Welcome to the ‘in the long run – you`ll find endurance’. Here you will find the reasons behind the use of the long run. – Dave Spence – ex-resident coach, Cape Town
The long run is the cornerstone of marathon training. In marathon training it has been found that 3 runs of 28-35 km over the 8 weeks prior to the marathon are an important predictor of completing the marathon.
The long run is also an important element for middle distance runners. The 10K runner will benefit from runs of 13, 16 and even up to 22 km or more and a 5K runner will from runs of 10, 12 and up to 18 km or so. The long run has been emphasised as the building block of training for over 30 years. Arthur Lydiard and many others have made it the base component of training programmes for distance runners. All of today’s programmes highlight the importance of the long run. Just what magic does the long run do? Long distance aerobic running gives the strength and ground work on which much will be built. Lactate threshold training, speed work, and stamina will all come later, but the ability to run long has many benefits.
VO2 max will increase from running within your aerobic training range. Capillaries will grow, enhancing the blood supply to the muscle fibres. Training increases the number and size of mitochondria. The mitochondria are the aerobic powerhouses of the cell. A variety of key aerobic enzymes will also increase. More myoglobin will be found in the skeletal muscle fibres. The significance of the increase in capillaries and myoglobin are the assistance that this will provide to the part of the VO2 equation specifying the difference in concentration of oxygen in arterial and venous blood, these changes facilitate oxygen transfer into the muscles.
Summary Of Long Run Effects:
- Strengthens the heart – larger stroke volume.
- Strengthens the leg muscles – endurance is developed.
- Mind Work – mental toughness and coping skills are developed.
- Develops fat burning capacity
- Increases number and size of mitochondria
- Increases capillary growth into muscle fibres.
- Increases myoglobin concentration in muscle fibres.
- Increases aerobic efficiency.
- Increase in Maximum VO2..
Aerobic long runs also predominantly train the Type I Slow Twitch Fibres and Type II-b Fast Twitch fibres. These fast twitch “intermediate” fibres will become more adept at oxidative metabolism.
Rest the day before or make sure that your workout is an easy one. Increase your percentage of carbohydrate in your diet for a few days before the run. This will be good training for marathon week, if you have one planned. Try to sleep well the night before the run. In the summer, do it early, before the temperature climbs into the high 20’s and 30’s. Skip fatty foods, even tasty ones like pizza the day before the long run. Drink lots of water the day before the run and stay well hydrated during it.
During The Run:
Run about 1 minute to 1.5 minutes slower than anticipated marathon pace. Bring water and drink plenty of it during the run. Use energy drinks every 30 to 50 minutes on runs over 90 minutes.
Using a variety of training cues is helpful. Having an idea of the pace you should be running, keeping tabs on your heart rate and keeping it approximately 65% – 80% of MHR, and monitoring your perceived exertion will help keep your aerobic long runs in the aerobic range.
The longer the run the slightly slower the pace and heart rate should be. These runs are not meant to be at a hard pace for most of us. Those who are running 110-180 km per week are in a different category. They can run a bit closer to race pace or run their relaxed 28-32 km and then do 1000m repeats at 10K pace as some of the elite runners do now. That is not even a dream for the non-elite runner. (It sounds more like a nightmare, if it were even a remotely accomplishable feat.).
It is possible to include some pick ups within your long run if you have run a few marathons already. I suggest not running your long run at your marathon pace however. For most long runs I recommend 45 seconds to 90 seconds km slower than marathon pace.
For the advanced runner, looking for variety start off easy: do the first 3/4 of the distance at your long run pace, then speed up to finish close to marathon race pace in the last 1/4 of the run. For example on a 24 km run, run the first 18 at an easy pace, the last 6 go at least 20 – 30 seconds per km faster than you started out. An alternative is to run the first hour and 1/2 of a two hour run slow and easy and pick it up a bit in the last 30 minutes. You should not try these on a 40-60 km per week schedule or in your first marathon. On the lower mileage schedule your long run should be a purely aerobic workout with the only stress being the distance. Your body is learning to use fat as fuel at the lower speeds and longer distances. The benefit is coming from just being out on the road for longer than 1 1/2 – 2 hours.
Don’t forget to run slow and run long. This base is what the rest of the training pyramid will build on. Time spent in training is more important than pace for this type of running. And if you are considering the long run to improve your base for 10K running programs: try it, you might like it.
* Rest the day before or make sure that your workout is an easy one.
* Increase your percentage of carbohydrate in your diet for a few days before the run. This will be
good training for marathon week, if you have one planned.
* Try to sleep well the night before the run.
* In the summer, do it early, before the temperature climbs.
* Skip fatty foods, even tasty ones like pizza the day before the long run.
* Drink lots of water the day before the run and stay well hydrated during it.
* Run the 1-2 km extra slow in hot or cold weather.
source: article by the late David Spence
View further Training articles
- The Need for Sleep
- Ten Mistakes Endurance Athletes Make
- Ten Mistakes Endurance Athletes Make – Part 2
- Timing your Workout
- Components of endurance training explained
- Build Rest and Recovery Into Your Fitness Programme
- The cornerstones of training
- In the long run – You`ll find endurance
- Six Building Blocks of Distance Running
- Six Building Blocks of Distance Running – Part 2