On Marathoning — The Long Runs

I think if you ask anyone who has ever trained to run a marathon they’ll say that the number one most important facet of their training was the long run. And I would agree with them — but would probably disagree with how they ran them.

The long run, in my opinion, is the most important piece of training for covering the 26.2 mile distance. But, to cover that distance fast, you have to train to cover the distance fast. Rarely are any of the long runs I schedule for someone trying to run a fast marathon to be covered slowly.

So, what kind of long runs do we schedule?

  1. Max long runs. These are the slowest of the long runs I will schedule. And the ‘max’ in their title means that we are going maximum distance of the training build up. For my elite-level runners this is usually 24 miles. I believe you should cover at least 22 miles in the training cycle, but prefer to get at least one run of up to 24 miles in. Now, while these runs are the slowest, they aren’t slow. I try to have the athlete run them in a naturally progressive manner, where they start very easy and build up throughout the run and finishing at a strong, but still highly aerobic effort.
  2. Fast finish long runs. These are typically 20-22 miles long and scheduled to be run in this manner…The first 16 miles easy with the last 4 miles run at a pace between the athletes half marathon and marathon goal pace. Usually we’ll tack on a 2-mile cool down for a 22 mile day.
  3. Segment long runs. This is a session that I detailed just a few posts ago, but it’s another 20-22 mile run that includes two four-mile ‘tempo’ segments, somewhere between half marathon and marathon goal pace with an 8-12 mile steady segment between them. So, the format would be something like this:
    2 miles warm up + 4 miles ‘tempo’ + 10 miles steady + 4 miles ‘tempo’ + 2 miles cool down = 22 miles total.
  4. Steady state long runs. These are the hardest long runs scheduled of the lot and are typically only scheduled once in a build up by myself, if at all. Again, we’ll go 20-22 miles total on this session, but run the middle 16-18 miles at a steady clip, about 15-20 seconds slower per mile than marathon pace for the elite level athlete.

With these four types of long runs I typically try to use them in a cycle every other week, and not do any of these long runs within the last 2.5-3 weeks of the training build up. If you had a 16 week training period I would schedule something like this:

Fast finish long run (15 weeks out)

Max long run — 20-22 miles (13 weeks out)

Fast finish long run (11 weeks out)

Segment long run (9 weeks out)

Max long run — 22-24 miles (7 weeks out)

Steady State long run (5 weeks out)

Fast finish long run (3 weeks out)

For a shorter build up we would try to get in one of these sessions every 10-days if possible.

As usual if you have any questions please email me at thedailyrun@gmail.com.


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