Marathon Runners Advice
Extend long runs by just one mile at a time up to 10 miles. Take recovery weeks as well as recovery days. Here’s what eight weeks of marathon training might look like, in terms of miles per week: 20-22-24-20-26-28-30-20.
The long run is the most important component of marathon training because it teaches the body to both mentally and physically tackle the challenges presented in completing the 26.2-mile event. Physiologically, the body must learn to tap into and utilize energy reserves from fat storage sites after the glycogen (fuel stores in the muscles, converted over from carbohydrate food sources) have been depleted. Through long run training, the capacity to store more glycogen within the muscles increases. An increase in glycogen stores translates into the ability to maintain one’s pace during the marathon and delay the onset of fatigue. Conversely, trouble is on the horizon when you run out of glycogen, as your pace will significantly decrease.
One must also be accustomed to running for very long periods of time, and the mental toughness that develops from completing long training runs pays off handsome dividends during the actual marathon.
The long run also provides an excellent opportunity to experiment with a variety of issues and concerns (e.g., shoes, nutrition, pacing, etc.). Marathon training schedules must be designed so that runners are adequately rested prior to undertaking their long runs. One who completes at least two long runs of 20 miles or longer prior to his or her marathon will no doubt reduce the possibility of visiting the dreaded “wall” (the point in time when glycogen stores within the muscles have been depleted and as a result, the runner’s pace slows considerably, oftentimes to a walk).
Guidelines and Helpful Hints
- Don’t schedule long runs too early in your training, even if you are physically prepared to cover the distance. This may lead to staleness or premature burnout. Additionally, you may “peak” too early in your training.
- Schedule some long runs at the same time of day the actual marathon will be held to familiarize yourself with running during that time-frame and to also develop a pre-race routine for which you feel comfortable.
- Consider running for time, approximating the distance. Doing so will enable you to have more flexibility and spontaneity in regards to the route you choose to run.
- Do not increase the distance of your long run by more than 10 percent per week. This equates to adding approximately 15 minutes to each subsequent long run.
- Every fourth week of your training schedule, drop the distance of your long run, providing for an easy week to facilitate rest and recovery.
- Use your long runs as a means of experimentation regarding future choices of food, clothing, shoes, etc.
- Schedule you’re longest run no closer than four weeks before the marathon. The distance of this run should be 23 miles maximum. Above all, DO NOT run 26.2 miles in practice to see if you can run a marathon. Save your efforts for the actual race!
- It’s perfectly acceptable to stop or walk to get the fluids down during your long run. Doing so will not have a negative effect on your preparedness for the marathon. Water and sports drinks are your “lifeline” to completing these long workouts.
- Running with a group will make the long run more pleasurable and easier to accomplish as opposed to running alone.
- While running with a group is a great idea, be sure you don’t turn long runs into races. This will almost surely lead to injury. Find training partners who run at, or close to your training pace.
After a thorough evaluation of systems by the physical therapists, 7 months before the big event, you should start running twice per week for the first two months, 6 miles one day and 3 to 4 the other one, then 7 miles and 4 to 5 miles respectively per week for another month followed by 20 miles per week for the four month. The months 5 and 6 before the day, get into the extended long runs to increase up to 30 miles per week. Month seven reduce the running distance to 15 to 20 miles per week except for the last 15 days which I recommend 3 miles twice per week.
Benefits of a Long Run
- Provides the necessary endurance to complete the marathon.
- Strengthens the heart (increases stoke volume) and opens the capillaries, both sending energy to working muscles and flushing waste products from fatigued muscles.
- Other physiological benefits include the increased number and size of mitochondria and increased myoglobin concentration in muscle fibers.
- Strengthens the leg muscles and ligaments, thus improving your endurance.
- Recruits fast-twitch muscle fibers to help with slow-twitch tasks (like running a marathon).
- Teaches the body to burn fat as fuel.
- Develops your mental toughness and coping skills, thus increasing/enhancing your confidence level that you can go the full marathon distance on race day.
- Increases your overall speed, even for shorter races.
Things to Consider While Running Long
- Run at a conversational pace by starting out slowly to conserve glycogen.
- Running at an easy pace reduces the possibility of incurring an injury.
- Stay loose by shaking out your arms and shoulders regularly.
- Carry your arms close to your waist or hips to conserve energy. Also avoid unnecessary arm swing, particularly laterally across the body.
- Realize that long runs will sometimes be difficult to complete and that you may experience some “bad patches” in the later miles. Persevering through these stretches will develop mental toughness, an essential skill that will be needed during the marathon.
- Use imagery, mental rehearsal/visualization, and self-talk to develop mental toughness. Mentally break the course into sections.