The Science of the Long Run (Read 1746 times)


Mmmmm...beer

    I'm still fairly new to running, have only been running for 9 months, but one thing I've never liked about the programs I've seen, is how they don't get you up to the distance you're going to race.  Obviously you can race a distance without having ever run it, people do it all the time.  But for me, and it may have been more psychological than anything else, I wanted to see what it felt like to do the entire distance before I raced it.  That's what I've done with the 5k, 8k, and HM distances, I ran them each at least a few times before I raced them (twice in the case of the HM).  Of course I didn't race them in training, but for me I think it helped to know that I could do that distance and what it would feel like.  Last weekend I ran 26.25 miles for the first time (also my first time running more than 20 miles), and I'm really glad I did.  I'm not even planning on running a full until next fall, I just wanted to see what it would feel like, and now I know how much those last few miles suck, even on a training run.  Now when I actually start training for my full, and I run 26 miles again next summer/early fall, I'll have a benchmark to compare it to, and I'll know what to expect come race day. 

     

    These are just my personal observations and have no basis in science or even extensive running experience.

    -Dave

    My running blog

    2014 Goals | sub-19 5k done! | sub-40 10k | sub-1:25 HM | BQ done! | sub-3 M

    Longboat


    Letting off steam

      Sure, go ahead and run 26 miles for a long run to practice for the marathon.  Ignore what coaching experts have established through training millions of runners for the marathon over the last 50 years.

       

      Or you could read a couple of Nobby's comments above about people plodding through super long runs and never getting any faster.

      And read a little more and understand why it's not smart to run a 26 mile long run in training for a marathon.

      Neil

      ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

      Nearly back to 100% 6 months after Achilles surgery. Now at 35 50 mpw.

      Base building time!

        Sure, go ahead and run 26 miles for a long run to practice for the marathon.  Ignore what coaching experts have established through training millions of runners for the marathon over the last 50 years.

         

        Or you could read a couple of Nobby's comments above about people plodding through super long runs and never getting any faster.

        And read a little more and understand why it's not smart to run a 26 mile long run in training for a marathon.

         

        Dtothe2nd was just saying he preferred to have run the distance BEFORE he starts training for the confidence benefit, not necessarily as any kind of workout to get faster.  He could read Nobby's entire life's work and still want to have run the distance at least once before racing.


        Mmmmm...beer

          Dtothe2nd was just saying he preferred to have run the distance BEFORE he starts training for the confidence benefit, not necessarily as any kind of workout to get faster.  He could read Nobby's entire life's work and still want to have run the distance at least once before racing.

           

          Correct.  I'm not saying there's a training benefit, except possibly a mental boost, but I don't see where the harm is either.  Everyone always says, if you can run 10 then you can do a half, or if you can run 20, then you can do a full.  If those extra miles are no problem on race day, then they shouldn't be a problem at least once during training, right?

          -Dave

          My running blog

          2014 Goals | sub-19 5k done! | sub-40 10k | sub-1:25 HM | BQ done! | sub-3 M


          HobbyJogger & HobbyRacer

             

            Correct.  I'm not saying there's a training benefit, except possibly a mental boost, but I don't see where the harm is either.  Everyone always says, if you can run 10 then you can do a half, or if you can run 20, then you can do a full.  If those extra miles are no problem on race day, then they shouldn't be a problem at least once during training, right?

             

            I believe your antecedent is false, wrecking the syllogism (if that is the correct word).

             

            That is to say, the race day effort is not comparable to a training run -- at least, it takes many runners many extra days to full recover from the race day effort - often more days than they spent recovering from any training run.

             

            I think that one of the criticisms of a 26 mile training run is that it beats you up and requires extra recovery -- my point is that a marathon raced also tends to beat up the race and require extra recovery -- even *more so*. So I think that your argument (people do it on race day) isn't a good counter to the argument that such a long run costs too much recovery time.

             

            That was only a critique of the logic there. I'm not arguing against running 26 miles in training. Some people do that. (I myself, in fact. But I don't advocate that others do it - it depends on your goals, and how your body handles recovery, I think.)

            It's a 5k. It hurt like hell...then I tried to pick it up. The end.

              I've spent many hours over the last 6 weeks looking at what we know about the long run. It's surprising how little research has been performed on this critical aspect of endurance training, but what evidence there is I've summarized as http://fellrnr.com/wiki/The_Science_of_the_Long_Run

              Again, I'd apologize for my hasty conclusion that, I thought, you were doing some on-line searching of "science of long run" over internet and, though you couldn't find many, you had come to conclude that this (sited website) is what you recommend.  Well, it's a bit different "nuance" but, since you put together that web page, it's pretty much what it is, isn't it?  Now I sat down and read the whole thing a bit more closely and, and I'd admit that I did miss some of the points that you had actually already covered, here's my argument:

               

              Point (1-1): I feel this is completely out-dated.  Like I said earlier, the dynamics of people running a marathon had changed sooooo much since 1970s.  Just check the average marathon time and compare it between 1970s and 2000s.  I'd be very curious is there's any comparison done, say, how many people running less than 15 miles and running a marathon in 4:50...  Like I said, I'd bet tons of people today running >4 hour marathons running so much more than 15-miles.  In fact, I'm quite convinced that one of the major reasons for them running >4 hour marathon is because they are running too much for their own ability.  So to use statistics of 1970s to make any logic out of "secret of long run" is utterly nonsense.  Those graphs look logical but I am confident that the graphs would look VERY different if you collect more recent statistics.  What bugs me is; this kind of "study" really wrongly insinuate people to have an idea that, if he/she wants to improve marathon time, they'd have to have long runs, up to approaching 20-miler.  At worst, it'll give people a wrong idea; "Gee, if I want to run 3-hour marathon, I'll need to do three 20-milers and more than 65 miles a week..."  How many people do you think actually try to do that when they are not ready to remotely even think about doing that much?  

               

              Point (1-2): Later you included "anecdotal advice" and mentioned only Grete Waitz as an example of world class marathon runner who "only" trained 12-miles.  Salazar, if I remember it correctly, ran his long being 12-miles when he ran his first marathon.  Rosa Mota didn't go much beyond 12-miles. I have about a half a dozen "anecdotal" stories of "recreational" runners actually IMPROVED their marathon times when they cut back their long runs, some as low as 13-14 miles being the LONGEST run.  Well, first of all, you'll need to define "hitting the wall".  Most of us identify this physical state as "depletion of glycogen".  I'll bet lots of people today "hit the wall" because their legs don't take pounding any more and bonk.  Those are two totally different types of "hitting the wall".

               

              Point (1-3): That's a bunch of bullshit.  Especially going back to 1970s, hell of a lot more people were running 100 miles a week and not getting injured like today.  A lot more injuries are caused by improper running technique and imbalance with running equipment (shoes) AND lack of training (=running less, or running too little) are probably bigger cause of injuries nowadays.  In fact, the "research" like this scaring people not to go beyond 40-miles a week or whatever is probably one of the leading cause of people getting hurt more often.

               

              Point (1-4): I'm not sure why you even included this.  So what's the point of you collecting all these "evidences"?  

               

              Point (2): That's more or less Peter's study but, when you talk about glycogen depletion, the effort level (pace) would have to be taken into consideration.  Also, when you talk about depletion, whether or not the runner train or de-train the whole purpose of long run by consistently refueling during the "training".  

               

              Point (3): I don't have so much time to go over all the references so I haven't but I don't quite understand the whole point of this although this is probably the one aspect that I'd be more interested in.  Without fully understanding how the "research" was done; form, surface, pace...all those things would have to be taken into consideration.  Just because someone runs 20-miles (or whatever) and say, look at the muscle damage!!  And it would take 14-days to recover???  So does this study suggest we should take 14-days for recovery from ANY run?  How was the damage compared from, say, 30-minutes run, 1-hour run, 2-hour run, 3-hour run and 4 hour run???  How about the pace?  How about the equipment (shoes)?  Form?  Elite tends to run a lot more, a lot longer and faster for those long runs, and they tend to get "damage" hell of a lot less.  On the other hand, non-elite tends to run a lot less, however taking a lot longer duration, a lot slower and get hell of a lot more damage and take hell of a lot longer to recover.  The adaptation to those muscle damage, as far as I'm concerned, is not so much "long run" but any run at all.  In other words, going back to previous argument, the more you run, the more adaptation you'll get regardless of the distance of the long run.  So then why do we suggest not to run as much in order to avoid injury?  It doesn't make sense to me.

