The Most Important Run You Do All Week
All runs have a purpose, but some push the needle more
When I say “the most important run”, I really don’t mean just one run.
The two types of runs that are most important are the long run and the workout(s) you do.
Workouts, just like long runs, are what I get excited about. They are the days I plan for, the days I don’t ever skip (unless I’m injured or on the verge of injury), and the days I bring my A+ game for.
In my humble opinion, the two (or three, depending on who you are) runs that are the most important are the long run and the workout day(s). *As a high school and collegiate runner, I used to do workouts on Tuesday and Friday and a long run on Sunday. This type of training requires your easy days to be easy so you fully/almost fully recover before the next hard session. It also requires you to have a high enough volume to warrant/justify having two workouts in one week.
The long run is important for so many reasons (you can read about the long run in these posts).
And I think workout days are equally as important. This is where you get to build upon your foundation of easy running. It’s where you test the waters of your upper aerobic capacity and, if you are well-trained, get into your anaerobic ability. Workouts help you prepare to run fast on race day (most often the point of training in the first place).
The Effort Level
As I look back over my training, there’s a trend that stands out the most: my “easy” days are incredibly slow - and to be completely honest, take the most amount of mental and physical strength to complete. They are slow by choice, but also by necessity. My easy days follow my workout days and my long runs.
I don’t know about you, but after a long and hard run, I don’t want to run any faster than I absolutely have to. If you do your planning right, your workout day and your long run day should be a longer, more intense effort. In order to recover from those days, you need recovery days. That’s why the pace should be slower and the volume should be lower. It’s also why those days suck: because you’ve done the hard work in previous days and the only goal of the easy run is to recover so you can run hard again.
If you have it flipped and your easy days are too hard, your hard days can never really be that hard because you haven’t recovered.
The Level of Planning
On long run days, I wear the best gear I have so that I’m comfortable knowing that I’ll be out on the roads or trails for a long time. On workout days and long runs, I plan a route so that I avoid traffic while I run fast [one less obstacle I have to worry about], or to purposefully hit every hill in Haddonfield like I try and do on long run days. Whatever I need for that given run, I purposefully plan a route that helps me achieve the goal I want.
Here are two of my most recent runs - one a long run where I hit 4 of Haddonfield’s big hills: Washington, Greenmount, Centre, Haddon Ave. The other run was just a jog around the neighborhood. The plan for the long run was to hit hills and open up the pace if it came naturally. The plan for the easy run was to run for more than 20 minutes.
As you can see, the distance was significantly different as was the pace - a whole minute slower for my recovery/easy run. THAT WAS BY DESIGN. The intensity of my hard days is hard and the easy days easy.
Okay - here’s the recap: if you want to have great workouts and knockout long runs, your easy runs have to support that. How? By making sure they are super slow and restorative. If they aren’t, you won’t have the ability to go after it during the two most important days of your running week.
Friday’s Action Plan:
Aim to have your long run be the fastest average paced run you do all week (outside of workout day) by a wide margin.
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Marc is a middle school teacher and coach but also works with distance runners online. I help distance runners around the globe by providing support, writing customized training plans, and designing workouts to help them reach their racing goals. I write for my blog every Wednesday morning and newsletter every Friday morning.