Training — How Slow Should My Long-Slow Distance Runs be?

running-advice-bugA runner named Gina writes in with a very common question that has to do with pacing in the longest runs in a marathon training plan. Here’s the question and my answer:


I think I’m running too fast on my shorter training runs and I don’t know a) if that’s a problem and b) how to force myself to slow down. According to the McMillan running calculator my tempo runs shouldn’t be faster than an 8:38 and my easy runs should be between 9:36 and 10:06. I pretty much have to force myself to stay at a 9-minute mile for the majority of my runs–even those that get near 11-12 miles. When I run a 10-minute mile I feel like I’m going backwards. Part of this is definitely that I’m pressed for time and part of it is that I just like to run fast (a relative term, but fast for me!).

In fact, many running plans suggest that their runners slow down between 1 to 2 minutes per mile when they doing their longer/slower runs. These runs are usually called the “long/slow distance runs” and this pace may also be used in other “recovery” runs. The idea here is three fold:
1) To maximize the amount of time that you spend out on your runs — because if you can slow the runner down and make what would be a 2 1/2 hour run last 3 hours that’s 30 more minutes logged on the feet. This means that on race day, you will have run closer to the amount of time that you’ll be expecting to run in the race, but with less effort.
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Season 2 – Episode 27 – Run/Walk and Walk/Run

running-advice-bugWelcome back runners. Now, it’s time to get into a topic that doesn’t apply to all runners — but certainly will apply to all of you. You may have experimented with run/walk or walk/run — adding intervals of walking or running into your routine. Our topic today is when it makes more sense to run/walk, walk/run or just run or walk.

On this week’s episode:
– What is run/walk and walk/run?
– When does it make sense to add a walk interval into your running?
– When is it more effective to walk or run without the intervals?
– How should you pick the correct intervals of running and walking?

To visit our video pages with links to all of the episodes in the series, go to:
Season 1 Video Page

Season 2 Video Page

Running Advice and News
www.running-advice.com

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Training — Do I have to run more miles to get faster?

running-advice-bugA reader named Tim writes in with a question that comes up frequently. Although Tim is an advanced marathon runner, the answer is applicable to all runners as they look to improve and are seeking methods to do that. Here’s the question:

So far, I have done 5 marathons and my time has progressed from 3:19, 3:08, 2:55, 2:52, to 2:45 (recently, at Boston). With the exception of the first marathon, I have followed Hal Higdon’s Advanced-II training plan, pretty much to the T. It has a peak weekly mileage of about 60 miles, with most weeks in the 35 – 45 mile range. I think Hal’s plan has been especially effective because of the emphasis on quality training days (tempo runs, speedwork, hill training, pace runs) as opposed to sheer quantity of miles, which can often lead to “junk miles” as you talked about several weeks ago.

I would like to keep improving. However, I also realize that it’s going to get really challenging, and I feel like I will plateau if I follow the same training plan again. It seems that most runners 2:40 or faster put in > 70 miles a week, so mileage seems to have a strong correlation with race time. For my next training cycle, if I try to bump up my weekly mileage, while keeping everything else consistent (still doing the high quality workouts) and being careful to avoid overtraining and injuries, do you think that would likely translate into a faster marathon time?

First, Tim, you’re doing the right things for you. With your times progressing and with you staying healthy and injury free, you’re close to finding the right balance of quality and quantity, which is a very good thing. The question that you’re asking here and that often comes up is “do I have to run more to get faster?” The answer is that the key to getting faster will be increasing the amount and type of quality work (AKA speed work) and then assessing what else you’re doing to see if other miles can be removed to make room for that speed work. If everything that you’re currently doing is optimal, then you may have to run more miles to get in those additional miles of speed work. But far more likely for runners is that they will find miles that can come out of their schedules and then run these additional quality miles without increasing mileage.
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Training — How slow should the pace of long-slow runs be?

running-advice-bugDan writes in with the following question about the correct pace for what we would call the “long/slow run” — which is the longer, easier, effort that usually comes in the weeks between our long goal paced runs. Here’s Dan’s question:

I have been training for a ~3:00 marathon this cycle which is about a 6:52/mile. From what I understand I should be running my long/easy runs at about 1:00 to 1:30 a mile slower than goal pace. However, when I run this pace I just feel out of place and I’d swear that I am more prone to injury and feel more aches and pains at this slower pace. My stride just doesn’t feel right unless I am running about 7:40 or less and I find that I run a lot of my longer runs with a 7:25-7:30 pace which according to definition as I understand it might be classified as junk mileage. I even struggle to slow down enough on my recovery runs to a 8:15 or greater pace. The only thing that I have tried to do differently in the last 6-8 weeks is to shorten up my stride and pick up my leg turnover.

