Crushing the long run
By now you’ve probably hit some high teens or 20-mile long runs. How’s that going for you?
I’m sure you’re crushing it!
From my humble beginnings—never doing a single long run—I suppose I’ve come a long way. I now hold the long run sacred. The way I look at it, everything that happens during the week should prepare me for the next long run. It simulates the stress of the marathon physically, it prepares the mind for rigors of the race mentally, and it trains the gut for race day. There is no magic potion that will make running a half or a full marathon “easy.” If you want easy, pick up rec league softball or something. What can we do to train the bod for the stress of running that far?
Do your long runs! Getting in those long run miles.
Most marathon training plans don’t instruct you to run the full 26.2 distance. Running for that long in training would increase your risk of injury. The good news is that there are several ways to get around going the full distance while still getting the same. Here are a bunch of ways that I use my run long to prepare me physically and mentally for race day:
- Run easy: “easy” long run pace should be anywhere from 1-2 minutes slower than marathon pace. Not sure, think conversational. I run at a pace where I could chat a bit with someone or to myself. I’m always talking to myself.
- Build incrementally: 12 miles last week, well, don’t suddenly jump to 20. The weekly long run should build in the same way that total weekly mileage builds. Add about a mile or two each week to the length of the long run.
- Incorporate surges: I like 10 x 1 minute around marathon pace, alternating with 1 minute easy. This doesn’t make the run hard, necessarily, but it does give the muscles a chance to practice that marathon pace without too much fatigue.
- Consider limits: running longer than 3 hours increases our risk of injury. In the same way, so does running a large percentage of weekly mileage during the long run—a long run should not total more than about a third of the total weekly mileage. I know I’m being reckless when I lose track of these markers.
- Capitalize on accumulative fatigue: the 20-mile long run, for instance, is not a magic number. We can get equally as much benefit from doing a 6-8 mile tempo run on Saturday. Then the next day do a more relaxed long run of about 14 miles with a fast finish over the last 3-4 miles. The accumulative fatigue of the day prior, along with finishing the semi-long run fast makes that Sunday run feel longer and harder. Still, recovery will come easier compared to just a long, steady 20-mile slog.
- Training the gut: I try to simulate race fuel and hydration as much as possible. In the old days, I would do long runs with barely any fluids or fuel. Now I use the same gels and the same fluids as the race will offer or that I plan to carry. I take them at the same intervals I would during a race.
- Time your fuel: over my many marathon attempts, I’ve learned that fuel (and fluids) are more beneficial earlier than waiting until later in the race. What is consumed at mile four will do more good than at mile 24. Unless you’re planning to run 27, 28, etc. miles.
- Break up the run: a strategy that can help with the mental strain of running for a long time. Run at slightly different paces for each segment. It will help the time to fly. I use the same strategy during the race.
- Run in your head: mentally prepare for the real deal. Be positive. Repeat empowering mantras. Visualize a spectacular and strong finish today and on race day.
- When all else fails, smile. You can do this!
Stick to your plan or your coach, but I hope these thoughts give you something to think about as you prepare for and execute those strategic long runs between now and your IMT race.
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