Sunday, August 19, 2007

Long Runs with a Kick

We all know our long runs are the meat of any marathon training program; the most basic training programs essentially consist of base milage and a long run on the weekend. However, I've recently put a twist on my long runs. The idea originally came from Hal Higdon: he suggests doing a 3:1 workout every few weeks when feeling good. The idea is simple, run the first 75% easy then push for the remainder of the run.

I first read about this while training for my first marathon last year, and simply discarded it as crazy talk; running fast at the end of a 20 miler?! However, this time around my training is more about speed, and when I read similar advice recently (I believe in Runners World, although I'm not positive) I decided to give it a shot at the end of a long run where I'm feeling fresh.

My strategy is to do the majority of my run at a relaxed pace, about a minute per mile slower than goal race pace. If I have to run slower to run with a group, this is not a problem for me. Slow long runs are better because you will be on your feet for a longer time, thus increasing your endurance; although going too slow can result in poor form, too slow being more than 20% slower than goal pace (Advanced Marathoning by Pete Pfitzinger).

However when training with a specific time goal, one lingering question that was always on my mind is: Sure, I can do a tempo run at race pace, but can I hit it and hold it after 15 miles? To answer this question, I started running race pace for the last 25% of my long runs on days I'm feeling good at the end.

Although the experts may argue the physiological advantages of this aren't there, I can vouch for the psychological gains! The confidence this instills is tremendous, since you're proving there is still some spring left in your step at the end of a long run. I am much more confident in my ability to break three hours at Chicago after my last few long runs. Also, since I only ran hard for the last five miles I'm not as drained as I would be if I ran quick for the entire run; I will be ready to run hard again by Tuesday, as scheduled.

Please let me know if you've had any experience with this technique, or are planning to give it a shot! Make sure you let me know how it goes!


Tom said...

Those runs are sometimes called "Progressive Runs"

I've been doing them a few times a month. Great for adapting mentally and physically.

Glad you're on track for your goal race at Chicago.

Your first Chicago Marathon?

Doug Cichon said...

This is my second marathon, but my first time at Chicago.

As a brief follow up, McMillan's website has an article about their long run philosophy: