The Science of the Long Run (Read 1759 times)

fellrnr

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

Feeling the growl again

It looks like you did a bit of work pulling some pretty old studies, good work.

I'm a little curious on some of the figures (all I could see for the ref was the abstract).  For the number of 20+ mile runs vs finish time, the study says N=105 but there are only nine data points, ie runners, on the graph.  Further, these points are not at full integer values but at fractional numbers.  If one is plotting number of long runs by each runner, it should always be a full number (0,1,2, etc).  Can you clarify what is going on in the figure?

It's nice to see the studies pulled together because it emphasizes how little it has been formally studies, and how small/uncontrolled the ones that have been done are.  I would be very careful in drawing conclusions from such a limited data set.  For example in ref 3 again, it appears the runners did either 39 or 49 mpw and the results in the marathon were identical.  I doubt they were identical, perhaps not statistically different?  With the long run held constant I would not conclude that the long run is perhaps more important or that increasing mileage is not beneficial.  I would conclude that when you take a small group of runners doing relatively low mileage and make a relatively modest increase in mileage, given all the other variables affecting finish time the benefit (if there is one) is not large enough to tease out.  Without seeing the variability within each group it is hard to analyze.

You've got some good information pulled together on some of your other pages too.

"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

I am spaniel - Crusher of Treadmills

Certainly seem slike a lot of work put in to this but didn't it just result in the same generally accepted information we have now? Long runs are good. More runs or miles may be better but it's unclear how far or how many is ideal? Running has an injury risk. Long runs are generally run slower than MP.

I don't mean to be rude but I don't see any real Long Run Science here. I was really hoping to see some information I could use to make myself more informed.

Longboat

Letting off steam

dpar, that IS the state of Science of the Long Run - I agree with Spaniel, it has not been well studied.  Fellrnr has summarized what there is.

Specifics on this review:

There must be a fairly high correlation between length of the long run and total miles run.  Because of this, I think it would be difficult to attribute marathon finishing time to the length of the long run by itself.  I think total mileage/week would be a larger factor -- but that's my view, not scientifically studied.

Also, I don't see much that would support the recommendation that the longest long runs should be over 20 miles (because of the longest LR - total mpw connection).
The anecdotal advice "Some coaches recommend limiting the length of the long run to a percentage of the weekly mileage, often in the range 25-35%. The rationale for this unclear..."  I think it IS clear in almost any coaches' discussion of their training programs-- a higher % in the long run will impair the runner's ability to complete meaningful training because of residual fatigue for more than a day after.  The long run may become the single major effort that the runner is capable of completing each week, and he may require a rest day before as well as after.    Empirical evidence from coaches who have supervised thousands of marathon training cycles is sufficient here.  But if not, there should be sufficient applicable evidence from exercise physiology in general to support the statement that a single major workout per week is not optimal training,

I also disagree that limiting the long run contributes to training monotony.  There is lots of scope in the other six days for a variety of running that is not monotonous; a single week can include tempo or MP-pace runs, recovery/easy runs, intervals, progressions, drills, hills and a rest day or two.  Limiting the long run probably provides greater scope for variety in the other 6 days.

An aspect of "Science of the Long Run" that may have better scientific evidence:

I've always been a little skeptical that the "fat-burning mechanism" can be trained to operate at faster speeds by very easy pace running.  Also, if it is trainable, is it trainable to a level that is useful at marathon race speeds for many runners.  IMO, some preservation of carb stores, even at the edge, would be useful to push out carb depletion.  However, I'm not sure the training for this adaptation is worth prioritizing for most runners.

Neil

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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

OMG!!!  That is not science AT ALL!!  No wonder runners TODAY are all screwed up!!  A study based on statistics back in 1970???  Do you have ANY idea how many people were running a marathon in 4-hours back then vs. today?????  I'll be MORE runners are running 3, 4, 5+ hours marathon today, approaching, if not exceeding, 20-miles than elite and sub-elite runners.  Maybe THIS is where people made this mistake that, in order to improve, you've GOT to run 20-miles or more.

Have you come across a study done in Germany back in late 1970s, early 1980s in regards to capillarization?  Did you find Dr. David Costill's study on the effect of long runs on the muscles?  Did you ever see a graph Dr. Peter Snell, also 3-time Olympic champion in middle distance events, always show about the effect of long run of up to 2-hours (the study was actually done by Dr. Saltine et al)?  The "scientific" site, seems to me, was put together by a guy who just skimmed through internet, found whatever he could find (but not necessarily doing the actual research) and put together with the conclusion already in mind.  Another MAJOR mistake of this is that he only seems to look into "20-miler".  I would certainly opt more to look into a long run of, say, 2-hours.  If he didn't take into consideration the fact that majority of today's runners would take over 3-hours to run "20-miler".  Muscle damage stuff was interesting but, again, he failed to show any coloration between muscle damage and long run.  The only thing I saw, and I surely hope that was NOT his intention, that you need 14-days recovery from a long run (which, again, he failed to show that's what happens if you did a long run...of what extent).  Anecdotal stuff is also VERY weak.  It really seems to me, he just skimmed through some internet search and slapped together this very hastily.  Hate to say but if you really wanted to know the "secret" of long runs, this is not even worth reading.  It's a bunch of statistics of out-dated information at best.

PS: I do like the guy's shoes though--he seems to "modified" his shoes by cutting some holes.  Good on him!

By the way, 10% rule is NOT a RULE at all.  Where it came about, and how it came about, is when Arthur Lydiard visited US and one of the original Runner's World guys did an interview.  Back then, or even today to some extent, not too many people were running 100 miles a week and he wanted to find out the "secret" of how to get the mileage up to 100.  Arthur, as usual if you ever knew him, was quite vague on this by answering more or less like "just do what you feel happy about..."  Which is probably a very good advice but readers were not going to be satisfied with that.  "How about increasing the mileage by 10% each week?" he asked.  "That sounds fair enough," Arthur replied.  So there; now THAT has become the Golden Rule, which is not golden rule at all.

You increase the mileage, long run or weekly mileage, when YOU are ready to increase, not by some bogus number rules.  Or that would be the surest way to get injured, burt out, or frustrated and disappointed.

Old , Ugly and slow

Running is more an art than a science. Everyone is different. There is no right way to train only right for

you.

first race sept 1977 last race sept 2007

2014goals   1300  miles  , 190 pounds , deadlift 400 touch my toes

Longboat

Letting off steam

Nobby, the original poster (fellrnr) has been a regular poster at RW.  He enjoys trying to organize knowledge on running subjects in his pages. He did exactly what you said  in terms of looking to see what he could find, and trying to summarize.  It's in wiki form, a work in progress, so he can modify as he finds more info.  No, it's not complete or logical yet, but I don't believe he intended it as a comprehensive state of the art, or that he deserves the "OMG, no wonder... " condemnation.  I reserve judgment on whether a conclusion was already in mind; I have already gently expressed my disagreement with the recommendations.

You've identified other sources, which I expect he will incorporate, as he updates.  I for one would be interested in seeing this type evolve to something more comprehensive with input from more runners here.

Neil

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...I've always been a little skeptical that the "fat-burning mechanism" can be trained to operate at faster speeds by very easy pace running.  Also, if it is trainable, is it trainable to a level that is useful at marathon race speeds for many runners.  IMO, some preservation of carb stores, even at the edge, would be useful to push out carb depletion.  However, I'm not sure the training for this adaptation is worth prioritizing for most runners.

When you start looking at one specific development, which is how the scientific researchers would HAVE to do, such as VO2Max or fat burning mechanism or whatever, you'll lose sight of the actual benefit of that particular workout (like long run).  In real life, it always comes as a package. Fat-burning mechanism IS quite important however PARTICULARLY if you are a slow runner.  For a slower runner, a marathon becomes an ultra event, being on their feet for over 4, 5, 6 hours.  At slow speed, you'll be using lots of fat--if the pace is very slow, you may not get to the point where you'd "deplete" glycogen ESPECIALLY if you keep refueling yourself with GU or other energy gel/drink.

This "fat-burning mechanism" has become a house-hold term lately but, for that, the pace of the run would have to be considered.  On the other hand, surprisingly, this "science of long run" didn't even touch this but capillarization of the working muscles is probably one of the most important aspect of long run (I may have missed it because I didn't really spend a whole lot of time reading it).  As Jack Daniels says, the important thing is the duration of the workout, not the intensity.  So in theory, the longer the run, regardless of the pace, the more capillarization you will gain.  So is 5-hour run better than 2-hour run?  Well, it all depends on what you're trying to gain.  I believe there are a whole lot other things that you will LOSE by doing too much slow running and, as far as performance is concerned, you won't get much from all those long runs (I'm talking about ridiculously long runs).  This is why, I believe, people who are plodding along the 26-milers continue to plod if all they do is those super long run of 3, 4, 5 hours with nothing else being done in between simply because you need that much time to recover from these "Big Effort".

Nobby, the original poster (fellrnr) did exactly what you said  in terms of looking to see what he could find and trying to summarize.  It's in wiki form, a work in progress, so he can modify as he finds more info.  I don't believe he intended it as a comprehensive state of the art, or that he deserves the "OMG, no wonder... " condemnation.  I reserve judgment on whether a conclusion was already in mind; I already gently expressed my disagreement with the recommendations.

You've identified other sources, which I expect he will incorporate, as he updates.  I for one would be interested in seeing this evolve to something more comprehensive.

Oh, I got it.  I thought the OP found that site and referred that site as conclusion of HIS research (I didn't even know the OP was the author of that wiki page).  My apology to the OP.

Longboat

Letting off steam

Yes, I agree with your comments about the fat-burning mechanism and the duration of the workout.   My latest skepticism was generated by the comments on fat burning in Hansons Marathon Method.  As you know, their programs do not very long runs even for their "Advanced" program, although their higher mileage runners do longer ones -- within the % of the total mileage.  On this, I'm only quibbling with the explanation rather than the training pattern, which I do agree with.

