How to Run a Marathon
Long Run For Under Three Hours                              Photo By Ancil Nance

For runners whose goal is to run a marathon under three hours, your approach to the Long Runs will be different from other runners. For example, there will not be as much of a build up compared to the slower levels. In the Base training stage, all Long Runs are to be at an easy pace, even for the advance runners. At this stage, there is no need to press your pace, as the benefit is derived from the time spent -- not how hard the run is. During the workout stage, the runs will be more focused and intense. There will be different types of runs that will target different aspects of the race.

During this Long Run, the first couple of miles should be at an extremely leisurely pace. For runners who stretch, this is an opportune time to stop and spend a few minutes doing your favorite stretches. Evidence shows that stretching on cold muscles before any run provides minimal benefit. One giant stretch before the run, as simple as reaching for the sky to separate your muscles, is all that is needed. Just make sure to start at an extremely slow pace. Slowly build up the pace once the stiffness starts to leaves your body. It is best to do the real stretching after a mile or two warm up.

Again, it is crucial not to work too hard in the Base training phase. Near the end of the workout, it's time cool down. So just jog the last portion of the run.

There are many other training sites that promote long runs in excess of 20 miles. Some even advocate running close to marathon distance in the weeks prior to the event. This train of thought may be more tempting for advanced runners. We tend to think that more is always better. However, there are different ways highlighted in the workout stage to simulate the effects of longer distances without causing harm to your body.

Remember, it is better to be able to run 15 miles well rather than run 20 miles poorly. The below workouts will provide all the benefits that runs over 20 miles do without having to spend that extra time.

WORKOUT PHASE

There are three different types of long runs during the Workout phase. These are designed to get you though the rigors of the marathon. Different tools will be given to help improve your overall time. These runs are tough and are meant to be done in the first 8 weeks of the Workout phase of training. It is essential in the last several weeks to taper off and go back to running at a relaxed pace.

Workout One: This workout is the toughest of all. The object is to simulate the latter stages of the marathon. There are ways to do this without having people run 20 plus miles. This workout is best in the latter stages of Base training or the early stages of Workout training. The goal is to run at least 5 miles on fatigued legs. It is best to break this workout into thirds. For the first third, we start with the normal warmup, then go to the build-up phase where we slowly ramp up the pace. In the second third, we are running faster than race pace. The final third is to run at a pace that doesn't allow for complete recovery, but you should be fatigued.

Workout Two: In this workout, we switch it up. In this run, you will be running fast in the latter stage of the run. This run is also broken into thirds. The first third is the warmup and then a run at an easy pace. The second third is still at a controlled, relaxed, yet fairly fast pace. The final third is at a progressively faster pace. The idea is to find that pace just under the threshold of blowing up entirely and then maintaining that pace until the cool down. This is tough! It is necessary to use both the mental and physical aspects of the previous weeks of training.

Workout Three: This workout is physically easier than the previous two. In this workout, we will be focusing on the mental portion of the race. Many runners use distractions such as music, and daydreaming to get through a run. That is fine during the early stages in a race. But runners that can focus and be in tune with their bodies will have a significant advantage over those that don't. There are two objectives. One is to run at a consistent pace. The other is to remain mentally focused for extended periods of time.

The first third of the run is the usual warmup and easy run. The next two thirds are the pacing and focus portion of the run. The pace should be relatively strong, but not overly so. Different people have different ways of focusing. It will be beneficial to find out what works for you. It can be breathing patterns to the cadence of the run. Sometime the focus can shift. Find a few things that work for you. The idea is to quickly get back to your focus point if you find yourself drifting mentally away. If you find your self thinking about your dog, work, relationship or whatever is popping in your head, the idea is to refocus to the task at hand. Ultimately you will find you can focus for extended periods of time. This will prove to be immensely beneficial in the latter stages of the marathon.

Remember to get a proper cool down in the last mile or so in each of the above workouts.

This Long Run adds a significant amount of stress to the body. To help recover, be sure to do the Easy run the day after the Long run.

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