Happy Monday! Hope you all had a good weekend.
I got my second 20 miler in this weekend. My goal was to start easy and pick it up toward the end if I was feeling good. I felt great, so the last 6-7 miles I picked up the pace until I hit goal marathon pace for the last 3 miles.
Have you noticed the wide range of paces that runners will run their long run? If you’re on Instagram, there is almost a pride around how fast you run your weekend long run and I’m amazed at the variance of pacing.
I understand this… it feels good to nail a long run close to goal marathon pace, rather than running the 60 seconds- 2 minutes slower that most plans prescribe.
So should you run your long run fast or slow? Here are my thoughts and findings, and I’d love to hear yours…
Why run the long run slow
The slow, long run is one of the best tools for developing your aerobic threshold. Why does it matter? This threshold is the place you can run for hours and you want to be as efficient as you can for the marathon. By training for hours at a slow pace, you can increase your aerobic threshold so it is easier to run faster and stay in the aerobic (fat-burning) zone. (This is also similar to zone 1 (easy) in heart rate training.) Running it 1-2 minutes slower than goal marathon pace also ensures that you will recover quickly.
If you run it too fast, you’ll move out of the aerobic zone and miss the benefits of aerobic training.
Why run the long run fast
Run Less, Run Faster is one of the few plans that does call for a relatively fast long run pace (often within 30-45 seconds of goal marathon pace). This plan is based on only 3 running days a week and each run is about quality.
However, for most other plans and individuals running 4-6+ times per week, the majority of the long runs should be done at a comfortable, conversational pace.
More advanced runners can include a few faster long runs to better simulate the marathon and to prepare the body to burn fuel efficiently at marathon pace. Running Competitor lists two marathon-specific workouts but recommends that runners do no more than 2-3 per marathon cycle.
McMillian recommends occasionally using the fast finish technique, but no more than once or twice a month. In this run, you would use the last 3-6 miles to find marathon pace and then finish with a mile or two faster than marathon pace. This helps the body learn to push through fatigue as we will have to do at the end of the marathon.
If you use the base period to build your aerobic threshold, you have more flexibility to run the long run at varying speeds. However, running the long run at a fast pace is extremely taxing on the body and can negatively affect your upcoming workouts as you will need additional time to recover.
It’s important to include training time at various training zones- you want some really easy runs (aerobic threshold), tempo runs (lactate threshold) and speed work (VO2). How much of each will depend on the distance you are training for, your past training history, and your goals.
Beginners should focus on covering the distances, but more advanced runners can incorporate some faster paced miles into a handful of long runs.
The bottom line is, stick with your plan and be confident in it’s purpose. Even those slow runs are making you stronger and faster!
How do you handle long runs? Have you tried fast finish long runs?