Long Runs (Read 954 times)




    My name is Phil, and I am new to this forum and website. I am 51 years old and working on my 4th marathon. I was scheduled to run a marathon this fall but had a hip injury over the summer that put me out of my training for about a month. 1 1/2 months later and I finally built back up to a 36 mile training week last week. I must say I am a bit embarrassed to admit that I probably pushed the envelope a bit on the speed and hill training, which was a contributing factor. The other event that lead to the injury was being forced off a narrow trail by a group of oncoming runners who were talking amongst themselves and completely oblivious to oncoming traffic. They ran me off of the hilly rugged terrain (grrr!!). At any rate, I've been restricting myself to easy runs as I rebuild my base.


    Currently, I am interested in running a half marathon in early November. I am also registered to run the Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach this Spring. I'm not sure if the half is going to happen because I am still experiencing a bit of lingering soreness in my hip as a result of the injury. I am thinking that if the soreness isn't completely gone in the next week or so I will probably scrap the half and just continue building my base for another several weeks, after which I will commence with a marathon training plan.


    To that end, I was looking at some training plans on the cool running website  that incorporate long runs peaking at 26-30 miles before the final three week taper (http://www.coolrunning.com/engine/2/2_4/143.shtml). These plans seem attractive because the mileage during the week is fairly modest, and they also incorporate weekly speed / hill sessions (once per week, mostly). I think this could be good for me because it would emphasize base strength and endurance a bit more (than previous plan that may have lead to injury) yet still provide a significant amount of speed / hill work without going overboard (which seemingly would help prevent injury). My concern though is that the long runs might be a bit much (based on reading the opinions of some experts). At the same time, my last marathon time was about 4:30 (adjusted - 4:57 was actual time on a rugged, hilly trail marathon), which for me was very strong. My longest training run for that race was 22 miles, but also incorporated  a lot of speed/tempo work. I'm interested in knowing what kind of success (or lack thereof) others may have had by peaking long runs at marathon distance or beyond. Do you find it makes you stronger or just tires you out, etc.? I would be especially interested in hearing from anyone around or over the age of 50. With that said, any advice or experiences regardless of age would be helpful.


    I have a "hope" of maybe someday qualifying for Boston, but right now it's just a pipe-dream.


    Thanks, Phil

      JMHO. 65F, slow, with races mostly on trails, occasional gravel roads.


      A race time is what it is. I'm not a believer in "adjusted" times for roads vs trails. Primarily because some people do better on one than on the other. A good trail runner may struggle with the repetitiveness of roads. I'm not sure if you train mostly on trails or roads, but I'm assuming Shamrock is a road marathon? (may not be relevant for you but thought I'd bring it up since that can be very relevant for some)


      Looking at the beginner and intermediate programs (both have finish times faster than your expectations, but not sure how that plays into things), one has 5 days of running, the other 6 days / wk. The long runs are every other week, so if you look at it as a 2-wk microcycle, it's probably about 1/3 or so of that volume. On a weekly basis, it's closer to 50% or more. Your long runs, if you go by their mileage, might be over 5 hrs. This may be why they're suggesting these pgms for faster runners.


      Some people suggest you shouldn't run over 2.5-3 hrs. Others (ultra runners, usually) routinely train with 6-8 hr runs - BUT they're usually on trails with variety in up/down, twist/turn, etc. That can make a substantial difference in what people can tolerate - both physically and mentally. The thing many people overlook is the length of time it takes to build to those durations. A jump from 2 to 3 hrs is a jump of 50%, so it might take a month or two, at least. Some people adapt to longer runs better than others. Some never do. And some just go run in the mountains with friends for hours.


      <Start: Anecdotal sidetrack - skip to last paragraph>

      In a normal training year, I've done multiple long runs (hike/run) over 4 hrs, every other week, 2-3 months before some of my longer races. I usually use a 2-wk microcycle with 4 key workouts - long run; short, fast; big hill (power hike); rolling hills. So it's not too different conceptually from the plans you're considering. Would I do better to shorten the long run, and increase the intensity of one of the key workouts for this duration race? I'm not willing to gamble that for an ultra.


      But if I'm training for a 4-hr race and already have the above base, then I have been very successful (in my mind) in shortening the long run and adding hill repeats - although that was probably specific to the race I was training for.


      That said, none of my training went according to plan this year. I didn't do my ultra, but did some shorter stuff (marathon). I think my longest training run was 6 hr for races I was expecting to be about 8 hr, but I had several 6-8 hr races that were "done" (definitely not raced) throughout the summer. I'm not sure they were that much slower than if I had done my normal training. I met my goals in fall races (had more time to train), but not in spring races (late snow, too much other stuff going on).

