Updated: Mar 8
The long run is the cornerstone of a sound training program.
The long run is one of the best ways to increase endurance and stamina for races of all distances and surfaces. Consequently, every effort should be made to ensure that the long run is a regular part (once every 7 to 10 days) of your training routine.
For our purposes, the long run is defined as any run longer than 90 minutes. We use the 90 minute benchmark because this is when the body begins to run out of carbohydrate stores in the bloodstream and consequently begins to burn the fat that is already stored in the body at a higher rate. Running continuously for 90 minutes or more every 7 to 10 days primes the body for greater fat metabolization throughout the week.
Steady Long Runs
Steady long runs are what most people think of when they think of a long run. Putting time in on the feet, while running at a steady, sustainable effort for the duration of the run.
Olympian Alan Culpepper described the goal of the long run as "quick enough to stress the cardiovascular system into building more aerobic enzymes but not so hard where it affects your next harder workout. If you find that you are feeling fatigued for three to four days post-long run, you are running it too hard.” Read more about the long run from Coach Culpepper or the source of Culpepper's insights on the long run, Coach Mark Wetmore.
“The goal is to run the long run quick enough to stress the cardiovascular system into building more aerobic enzymes but not so hard where it affects your next harder workout. If you find that you are feeling fatigued for three to four days post-long run, you are running it too hard.”
Rolling Long Runs
Rolling long runs are similar to the steady long run, but are done on undulating terrain so there will naturally be changes in pace depending on the ascent or descent at any given point throughout the run. Rather than fixating on a particular pace, rolling long runs lend themselves to organically surging uphill and down.
Simulating Race Day
When training for a race of 90 minutes or more, the long run takes on even greater importance because it is the one run that most resembles race day. With this in mind, it’s important to use at least some long runs to simulate race day. This does not mean that you have to race every long run.
However, there are some things that you can do in training to simulate a longer race:
1). Practice maintaining effort up and down hills.
2). Practice changing pace.
3). Practice race day nutrition (before, during, and after the run).
4). Practice increasing the effort as you progress throughout the run.
5). Run by time - gradually approach the duration you may run on race day.
Cut Down Long Runs
Cut down long runs start comfortably and the effort increases throughout the run.
Cut down long runs are an effective way to prime the legs and lungs for future hard efforts. The beauty of a cut down long run is that the intense portions of the run occur well into the run when the body is already warmed up. Cut down long runs are a way of adding quality and intensity to the training week while reducing injury risk by ensuring that the body is thoroughly warmed up prior to any hard efforts.