Marathon: How long should your longest Marathon training run be?

running-advice-bugIt seems that the length of the longest training run for your marathon training has become a sort of hot-button topic in the coaching World. There was a time when just about everyone agreed that 20 miles was enough. Somewhere along the way, we’ve seen two diverging trends: 1) coaches advocating a much longer run, perhaps up to the full 26 miles and 2) coaches focusing on time or intensity, rather than a specific distance. I land somewhere in the middle, assessing each runner or walker individually.

How long should your longest training run beI was asked a series of a questions for an issue of a national running publication on this topic and I thought I would share my thoughts on the subject. I was answering this on behalf of my work with the Team In Training (TNT) Program, as I am a national adviser to the program. The views below are my own and should not be attributed to the entire organization as many people have different opinions on this topic.

1) “Why don’t most marathon training programs include at least one long run of 26 miles?”

Coach Joe: I take a holistic view on runners and assess what’s best for each individual. It is a myth to me that every runner has to follow the same formula to be successful, when every runner comes to the starting line with different goals and having different capabilities. For many years we topped out all of our training plans at 20 miles, because this was a good balancing between the amount of training necessary to finish the race and the potential risks of getting injured in training. We now recognize that the recovery period and risk of injury both get progressively greater as the activity goes over 20 miles, but we also acknowledge that faster runners may benefit from going longer than 20 miles.

So in today’s world it makes sense to look, for example, at runners that are banging out 20 miles in under two hours and give them the opportunity to run 22 miles in training (which is only a few minutes longer at their pace). At the same time we may have participants that could take six hours to finish 20 miles at a slower run/walk pace and in those cases we may want to limit the length of their workout to a maximum duration to ensure that they don’t get injured in training. Our philosophy is to get participants to the starting line of their race, rather than having them get injured in training, so they can at least participate in the event that they set as their goal.
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Tips #15 — Poop Before You Run

running-advice-bugI wrote an article a couple of weeks ago in which I gave 15 pieces of advice. I’m working my way through the list to explain where those pieces of sage information came from. This week’s tip was pulled, well, right out of my butt.

Tip #15 and 14: Poop before you run. You don’t want to risk pooping in your shorts during a race. THIS BEARS REPEATING.

Poop before you run. If you poop in your shorts, you risk being called “Shit Pants” and getting Depends for your birthday for the rest of your life.

There’s a serious issue here. Runners, and marathon runners in particular, are prone to needing to expel any mass in their bowels when they’re running. The reason is all that jiggling and bumping up and down. But (not pun intended) once the need to let it lose happens then they may find themselves in trouble for a couple of reasons. First, there may not be any place to place your deposit. Second, they may wait too long for fear of losing time on the clock and thinking they can “make it” to the finish. And third, they may start being overwhelmed by fatigue to the point that they can’t (or don’t) hold it in anymore.

On top of that, still being sort of serious, if diarrhea starts to creep into the picture the situation gets even worse. Runner’s Diarrhea is a real problem (click to read our two–part series). As dehydration sets in, diarrhea can really take off. (We even did a video in our series on this issue called “The Runs on the Run“.) The presence of liquid in stool makes it really hard (no pun intended) to keep in its place.
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Training — Bicyling’s Top 50 Tips, Applied to Running

running-advice-bugBicycling Magazine did an amazing job with their new 50th Anniversary issue, out on newstands for November 2011. One of the great articles is a compilation of their 50 Golden Rules — 50 of the best tips offered by commentators and cycling stars over the years. As I read through the list, I found myself thinking, “wow, that’s really true for running as well” to many of them. Today, I offer my list of the Top 10 Bicycling Magazine Tips Applied to the World of Running.

Tip 6Ride with the Best — Bicycling relates the advice of Gary Fisher who advises, “Find the best, train with them, watch what they do, and learn their secrets.” This is very true for running and is why we see such a competitive racing envirnonment here in Portland, Oregon: the best come here to train with and race against one another. When you train with the best, you are forced to work harder and learn from what they are doing. If you want to push yourself, find the best group in your town and join them. It will help you get to the next level.

Tip 8 — Clean Your Shoes Monthly — So I’ll modify this a bit and say that we as runners need to replace our shoes frequently and take good care of them. I recall a conversation with my friend Ed Deets. I asked him when the last time was that he replaced his shoes. The ultramarathoner said to me, “oh, it’s been a few years.” No matter if you’re into minimalist running or wear the heaviest thing out there, shoes last longer and smell better when you take care of them.

Tip 9 — Warm Up— Boy, if there is one thing that runners have a hard time doing is getting it into their heads that warming up is essential before every run and race. Take a watch of the Tour de France time-trials some year and you’ll see the cyclists sitting turning the pedals on their stationary bikes for what seems to be hours. They’re getting their legs warm, primed and ready to fire. If you plan to run your fastest race pace from the gun, your guns need to be loaded and ready to shoot.
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