A blog by runners. For runners.

The Long Run

What is a long run?

Definition of long runs
Long runs are exactly what they sound like: they’re you’re longest run of the week. The goal of long runs is to prepare you to complete the distance of a race.

The length of long runs progressively increases each week throughout training. For instance, when marathon training, your long run may start at 8 miles but the distance will increase by a mile every week or so until it peaks at 20 miles.

Keep in mind that the word “long” is subjective. If you’re training for a 5K, your long run may be 5 miles. Note that when training for longer races – like half, full, and ultra marathons – you’ll usually never run a long run as long as the race distance.

When to do long runs
Most training plans call for one long run per week – usually done on the weekend when you have more time. However, most training programs also call for one cutback or step back week every month. During these weeks, your long run will be significantly shorter than it was the previous week, to allow you to recover.

Pace goals of long runs
It seems as if every coach and each training plan calls for a different pace goal for long runs. To make things even more complicated, there are several types of long runs.

TRAINING METHOD RECOMMENDED PACE
Hal Higdon Higdon asks runners to do their long runs anywhere from 30 to 90 seconds slower than goal marathon pace.
Jeff Galloway If you’re following the Galloway plan, aim for a long run pace at least 2 minutes per mile slower than goal race pace, and take walk breaks whenever needed.
FIRST FIRST says long run pace should be your 10k pace + 60 to 75 seconds per mile.
Hanson method The Hanson method recommends different pace goals based on how long you’ve been running: Beginner: as slow as you need to run to cover the distance. Advanced/ intermediate: 1 minute per mile slower than race pace.
Pete Pfitzinger Pfitzinger says that advanced marathoners should aim for several long runs with middle miles at goal race pace. That way, you’ll find it easier to hit your target pace on race day.
Jack Daniels In Daniels’ plans, your long run pace varies depending on what distance you’re training for. However, most long runs should be run at the same pace as easy runs, about 1- 2 minutes slower per mile than your goal race pace.
Greg McMillan McMillan recommends doing long runs with middle miles at goal race pace or fast finish long runs every other week.

 

Long runs in a nutshell: Most long run miles should be run significantly slower than race pace. If you do them too close to goal pace, you risk injury and burnout because your body will feel like it’s racing every week.

Long runs can also be a huge mental challenge, too. If trying to stick to pace goals for a 15-miler stresses you out, then leave your watch at home. Long runs teach your body how to regenerate glycogen stores and conserve fuel – no matter what pace you run. Just cover your long run distance at a comfortable pace and you’ll be able to cross the finish line on race day.

RELATED: Check out our full series on the different types of runs

DOWNLOAD the new WalkJogRun app with Pace Coach to make sure you stay on track during long runs!

Written by Jen Matz.