               

              Point (4): Your anecdotal examples are way too small.  One ultra runner not doing long run or doing long run wouldn't, and shouldn't, determine whether or not long run is important or hazardous.  Particularly throwing some example of one or two elite runners would not be a good "anecdotal" stories.  Here, however, you finally make a note on mileage vs. time.  I STRONGLY believe, and suggest, you'll need to do more research, if not the actual scientific paper being written, look into real anecdotal stories, not just a few elites but several of "regular" runners and compare actual distance (say, 20-miles) and duration (as Daniels suggests, 2:30 or whatever).  I believe, and again, strongly suggest, this would make a HUGE difference in terms of defining long run.  Slower runners doing a 20-miler when he/she is doing, say, 30-miles a week at 12-minute pace is VERY different from a fast runner doing a 20-miler when he/she is doing 100 miles a week at 7-minute pace.  Same 20-miler but world apart.  Yet, you seem to keep taking "20-miler" as almost standard long run.  Trust me, it is NOT.  

               

              Point (5): Here, as your recommendation, you mention "over 20-mile should be the longest of long run for a marathon."  What did you draw this conclusion from all these "researches" that you had listed previously?  It seems to me that you just slapped it regardless and I don't see any "science of long run" with this statement.

               

              My recommendation is; just because you see it on the internet, don't take it as "legit" ESPECIALLY when it comes to searching scientific proof.  In fact, one of the biggest mistakes and disadvantages of internet is; anybody can become an expert when you write something, and especially keep saying the same thing over and over.  I wouldn't even consider some of the articles you listed as reference legit at all.  When it comes down to "anecdotal" advices, make sure you actually talk to that individual.  Again, don't believe everything you read in an article or hear on YouTube.  If you actually want to do a legit research, try to contact the actual person and get the real story.  You'd be surprised how many "wrong" information is out there.  In fact, I don't even believe Waitz had never run longer than 12-miles.  I'll bet she did.  How many times have you heard runners like Steve Jones "was not high mileage guy" because he "only" ran 90-miles a week.  Well, not quite what he told me exactly.  How many times have you heard or read that Peter Snell ran upward of 150-miles a week (even Arthur said it) including morning jog?  Well, that's not quite what he told me!  Rod Dixon was classic.  How many times have you read that he was not a high mileage guy (like he only ran 70 miles a week)?  He told me that, as a 21-year-old 1500m runner, he would run up to 3-hours.  They really don't add up.  If you really want to post a legit "research", don't take a short cut by just google-searching on the web.  Go to the actual source and get the real stories.  And, probably even more importantly, talk to coaches who coaches 3, 4, 5 hour marathon runners.  Even Jeff Galloway--I don't particularly agree with what he says, there's no doubt he had helped so many people cross the finish line in the past several decades.  Get his story--not just somebody else's interpretation on the internet but him himself.  Hal Higdon, Hanson brothers, who else?  Roy Benson...  Even do some research on Arthur Lydiard.  Of course he's dead now but he had some of the first original "joggers" who turned out to become a marathon runner.  They were 50-72 years old, heart attack patients.  Do you have any idea what sort of marathon they did and how they actually trained?  On-line article and research are FAR from big picture.  If you are really serious about taking up the responsibility to post "science of long run", you should be responsible to gather a bit more references.  

                (I haven't read either the OP's post nor Nobby's post just above mine in great detail, but have lightly read them.)

                 

                Just for some background, that may help explain some mindset of OP: As someone already mentioned fellrnr has posted in RWOL for a number of years. I believe he mostly runs ultras, focusing on long runs on fewer days/wk: Training frequency (I think those are 3-4 hr runs) with these race results. Not sure if that's still the way he's training, but it seems to work for him - including being on the US team at 24-hr worlds. Maybe he'll expand on his current training.

                 

                I do agree with Nobby about some internet sources, and it's sometimes hard to separate wheat from chaff - and sometimes easy.

                I believe that with as many factors - past and present - as affect training, it's really hard to do a study with meaningful applications to runners. Science tries to explain what the coaches and runners do.

                 

                There's the responders / non-responders thoughts. Most studies make conclusions on average, but there is frequently a subject that does respond to the treatment while most don't and vice versa. (I've seen that in my own research on plants.)  (12/16 MTA: Or it may be that whatever treatment is being used is not the correct stimulus for that individual or vice versa.)

                 

                Which is more relevant for an individual - anecdotal data from others with similar background (say, older females, in my case) or a refereed study on elite college males? We're all experiments of one. Refereed journal articles and anecdotal data both have some value in developing a training program.