What you’re describing Dan is something that we’ve heard a lot from more experienced runners. Our typical guidance is that runners should aim to do their long-slow runs at a range of about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes slower than their marathon goal paced runs. Sometimes people feel that this is too slow and they actually are a bit uncomfortable taking the pace so easy.

Let’s just do a quick refresh on why we want to slow these runs down. We’re working out runs in tandem across a two-week cycle with one week being a shorter goal-paced run and then the other week being a longer slower run. When you put these together you get two benefits: 1) a recovery time of two weeks between goal-paced efforts and 2) the extended duration of the long-slow runs that produces more “time on feet”. If you want to read more about training intensities, see our series on training intensities.
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Training — How do I adjust for a long run gone bad?

Coach Joe English

Coach Joe English

Corinne from Idaho wrote to me with a common question that involves a run that doesn’t quite work out as planned and then dealing with the after math. While her question is quite specific, I’ll provide some of the essence of it from her note:

I ran 18 miles last week [in preparation for an upcoming marathon]. I was scheduled for 20 miles this week, but, due to weather issues, pushed it to today. . . .I thought I was full of energy and ready to run today, and I’ve gotten to 8 and I’m burned out. I feel tired and worn out, and I’m freaking out because the marathon is so close. What do I do? Do I give my body some rest and shoot for 20 on Sunday? When I have a bad running day I get so discouraged thinking I’m doing a crappy job.

What’s happening to Corinne is that the timing of her long runs isn’t giving her enough time to recover and the results are very discouraging for her. As you see from her question, she ran 18 miles last week and then had been scheduled to run 20 this week. That means that she had planned to increase her mileage from something lower to 18 and then to 20 again on back-to-back long runs. The crash in energy is most likely due to a lack of recovery time between the two runs.

What’s really important here is the spacing (or recovery) between the longest workouts at the macro level. We talk a lot about the recovery needed on a daily basis between workouts — which we’d consider to be at the micro level” — but here we’re talking about the longer recovery cycle between our longest workouts. For a long workout of 18+ miles for most people, runners need to plan about two weeks between those runs for full recovery. When a runner attempts to very long runs in less time than that, we usually would expect what Corinne described — the runner feels great going in, but then bonks along the way. The body simply wasn’t ready to go again and decided to cut its losses.
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Racing — When can I try again after a poor marathon performance?

Coach Joe English

Coach Joe English

I had a reader write in last week that had a bad experience at the Boston Marathon and was asking advice on when they could take another crack at a race. I will paraphrase the question to give you a sense of it:

Last weekend at the Boston Marathon, I had a miserable race. I had stomach problems and things just kept getting worse. I felt like I was in great shape and I should have run a great time, but I came in about 45 minutes slower than I planned because of all the stops. There is a race next weekend in my hometown. Do you think I should go for it and try again?

My answer, in a word, was “no”. I wrote back to this reader, telling them that they will undoubtedly not be happy with their follow-up performance. The impact of the marathon on them, especially being full of problems, will take some time for recovery and two weeks just isn’t enough. I pointed out that the pre-race anxiety ahead of Boston, the travel, the early morning, the long day, the let-down — all of which come on top of a marathon that took longer than it should have — will have placed a heavy load on them that they need to take some time from which to recover.

I wanted to share with you today some personal stories about how I’ve dealt with this situation in my own racing career and why I was so quick to dismiss this one, as well as some guidance for picking a next race.
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Training — Why did my second 20 miler go wrong?