      <End: anecdotal sidetrack >


      I'll go out on a limb and say "it's an experiment of one" as to what works for you. Wink  I'm willing to guess that if you don't take your time building up - and that means allowing for adaptation - you will end up injured again. (been there, done that, about 9 yr ago, although that was on hills)  You may be the type person who, if you take your time building the long run, does better with the long long run. Esp. if you're the type person who overdoes speed and hill work.  You do need to get rid of all the niggles before doing long runs of that length. If the race is on roads, and you're training on trails, that may make a difference also. (I personally can handle 8 hrs on trails, but closer to about 2 hr on roads, but that could be a personality issue. Wink  )

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

        Many better, more experienced runners here, but FWIW:


        1.  Long runs get a lot of focus, but need to be put into perspective.  Total miles a week and how long you keep it up are probably more important.  I've done the 20 mile thing leading up to a couple of marathons.  In retrospect, I am not sure a couple of long runs added that much to my overall fittness (see 3 below).  It was psychologically helpful.  Pfitzinger explains the benefit, but the 20 miles are usually part of a 55 or 70 mile per week plan.


        I plan to keep my long runs to 2 1/2 to 3 hours max.   For someone running 30-40 miles a week, a long run may be < 16 miles.   The benefits of long runs takes time.   Some people, like the ultra marathoners or maniacs, have built up to running that far over years.  

        2.  Your 4:30 hour marathon means your long runs would usually be at 10+ min pace.  That is alot of pounding for 20+ miles.


        3.  You will probably see results faster if you add a long tempo run of 8-10 miles per week in addition to a "long run" of 12 to 16 miles.  By tempo, I mean at a steady pace where you keep your effort in the aerobic range, but usually faster than marathon pace.  For me, I try to run them at a half marathon pace.  


        4.  I was trying to get in 5 runs a week until I got PF.   Except for my foot, I felt great.   I do think that 4-5 days is a minimum for marathon training.  A 16 mile long, 10 mile tempo, and 2 x 6 mile runs is 28 miles already.  If I find the time, I would like to get to 50+ miles a week before I increase my long runs past 16.  

        2012 Goals:

        Stay healthy, stay running

        Lose those extra pounds 

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          8-10 mile midweek runs at HMP -- that sounds challenging.

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

            8-10 mile midweek runs at HMP -- that sounds challenging.


            I run slow. I also include a mile warmup, and cool down. Sorry about that. So I (should) run about a 4 hr marathon, and That would be somewhere near a 1:52 half. So my goal was to run my tempo runs at an 8:40 pace. - really, I was just focusing on hr and perceived effort. I think the effort isn't as much since the long runs are not that long.

            2012 Goals:

            Stay healthy, stay running

            Lose those extra pounds 


              Hi There.


              Thanks for the detailed reply. Sorry it took so long to get back. I've had a very busy week.


              My sense is that my body handles the long runs well, but I also want to get faster since I'm in that 5-7 year window of improvement. Trying to balance everything out in a manner that produces the best results while avoiding injury is difficult. My last really successful marathon training peaked with a long run of 23 miles three weeks before the race. My sense was that having several LRs longer than twenty really increased my endurance, strength and speed over the course of the race, but I also did quite a bit of speed and tempo (twice a week) for about 8 weeks after a lengthy period (8 weeks) of base building consisting nothing but slow easy runs and long runs. Anyway, I like the use of the term "microcycle" which is generally how I think about my training as well.


              I started feeling a whole lot stronger that latter half of this week (finally!), so I’m starting to feel like I can continue with my current plans for both the half marathon in November and the full marathon in March. That said, I may keep those cool running training plans on the radar and try them out at some point. I think I’m starting to understand why so many marathon plans use only one speed/tempo/hill session per week in that rather than building base first over a period of weeks then migrating to speed/hill work, both of these are integrated from the very start. To avoid injury I think it's necessary for me to take one of the two approaches.  In the case of the former (2 speed/hill sessions per week), I need to limit myself to 9 - 12 weeks of this type of training after a long period of strict base building. If I incorporate speed sessions over the entire plan (as in cool-running and other plans) it's probably better to stick to only 2 key workouts (1 speed, tempo or hill and 1 long run) for most if not all of the plan.


              Anyway, thanks for all of your thoughts, as they helped me clarify my own.