If you are asking How fast should I run on long runs, you've come to the right place.
I get asked this question quite a bit.
It isn't an easy question to answer because we all are different.
I can make recommendations on how to make massive improvements in middle to long distance races.
That being said, I come from the school of thought that believes to race fast you have to train fast.
Furthermore, if the athlete has no balance in their life it doesn't matter how great of a workout he or she does. There are a lot of moving pieces to running success. How fast should I run comes down to trial and error.
For example, going out too fast in a race will quickly tell you what is and is not the best pace to go out in. The best runners learn from their mistakes. That being said, they also never lose their enthusiasm.
You have to have absolute commitment in order to achieve long-term success. The world-class athletes I have trained and live with have that trait. They are all in.
End of story.
Interest vs Commitment
It all comes down to how badly you want your goal.
You had a great workout. Awesome.
So, what did you do the remaining hours of your day to get the most out of adapting to that effort?
There may be runners that were born with more genetic gifts than you. That being said, your overall success will come down to your mindset and work ethic. What you lack in genetics you'll have to make up with determination and grit.
Hard work is about risk. It begins when you deal with the things that you’d rather not deal with: fear of failure, fear of standing out, fear of rejection. Hard work is about training yourself to leap over this barrier, tunnel under that barrier, drive through the other barrier. And after you’ve done that, to do it again the next day – Seth Godin
Is it talent?
I've made it known numerous times here at RDA that I never had much talent.
Furthermore, I relate to my readers who have to rely on their drive and heart than the limited talent that they may have been given.
What I have and have always relied on is heart and focus.
Is it unfair that sometimes we, with less talent, have to work harder than those that have more?
Yes, sometimes it can be. That being said, whining about it does us no good. You are either interested or you are committed. Remember, we're always in control of our thoughts and attitude.
Quality over Quantity
I've known runners over the years who would run half of what I run per week and still beat me in races.
How we handle being beaten will make the difference in the long-term how successful we'll become. I've had to rely on work ethic for the past 27 years.
A focused, committed athlete will stand the test and don't expect your goals to fall in your lap. In addition, you'll have to expect that it make take a few years or even a decade to get to where you want to go.
If you have a time goal in mind, practicing that goal pace your visualizing is key.
I am a big advocate of race pace training.
Furthermore, I know changing up the paces of my workouts has been the biggest factor in my improvement as a marathoner.
It took me from 2002 to 2007 to figure it out.
Long, slow long runs will not help you when it comes to racing a 5K or marathon. Will they help you in terms of building endurance? Yes. That being said, to race a half marathon or marathon at a specific pace, specific training is involved.
Which workout would be better for an athlete seeking to hold 7:00 mile pace for a half marathon?
A 14-mile run with 8 miles of it at 6.55-7.00 mile pace or a 22 miler at 8.30 mile pace?
The shorter run will teach the athlete to clear lactic acid faster than it is building up in the blood stream. Additionally, it will help the athlete conserve carbohydrate and use fat as his or her fuel source during the race.
Running too many miles slow will not produce the end result, faster race times and personal bests.
It took me working with a Boston Marathon champion as well as researching some of the world's best coaches and exercise physiologists to figure it out.
What changed and how can you too drop massive times in your own racing?
First, understand this, the Kenyans and other top runners around the world do one thing consistently.
They don't stress over the little things.
Bad workout. So what. There is tomorrow.
Lastly, they run a poor race? Guess what they are saying a couple hours later?
Their mindset is different.
How often have you bent out of shape over a bad workout or race?
The Kenyans don't over think and neither do you or I have to.
So, we have to let go of expectations and have the faith that what we have done in training is going to get us to our goal.
Faster long runs will yield increased relaxation at race pace and will bring you to the start line totally confident
This is key!
I advocate gradually extending the distance you spend near goal race pace in the early stages of your training.
What do I mean?
The long run is now the hardest workout I do in my own training.
