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Training by Feel

It is interesting how our experiences shape our philosophy over time. My earliest example was when I started running cross country in high school. I ran track in junior high but wasn’t bothered with cross country. My coach, Mike Noll, was very pace-oriented with an emphasis on negative splits and since it was really my first experience, though that’s how it was supposed to be. The kids that ran in middle school were basically taught to blast off and see how well you could hold on. They were able to get away with it because the distance was a mile and a half. In high school, the distance doubled, which meant that there was twice as long for things to go wrong.

We have all gone out way too hard before and recognize that the time you can lose is on an exponential level!

Needless to say, my college coach was very similar, as are Kevin and Keith. All have different nuances to their approach, but the bases were all very similar. Fortunately, I thrived under those theories and have taken the same approach to all of you who listen to me. When I was a part of the ODP, I had many, many teammates from all different types of programs. And like anything, people struggled with adapting to this type of philosophy, while others thrived. Truth be told, I feel like the people who thrived were the people like myself.

We were moderately talented but really had to execute perfectly if we were to compete at the level we did. So, we had to learn paces by running paces- over and over and over again.

Now, a couple of years ago, I made a post saying as much. A prominent runner replied, “Why not just train them to race?” Now, to be fair, I really don’t think they were being facetious. I genuinely think they were asking as a type of “well why wouldn’t you just do this? I thought about it for a long time. At their level, they could train to win a major race. I was not there, and most of my athletes aren’t at that level. Many of you are training to beat yourself or to qualify for Boston. Things like that. I was trying to run PR’s, qualify for World teams, and those types of things.

So, I sense it already, “aren’t you selling yourself short?”

No, I don’t think so and that is really what I want to cover. I don’t feel like I did, because I feel like when the situation did arise, I had the killer instinct and disregarded pace when I was late in a competitive situation. But it was because of knowing where I was at with pace that put me in the situation, to begin with! I will give you two examples of races, both of which were in the same training cycle.

  1. In 2011, I and a couple of teammates were on the training cycle. Our first race was a half marathon in Naples, Florida. I had never heard of this race before, but somehow everyone and their brother were at this race! So, it was still kinda early in our block and we were training for a pretty fast go. We were all trying to run under 1:04 for the half- pretty close to 4:50 pace per mile. At Naples, I tried to race the crew. There were some guys there like I described at the start. Go out hard and hang on. I was naive and thought it might work and I wanted to race the competition. I knew we were fast, but I disregarded it. By 10k, I was fried. I spent the second half of the race watching people pull away from me like I was stuck in peanut butter. It was pretty disheartening because it was a wasted opportunity.
  2. Now, about four weeks later, I was in New Orleans for the Rock n Roll half marathon. I had two other teammates who were trying to get Trials qualifiers by running a fast enough half time. So, I went in more fit than I was previously, but having no intention to race the leaders. This time the gun goes off and we settle into the pace right away. This time it felt like a jog, but we were dialed in. The two leaders had jumped out early, but by four miles the lead had stayed the same distance. I knew we were on the pace and it felt comfortable. So, I started dialing in just a little bit. My 4:55 miles crept down to 4:50, then I hit 10 miles and I was at my PR! I think it was 48:35 at 10 miles. I hadn’t quite caught the two leaders at this point and it was a critical junction. I thought- Do I have enough gas to get them? Do I have enough time to catch them if I stay at this pace? My decision/reaction was I felt like I was just off the edge enough to push for 15 more minutes. That’s about what I had left to race. So, I buckled down, caught the two leaders, and dropped the one. Then it came down to a sprint the last 800 meters. I was nipped at the line, but the guy who beat me was an NCAA champ, so it wasn’t like I let him have it. The result: A new PR of 1:03:58.

Two races, within a month, with two dramatically different results. 

I know what many of you are thinking- this sounds like I am making the case for training by feeling more than training by pace. To that, I would disagree. I really feel like because I knew my paces inside and out, I, as The Gambler used to say, “Know when to hold’em. Know when to fold ’em. Know when to walk away and know when to run.”

