In the October issue of Running Times, an article by Greg McMillan, M.S. on marathon training discussed 5 strategies to use with your long runs. I really liked how he presented a plan that prepared your mind and body for the different specialized long runs that you would do in your 16 week training program. Each strategy prepares you for a different type of pace for your marathon training.
The Long and Steady training run is a run of 2 to 3 1/2 hours at an easy but steady pace. This strategy works on the build up of endurance of the distance for future long runs in your training starting with 20 miles and moving up to 26 miles. The Long Run with Surges, your goal is that on every other long run, you put in "surges" (running fast bursts) every 10 minutes. These surges can last anywhere from 30 seconds to 12 minutes. This will provide a faster than average change of pace during the long run. Surges are similar to fartleks. Fast-Finish Long Runs mean that you finish the last few miles (I would recommend the last 2-4 miles) fast. You would be on marathon goal pace and then run the last 10-20 minutes of your long run as fast as you can. You are basically going to empty your tank. The Long Run at Marathon Race Pace is designed to practice your marathon race pace during your long run. An example would be for you to have a run of 20 miles and run the middle 12 miles at marathon race pace. The final strategy presented is the Pace-Change Long Run. You need to practice changing your pace during the race by doing these pace-change training runs. Very seldom do you run a race at the same pace. This might be due to weather conditions, crowded field of runners, or how you generally felt that day. You might need to "change gears" due to terrain or race tactics. If your marathon goal pace is 9:00 per mile on a 20 miler, then your pace change during the middle 8 miles would be between 8:45 pace and 9:45 pace. You would alternate between these two paces. This would work for any pace that you might want to run.
(Your marathon race pace is a minutes per mile time that you have set as a goal to determine your finishing time)
The article has a great chart that shows how many of the long run strategies you should do. During a 16 week training program, it is suggested that you should do 4 Long, Steady Runs; 4 Long Runs with Surges; 3 Fast-Finish Long Runs; 2 Long Runs at Marathon Pace; and 2 long runs with pace changes. After trying several of these during training for my upcoming 4 marathons and two ultra-marathons, I have been very happy with the results. It has been a good plan and a good challenge. Give it a try. It is a great way to get "fast" and also break-up your normal training routine.
Reading to consider:
Run to the Top by Arthur Lydiard and Garth Gilmore
Speed with Endurance by Bill Squires and Bruce Lehane
Paul Tergat-Running to the Limit by Jurg Wirz
Advanced Marathoning by Pete Pfitzinger and Scott Douglas
Forward we go! May your roads and trails be happy and safe!