Jim was a self-coached athlete who followed somewhat the teachings of New Zealand coach Arthur Lydiard and the advice and encouragement of his summer coach, Keith Gilbertson, sr. In retrospect, he has been heard to say that his training mirrored that of the great Clarence DeMar, the seven-time Boston marathon winner: very high mileage with short local road races tossed in. Since he never thought of himself as a good runner, this low key attitude about intensity seems quite logical. The higher than normal mileage rose out of a self-imposed challenge to see what his body could handle. As a result, he had an 11 1/2 year stretch where he AVERAGED over 100 miles per week. His longest streak of consecutive 100 miles or better weeks hit exactly a year and a half: 78 weeks. Pearson ran no exceptionally high weekly mileage--a best of 185 miles--but recorded some fairly high months--729 and 719 (back to back). His two best years were 6,174 miles in 1975 and 6,028 miles in 1978. This type of mileage led to a fairly easy AAU National 50 mile title in 5:12:41 for a new American record. The endurance was further emphasized by his running a 2:22:32 marathon just 35 days later. The key to his progress was consistency which led to a streak of over 46 years without missing a day of running.
Pearson admits that had he had a coach who controlled his practices, he would have run more short and intense workouts. "With the training program I used," Pearson explained, "I was able to surpass 2:45 in the marathon which was my lifetime goal. In fact, when I started running the ultras, I could run the first 26.2 faster than that. That was the case in the record run, and then I ran the last 25 miles at a faster pace." When he ran the marathon just five weeks later, he slowed only 25 seconds on the course which consisted of two identical laps. Most of his successful races were run with negative splits. "My greatest mistake was not in my training, but in my failure to rest adequately. I tapered well for the record 50 mile (see below), but later would run a marathon in the 2:40 range the week before an ultra. In retrospect, I can see that decision as being a mistake.
Sample of training: (21 weeks)
The 16 weeks prior to Pearson's 50 mile American record: (# is miles that week)
1) 158 5) 161 9) 166 13) 119
2) 165 6) 159 10) 130 14) 123
3) 175 7) 158 11) 125 15) 109
4) 166 8) 161 12) 130 16) 111
Week 17=102 miles and a 5:12:41 American record for the 1975 U.S. 50M Champs!
Note: Tapering for the race began seven weeks before the championship race.
Week 22 = 104 miles and a third place finish - Portland marathon 2:22:32.
Note: After a rest week (109 miles), a longer week was run before tapering resumed.