The reason is that regardless of the data you use- heart rate, pace, or power, what are you really measuring? You are measuring an intensity level, or how hard something is. I prefer pace because it’s what I have always used and at the end of the day, many of you are training to run certain times, so pace you need to be able to run a certain time for a given distance. But here is the problem.

We put so much emphasis on the data, that we don’t internalize how that effort feels.

We get so wrapped up in hitting the splits that so many of us just say, “Well, I hit that pace so I’m good for the marathon.” The opposite is also true. Or they get into a situation of just going pedal to the medal because they feel that they can, or should.

The point here is that running paces and sticking to paces lets you internalize better how those paces feel over an array of circumstances. For me, I have been doing it for decades and so I know pretty close (without the help of a watch) if I am over the target, or not. But, it was decades of adhering to pace, adjusting as I progressed over time, and then listening to my body on how those paces felt that helped me “race” when the time came. I learned how long I could extend an effort for before I was going to pay the price. I could make better calculations on what moves to cover or when to let it play out. You might get lucky once in a while when just throwing eggs against the wall, but most of the time they are just going to crack under the pressure.

A couple of last things I want to mention here. One is that I am aware that there is a time to really push a workout. To take yourself to the well a little bit. For us, that was always The Simulator and the second half of the 2×6 mile. For you, it might be one of the 16 milers and one of the 10 Mile tempos.

The problem is that you can only go to the well a few times before the bucket comes up dry. Do you want that to be during training?

Probably not. The second is that I like the other data like HR and Power, but I am yet to be convinced that they should be your training guide. Where I like them better is data that you can look back and reflect on. Where you can see trends and aid in adjustments. That’s just me and I know many of you have your own strong feelings.

Ultimately though, as a coach, I want to get you as an athlete to be at this place in your training- Allowing the pace to be dictated by the effort and not the other way around. Easy runs are the perfect example. Let’s say your easy range is 8-9:30 pace per mile. Yesterday you did a hard workout, had little sleep, and are stressed from a project due at work. In an ideal situation, you’d run at an easy effort and if that landed at 9:15 per mile, so be it. Where many of you are at is you see 8:00/mile and force that pace even though the effort is significantly higher than easy.

To get to this point, I want to teach new runners to learn control by strictly adhering to paces, especially early in a training cycle when things are easier.

This means no cheating down your easy runs or any of your workouts.

The temptation is there, but resist! This does mean you have to pay close attention to the data. Things like setting up your ranges on your watch to annoy the hell out you may be a necessary evil. But, this only works if you begin to pay attention to your body, how you feel, and what’s going on internally to begin associating how you react to the paces. Then, over time, you begin to know if you are creeping paces down. If you are running faster, then it’s a conscious effort, not because Right Said Fred is blasting your ear pods. As you are more experienced you can shift the reliance on the technology to reliance on your effort and be really close. If you can get to that point, then that’s where you can really make breakthroughs in overall pacing and being more competitive. You will be able to make much better race decisions and have confidence in yourself.

Is this clear as mud?

Learn your paces by internalizing efforts. The end result is that you, over time, can put less reliance on the technology measuring the intensity and putting it in the best computer ever made- your brain!

Adjusting Early Season Paces

How many times have you set your time goal, thought it looked kinda scary, but still doable? Yeah, me too. Now, how about when you started the training plan and that first workout at your new race pace was staring back at you? Knees shake, sweat build, and a “Oh crap, that’s fast” blurts out. Yep, been there too. There’s a number of reasons we might be in this situation.

  1. Maybe we are looking at that big home run goal, say a BQ that’s 15 minutes faster than our personal best.
  2. We haven’t run a marathon in a long time (if ever), but since we’ve done some relatively fast shorter races, the charts say we are capable of something much faster than we had in mind!
  3. The opposite, you are a habitual marathoner, but recognize you need to work on that “get down” speed. (Bonus points if you name the book) And that 5k time looks like it might as well be a world record attempt.

