DIS­TANCE YEARN­ING Build your strength and speed

No matter what your pre­ferred race dis­tance, the long run is in­valu­able in train­ing

Runner's World (UK) - - In This Issue -

WHETHER YOU’RE TRAIN­ING FOR a marathon or just look­ing to im­prove your fit­ness, reg­u­lar runs that boost your en­durance should be a cor­ner­stone of your sched­ule. And the best work­outs for that are long runs. ‘The long run is what puts the tiger in the cat,’ says Bill Squires, who was coach to marathon greats such as Al­berto Salazar. For decades, se­ri­ous and recre­ational run­ners have agreed, with weekend runs last­ing for hours – whether solo or in groups – be­com­ing a tra­di­tion.

The pri­mary ben­e­fits of the long run are bet­ter stamina, stronger mus­cles and con­nec­tive tis­sue, and im­proved run­ning econ­omy and fat-burn­ing ef­fi­ciency. The long run is valu­able whether you’re tar­get­ing 5K or a marathon – both are pri­mar­ily aer­o­bic chal­lenges. While the steady-state long run (num­ber one in the list) is one of the sim­plest and most ef­fec­tive en­durance work­outs there is, there are also a num­ber of vari­a­tions to it, some spe­cific to marathon­ers, but oth­ers of­fer­ing a proven way to build gen­eral run­ning fit­ness. Drop one of the fol­low­ing into your rou­tine to build firm en­durance foun­da­tions.


WHY DO IT To build stamina, mus­cle and con­nec­tive tis­sue, im­prove run­ning econ­omy and fat-burn­ing ef­fi­ciency.

HOW TO DO IT Long runs vary widely ac­cord­ing to goal race (they are key in marathon train­ing), but in gen­eral terms, a weekly long run done at a con­ver­sa­tional pace (you should be able to talk in sen­tences) and last­ing for at least an hour is a good start­ing point (be­gin­ners should build up to this point).


WHY DO IT Pop­u­larised by coach Pete Pfitzinger, these are run mid­week. This means, he says, ‘the mus­cles must main­tain a sus­tained ef­fort ev­ery three or four days, which leads to greater adap­ta­tions’.

HOW TO DO IT Medi­um­long runs are 75-85 per cent as long as your reg­u­lar long run and done at a con­ver­sa­tional or, if you want to push it, steady pace. They might be run the day af­ter a more in­tense run so they also boost your pow­ers of re­cov­ery.


WHY DO IT You get an aer­o­bic-train­ing stim­u­lus twice a day; run­ning pre-fa­tigued dur­ing the sec­ond run ac­cesses dif­fer­ent mus­cle fi­bres, but it doesn’t beat your body up as much as a longer sin­gle run.

HOW TO DO IT A dou­ble day works well as a sub­sti­tute for the medium long run (left) the day af­ter a qual­ity work­out. So if you do in­ter­vals on Tues­day, in­stead of an eight-miler on Wed­nes­day, do two runs of four miles each – one in the morn­ing and one late in the after­noon.


WHY DO IT Breaks up the monotony of long runs.

HOW TO DO IT Run for 20 min­utes at a very con­ser­va­tive pace, then start to grad­u­ally speed up to about one minute slower than your marathon goal pace. Af­ter the 60-minute mark, do the first 20-60 secs of each re­main­ing mile at a faster clip – up to a minute per mile faster than marathon pace. ‘These bursts force you to push it when you’re tired,’ says Josh Cox, the US record holder in the 50K.


WHY DO IT Teaches the body to hold form when tired.

HOW TO DO IT Marathon trainees should do this in­stead of a 20-mile long run a week or two be­fore ta­per­ing. Run the first five miles at two min­utes per mile slower than marathon goal pace. Grad­u­ally in­crease the pace to one minute per mile slower than marathon pace by 10 miles, then 30 secs per mile slower than marathon pace by 15 miles. Run the last three miles at, or close to, marathon goal pace.


WHY DO IT In­ter­vals of faster run­ning in the last few miles of a long run re­cruit fast-twitch mus­cle fi­bres and teach them to kick in even at slower paces. Break­ing out of a set­tled pace when tired also re­quires fo­cus.

HOW TO DO IT In­sert five 30-sec surges (or ‘strides’ – smooth in­creases in pace), with two min­utes of easy run­ning be­tween them, for the last few miles of a long run. Keep the surges com­fort­able – around tempo pace (it should be com­fort­ably hard, but not flat out).


WHY DO IT Run­ning a good marathon is about run­ning a solid 10K af­ter hours on your feet, mean­ing in­creased ef­fort late in the race. This hard work­out helps pre­pare you. In­sert it once or twice in place of a long run.

HOW TO DO IT Warm up for three miles, run three to four miles at tempo (com­fort­ably hard) pace, then slow down to easy (con­ver­sa­tional) pace for the next hour. Then, once again, run three to four miles at tempo pace, be­fore cool­ing down.


WHY DO IT Helps you prac­tise run­ning marathon pace when tired.

HOW TO DO IT Pfitzinger ad­vises one or two long runs where you run 12-15 miles at goal marathon pace (eg, do 20 miles with 12 miles in the mid­dle at goal pace). This type of long run is great for faster marathon­ers who run their long runs slower than their marathon pace. For slower run­ners who are al­ready run­ning at marathon race pace in their long runs, he sug­gests run­ning the faster seg­ment at a steady pace.


WHY DO IT Builds leg and men­tal strength, and car­dio­vas­cu­lar en­durance. HOW TO DO IT Le­gendary New Zealand coach Arthur Ly­di­ard had his run­ners do a hilly 22-mile route in base train­ing. To em­u­late it, find a 15-20-mile looped route with a flat start for at least a few miles and then a climb when you’re into your rhythm, fol­lowed by an un­du­lat­ing pro­file and then a grad­ual de­scent to a flat­tish finish. Feel­ing more dar­ing? Try adding another climb just be­fore the end.


WHY DO IT Go­ing long in a carb-de­pleted state im­proves your body’s abil­ity to metabolise fat as an en­ergy source.

HOW TO DO IT Not one for new run­ners; oth­ers can try it once or twice in base train­ing. Set out in the morn­ing – hav­ing not had break­fast – and run for at least 90 mins with­out tak­ing on carbs (wa­ter and/or elec­trolyte drinks are fine). Keep the pace con­ver­sa­tional to max­imise fat­fu­elling and re­duce the risk of crash­ing and burn­ing. Carry some en­ergy gels – just in case.

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