It takes a lot out of me to maintain 90 minutes to 2 hours at a heart rate above 160 beats per minute That being said, I wouldn't even think about running at this exertion rate early in a training block.
Focus on minutes, rather than miles, early on in your training.
Build Into Your Fitness
Don't rush it.
Now water can flow or it can crash, be like water my friends – Bruce Lee
Do not get caught up in your mileage expectations early on a training build up.
Running at speeds that are 85% or higher of our maximal heart rate is extremely demanding. So, the goal is to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
You have to build into it and the process cannot be rushed.
Sometimes breaking the run up into minutes, rather than miles can take the stress off of you. Also, it can make the training process less stressful.
For example, early on perhaps you may go 12 miles for your long run.
Warmup with 3 miles, then run 10-15 minutes at a heart rate of 160 beats per minute, then run easy the remainder of your run.
You may need to start off running just 5 minutes at that effort.
So be it, but put in the work. It will pay off in the long run if you are patient.
The following week do the same distance but go 25 minutes at the same heart rate you held the previous week and so on.
Don't just jump into trying to do an 18-miler at a pace that you clearly have not built up to.
Does that make sense?
Increased Fitness and Heart Rate
As your fitness grows you will find that your paces at the same heart rate have dropped considerably and you can run longer at the same heart rate.
This is the beautiful part of long-term, consistent, uninterrupted training.
So many runners give up too early because they don't see the results they are looking for soon enough.
This sport takes a lot of dedication and many times athletes that succeed are the ones that simply endure a week, month or a few years longer.
There are two things I will close with that I want to share with you.
One has already been briefly discussed.
Dr. Joe Vigil states that to prepare well for marathoning you have to train at a heart rate that coincides with the heart rate range you will be racing at.
He says between 168-72 beats per minute is close to where your heart rate will sit at in a race.
160 beats per minute is a happy medium.
This may be totally new territory.
You may have come from the train of thought that long slow distance is the way to go in order to run a faster marathon.
I have always believed that long slow distance produces long, slow distance runners – Sebastion Coe – former world record holder at 800m/1500m
Higher Heart Rate Training
Running at higher heart rates for long periods of time will yield magnificent results provided you allow proper recovery.
There are runners who may need 2 days of easy jogging after harder long runs whereas, other athletes may need 3.
Have the patience and fortitude to slow down, relax and allow your body to re-charge from these tough efforts.
Throw in hard miles
This was a totally new concept for me when I started working with Lisa Rainsberger (last American female to win the Boston Marathon and former 2.28 marathoner).
I worked with her for three years while training in Colorado Springs.
It was hard enough to work my way up to doing 20-24 mile runs at 160 beats per minute.
Running miles anywhere from 5.15 to 5.40 per mile pace and then to run a mile at 175-80 beats per minute every 4th mile was asking a lot.
So, what do I mean?
Let's say you have built your base and have spent a few weeks working on your long run effort and are now able to hold 14 miles at a 160 beats per minute.
Your pace at 160 beats per minute is now 6.50 pace, down from the 7.20 pace it was 8 weeks prior. This is how a properly set up long run should look like.
4 miles at 160 heart rate
5th mile at 175 heart rate
4 miles at 160 heart rate
1 mile at 6.15
I had long runs in Colorado where I would be running at 5.20-50 per mile pace than drop a 4.50-5.00 mile for my harder mile surges.
Think of how much stronger you are going to be when you arrive to your next middle to long distance race when you have done these types of runs.
I know it may be a different concept than what you are used. That being said, this is why the Kenyans and other top runners make it look so easy.
There is no need to be intimidated by anyone, just change your training philosophy and see what it can produce in your results.
Never be afraid of competition. It will bring out the best in you – Dr. Joe Vigil
To train hard, understand that recovery is equally important and that to maintain pace means you have to train the energy systems of the body that will assist you to slow down less.
That is what it ultimately is in our long distance races.
It all comes down to who has trained in such a way that they slow down less than you.
If this post resonates with you please leave a comment or drop me a line.