There’s lots of reasons why, but the bottom line is that the paces might be a big jump. When looking at speed, maybe you have an intro workout of 12×400 meters at goal 5k pace. However, goal 5k pace feels more like mile pace. So, that hard, but doable, workout (in theory), has now become impossible. If that goal 5k pace is approaching, say your current 3k plus pace, then we are taking it from a place of being below VO2max to a place where it’s right at, or above, your VO2max. This completely changes the scope of the workout. Plus, it makes it really tough on you and it probably won’t end the way you want it. When you look at marathon paces, let’s say you are looking at that first marathon tempo of 4 miles. However, your last half marathon wasn’t too far off that goal pace- yikes! The same thing applies here. Early on, we might be making a lighter marathon pace workout into a lactate threshold workout. If you are in a marathon segment and in this situation, it could spell disaster later on.

For marathoners, why would this be the case?

If you are following the HMM plan, then you are looking at 18 weeks of running. That’s a long time. That’s buffered a bit in the beginner plan with easy weeks in the beginning. In the Advanced plan, you are getting down to business  right away. Regardless, you have several weeks of a buildup of speed and marathon pace workouts before switching to the marathon specific work over the last several weeks. Now, if we are taking the first few weeks of speed, that’s supposed to be on the slower end of the speed range (close to LT for some people) and then a marathon pace that should be more like a harder easy run and switch these to both at LT, or above, then we set ourselves up to be burnt out by 10-12 weeks of training.

If you are training for a 5k or a 10k, then you might not have an 18 week schedule but 14 weeks is still a long time. With half marathon and marathon training, we might be able to get away with it for a while, but as intensities get faster and faster, the potential damage gets higher. Things like DOMS will occur more regularly. Overall muscle damage may be higher. Ultimately, we dig the hole a little deeper than we can fill back in with recovery every time we work out.

So, over the course of several weeks, we either it a breaking point or just so burnt out that performance takes a nosedive. Even if we do survive, psychologically, we haven’t particularly done anything to make ourselves confident.

We end up hanging on rather than building up.

Recommended Post

Whatever situation you are in, the question remains the same- how do we bridge the gap between where we are at and where we want to be. Just diving in may work, but is it the most reasonable solution? The chances of failure are a lot higher with this approach.

As a coach I approach three different ways.

  1. I make sure my athletes aren’t just doing one type of training all the time.
    If they just want to run marathons, then I try to get them to switch modes at the appropriate time. There’s a number of ways to time this. One way is to do during a time that doesn’t make sense to train for their primary event. So, a marathoner in Florida, may benefit from doing a speed segment during the summer months, when training for a marathon would be absolutely miserable. Then, they could switch gears in September and run a marathon in December or January when the weather would be much more favorable to them.
  2. Adjust overall paces.
    What I mean by this, is each workout for a certain goal will be kept the same. So, your 5k pace is 7:00/mile and you are looking to get down to 6:40/mile. What I might do is take a week or so at the current 7:00 pace, then cut down to 6:50 pace for 3-4 weeks, then close out the segment at 3-4 weeks at the goal pace of 6:40. This gives the body time to adapt to new levels. In other words, we don’t dig that hole so deep we can’t get out of it.
  3. Cutdown paces during the workout.
    Flipping it, let’s assume your current marathon pace is 8:00/mile and you want to get to 7:30 pace. You have a 4 mile tempo at goal pace. At the beginning of your segment, that might be faster than what your LT is, so completely changing the dynamics of the workout intentions. What I might do is say first mile at 8:00, then next mile at 7:50, then 7:40, then try to close at 7:30 if you can. Then over the course of the next several weeks, increase the amount of time in the range of goal pace to goal pace plus 10 secs/mile and decrease the amount of time at the old marathon pace. You could easily do the same things with repeats.
  4. Reduce repeat distances for the first few weeks and make tempos repeats.
    So, for workouts like speed at new goal pace, you could keep repeats to 200-600 meter repeats at new goal paces and keep recovery a little longer. With a four mile tempo, I often just make 8×800 meters or 4×1 mile at goal MP with short recoveries. Now, mind you, I don’t believe the physiological adaptations are the same, but in this case that is not the point. Here, our goal is to build confidence in new pace and just dip our toes into the deep end.

