”.

Although a 5k is the most relevant data RunRepeat had to compare to the Navy PRT’s 1.5 mile run, I (potentially foolishly) also want to be able to run longer distances well too. A race around 13.1 miles could be a fun goal, assuming it was one that ended with beer. RunRepeat’s data claims the top 10% of US runners are able to complete a Half Marathon at about a 7 min/mile pace. Okay, potentially definitely foolish.

So how is it that the top 1% run at a 6 min/mile pace for a 5k and then merely 1 min/mile slower when going more than four times the distance?


Before I get into the “how”, first I will set my goals:
Navy PRT in 8:55 (roughly a 5:55 min/mile pace), the maximum for a 25-29 y/o Male
Half Marathon at 7:30 min/mile pace, RunRepeat’s 10% metric plus some room for EError

Okay maybe the half marathon pace is not world class but it’s at least faster than Michael Scott during his “Michael Scott’s Dunder Mifflin Scranton Meredith Palmer Memorial Celebrity Rabies Awareness Fun Run Pro Am Race for the Cure”. Good enough for me.

The Maffetone Method

Now for the magic: the “how”. During all my training leading up to and during OCS—where I hit my best level of running performance to date, I was mostly doing track workouts as laid out in my Navy OCS preparation guide. The bulk of that running was in the 400m repeat range, with some longer 1600m workouts thrown in there.

That worked pretty well considering my best time at OCS was a 9:43, but still a whole minute from my goals scribed in the easy-to-change-when-no-one-is-looking-because-this-may-be-way-harder-than-I-thought ink above.

But recently, I learned about the MAF Method through one of my favorite athletes: Nick Bare.

Nick Bare explains the MAF method

After watching the above video, I decided the best way to accomplish my running goals would be to improve my aerobic base—something I’ve never spent any time doing. Nick explains it much better than I could so if you have any questions, refer to him or google “MAF Method”.

Tools Needed

To get started with the MAF method you’re going to need a few things:

I’ve already completed a few runs at my MAF heart rate of 155 bpm and have noticed a couple cool things. First, your pace will fluctuate (sometimes wildly) from run to run depending on if you’re running in hotter temperatures, you slept poorly, did a leg workout, etc. Second, the most noticeable way you’ll measure aerobic improvement is your running pace will improve while being able to maintain your same base MAF heart rate, which I find really interesting.

I’ll update sometime in the spring on how my pace is improving and by then I hope to have some great progress made!

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