                 

                 

                I might add that I was taught that ultra long runs start at about 3-4 hrs since that's when the endocrine responses kick in. The long long runs also help figure out what gear works and food / fluid for longer races. BUT you need to work up to them and have them as part of a balanced program.

                "So many people get stuck in the routine of life that their dreams waste away. This is about living the dream." - Cave Dog
                jimmyb


                  Thanks for the link to your "paper".  One thing I noticed is that it is distance based, and not duration based. An elite can get an easy 20-miler done in two hours, while  some of us amateurs will take four (or more) at the same level of effort, possibly taking twice as many footfalls or more. I think this question is more important to answer:

                   

                  What is the optimum duration for a long run that will give any runner the best physical training effect?

                   

                  Now, lets say, hypothetically, that the answer was between 2-3 hours. Well, that would mean an elite runner would run twenty miles for a long run, and a slow amateur might run thirteen miles, and the effect would be the same.

                   

                  Would the mental benefit of a 2-3 hour long run be the same for all runners? Would the mental preparation be equal? I don't think so.

                   

                  I believe the magic of the twenty miler is the mental benefit. When run at an easy to moderate pace, you end up spending approximately the same amount of time you'll be running in the marathon. If you consider that duration is really what the body experiences, then a marathon is not really the same race for everyone. For an elite, it is approximately a two hour race. For many amateurs, it is a 3-6 hour race. Like the 24-hour and 6 day races where the winner runs the most distance for the allotted time, if marathons were actually 3 hour races where once the the time was up, your distance is what counted, then the marathon would actually be the same race for all involved. But the way it is now, it's not. The elites are running one race, while the amateurs  are running another.

                   

                  The runner who is not going to finish the race in less than 5 hours needs the mental benefit of knowing he or she can run for at least 5 hours. The science may show that they received the peak of the physical benefit after 2.5 hours, and the rest of the duration is not really doing much but making them tired, but the mental adaptation goes a real long way in forming the belief that they can run 5 hours or more and finish a marathon. It's quite possible they would have just done just as well or better on race day if they stopped after the point where maximum physical benefit was reached (whatever it actually is). They would have done less unnecessary damage to their bodies. But the mental game always comes into play. Belief is strong thing in our lives.

                   

                  Logistically, it's a difficult thing to make all races duration based, but it's really the only way to say that everyone who ran it actually ran the same race. I believe that the 6 hour marathoner has a much tougher mental game than the 3 hour one, or the 30-hour 100 mile ultra-runner as opposed to the one who finishes in 16 hours. They're running a completely different race with a different set of mental and physical challenges.

                  Log    PRs


                  Muddling through

                     If you consider that duration is really what the body experiences, then a marathon is not really the same race for everyone.

                     

                     

                    I've seen this statement and variations on it again and again from very respected posters, but I still don't see the sense in it. Maybe it makes sense from a physiological response with mitochrondia and capillaries, but what about from calorie expenditure and work performed. When race day comes the runner has a set distance to run, not a set duration. How do you translate that to training for the slower runner? I think Nobby made a reference at one point that slower runners need to train more like ultra runners, but I'd love to see more elaboration on that and input from others.

                    2014 Goals: Run first trail ultra, first 100K, and see what I can do in a 24-Hour race

                    jimmyb


                      I've seen this statement and variations on it again and again from very respected posters, but I still don't see the sense in it. Maybe it makes sense from a physiological response with mitochrondia and capillaries, but what about from calorie expenditure and work performed. When race day comes the runner has a set distance to run, not a set duration. How do you translate that to training for the slower runner? I think Nobby made a reference at one point that slower runners need to train more like ultra runners, but I'd love to see more elaboration on that and input from others.

                       

                      Do you really believe that running 5 hours, both mental and physically, is the same as running 2 hours?

                       

                      I think you missed the whole "mental aspect" of the long run in my post.

                      Log    PRs


                      Feeling the growl again

                        I've seen this statement and variations on it again and again from very respected posters, but I still don't see the sense in it. Maybe it makes sense from a physiological response with mitochrondia and capillaries, but what about from calorie expenditure and work performed. When race day comes the runner has a set distance to run, not a set duration. How do you translate that to training for the slower runner? I think Nobby made a reference at one point that slower runners need to train more like ultra runners, but I'd love to see more elaboration on that and input from others.

                         

                        In 2012 I ran a marathon in ~2:39 and the majority of a 50-miler at ~5:45 pace (finishing time) before dropping with a back issue.  There are plenty of people out there doing marathons in the amount of time I attempted a 50-miler...yet you say there is no difference even though I'm covering nearly twice the distance?