I love setting big goals.

However, big goals without a plan is no good. Here’s 4 strategies to help bridge the gap in the early stages. These can be used for big goals, coming back from a long time away from an event, or going into uncharted territory. Let’s make it happen!

 

Custom or Pre-Made Training Plans for any distance!

How strict is your plan?

If you aren’t aware, we have a very active Facebook group. There are lots of posts or sharing of workouts- usually of when they are crushed. On one the other day, I was mentioned in one of the comments, so I started thumbing through and was caught by one comment on particular. The gentleman wants to run a 3:20 and his comments centered around creating a buffer and not expecting to see a certain pace at any point (or that certain paces have no place in a 3:20 plan).

In another life, I would have been like, “whoah, hold on brotato chip!” Eh, who am I kidding, I still am a little bit. I was definitely taken aback a little bit, because I immediately thought, “what’s going to happen to this guy the first split he sees at that pace that shouldn’t be anywhere in his splits?”

There are two main points I want to discuss in this post. The first is in regards to what I interpret when a person is trying to create a “buffer.” The second is how the runner is going to react when they see splits during the race when they “had no room” for them in training.

What trying to create a “buffer” tells me

  1. You don’t believe in your plan or coach.

    I see this a lot in people when they post about their training in our group. The biggest example of this is the 16 mile long runs in most of our marathon plans. For a lot of people they can’t get past the 16 mile long run being enough because it has been instilled in them that everything in marathon training revolves around the 20 mile long run. Unfortunately, these folks will keep running in circles (literally) for years trying to do things the same unsuccessful ways they’ve been doing them.

  2. You don’t believe in yourself.

    The best example of this is a person who is trying to run a BQ or break a time barrier. Everything about what they are doing or have done in the past indicates that they should be able to run the time they are seeking. However, their own self doubt creeps in and they push the pace faster than necessary because they feel like it will mean they can fade back to their goal pace and even slower, but have enough time in the bank to stagger in under their goal. However, it usually just sets them up for failure during training or the race.

  3. You aren’t putting enough time on the other stuff.

    This is a position I have really changed my thinking on over the last few years. This is thanks to all the interaction with our online run club and the athletes in there. I have always been a high mileage guy and I still am. I truly think that if you want to reach your highest potential, you need to be able to handle mileage. However, now that is with a caveat. Now I would say, train at the highest amount of volume you can that still allows you to incorporate the other aspects of well rounded training- strength and flexibility/mobility. Too many times I see athletes who don’t reach a goal, but instead of reflecting back to what their true training needs are, they just assume that they need to up the mileage the next time. I sometimes seeing runners trying to break four hours in the marathon and putting in 70 miles a week! What I am saying is back that down to 50 miles a week and use the time they would have spent on that other 20 miles per week and address the issues I mentioned. Hint: all runners have something strength related that needs help!

If you aren’t sure where to begin, I suggest reading up on our self tests or getting a gait analysis from an expert.

Custom or Pre-Made Training Plans for any distance!

What makes me worry when someone is preparing for no split to be faster or slower than a certain pace. The thing is, no race goes perfect. Even our best races have moments where we say “if I just woulda.” You really do have to ask yourself the question, “how am I going to handle x or y situation?” When a person is setting themselves up to run the perfect race by trying to force everything in training, I tend to assume that their race is going to end in disappointment. Why? Because most of the time these runners panic when the inevitable split that’s way too slow shows up. This may be due to an improperly placed mile marker, a hilly mile, a turn into a headwind, a drop in concentration, an off Garmin split, or whatever. Instead of assessing the situation mentally, or rolling with the punches, they panic. By panic, I mean they usually either throw in the towel prematurely or they try to push even harder and only fall further behind.

