In Finish Your Marathon Strong: Part 1 I discussed how runners should execute race plans for distances from the 5k up to the marathon. What I didn’t talk about was the training needed to execute those race plans. Now, I’ll share what you need to do in training to run to your potential.
The original question asked was “How do I keep from bonking from 18-26.2 miles in the marathon?” Great question.
The first thing a marathoner needs to do is be honest about the race distance. It’s a long, difficult race. If you think that running long runs of just 16 miles is going to prepare you to run to your potential for 26.2 miles, you’re wrong. Yes, you can run a solid marathon with just a 16 mile long run, but you won’t run to your potential in the race.
I firmly believe that in a marathon cycle you need to run 18, 20 and at least one 22 mile long run. If you follow my 20 week plan, you will have ample time to build from an 8 or 10 mile long run to the 22 mile run (with several 18s and a couple of 20s as well). A staple workout for Kenyan marathoners is 38k, ending very fast. That’s 23.6 miles…ending very fast….
The long run teaches your body to utilize fat as a fuel source and the more efficient you become at this process, the better you can run those last 6-8 miles, just as the original runner asked.
But what about the role of the long run for shorter distances? What follows are the minimum distances needed to run well, followed by the ideal distances.
For the half marathon you need to be able to run at least a 10 mile long run in your preparation. But to be honest, that’s not nearly enough if you want to run a great race. If you really want to run a great half marathon, 13, 14, 15 and even 16 mile long runs should be your goal.
10k runners need to run at least 8 miles on their long run to race the distance well. But again, the serious 10k runner will shoot for a two hour long run, trying to get in several of those long runs in a training cycle.
The nice thing about training for a 5k is that you don’t need to commit to more than 90 minutes for your long run. …but you do need to commit 90 minutes to your long run. Anything less and you will fail to run to your potential.
If it makes you feel better, I ran the 5k in college (14:20 PR) and ran 20 miles every Sunday morning that I was healthy. The mentality on the run was easy for a mile, then I ran as hard as I could for the next 19. I have little patience for the 5k runner who says they want to PR, but can’t find time for a 90 minute run.
After you get in the long run each week, you need a solid aerobic workout. Fartleks are versatile and one of my favorite workouts. Threshold runs are obviously great. Aerobic repeats are just as they sound – repeats that don’t have you producing much lactate. An example would be 4 x 8 min at a challenging pace, with 3 min steady between. That’s 41 minutes of solid aerobic running.
The key for all the solid aerobic workouts is to run via minutes and not miles. This way, you know how much time you need to carve out of your work day to be able to do the run.
In the weeks leading up to the race you need to do some race pace work. The longer the race, the more work you do at that pace. You can do 5,000m of race pace work in 5k training, but after that you don’t need to do quite as much (though the 10k runner probably wants to do 8,000m of race pace work).
I’d like to end with the two components that most runners aren’t doing. You need to do strides on your easy days. They don’t have to be fast – 5 x 20-30 seconds at 5k pace, with 60-90 seconds of recovery jogging is all you need.
You also need to do core strength, hip strength and hip mobility. I have some good resources you can check out here and here. This spring I will be shooting new videos that will be great resources for you. Bottom line is you need to do this type of work every day that you run.
So there is your bare bones training plan. Focus on those elements and give yourself enough weeks to build up the long run.