                         

                        The effort level one can maintain is dictated by TIME, not distance.  The faster runner you are, the longer the race you can run at a given effort level.  The effort at which a mid-two-hour marathon runner like me is doing a marathon at is relatively high; to make it through a 6-hour 50-miler, my effort drops to that of my normal daily easy run pace.  It doesn't feel like a "race" at all.

                         

                        So someone going at and doing a 5+ hour marathon is going at an effort level a lot closer to what I am doing a 50-miler at.  Their marathon experience is a heck of a lot different than mine.

                         

                        True, as fewer calories are being consumed their are fueling differences.  But in the scheme of things that is a minor difference..

                         

                        So, on to training application.  As I said, effort is time-based.  Me doing a 4-mile tempo run takes <22 minutes.  If someone who does a 4-5 hour marathon wants to do a tempo run, do I tell them to look at my training log and do what I do?  No.  A 4 mile tempo run will take them like 35 minutes or something; that's a different type of workout.  If I want to replicate the training stimulus I get from a 4 mile tempo run, I tell them to go do a 20-25 minute tempo run.  The same principle applies to most other workout types.

                         

                        As to the slower runners training more like ultra runner point...when training for a 50-miler in ~6 hours I have little concern for worrying about speed.  In fact for the long run, I am more concerned about time-on-feet.  To train for a 5:30-6 hour run I want to have long runs of ~4hrs on my feet...just a few times, over months...to make sure my body is used to that.  Pace is irrelevant, even their race will be at a very low effort level.  Now, it's hard to tell a 5:30-6 hr marathoner to go do a 4 hr run because I'm doing it in the context of 70-90 mile weeks and they have 20-40mpw.  But they need to think more that way than being on the track doing intervals.

                        "If you want to be a bad a$s, then do what a bad a$s does.  There's your pep talk for today.  Go Run." -- Slo_Hand

                         

                        jimmyb


                          +1, Spaniel.Cool

                           

                          Those who don't believe, try doing a 5 hour long run at the same effort as your 3 hour long run and tell me there's no difference in how you feel at the end.

                          Log    PRs


                          Muddling through

                            In 2012 I ran a marathon in ~2:39 and the majority of a 50-miler at ~5:45 pace (finishing time) before dropping with a back issue.  There are plenty of people out there doing marathons in the amount of time I attempted a 50-miler...yet you say there is no difference even though I'm covering nearly twice the distance? 

                             

                            I don't know where you got that from my comment and question. I asked the question because the impression I've gotten when posters say the body only knows duration, not distance, is that covering specific distances in training for the marathon is not necessary, that all you need to do is train by duration - and I've seen many posts suggesting one shouldn't run more than 2:30-3:00 hours on a long run. That won't take the slow marathoners anywhere near the distance of the race or even that "magic" 20-miles. At the low mileage many of them run I don't see how they can adequately prepare for the distance with that methodology.

                             

                            In any case your following explanation was what I was hoping to see.

                            2014 Goals: Run first trail ultra, first 100K, and see what I can do in a 24-Hour race

                              Great conversation. The more of these type exchanges I read the more I realize there is so much to know and try to understand.


                              Finally PRed!!!

                                I would tend to think many people finishing marathons in the 5:45-6 hr range are walking significant portions of them. My slowest was 5:16, completed on minimal training, and I walked several miles of it, though that was not my plan (it was also a very warm day and the organizers ran out of fluid at the fluid stops the first 9 miles or so, so I was a bit thirsty). In my 3rd marathon, I improved my time to 4:08:43 and in my 4th to 3:49:49, and my training did include LRs of 22-23 miles (usually 1-2 of those and a few other 20s). My HM PR was run 4 days after a 22-mile progression run (started the run very slowly). Of course, this is just more anecdotal evidence, and I agree that not all slower runners do well with the really long ones. I was asked yesterday about LR distance by a runner training for her first marathon, and I advised her it's not necessary or sometimes even advisable to go that long, and explained some of the reasons. I think in my last cycle I did too many really long ones to the detriment of the rest of my training. 

                                 

                                I did have quite a few years of running (not all consecutive) in my legs before I started running marathons, though. A lot of people doing 5-6 hr marathons these days are very new to running.

                                PRs: 5K: 22:09, 10K:44:55, 15K: 1:10:35, HM: 1:42:49, M: 3:32:09