I’m not saying that you should have a “whatever it is is meant to be” type of attitude, but splits will be off. See what the next mile or two brings before getting drastic. The next mile might be fast and you’re right back on average pace. Go through your mental queues- is my jaw relaxed? How’s my arm carriage? Am I on track with my nutrition? Is there a group I can tuck in with to block some of this wind?

Don’t panic- assess, observe, and adjust if necessary.

The best way to do that is to experience these things in training. Be cognitive of how you handle adverse situations during training and apply a system that works for you for race day.

You hear me say often that your training has to resemble how you want to race. If you train in a matter where you push the envelope in training (on a daily or regular basis) that chances are that’s how you’ll race. Training is so much more than running a workout. It’s learning how to deal with a variety of situations. Learning how certain conditions affect you and how to adjust for those conditions. Give yourself a little bit of flexibility on splits with the goal of learning the pace and narrowing the standard of deviation.

Races rarely go perfect and it’s the person who can handle the deviations form those plans best that will be the most successful.

Speed Work: Do I use my actual paces or equivalent?

A number of loyal HMM followers have posted an interesting question that is not entirely addressed in the book. When approaching speed work, should I use my equivalent speed work or my actual speed work? This is a very relevant question to consider. Since our speed is in the beginning of the training plan, we don’t want it to be too fast or we will overcook ourselves before making it to the starting line. On the other hand, we don’t want to train too slow and not add get enough training stimulus.

 

What will happen most of the time is a person may have some shorter races under their belt, maybe even some marathons. For their next race, they have a set goal- say qualify for Boston or break four hours. So, what they will do is plug that goal time into a calculator and then just take down the training paces based on that time. What will happen from time to time is that the paces for the speed work won’t line up with what they have actually run. What should they do?

 

Like I said above, you really need to balance training too hard with not training hard enough. You also have to be consider what the goal of the speed work is for a marathon training segment. Our goal during the marathon is getting in work that’s faster than marathon pace, not necessarily getting faster in the 5k/10k distances. Along with that, you should really consider if running the faster of the paces may feel fine now, but will it dig a hole that’s too deep to get out of when the training gets into higher volume, longer tempos, and longer long runs? What’s unfortunate is you may not find that answer out until it’s too late.

Luke Humphrey Running Books!

When should I use the faster of the two paces?

Ok to use:

  1. You have one through a marathon training segment before
  2. You recover well
  3. Aren’t taking big jump in training

 

If you can check two of the three off from this list, then I think you will be ok going with the faster of the two pace options (actual versus equivalent). For the most part, I feel like this will fit more advanced runners who can be a little more aggressive. However, don’t be afraid to dial back if you get a few weeks in and aren’t responding well. It’s better to adjust now and avoid burnout.

Not Ok

  1. You have struggled with overtraining in the past
  2. Don’t recover well from speed
  3. Are trying to make a big jump in training

 

If this is describing you, I say take the conservative approach and give yourself a better chance at success. This is especially true if you are a beginner at the marathon and venturing into uncharted territory.

 

The best thing to do, is look at your numbers and then look at your schedule. If the schedule is already looking daunting to you, then don’t make it harder than it already is. If you’ve been through a few before, and know what your body needs, then be a little more aggressive. As with all things, monitor how you are feeling and make sure your general recovery strategies are in place. Set yourself up for the best possible opportunity for success when it matters- race day!

The Marathon Long Run: Part Two

This post is looong overdue (pun somewhat intended). There is a blog post from quite a ways back explaining why the traditional Hanson’s schedules used 16 miles as the longest long run. While, I don’t really want to revisit that debate at the moment, I do want to make good on a promise. That promise was to explain the paces that a runner should be looking to complete their long runs at.

We all have different needs in our training. A beginner may be simply looking to cover the ground and if they can do so without hitting the wall, then that is just a bonus. Meanwhile, someone who is competitive, may find themselves in a race and need to finish as strongly as possible. If our goals are different, then how we approach certain runs should probably be different as well. So, let’s look at what some of these variables may look like.

The biggest question, after “Why only 16 miles?” is “How fast should I run these?” As I mentioned, it depends.

