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Training Specificity: The Long Run

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The focus of all distance athletesspeed-training-80 looking to PR needs to be the long run. The long run isn’t limited to the one weekend run of 14+ miles. The long run also means the mid week 8+ miler, long tempo, and long intervals. In each instance, the runner is extending the distance and decreasing the speed.

Too often athletes over-run their pace, meaning they go too fast. I’ve known people who were aiming for a 3:30:00 (8min/mile) marathon run 4 mile tempos at 6:30/mile pace. The runner struggled with the pace and lost form and consistency with pace. Tempos and other types of speed workouts put a lot of strain on the body. When we run these workouts too fast we tend to run them in shorter distances. Why? Because our body tells us we can’t sustain too fast of a pace, so we either slow down too much or stop, both instances not helping us in our training.

Instead, what we should do is run a consistent pace that is just a bit faster than race pace. The incremental difference of pace helps our cardiovascular and muscular systems to adjust and adapt. This is the safest way to build and sustain speed over long distances.

Something else to keep in mind, repetition builds muscle memory. Running is a muscle memory sport. When we confuse the body too much, it stunts its ability to adapt. Therefore varying pacing and distances too much makes our body less able to withstand the rigors of long races. This is why I believe long intervals (1200m-3 mile)  and tempo runs of 5+miles (run no more than 1 minute faster than goal pace) are more beneficial to the runner. For one thing, the runner is capable and not over-reaching on the pace. Second, the runner is more closely simulating the work needed to run at goal pace.

Running closer to goal pace also means not running too slow during the long run. The same belief holds true for running slow as it does when we run faster than goal pace. Too much slow running only means we’re training ourselves to be slow runners.

Since the foundation of the distance runner is the long run, we need to make sure we give the needed amount of attention and importance on those workouts. We also have to be responsible and stay within our speed limits to give our bodies time to adapt before increasing speed.

Example workouts:
– 3 x 15 min. sub-race pace (5-10 seconds faster than race pace) w/ 3 min. jog
– 1 hour fartlek (always start by running the first 15 mins. as a warm-up)
Progression Run: 4+ mile run increasing speed after every mile.I like decreasing my pace by 15 seconds.
– 5 x 1200m at sub-race pace. This time running them 12-30 seconds faster than race pace.

Ryan Hall has a nice tip to include some speed into your weekend long run.

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