LONG RUN PREPARATION RACE DAY PACE HOW FAR?
FULL-DISTANCE RUNS ARE not necessarily about speed, but rather your ability to run with tired muscles and handle the impact on your body – every time your foot hits the ground your body must handle a force equal to about 2.5 times your body weight. Handling that impact and being able to stay on pace as your muscles start to fatigue will be your main limiters during the final leg of a full-distance event.
The pace itself is relatively easy during a full-distance race. Your heart and lungs will probably be able to go all day at that effort, but muscular fatigue will eventually get the better of you.
Which is why it’s important to develop an ability to tolerate the impact forces your body must endure while you run. One way to do that is to run hills –not just going up, but also going down, too. Running downhill can dramatically improve your ability to handle the forces your body needs to absorb when you’re running. This type of training has to be approached with caution, though. Softer surfaces are better, and the gradient should not be overly steep: five degrees of incline/ decline is usually enough. It does not take much to increase the load experienced by the body when running downhill. Interval sets that include running up and down hills are the most effective and time efficient way to train.
The second strategy to help improve impact tolerance is to include regular long runs (over 90 minutes) and ensure that you run a few times a week. A smart training program will increase your run duration and frequency gradually so your body has time to recover and adapt. It’s also important to run on pavement. Many athletes will head for softer surfaces for long runs, which is fine at certain times of the year, but leading into a full-distance event you should spend some time running on pavement if that is the surface you’ll be racing on. You don’t have to run on pavement all the time, but it’s good to have a mixture of soft and hard surfaces to make sure your legs are ready. Pacing on your long runs is incredibly important. One of the biggest mistakes athletes make is to execute their long runs at a pace or effort that is too slow. Long runs leading into a full-distance race should be at the same pace you are aiming for on race day. These workouts will be challenging and don’t need to be done all year – a block of 12 to 16 weeks, with one race specific run per week, is sufficient. The length of the longest runs are important. Professionals may be able to complete 35 to 37 km in a 2.5 hour run. But what if you are aiming for a four- to five-hour marathon? Should you do a four-hour run leading in so you can get close to the full distance? No. There is a point where the risk of injury from all the impact outweighs the physiological benefits you stand to gain by going longer. One way to increase the run mileage with less risk of injury is to incorporate some double-run days. You can do a long run in the morning maxing out at 2.5 to 2.75 hours and a shorter 20- to 30-minute run on the same day that evening to add some more mileage with less risk of injury.