For the Beginner:

The beginner runner has very basic needs, and that is to improve endurance by covering ground. Their biggest obstacle will be the mileage itself, so with this group, my concerns are simple: As slow as you need to in order to run the entire distance. That may be two minutes per mile slower than marathon pace itself. That’s fine, I don’t care. I only care that you run conservatively enough that you can cover the distance. The more improved your fitness becomes, the faster these runs will naturally improve.

Don’t make the first couple long runs on your schedule more difficult than need be. I see so many newbies go out and just start running marathon pace for their long run and end up cutting the run short. The common rationale is that, “If I can’t run it on a regular long run, then how will I do it for the race.” Well, simply, you shouldn’t because you are already fatigued from the rest of the week’s training. Also, physically what you can’t accomplish now, doesn’t mean you can’t in 2-3 months. You just have to be patient!

For the more Advanced (Intermediate):

This group is probably more concerned with performance, or know how much the late stages of a marathon can affect your overall time and want to avoid it! I work with many runners in this group and it can be tricky to balance the long run distance and paces. The mileage of the of the long runs in this group won’t vary much from the beginner, but the overall mileage is a little bit more and there is more structure. This group wants to improve, but is either still new to the event and/or limited in their amount of time to train.

So, if we can’t increase the volume they are training, then we must adjust a different variable in the equation to show positive results. That variable would then be intensity. While I might have a beginner run 2:00/mile slower than goal marathon pace, the next step would be to drop that pace down to 1:00/mile slower. Why does this help this group? Well, as we mentioned, they are already running about what they can handle for mileage, but their is still room for performance improvement. So, a long run at 1:00/mile slower than pace will provide a new stimulus to develop aerobic capacities. Before the stimulus was the actual mileage, now it is the intensity. The mitochondria and associated aerobic mechanisms are now stressed due to the pace- and they are at just enough of a rate where it is a struggle to keep up, but it is manageable. This means that fat metabolism improves, mitochondrial growth occurs, the density of the mitochondria and the enzymes improve. Also, neuromuscular connections improve, along with muscle fiber stimulation. The point here is that adaptation would occur if the runner could improve more, but if the mileage has to be limited (but still an experienced runner), then the adaptions must occur through a different mechanism and this is where pace provides that source of adaptation.

The Advanced and Elite runners

These two groups have similar issues with mileage, except they have spent years maximizing the mileage that they can safely handle. In these two groups, you have to consider that they have truly reached as high as they can on the VO2max scale. I use myself as an example- My VO2max has been between 75 and 77 ml/kg/O2 since I was about 20 or 21 years old. I am now almost 31, so that’s a long time of not improving. BUT I HAVE IMPROVED! Just because your ceiling has been put in place, that doesn’t mean you can’t improve. If the shear volume is maxed, then you maximize how fast you can run with those numbers. You are now asking, “What in the world is he talking about?” Well, we talk about lactate threshold and to a lesser extent, aerobic threshold in runners. Most of us have a fairly good idea of what the lactate threshold is, but the aerobic is the point at which fat/carb contributions for running is about 50/50. The faster you go, the more reliance you have on carbohydrates. Any marathon runner knows that carbohydrates are a precious commodity.

Side Note: This is why I am rarely concerned with what a person’s VO2max is. I want to know VO2max, aerobic, and anaerobic thresholds. More importantly, I want to know the paces run at these thresholds. This way, I can give you practical training advice.

With these two groups I need to build those thresholds. I need to build their mental toughness and convince them that they can in fact run hard even though they are tired.

The fast finish:

The fast finish is a long run that is done mostly at a comfortable easy pace (1-2 minutes/mile slower than goal marathon pace). The only difference is, that the last 2-4 miles are done pretty hard. For first timers, it can be as simple as faster than what you were running. So if you were doing your run at 7 min/mile, then finish the last few at 6:45’s. It’s just a harder effort than what you were putting in.

