The Long Run
The Long Run is the cornerstone of the entire system. The value of this run should not be underestimated. This is a run that will give one the strength, endurance, and confidence that is needed to finish your marathon. It also lays the foundation for the workout portion in the latter months.
It is particularly beneficial to understand the mindset of the run, especially in the early months. In the early stages the purpose of this run is to build up, not tear down your body. It is easy to run too hard on this run. If you are taking days to recover after this run, then you are training at a pace that is too hard. One should be tired after the run, but after a short time be on the road to recovery. After an hour or two of rest, one should be fully recovered. In the early stages, the benefit to this run is the time spent, not how hard it is run.
In both the Base training and workout phase, there is a different approach to the Long Run depending on the experience level of each runner. The above links have additional information tailored to each group.
(Please Note: The above links are for the projected marathon times, not for runs lasting 4 or 5 hours.)
The biggest difference between this training system and others is how we approach the Long Run. A good number of running training systems start at a certain distance and then add to that distance every single week. They will keep doing this until their people are running well over 20 miles. This is pointless and counter-productive. If you can master even running 12 miles well you be ahead of people that re running 20 miles poorly.
Let's examine the mental aspects first. By adding a mile every week to the Long Run, there is the added stress of thinking that each week will be harder than the last. This is why it is better to have a fixed distance in the Long Run and let the body get used to that distance, before moving up to the next level. After three weeks at a certain distance, a runner will be learning to approach that distance at maximum efficiency. This is what running is truly about - the art of learning to run efficiently.
The greatest difference in this system is the distance of the long run. Other systems will have you run anywhere between 20 and 26 miles. For all but the elite runners, this is a complete waste of time. The science simply shows this neither helps the overall success rate of finishing a marathon, not does it help one to improve one's time.
As an example, there are elite runners who have never run over 15 miles in training runs, that have world class times. Grete Waitz set a women's world record without having trained over 12 miles. In my personal experience, I ran well under 2 hours 45 minutes early in my career without ever having run a workout more than 15 miles. There is certainly no reason to encourage anyone, let alone an amateur runner, to run over 20 miles. Again, running is about efficiency, It is better to learn how to run 15 miles efficiently than to run 20 plus miles poorly.
Ideally, this run will take place every week on the same day. At the very most, it can be shifted one day either way, but that is not a habit I encourage. If you cannot do this on your designated day, and you cannot do it on one day on either side, then you MUST forego this run. There should never be two Long Runs within 4 days of each other.
Another difference in this training system compared to others is that we do not take a day off after the Long Run. Most other training systems use this day as a break. The day after the Long run is the second most important run of the week. It will hasten your recovery if you get out and do a VERY easy run. Taking a day off after a Long Run, will leave one sore or stiff on the following day.. Even if you are short on time, try to get a walk at least in after dinner. The only object of this run is to clear out the toxins from your tissues and provide fresh blood and oxygen to the fatigued muscles from the Long Run.
For additional information click on the above links for more instruction for each level.