With the Austin Marathon just eight weeks away (February 16) runners are naturally more focused on their training. And more specifically, their long runs. There are many (training) roads that will get you to the finish of a marathon, and there are equally as many training philosophies. The Hanson Brothers for example believe in running no further than 16 miles for a long run. Sounds strange, right? But—and here’s the tweak: they have their runners run a hard 16 miler the day after running a hard 10 miler. The point is that this teaches you how to run the last 16 miles of a marathon—the part where most runners fall apart. Their method does work! They coached Desi Linden for many years, and she is the model of consistency.
At the other end of the spectrum is Jeff Galloway. Galloway believes in absolutely building your longest run up to 26 miles, preferably a few miles more. His belief is that teaches you to actually cover the distance, so it’s not something brand new on race day. And certainly, Galloway has had tremendous success with his runners.
So yeah, there are lots of different approaches. But lets’ dig a little deeper and look at some “long-run” tweaks.
If you are used to heading out on your weekend 20 miler and just running a slow pace to the finish, that’s fine, but how about shaking things up a little with a “progression run”? To do this, consider your normal long-run pace. Run about 1 or 2 minutes per mile slower at the beginning of your run. After three or four miles, begin to pick it up to some—knocking five to 10 seconds off each mile as you continue. By the time you finish, you should be cruising close to marathon race pace or better. Your last miles are your fastest. Progression runs are great for increasing confidence in your race strategy, and as an added bonus, the slower pace increases the body’s reliance on burning fat.
Here’s another great one. Everyone is familiar with the “tempo” run—you go five to seven miles at 15-20 seconds off of your 10K pace. Former Austinite Greg McMillan, a nationally known coach, offers a tweak to the tempo run specifically for marathoners. He has his marathoners go up to 15-18 miles for modified tempo runs. In fact, at eight-nine weeks out from the marathon, that’s just what he calls for.
McMillan suggests starting at 30-60 seconds per mile slower than your marathon pace for the first 5K to 10K and progressing to the last six to 12 miles at or a bit faster than your marathon goal pace. While this sounds a lot like a progression run, it’s actually quite a bit faster and more taxing.
Another option for either of these two workouts is to jump in a long-distance race (a half-marathon is perfect). Not only does running 13.1 miles hard fill in a nice training block, but when taken within the context of your entire marathon training program it also helps prepare you for the rigors of the marathon distance itself.
Shaking up your long-run approach with these workouts should help get you to the finish of your next marathon a bit quicker. And after all, isn’t that what everyone wants?
Upcoming races: Sunday, December 29 at 7:30 a.m., the Rockin’ Resolution Race 20 mile, 10 mile, 5K at Old Settler’s Park in Round Rock. Wednesday, January 1 at 9:00 a.m., the Resolution Run 5K at Wallace Middle School, 1500 Center Street in Kyle.