Juma Ikangaa Training

Juma Ikangaa is an elite Tanzanian marathon runner that competed during the 1980s and early 1990s. He ran under 2:10 eight times and placed highly in many major marathons. Ikangaa was a tiny runner standing only 5′ 3″ and weighing 117 pounds. The information used to write this article is from the book Running with the Legends by Michael Sandrock. It’s an excellent read, and I can highly recommend it.

PRs and Accomplishments

  • 2:08:01 marathon PR at the 1989 NYC Marathon
  • 8 times under 2:10
  • 6 times under 2:09
  • Winner of 1989 NYC Marathon
  • 2x winner the Tokyo Marathon
  • 3x second place at Boston Marathon

High Level Overview

Juma Ikangaa trained at altitude, ran high mileage (180-220 mpw) at a fast pace, and split his training into two periods, conditioning and specific. The conditioning period was base training, and the specific period included workouts like fartleks and long tempo runs.

Early Years

Ikangaa was born in Tanzania and was the youngest of six children. Every day, he ran 10 miles each way to school. He ran throughout high school and competed in local competitions. After graduating, Ikangaa enlisted in the Tanzanian army, where he was provided the resources to continue his training. He broke on to the world stage after he placed second in the marathon at the 1982 Commonwealth Games, where he ran 2:09:30 and set a new African record. He was 25 at the time.

Mileage and Distance Run Pace

Similar to other elite runners during the 1980s, Ikangaa’s training was high mileage with long aerobic efforts. His distance runs neared five minutes per mile because, as he said, “To run fast in the marathon, you have to run fast in training.” His pace, usually around 5:20 – 5:45 at altitude, is especially impressive because he reported that he ran up to 220 miles per week during some training blocks. Often, he tried to average 25 miles per day between two sessions, which would be about 175 miles per week.

“To break the world record, you must put in mile after mile, week after week, month after month. That way you hit the wall in practice, not in the race.” – Juma Ikangaa

Periodization

Ikangaa’s periodization was simple. He broke his training into two segments. His “conditioning” period lasted until four to eight weeks before a marathon, and then he would switch to his “specific” training. He often tailored his specific training to the upcoming course. For example, if he were running the Boston Marathon, he would include more hill work. His conditioning period was a general base phase, reaching high mileage at a fast pace. During his specific period, he would begin incorporating workouts.

Workouts

After his conditioning period, Ikangaa would switch to his specific period and complete legendary workouts. Staples of his training were a 50 km long run (31 miles) at 5:20 – 5:45 pace, a 30km (18 miles) tempo run at close to 5:00 per mile, and an interval session of 50×200, 25×400, or 6xMile. The weekly interval session was sometimes replaced by a fartlek on grass. Another adjustment to his training was making his long run slower, around 6:00 pace, and running 30-35 miles. For his tempo runs, he would not start with a specific mileage in mind but instead, aim to run as far as he could at 5:00 pace.

Sample Workouts

  • 30-35 mile long run between 5:20 – 6:00 pace
  • 18 mile tempo run at close to 5:00 pace
  • 50 x 200m
  • 25 x 400m
  • 6 x Mile at 4:30 per mile pace
  • Fartlek on grass

Typical Week During Specific Training

DayA.M.P.M.Total Mileage
SundayLong run, 30-35 miles30-35
Monday12 miles13 miles25
Tuesday5 miles25x400m; 50x200m; or fartlek. 3 mile warmup and cooldown.17.25
Wednesday5 miles20 miles25
Thursday3 mile warmup, tempo run ( up to 18 miles) at close to 5:00 pace10 miles31
Friday12 miles13 miles25
Saturdaytempo run, repeat miles, or repeat 800s10 miles19
A typical week for Juma Ikangaa during his specific training block. This week totals to about 175 miles but he was known to run as high as 220.

Ancillary Training

Like most good runners, Ikangaa included ample amounts of ancillary training into his daily routine. He worked on his flexibility and muscle elasticity every day through bounding drills (on grass), stretching, and isometrics. Additionally, he used a medicine ball to strengthen other areas of his body, like his core, after workouts.

Lifestyle and Diet

Ikangaa lived a lifestyle that Steve Jones described as “Spartan.” He would rise at 5:30 a.m., have a cup of tea, and begin training. He would go to bed at 9:30 p.m. According to Running with the Legends, he ate meat but followed a low-fat diet. A typical meal would be rice with liver, chicken, or fish.

Altitude

Ikangaa split his time training between Arusha, Tanzania, and Alamosa, Colorado. Arusha is at 4,600 ft. of elevation and Alamosa is at 7,500 ft.

What We Can Learn

Not many people are capable of handling Ikangaa’s training, nor should many people try. Indeed, he was a special marathoner. His small frame aided more than likely, his ability to handle the intensity and volume of his training.

However, his training is a case study on the importance of high volume, long aerobic sessions, a strict routine, and periodization.

Ikangaa’s periodization is easy to replicate, base train until four to eight weeks before the competition, and then begin incorporating workouts.