Hello, good friend, oh how I’ve missed you. I knew today was coming since last week and I looked to it with both eager anticipation and trepidation. I’ve been running pretty much all outside the last two weeks, and it was high time to do an outside long run.
I have been doing quite a bit of weekly road miles, for me, so I wanted to be smart and gradually up the distance of my long run so I didn’t wind up injured and all that jazz. So today I added 2 miles to the 11 miles I’ve been covering outside…so let’s be smarter than a first grader and make that 13 miles.
Eons ago that would have been ‘nothing’ in my mind and I would have pushed the pace. But today’s goal was to just cover the distance and get ‘er done. I say I was both excited and a little nervous for these reasons:
* Long runs were and will always be my favorite runs/workouts. I’m a true distance person with not a single fast-twitch muscle fiber, so I feel more in my element. I have felt like a quasi-runner knowing that I haven’t been doing a ‘real’ long run.
* My favorite way to run long runs used to be to go fast; there was nothing more rewarding than finishing an awesome long run and looking back over my splits.
Today I knew for darn sure there was going to be no speed racer showing up. That’s okay, I am more than happy to at least be doing a long run at all, but it’s a shift of thinking. Plus, I’m kind of excited to see my progress; today was a starting point and I want to see myself gradually get the pace down. Sure, it still may not be of speed racer status, but there will at least be the element of putting in the effort and doing that offers that same kind of endorphin run/reward feeling.
But to long runs in general, I know that there are more and more articles and training philosophies that specifically say: DON’T go too fast and hard on your long runs, long runs are meant to be relaxed and just about building the aerobic base. I would agree that for the most part, that’s the way to go and I can vouch that my coaches were constantly telling me NOT to try and race my long runs and slow down for many of them.
Real fast, this next part is going to be only my personal opinion and I’m not a coach or bona-fide specialist, so take it for what it’s worth…only from experiences I’ve gleaned over the years. I say that for the most part, yes, you want to keep your long runs relaxed and make the priority covering the distance and not totally tapping out the tank. For those who are planning to run a marathon, it’s very important to just get the time out there on your feet and to do that, you want to safely ramp up the distances of your long runs. There is another rule that I agree with: only do introduce one new variable at a time in your training, either adding more volume OR increasing speed, not both at the same time.
So, if you are making your long run longer than last week you typically shouldn’t be then also trying to go faster. This is particularly true if your goal is to just finish the marathon and time is not a big factor.
BUT, if you plan on really racing longer distance races I think it’s smart to turn some of your long runs into workouts every couple of weeks. Use the first few miles as a warm-up and build the middle chunk into a tempo type workout, long repeats (multi-miles), or make it a progressive long run where you get faster and finish under marathon or whatever-goal-race pace.
Why? If you plan on running the actual distance fast you need to train fast. The reason I really liked doing tempo-long runs is because I felt it not only made me stronger physically but mentally as well. There are some big mental barriers that you need to crash through when you hit say, 5 miles of a tempo effort and know you’ve still got 5 more. (add more barriers if those distances are even longer!) I knew that by miles 6,7, and 8 I’d be grimacing, those dang middle miles are the worst because you’re not quite at the ‘okay, I’m almost done, the end is in sight’ point.
But I knew that when I ended that long run, using the rest as a cool-down, that the next time a 5k or 10k race came up it would feel so much shorter. So hard long runs callous the mind and the body. I think the aerobic base they build is very important as well.
That said, they take a lot out of you and that’s why you then hear, read about, and see so much talk of stressing: take your long runs easy. You need the time to recover from them, make that exponentially more if you do them as a workout.
So I think it all just depends on your goals. If you aren’t concerned about the time/pace of your race and the goal is to finish, then by all means you probably should only keep your long runs easy and relaxed. But if you do want to race, then as they say, “Race fast? Run fast.” Going that route, don’t do a hard long run the day after a race or hard workout, make sure you do an easy run the next day if not the next two, and count it as your long interval workout for the week. Also know that you shouldn’t be doing this every week; do it every other week at the most. Finally, treat your body right and recover the rest of the day…veg style baby!
Wrapping up my epic post, like I said I love long runs. I used to love them because I felt in my element and would be chomping at the bit to see how fast I could do them. Today’s long run was not of the kind eons ago, it was about making sure I covered the distance, remembering that I still love the long runs and now I can at least feel like a ‘real’ runner again.
1) Do you do long runs, do you like them?
2) What have you heard about how to approach long runs?
3) What are you up to this weekend?