The Long Run IS Your Marathon Training Program!
Whatever your goal, the long run will help you more than any component of your running program.
Posted Saturday, 30 July, 2005
By going slowly, you can burn more fat, push back your endurance barriers and run faster at shorter distance races.
What is a long run?
The long run starts with the longest distance you’ve covered within the last two weeks and increases by one mile on a weekly long one up to 10 miles. At that point, you’ll shift to running long every other weekend, increasing by two miles each time. Once you reach 18 miles, increase by three miles every third week.
The mental benefits
While there are significant and continuing physical benefits from running long runs regularly, the mental ones are greater. Each week, I hear from beginning marathoners after they have just run the longest run of their lives. This produces mental momentum, self-confidence and a positive attitude. By slowing the pace and taking walk breaks, you can also experience a series of victories over fatigue with almost no risk of injury.
Pushing back your limits
As you push a mile or three farther on each long one, you push back your endurance limit. It’s important to go slowly on each of these (at least two minutes per mile slower than you could run that distance on that day) to make it easy for your muscles to extend their current endurance limit. When it’s really hot and humid, for example, you’ll need to run two and a half or three minutes per mile slower.
The most direct way to prepare for a marathon
As you extend the long one to 26 miles, you build the exact endurance necessary to complete the marathon (14 to 15 for the half marathon, eight to 10 for the 10K). Those who have marathon time goals can extend their capacity by running as far as 30 miles three to four weeks before the marathon. You’re actually pushing back your “endurance wall” with each long run.
Walk breaks speed recovery
Walk breaks, taken from the beginning, will also speed your recovery and make the extra distance on each run nothing more than a gentle challenge. By walking one to two minutes, after two to eight minutes of running, you shift the use of the muscle and reduce the intensity. Because you’re not using the muscle the same way continuously, you significantly increase the distance you can cover before fatigue sets in.
The long run builds endurance
As you extend a mile or three farther on each long one, you push back your endurance limit. It is important to go slowly on each of these (at least two minutes per mile slower than you could run that distance on that day) to make it easy for your muscles to extend their current endurance limit and recover afterward. As you lengthen the long one to 26 miles, you build the exact endurance necessary to complete the marathon. Walk breaks, taken from the beginning will also speed your recovery and make the extra distance on each run a gentle challenge.
On the non-long-run weekends, there are several options. Most runners will do a slow run of about half the distance of the current long run (up to 10 miles). On two to four of these “easy “ weekends, it is wise to do a 5K road race to predict what you might be able to do in the marathon. Veterans will do speed sessions on some of the non-long weekends. If you’re feeling good during these shorter runs, you can run them continuously, but there’s no advantage in doing this. In other words, walk breaks are at your discretion on the shorter runs, including the ones during the week.
Long run facts:
- Twenty miles with walking breaks equals 20 miles run continuously . . . at any speed (but you recover faster with walk breaks).
- Forget about speed on long runs. Focus only on the component of endurance.
- You can’t run too slowly on the long runs. Run at least two minutes per mile slower than you could run that distance on that day, accounting for heat, humidity, etc.
- You won’t usually feel bad when you’re running too fat at the beginning of the run so you must force yourself to slow down.
- The day before the long run should be a no-exercise day.
Walk breaks on long runs
- Must be taken early and often to reduce pounding and fatigue
- Must be taken often to allow the primary running muscles to recover fast – even when increasing long run length
- Will also help most marathoners run faster in the marathon itself
The most important walk breaks are the ones taken during the first mile and the second most important set, those taken in the second mile, etc. When taken from the beginning of all long ones, walk breaks erase fatigue, speed recovery, reduce injury, and yet bestow all of the endurance of the distance covered. In other words, a slow long run with walk breaks gives you the same distance conditioning as a fast one, when both cover the same distance.
Everyone should take a one to two-minute walk break every two to eight minutes on every long run. If you’re just beginning to run, you’ll walk more than you’ll run. Experienced marathoners will recover much faster from their long ones when they take one-minute walk breaks at least every eight minutes. The walk breaks can be done at a fast or an easy pace.
Printed with permission from Marathon! by Jeff Galloway, pp. 3-5
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