Neil

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I believe there are a whole lot other things that you will LOSE by doing too much slow running and, as far as performance is concerned, you won't get much from all those long runs (I'm talking about ridiculously long runs).

I don't mean to hijack this thread, but this is related -- Nobby, I had been hoping you would comment on the Hansons vs. Pfitzinger thread. Specifically, it seems to me like the big tradeoff in the Hansons plan vs. Pfitzinger's is far more miles at MP, in exchange for far fewer and shorter long runs. How do you feel about this tradeoff?

Yes, I agree with your comments about the fat-burning mechanism and the duration of the workout.   My latest skepticism was generated by the comments on fat burning in Hansons Marathon Method.  As you know, their programs do not very long runs even for their "Advanced" program, although their higher mileage runners do longer ones -- within the % of the total mileage.  On this, I'm only quibbling with the explanation rather than the training pattern, which I do agree with.

Yeah, in fact, I'm quite skeptical of some of the "explanations" of what Arthur Lydiard had said in quite a few workouts.  But the point is; it worked. He even said all he's interested in is the results; and the rest of us can have all the reasoning and debate later.  Unfortunately I think many people today need some "conformation" to do anything.  I guess "it worked" is not good enough any more...

I don't mean to hijack this thread, but this is related -- Nobby, I had been hoping you would comment on the Hansons vs. Pfitzinger thread. Specifically, it seems to me like the big tradeoff in the Hansons plan vs. Pfitzinger's is far more miles at MP, in exchange for far fewer and shorter long runs. How do you feel about this tradeoff?

I was sort of staying away from that thread (;o)) because you guys are doing a great job and I'm not too familiar with either program in detail.  I know both Hanson brother and Peter personally and they are both big Lydiard advocate--details aside, their basic structure is that of Lydiard.  Pete, as you probably know, now lives in Auckland with his Kiwi wife who also is a very well established NZ distance runner.  He was coached by Kevin Ryun (as well as Squires for a while) who was coached by Barry Magee who was one of original "Arthur's Boys".  He is a very knowledgeable guy but I do feel, with a disclaimer that I had not closely studied his program, that his program seems quite hard for most recreational runners.  Might be a typical example of ex-elite runner (he was an animal!!) trying to water it down but not quite there???  I wouldn't know.

Personally I like the Hanson's principles way back when it first came out in the public's eyes in Running Time's article, gosh, when was it?  2004?  It was way before Sel made the Olympic Team in 2008.  I remember someone brought my attention to the article, saying that they (Kevin and Keith) are against Lydiard (2-hour, or 22-mile, long run).  When I read it, I didn't necessarily think it was AGAINST basic principles of Lydiard's and, then again, they actually contacted me in 2004 to arrange Arthur's visit to their store--I think some of the video footage is available on YouTube.  So I knew all about their training philosophy and the basic fundamental ideas of their training.  Of course, quite a bit before their book got popular and all this "capping at 16-mile" sort of idea, we sort of happened to incorporate, not by choice but more like "it so happened...", that we have long Out & Back (tempo) run on Saturday followed the next day with almost equal duration of jog.  One guy who ran Cal International said that, one weekend, he did 15-miles at near MP and followed that with 12-mile jog.  "I was somewhat skeptical about 'no long run of 20+' but, when you think about it, it's total of 27 miles on one weekend and I had no problem (unlike previous programs that I had followed) doing an hour's fartlek Monday..."  Toshi Takaoka, a 2:06:16 marathon runner, although he runs 150-miles a week, he said his longest run is 2-hours.  "Otherwise, THAT becomes a BIg Effort..."  In other words, all the other workouts, not just speed training but including runs that follow, would go out the window.  How many slow runners do you know who plod along, trying to reach a certain distance, be it 16-mile or 18-mile or 20, taking as long as 4 or 5 hours but NEVER seem to get any better?  And how many days would they usually take to recover from that ONE effort?  This had come up over and over again when talking with Lydiard's runners; "If you can't get out and do your 'normal' run the next day, you're doing too much."

The training program would have to be balanced.  Too much of one thing is never a good thing.  I trust both Pfiz's or Hanson's programs are sound because they know what they're talking about.  It most certainly has ALL the ingredients necessary.  How you tweak is your job.  One thing, though, is that if you get so hooked with any certain number--be it 16-miles or 20-miles or 100 miles a week--, then you'll fall on your face.  Or if you get too hooked with ONE TYPE of training--be it intervals or tempo run or long run--, you'll lose sight of a bigger picture.  Trying to find the confirmation or proof or whatever you call it in a long run might be fun and amusing; but it probably won't mean much in terms of over-all training purpose.  So what if Grete Waitz "only" ran 12-miles?  As far as I'm concerned, she's not necessarily "against" long runs (as evidenced in her writing, I guess, when she talks about the importance of long runs).  12-mile IS a long run for someone who competed primarily in 1500m with occasional 3000m as she did.  Rosa Mota was the same way.  Them not having done any 20-miler won't make them against long runs any more than those who plod along those super long runs week in and week out somehow never improving.

Thank you!