Week seven: January 2019
The marathon training long run.
How many long runs do you run?
How long or short should it be?
As a word of warning. If you’ve been training consistently, your fast and your competitively trying to improve your time, I think consistent high mileage long runs are important to running a sub 3 hour marathon time.
However if your just looking to finish a marathon or you run in over five hours etc it’s a lot of time on your feet, which is difficult to recover from during the training cycle. So I wouldn’t advise that it’s suitable in all cases.
I also know sub 3 runners that run less weekly miles, and don’t do consistent high mileage long runs, which makes a mockery of my original point, that you need to run consistent high mileage long runs.
One guy was exceedingly proud to tell me he ran 5 days a week under 50 miles a week, and got sub 3 in the brutal conditions of the 2018 Boston Marathon. Which had sub zero temperatures, high winds, and driving rain throughout the race… However this guy proceeded to mention he was a competitive triathlete which is a significant factor in his fitness and mental toughness.
The fact is what works for one athlete, doesn’t work for others.
For the shorter distances I can run them at a good pace, for example I ran three sub 90 min half marathons last year. Plus a sub 40 min 10k, and several sub 20 min 5ks. However I’ve not been able to convert that same pace evenly when running the marathon. Hence why I need to up my game for my long runs.
Alex Tilson a 2:22:45 marathon runner is a believer in the consistent long runs and delivers the truth bomb:
Don’t think you can show up on race day and do something you’ve never done before…A lot of people think they can draw on some special magic because it’s ‘race day,’ but you need to be honest with yourself.
Whilst training for a sub 2:22 marathon, he ran five half-marathon time trials at 1:11, whilst incorporating these into 27 to 30 mile runs. Whilst averaging 90 to to 95 miles a week.
I’m gradually building my long runs into my training, I’ve built up to a 24 mile long run last weekend, which took just over 3 hours. 20 miles were run slower than target pace at average 7:33min/mile with four warm up and warm down miles.
More time on your feet means more exposure to fatigue towards the end of these runs. Which is one part of the training, to break you down, to make you stronger. Which in turn gives you the strength to cope with running at faster paces, further down the training cycle.
A final point. Whilst I listen to podcasts etc on my easy paced runs. For key workouts and long runs. I think it’s key to run them without music etc. Because training isn’t just physical, it will be mentally uncomfortable, as I described in my workout in Week 6.
So take the opportunity in training to be comfortable being uncomfortable. As come race day, you can’t draw on a strength you haven’t developed.
To conclude, a key part to run in the 2 hour territory is doing consistent long runs, as it helps your body and mind get used to the time that you’re going to spend out on the roads. I think they help prevent you fading at the end.
But for balance. Marathon training doesn’t have a one size fits all. In the case where you have been injury prone for a while, it’s not worth the risk doing too many long runs. Work to find the best solution with your coach as it’s not worth being the fitness spectator.
This week the weekly mileage is 84.4 miles.
Manchester marathon is approximately ten weeks away, to see my journey on Instagram follow the hashtag.
*Photos thanks to Max Willcocks*