Triathlon Magazine Canada - - FEATURES - BY JASPER BLAKE

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.

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