The Long Run is the foundation for the entire training program. This is especially true for those between the 3 and 4 hour pace. Even if you have run under 4 hours and you simply are looking for a PR this one run, if done properly, will give you many benefits that will enhance all your running.
For runners whose goal is to run a marathon under four 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 big 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 is one big difference between runners at this level, versus those at a slower levels. At slower levels, most runners do not have the strength and endurance to run extended periods of time without over stressing the body. To compensate for that, walking breaks are actively encouraged to get runners used to being out for longer periods of time. This, however, is an extremely inefficient way to cover ground. A person running at a sustained consistent pace will use less energy than a comparable runner who runs at a slightly faster pace but then takes walk breaks. In these Long runs will practice what is known as sustainable pacing. The trick is to make sure you are running slow enough as to not stress the body so much where you need to slow down and walk. Even for more advance runners that do not take breaks, sustainable pacing is very important. The concept is to run at a pace where there isn’t any slow down at the end of the run.
Once we get past the Base Training phase we will continue to build up mileage on the Long run. However, unlike other systems we will put a cap at 18 miles. There is a certain point where one see minimal benefits by adding miles. Remember It is better to run 14 miles well, then to run 20 miles poorly.
In the workout portion of the Long Run we will focus pacing. This is an extremely valuable concept that many of you have experienced. Mathematically If one goes out too hard early in the run and then slows down, the overall time will always be slower than if the the proper pace was maintained it over the entire distance.
It is pertinent to note that most other running programs will give you the day off after the long run. Unless there are time constraints. I think most people that want to run under 4 hours should not take too many days off during the week. The day after the Long run is second most beneficial training run. Avoid taking the day after the long run off if you do have to take days off. This run will set up your entire week. If you wait two days, you will just be as stiff and sore as if you had run the day before. Additional problems are created once you are in the workout phase. If you go into the hard workouts with your legs still aching from the Long Run, then you only increase your chances on getting hurt. So it is important to get that easy run in. It will help clear the toxins and the lactic acid that will build up. Your legs will be fresher for the more serious runs during the week. Make sure this easy run is done at the very easiest of pace.