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Long runs vs. marathon pace runs

Posted Apr 27 2010 4:38pm
In my last post I mentioned that I attended the RRCA coaching certification class. Well, I've now passed the test, so after next week's CPR/first aid course, I'll officially be a coach!

I touched on the fact that one of my take-aways from the course was the fact that I run my long runs too fast. I'm guessing lots of people make the same mistake. From the comments I received to this post, it seems that a real gray area is the long run versus the marathon-paced run. Let me try to clear it up for you
Long runs are just that--your longest run of the week. Your main purpose in this run is to build your endurance. For many reasons, you want to keep this run on the slower side, about 1 1/2 minutes to 2 minutes slower than marathon pace. For more explanation on the whys of slower long runs,Tonia at racingwithbabes does a great job of explaining all the reasons behind the theory here.

Running a slower long run does not mean, however, that you won't be incorporating marathon pace (MP) runs into your training, if that is what you are training for. How to run a proper MP run? First, make sure you schedule at least one easy day in between it and your long run and any other speedwork you might be doing. Then follow these principles
  • Run the MP at an even pace
  • Run it at or near race goal pace
  • This is a continuous run--start with a nice one to two mile warm-up, do the MP, and follow with a cooldown of one to two miles.
  • Over the course of your training period, gradually increase the amount of miles you devote to MP runs.
You'll find that by doing your MP runs separate from your long run, you'll maximize the benefits you get from it. What are the benefits? Optimizing your lactate threshold and getting a good feel for your race pace, something that will come in plenty handy on marathon day!

I hope that helps clear up any confusion anyone might have had.
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