Long Runs, Revamped
Long Runs aren't just about LSD anymore
What kind of long runs are you doing these days?
For most of my running career, a long run would be a longer run than my other running days (say 10 miles on Sunday compared to a 4-6 mile run for a basic run day). A long run would just out-distance my workout days, so I’d have 3 big days and 4 easy days in any given week.
I would hold these long runs to a higher standard and prep for them a bit more than a regular run, but that’s pretty much where the buck would stop.
If I was really feeling it, the first half of the run would be my regular run pace and I’d naturally and gradually pick up the pace so that I was finishing the last half of my run quicker than the first half. If I wasn’t, it was either hang on for dear life or “just get through it”. Neither of these other options is bad, I just think they are less than ideal.
Why do workouts in long runs?
But now, I’m finding that throwing some pickups in some long runs is really beneficial to my running (and to those that I coach). The extra “effort” isn’t so taxing that you’re toast. It’s not like exponentially more work, therefore leaving you to need an extra day of rest. It’s enough work that it’s worth doing, but not so much that it requires anything extra in terms of recovery.
How often would I do this?
Personally, I think that once or twice a month is plenty. Remember, it’s a secondary workout - it’s not meant to be where you get all of your faster running. You can gain some fitness from these workouts, but you can also go south quickly if you overdo it.
One additional note I’d like to add here is that just like your primary workout, you should try to vary what you do, where you do it, and what effort level you run your long run efforts at. Some long runs should be on hillier courses while others should be flat out and backs so you can really get rolling.
What are some examples?
It goes without saying, but each runner is different and what they need and when they need it is also different. I coach runners who run more than 55 miles a week and I have some runners who “only” run 20. These long run efforts are geared toward the runner who is capable of handling the volume, but that doesn’t mean it can’t work for you.
Typically, I’ve scheduled them in runs for marathoners when they are already planning on being on the roads for a while. So If the total run is 15 miles, I might say run 10 miles, then do 3 sets of 3 minutes at comfortably hard effort (kind of like a threshold or tempo feel) with at least 1-2 minutes back at long run pace.
I’ve read training logs of professional runners who run track segments in their long runs and on some occasions do hill repeats. So really, what you do is up to you and your preferences.
What do you think of adding pickups into your long run? Is it something you already do or something you’d be willing to try? Leave a comment or reply and I’ll get back to you.
Friday’s Action Plan:
Long runs have traditionally been LSD (long, slow distance), but that philosophy is outdated and runners are now experimenting with pickups during their longer runs.
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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.