Sunday, March 11, 2012

Long Run Success Theories. (Fast=Run x More?)

This weekend, I ran 18 miles.  I'd love to say that it was rainbows and ponies and glitter, but it was awful.  Not even two podcasts of This American Life, or Lemon-Lime Nuun could save me.  I've been subscribing to the fast-finish run method, and I ran the last few miles at marathon pace.  In my cool-down mile, I stumbled around my neighborhood, dreaming of Epsom Salts and hash browns, cursing myself for signing up for two marathons this year.  Yup, it sucked.   I took pictures to reflect my feelings before and after.  (They are not all..)

The thing is, if this is what I need to do to be prepared on race day, I'm willing to do it.  Or even more if need be. 

But there are a million different recommendations on long runs. The long run is the cornerstone of marathon training, there's no doubt about that.  And everyone has their own opinion on what the right way to do them is.  Overtraining, undertraining, too fast, too slow, too long, too short?   It's hard to tell what's the right thing to do!  Here's some various conflicting pieces of wisdom I've heard and the justifications behind them.

Frankly, I think you all have lost your minds, including you, Mr. McMillan.  (kidding, I love your calculator).

How to have the best long run ever (conflicted version)

Fuel a lot before and during Long Runs: If you don't give your body energy, how will it perform like you want it to?  Running without fuel causes too much stress on your body and running with it will train you to be able to stomach eating on race day.

Don't Fuel on Long Runs:  If you deny your body carbohydrates, your body will become better at burning fat and not burning through all carbohydrate stores.  This will help you perform even better when your body has access to fuel (race day).

Pace is unimportant.  Just get the miles in:  A long run is mostly so that you can train your body to run more efficienctly, and strengthen yourself both mentally and physically.  Trying to push the pace over three hours will just stress your body and expose it to injury.

Run Fast.  How will you run fast on race day if you don't in training? It's important to get miles under your legs at marathon pace or faster in a long run.  Running a long run at marathon pace shouldn't be a problem and will train you to run fast.  At least do some fast finish runs.

Don't run more than 20 miles during training: Running more than 20 miles in training exposes you to the risk of injury and breaking your body down too far.  18-20 milers should be enough.

Run 24+ miles in training:  I don't personally know anyone who does this.  But my friend Gisele says that some of the elites do it.  Like 30 mile training runs.  Run like an elite, become more elite?

I get that some of the recommendations are more for beginner marathoners and some for advanced, but I still think there's some overlap in schools of training thought.

So here's where you offer your opinion, por favor.  What sort of long run do you find is most important to your training?  Which do you think helps you improve your times?

Who knew something so pure could be so complicated!

(Also, I changed my blogger url to "".  The blogspot one is supposed to redirect but it's not.  Hopefully I'm still showing up in your reader if you follow?)


  1. I'm in the 'don't run your long runs at a blistering pace' camp. In fact, I try to chose really tough trails for my longer runs specifically so that I cannot focus on pace. But as with most things in life, different things work well for different people.

    Good luck with it!

    1. Totally agree. That's kind of a good idea with the tough trails because it would keep things interesting as well!

  2. Yes, I am wondering the same thing that you're wondering!

    I just sort of run my long runs at whatever pace feels reasonable. Yes, I know that's vague, but that's just how I do it.

    This spring, I just usually run at whatever pace my training group is going at. We'll start off at something comfortable, conversational, such as an 8:05 pace. The last few miles, we'll usually pick it up and we'll do THEIR race pace (which is faster than mine), but I'll just hang on and do it because it feels fine even though it's an increased effort.

    I always hear that speed comes from speed work on the track, tempo stuff, etc. So I don't set out to break records at all on long runs, but I also don't want to lolly gag at a pace that's like 2 minutes off of my marathon pace. Big mental component to it as well, knowing that I can comfortably do a certain pace for 20 miles makes me think that I can pick up the pace a bit during a marathon and hold onto that for an additional 6 miles.

    I also recover more quickly than some people, so I don't need to run a snail pace in order to preserve my legs for the rest of the week.

    So in summary, I think everyone has something different that works for them mentally and physically. I'm curious to see what the fast girls say here.

    1. Thanks for the comment! Yeah you run some great long runs that is for sure. I recover super slow so I have to be really careful.

  3. I don't know where I stand on this either, because I've done them slow and fast in different training cycles & both results ended up great. I also did a 24-mile training run once and didn't die... but also didn't become elite.

  4. haha. If that 24 miler made you become elite, I am going out on one of those

  5. I absolutely LOVE this post, because I have had these same exact thoughts before! How are you supposed to know what to do when people are saying the exact OPPOSITE thing that other people are saying?