For more experienced runners, it can be the last 3 at goal marathon pace. Sometimes it can be the last two as hard as you can go (Not so hard you blow a hammie, but a few seconds under goal marathon pace is a good effort). The idea is to teach your body that it can maintain goal pace when things get hard. Your legs can react and you can get through the wall. I feel like this run has more to do with mental toughness than physiological gains. It also shouldn’t be done every week. It can really take a toll on your muscles. I would save it for a couple long runs in the middle to late stages of a training segment.

The depletion run:

The depletion run is simple- you run depleted. No carbs before or during the long run. As with the fast finish, I wouldn’t do this all the time. I do it in two different places- the beginning of the segment and the last long run. I do it her because pace is not nearly important as building endurance is. Also, the distances of these long runs will be considerably shorter than the long runs in the heart of the schedule- making them less dangerous to putting us past the point of no return. Here, pace is not incredibly important, other than you will want to keep yourself in check and not run too fast.

Physiologically, what happens is that our glycogen stores will be put under serious distress. When we finish, there won’t be much left. The key here is the recovery part. As soon as you are done, your muscles want to replace, they want to replenish. So, you have to have the fuel ready. As soon as you are done, start taking in the carbs and a little bit of protein. I am talking recovery drinks, sports bars, fruit, whatever you can tolerate and get in. If you cna do this, your muscles will adapt and be aable to not only replace what was lost, but more than it could before. The advantage of this is more glycogen storage. This means you can run farther at a faster speed before hitting the wall. It may meant the difference from being on pace until 23 miles, and being on pace the whole way!

The “hard” long run:

This run I save for few. It’s actually something that I have just adopted into my own training. The hard long run is something that is built into, like an increasing tempo run. I guess hard may be a little strong, but it is certainly a run that takes a conscious effort for an extended period of time. An example 20 miler that I have done would look like this: First 1-2 miles @ 6:00, then 5:50, 5:40, 5:30, and a steady diet of 5:20-5:35/mile for the rest of the run. Now, if my marathon pace is 5:00/mile, then I am spending 14-16 miles @ 15-25 seconds slower per mile than marathon pace. That may seem ridiculous, and it may as well be. However, here is the rationale behind it: We already talked about the aerobic threshold in above sections. Well, the more trained a person is, the higher this threshold becomes. A new runner may experience this at 50% of VO2max, while an elite marathoner may be closer to 60%. What I am saying is that the window of physiological adaptations becomes smaller and smaller. A new runner may run a 5k at 8 minute miles, but a marathon in 11 minute miles. An elite runner may run a 5k in 4:20/mile and a marathon at 5:00/mile. You see? Everything gets more bunched up as you get faster- you won’t have big differences between different paces anymore. So, for me to run a long run 20-30 secconds slower per mile than goal pace is fast, but it is necessary to keep improving these thresholds.

I wouldn’t start out at big percentage of the run being that fast. Again, I would slowly over not only one segment, but several increase your tolerance for these long runs. I reserve these for the middle of the training segment when my long run mileage is at it’s peak.  A vital thing to keep in mind is that I train on a nine day cyccle so I have 2 easy days before my next quality run. I also have the ability to take a nap, access to massage and chiropractic care, as well. I would be very careful when attempting these things. I would certainly time my long runs as much as my other quality runs for the training segment.

Example progression for a training segment of an advanced runner:

Long run 1: nice and easy, 2:00/slower per mile, depletion

Long run 2: moderate: 1-2:00/slower per mile

Long run 3: moderate: 1:00/mile slower

Long run 4: “hard”, down to :30/mile slower for 6-8 miles

Long run 5: fast finish: last 3 miles at goal pace. Majority of run about 1:00/mile slower

Long run 6: :hard: 0:30/mile slower for 10-14

Long run 7: fast finish, last 3-4 hard

Long run 8: hard for most of run

Long run 9: depletion, just put time on my feet

Taper.

The only other variance I might throw in would be for those running traditionally hilly courses- Boston, for example. Here I may alternate overly hilly loops with faster type runs.

Ok, so, hopefully, this will help you decide on your long run paces. As typical, I do not have an easy answer. If it were easy, then we’d all have it figured out! Best of luck with your training.