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The endurance type vs the speed type – Lopes & Mamede

One of the most interesting examples of competing athletes with totally different characteristics can be found in Carlos Lopes and Fernando Mamede. Both were running in the 1980s under the watchful eye of the legendary Portuguese coach, Professor Moniz Pereira.

Carlos Lopes is a multiple medallist of the World and European Championships. His greatest achievements are three World Championship titles in cross-country running and an Olympic gold medal in the marathon at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. During his long sporting career, he achieved the following personal bests: 1500m – 3:44, 5,000m – 13:16, 10,000m – 27:17 and marathon distance – 2h07'. For the purpose of this text, let's call Lopes an endurance type.

Fernando Mamede did not shine at the biggest events, but on several occasions he showed that he can run terribly fast. At the contemporary equivalent of the Golden Gala, he did not lose a 5,000m race for several seasons. Mamede held Portuguese national records at the following distances at the same time: 500m, 600m, 800, 1500m, mile, 3,000m, 2 miles, 5,000m and 10,000m. He was best remembered as a 10,000m world champion with a time of 27:13. His personal bests were: 3:37 – 1500m, 13:08 – 5,000m and 27:13 – 10,000m. He only once ran a 10-mile race, and apart from that he did not run anything longer than 10,000m – a typical speed type.

Already from the distribution of personal bests it can be concluded that Lopes performed better in longer distances, and Mamede in shorter races. Lopes was a tempo runner, he would regularly win races with a very fast pace over most of the distance or a long-finish attack. For example, when it comes to 10,000m, this means speeding up the pace over the last 4-5 laps. Mamede had a fairly large reserve of speed, and would win largely thanks to his deadly fast finish over the last 200-400 metres. Fundamentally different runners, with different training and different ways of winning races.  
Lopes was an athletic type, though with a surprisingly strong build for a long-distance runner.

Carlos Lopes trained primarily using a continuous training method. He followed a very hard training programme, consisting mostly of fast long runs and tempo runs. When training with Professor Pereira, he would run twice a day for most of the year, where the duration of one training session was rarely longer than just one hour. In the case of Lopes, the pace of "easy" long runs oscillated at about 3'20''-3'10'/km, and the pace of tempo runs at about 3'05''-2'50''/km. Depending on the training period, Lopes would run 4-5 tempo runs per week, plus 1-2 interval track workouts at the starting pace. He would usually run alone, as practically no other runner was able to keep his pace during workouts – within one hour he could run 18-19 kilometres, including 20 minutes of warm-up run (at a pace of 3'20'' :). He did not need many control starts or test runs before the most important races, and he was able to stay in top shape for several months.  
With his subtle build, Mamede (on the left) looks more like a Kenyan than a European runner.

Fernando Mamede hated tempo runs, and as quality workouts he did interval runs. His 3x3km session, during which Mamede ran each part in under 8 minutes, was widely commented on throughout the running world. He would regularly run short and fast blocks, and threshold runs replaced with short interval-type workouts with short and active recovery (e.g. 15-20 x 400m at 10K pace with 100m jog recovery), or long interval-type workouts with long and passive recovery (e.g. 4 x 2km at 10K pace with 5 minutes recovery). His long runs were relatively short and slow – usually 30-40 minutes at ca. 4'/km. His overall training volume was considerably lower than that of Lopes. To achieve his top shape, he competed frequently. As with every speed type, the shape and the results achieved were less stable.

Both endurance- and speed-type runners are able to achieve such results that are considered very good in the amateur sports world, at most distances. However, it requires a training plan that is matched, among other things, to the athlete's predispositions. In the last post I referred to the example of Marcin Konieczny and Maciek Dowbor as, respectively, an endurance type and a speed type. They carry out even apparently similar training formats in a different way. In recent weeks, Marcin did long workouts at the target starting pace, i.e. pretty brisk running; tempo runs are very hard threshold workouts, and short fast runs – just an opportunity to run faster every once in a while. When it comes to Maciek, his long runs are really easy; tempo runs are more subthreshold, a "caressing" rather than "draining" workout, and short fast workouts are performed really fast and dynamically, and in my opinion they are an important training stimulus. Different recipes and different ingredients, even if they appear similar when looked at from the side :)

When Mamede broke the 10,000m world record in Stockholm in 1984, Lopes naturally took second place. Mamede outran Lopes in the last lap and crossed the finish line four seconds faster.

The post's text referring to the training of Lopes and Mamede is based on articles and specialist publications, and in particular on the accounts of Antonio Cabrala available at Let's Run. For those interested in this subject, I recommend the presentation of Marcin Nagórek given at the Methodology & Coaching Conference of the Polish Triathlon Federation in December.