The long run.
This is the bread and butter of marathon training. One day every week (usually Sunday, because it’s when most people have the most free time), virtually every marathon training plan calls for a long run. The point of a long run is to train your body to handle the punishment of a long duration exercise session, simulate what it will feel like to run on race day, and to build up mental toughness and confidence in your running ability.
When you’re training for a long distance race, you have to manage your miles. You can’t just run super long distances every day, because you’ll get exhausted physically and mentally and will burn out. You also have to build up the mileage slowly – add a little bit every week to prevent overuse injuries, make your runs progressively longer as you get fitter and faster. Rest and recovery days become just as important as training days. Nothing will derail your marathon training faster than an injury. For that reason, typically you do one long run a week, and the other days of the week are set aside for (relatively) shorter runs, or speed work, or easy recovery runs.
This week is probably the toughest week of training I’ve done. Over the last couple months, I’ve progressively built up to running about 110 km a week. My long runs have gotten longer as well. Starting at about 16 km, I’ve added about 1 km a week to my long run distance. This Sunday, my long run peaks at 34 km, and will be the longest run I will do in training prior to my marathon. After this, my runs will gradually get shorter and my weekly mileage will decrease as my focus shifts more towards recovery so I have fresh legs for the race.
34 km is equivalent to about 4 laps around the entire walking track in The Pas. Personally I get bored doing laps and running by the same things 4 times, so for my longer runs I’ve been running out onto the highway. I’ve discovered that the highway in Carrot Valley is a beautiful, wide open and scenic road to run on, so that’s where I’ve been doing many of my long runs.
Here’s the gear that I’ll typically use for a long run:
– Light, breathable running shirt and shorts
– Nice pair of well broken in runners
– Running socks (good socks prevent blisters)
– GPS watch (tracks my speed and mileage so I know exactly how far and fast to go)
– Water belt (running is thirsty work)
– Energy gels (will burn over 2000 calories running, need some sugar so I don’t hit the wall)
When running a long run, you don’t want to be running at race pace, but you don’t necessarily want to take it too easy either. Moderate, conversational pace and consistency is the key. I’ll be focusing on good running form and maintaining my speed so I can finish strong with some energy left in the tank. I expect this run to take around 3 hours to complete. Afterwards, lots of stretches, a bunch of water, and a huge post-run meal. And tomorrow? A well-deserved rest day.
If I can get through this run after already running 80 km this week, I’ll know I’m in good shape to finish the marathon. Wish me luck!