The long run is a crucial ingredient for any distance runners training routine. Learn how variations can keep you from boredom and have you running faster times.
If you have completed any long distance training or racing, then I’m sure you have plenty of stories about your long run. We change meal plans, re-arrange our weekends, and wake up extra early to complete our weekly long miles. When it’s over, we feel like we could achieve almost anything!
Have you ever stopped to consider what your long run means to your training? Do you complete all your long runs at the same pace? Did you have difficulty finishing the closing miles of your last goal race?
Training to race long distances requires several specialized workouts in your weekly training routine (i.e., speedwork and tempo runs). Adopting a more specialized approach to your long run as well can have you achieving your fastest times in your next race.
Here is a look through the different type of long runs that I recommend…
Long Slow Distance:
Most of our long runs are considered long slow distance runs. These runs are completed at a pace that is 1 to 2-minutes slower than your goal pace. The slower speed supports an improvement in endurance and courage for the other types of workouts in your training plan. These runs are about time on your feet, allowing both your mind and body to adapt to moving forward for an increasingly more extended amount of time.
Most experts will suggest running long slow distance runs by time instead of distance. The focus on time helps to prevent fatigue, poor form, and increasing the risk of injury for pushing to achieve a certain distance. Suggestions are to add 10 to 15-minutes each week. Read More About Running for Time Instead of Distance
Long slow distance runs may be the perfect training specificity for you if you are a beginner runner, a runner returning from injury or a runner that does not have time-based goals. If those don’t describe you as a runner, then read on for some additional long run variety.
Long Run with Surges:
Are you training for a hilly course, but don’t have access to regular hills? Do you find yourself getting bored during your long runs? Then, completing a long run with random amounts of faster paced running may be the perfect answer.
After warming up at a relaxed pace for 20-30% of your long run, add in surges of various lengths every 10 to 15-minutes. These surges in speed may last only 30-seconds or up to 10 to 12-minutes. The idea is to surge for random amounts of time throughout the remainder of your run. These surges will help to simulate the challenges you may face during a race due to changes in terrain or accelerations from your competition.
Long Run at Race Pace:
We have mentioned several times now that specificity is a critical concept in long distance running. Sure covering the miles and getting used to time on your feet is essential. However, if you never run for long amounts of time at your goal race pace, then you may lack confidence on race day. Running at goal race pace is the primary focus on this type of workout.
Start your long run with easy running for 15-30% of the total time/distance to be covered. Then run the middle 60-75% of your long run at goal race pace. After the race pace effort, run easy again for the remaining time to allow your heart rate and breathing to come down slowly. For example, a long run of 20-miles would consist of 6 miles of easy running, 12-miles at race pace, and 2-miles of easy running.
For new or more beginner runners, you may already be doing most your long runs at your goal pace. That is okay! If this is you, then I suggest running a portion of your long run at your tempo or steady state pace. As you progress in experience and build up your fitness, you will be able to evolve the variations in running paces.
Fast Finish Long Run:
How many times have you started a race of any distance too fast, only to pay for it in the later miles? We may all be guilty of this at one time or another in our running careers. Thankfully, there is an easy way to prevent this from happening throughout your training.
On your next long run, run the first 40-60% of your run at a comfortable pace, then gradually pick up the pace for the last 40-60% of the run. You may choose to pick up the pace each mile or after a set amount of time, say every 10-minutes.
After experiencing fast finish long runs a few times, try to complete the last 10-minutes as quickly as possible. This “emptying the tank” concept can be an excellent visualizer for the way you want to finish your next race! The fast finish long run is now very commonplace in training plans for marathons and half marathons. However, this style of a long run can have similar benefits to runners training for shorter distance races as well.
I recommend not completing all your long runs with a fast finish, surges or goal paced running. These efforts are essentially the same as running a race every weekend. As mentioned, the majority of your long runs should be completed as Long Slow Distance Runs. I suggest doing the faster long run workouts every other week or every three weeks.