Reinstituting the Long Run and the Debate on How to Run Them

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.

runner on beach

hmmm, wich I ran there but not today.

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.

optical illusion

Mind of matter, baby! 🙂

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?

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11 thoughts on “Reinstituting the Long Run and the Debate on How to Run Them

  1. I love your posts! And I LOVE long runs!! They are my FAVOURITE (after beloved tempos of course!). What you’ve said is interesting but makes sense! I’ve always heard to take them sloooow and I started using MacMillan running calculator at the start of my half mary training to calculate my long run pace, but that just felt uncomfortably slow!

    And YAAY you are so making a huge comeback!! Are you gonna be racing any time soon? Any big plans? I think you would be AMAZING if you raced! 🙂

    • ya, i know that there are lots that profess to only go slow, but again just my opinion, if u want to race fast u have to have some faster, longer workouts/run to prepare u to do so.

      and YOU my friend, i’m so excited u’re back out there and racing! 🙂

  2. I LOVE long runs! Mostly because it gives me a free pass to run slow. I’m am not a fast runner by any means. I love the long and comfortable pace. It makes me feel normal and not like I suck and can’t run like all my blog friends!

    This is Canadian Thanksgiving weekend so I have a few fam jams to attend…which probably means lots of food 😀

    • haha….u are not slow, u got a medal to prove it! 🙂

      ya, it threw me when i saw someone post about thanksgiving, again, u canadians are always throwing me for a loop!! i hope u got ur major nosh on! 🙂

  3. I actually think putting a tempo or threshold into a long run is the best training you can do for longer races like half marathons or marathons… I’m no expert either, but my college coach (who I believe is a running genius) said that my tempo long run would be my absolute best and most important workout when preparing for the marathon… so I’m with you!

    I love long runs… especially when I feel like I’ve killed it! I might like track work and repeats a little more, but if you have some good friends and a little push, long runs can be ridiculously fun!

    We still need to run together! Long run Saturday one of these weekends?

    • amen, sister! i’m the same way, i kno i’m not an expert but the people i’ve been around and coached by are, in my opinion, geniuses and so i’ll go with wat they say and also wat has been my personal experiences with things.

      we SO need to get together for a long run…that would be awesome, where do u usually go?

  4. I LOVE long runs and love that I don’t have to go fast. Although, the tempo long run sounds like a really smart way to train your body to run at a faster pace for your 1/2 or full marathon. I did 20 miles yesterday, and ended up running the 2nd 10 miles 5 mins slower than the first 10! I know that negative splits are better, but I was just happy to have gotten my first 20-miler of training done! I’m thinking my next long training run I’ll try and push it more at the end, while still staying smart to prevent injuries!!

    I’m not training to race per say, but I would like to PR!!!

    • look at u and the BIG 2-0!!!! i’m so proud of u!!! and like i said, if u are adding one new element (adding more miles) u don’t want to mess with the other. so for ur long run u did the exact right thing and just got the miles in, putting the time in on your feet. and i count going for a PR as racing…that’s what racing is, going for ur personal best effort and pushing urself. i’d say that if next week u are running the same distance or less, it would be okay to try and pick up the pace during the later portion. I would say that u should wait at least until u get through the first half and asses how u are feeling first. But if u feel good, slightly pick it up. If u still feel strong thru 3/4 pick it up gradually again. let me know how it goes if u try, but if no pressure either way…and u can try going faster a different time. ur body is still getting used to those LONG, long runs! 🙂

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  6. Just found your blog and I’m enjoying. 🙂 I’m relatively new to running, and definitely new to distance running. I am right there with you that endurance is my strength; I have three speeds, slow, slower and stopped. I just got into longer distances this year, starting with my first 10 miler in the spring, my first half marathon a month ago, and training for my first marathon in about 5 weeks! I just slog through the miles for the long runs, though I often have negative splits. The first 3 miles are warmup for me, it takes that long for me to hit my stride and my lungs and legs to stop protesting that I’m killing them. It has been fun challenging myself with longer and longer distances, even though my pace is around 12:30/mi (right on target for race day). My first of two 20 mile training runs is this weekend, and I’m already prepping in my head. 🙂 I think next time around I will try to do some of the things you mention on my long runs, but this time it’s just about logging the miles and gaining the endurance.

    • THANKS for stopping by joy!! and awesome to have u along for the read! CONGRATS on all u’ve accomplished thus far and trust me, u’ll rock that marathon. as for that beastly 20 miler, u are spot on, that it’s just about getting those miles done and the time on ur feet. u don’t want to make ur first attempt at the distance a workout, lest it become a drudge-fest. great start with the prepping before hand, mental outlook is SO critical…know that u CAN do it, yes there will be tough moments and times u question, but when that part in ur brain tells u to stop keep ur goals in mind and remember that those ‘tough’ points do pass, and it’s amazing how much different u can feel a mile later. GOOD LUCK And let me know how it goes! 🙂

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