Coach Joe English

Coach Joe English

A reader name Ashley writes in with the following question:

“I am running in my first full marathon on May 2nd (The Flying Pig in Cincinnati). I have previously done a fair number of 10Ks and half marathons and attempted a training schedule that was a bit ambitious, but I did complete all the prescribed distances until this week! I was scheduled to do two 20 mile training runs. The first went amazing; I ran a great time, consistent pace, felt tired at the end, but like I could go a few more on race day. This week I did my second 20 miler and could barely finish! I did the whole distance, but walked twice, once between mile 17 and 18 and again between 18 and 19. I had so much confidence before, and today it’s all gone! Is this just my body’s way of saying it’s time for a taper? Surely I am ready for the race, but would like some expert advice about what’s going on!”

You’re probably right Ashley when you summarize your situation: “surely I am ready for the race,” so rest easy as you move from your training into the pre-race recovery or taper portion of your training. I can tell you what most likely happen to make that second miler feel like such a wreck.

First, I’d like to congratulate you on making it so far through your training toward your first marathon. And, I’d also like to add that making it through that first 20 miler in a way that felt “amazing” is a bit of a miracle and you should feel really good about that. Most first-time marathon runners don’t have such a good experience in their first 20-miler — there are so many problems that I’ve actually written a piece that I encourage all of my runners to read called “first time marathon runner 20-mile anguish“. Those 20 milers are a definitely a challenge.
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Video – Season 2 – Episode 22 — Pre-race Freak Outs and Anxiety

running-advice-bugWe’re now 22 episodes into season 2 and on today’s show: our first guest! While filming our current series, one of Coach Dean’s athletes named Jan Lockett joined us to talk about her feelings on the eve of a very big race. Our topic this week: the pre-race freak out and dealing with pre-race anxiety.

On this week’s episode:
— Dealing with pre-race anxiety
— Strategies to focus before a race
— Envisioning your performance
— Relaxing to help performance

Jan did great in her race and we thank her for joining us on the show. Perhaps you will be next!

To visit our video pages with links to all of the episodes in the series, go to:
Season 1 Video Page

Season 2 Video Page

Running Advice and News
www.running-advice.com

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Running Terminology Series — Paces and Workout Intensities

running-advice-bugAs we continue our series on the various types of running workouts, we’ll now explore the intensity or pace of each of the various types of runs. To start at the beginning of the series with Part I, click here.

Long-distance Running Terminology Part II — Paces and Intensity of Running Workouts

By Coach Joe English
with Coach Dean Hebert
(C) 2010 Running Advice and News

Introduction
In the previous section of this series, we looked at eight major types of running workouts. Each of the workouts that fall in what we would call the “quality” or “goal pace” categories has a specific intensity range attached to it. In other words, each of these types of workouts comes with a pace target attached to it. If the workout is done too fast, the runner will not be able to maintain the pace through the entire distance of the workout. If the pace is too slow, then the runner doesn’t reap the full benefit from the workout.

Intensities and Types of Long Distance Workouts

Gauging pace may seem like a difficult exercise, but through practice everyone can learn the “feeling” of these paces. The key here is “practice”. Runners need to spend time running at each of these paces to learn the feel of the pace. Over time they will become more confident and be able to replicate the target pace for a particular workout on their on volition.
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Running Terminology Series — Track Workouts Defined

running-advice-bugIn this last section of our series on running terminology and workouts, we’ll look at different distances and workouts used when training on the track. To start back at the beginning of this series with Part I, click here.

Long-distance Running Terminology Part III — Track Terminology and Distances on the Track

By Coach Joe English
with Coach Dean Hebert
(C) 2010 Running Advice and News

Introduction
Now that we’ve explored the different types of workouts and looked at their intensities, let’s turn to how various distances on the track can be used in Quality Workouts effectively.

We’ll start with a few definitions for those of you that may never have run on a track and then we’ll get into more detail with different types of track workouts.

Track Terminology and Distances for Workouts on the Track

Lap Length – the length of one lap on a typical high-school or college track is 400 meters (400M), which is about ¼ of a mile. It takes four laps around a 400 meter track to run about one mile. (See additional following note) Some older tracks may be 440 yards in length, four laps of which makes exactly one Statute Mile.
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