Training for a race is big commitment. There are lots of miles and hours spent getting ready for the event and most of those miles are not spent at goal race pace. Why not? It’s too hard on your body to stay at race pace all the time. Finding the balance between hard workouts and slower ones is important. In fact, the majority of elite runners’ miles are spent at paces slower than their goal speed.
But you have to run fast to run fast! Yes, and while any good training plan includes specific tempo workouts sometimes it’s nice to mix things up. Luckily, your long run is a great place to add some faster miles. Adding race pace running to your long run is a challenge that will get you both physically and mentally ready for a race day effort. As your body adapts to spending time at goal pace, it’ll get easier. It also provides a good chance to practice your fueling strategy.
One of Team ECRP‘s favorite long run with race pace miles workouts is the 3-2-1. It can also be lengthened for marathon training to a 5-4-3-2-1 effort. Run at least a mile warm-up then a mile easy between each section of race pace work. The cool down is up to you. This workout has you spending plenty of time getting comfortable at your goal pace without shredding your legs for the rest of the week.
A second option is to do a fast finish run. Take the first two thirds of your run at normal long run pace then finish fast. That can be at goal race pace or gradually faster all the way to the end. Examples include a 20 miler with 10 miles at long run pace, 8 miles at race pace and a 2 mile cool down. For a half marathon try a 13 miler with 8 miles at long run pace then 5 miles of getting 5-10 seconds faster per mile.
By breaking faster miles into sections you’ll be able to spend more time at goal pace with less wear and tear. It will bring variety to the long run and help those workouts fly by. Be careful not to include them too often, however. These are challenging workouts and you’ll need time to recover.
Running a marathon is tough. Racing one is even harder. Whichever path you chose to cover 26.2+ miles you need to be prepared for the long journey. Getting marathon day ready is more than simply logging those training workouts. Making sure you’re prepared for race day is an important part of any well rounded training plan. Here are four things every Team ECRP knows before they toe the line at their marathon.
Test Nutrition. Everyone has to have something to eat or drink while on the marathon course. While most of us won’t get designated bottles we can still control what goes into our bodies. Find out what they’ll have on course for hydration and fuel then practice with it. It might work for you and it might not but marathon day is not when you what to find that out.
Train in Bad Weather. Not only does training when the weather’s crummy, not dangerous, make you a bad ass, it prepares you for the unknown you’ll face on race day. It’s tough to get out there when it’s cold or raining but it’s also very important. Determine what conditions you could face on marathon day and train in them. Run in the cold, rain and snow and your finish time will thank you.
Wear Your Gear. We all have favorite pieces of gear. That pair of lucky underwear or special pair of bright race day shoes is a must for marathon day. Those pieces are likely well broken in but that doesn’t mean our socks, hats and sports bras are. Never wear anything new on race day especially holds true when you’re covering 26+ miles so make sure whatever you’re going to put on has been worn on at least one or two long runs during training.
Plan for Logistics. Marathon day can be a nightmare even if the start is right outside your front door. There’s traffic, stressed out runners, confused spectators and that guy with a dog on too long a leash. Know where you’ll park, where the start and finish are and where you’ll meet your support afterwards. Having a plan will eliminate race morning stress and help you perform the best you can out on the course.
Use these tips to create a plan that works for you and you’ll ace any marathon day test you face.
Every training plan includes a long run each week, ten days or two weeks. They can be six miles or 25 miles but they’re a part of any quality training plan. The aerobic benefits are massive while long runs also build mental strength and physical durability. Mixing up your long run by adding a different challenge to it can make training both more fun and more effective. Try one, or all, of these favorites from Team ECRP during your next training cycle.
Slow + Steady. The regular long run, performed at an easy pace, holds the pace steady for its entire duration. This is the best type of run when you’re starting to increase mileage or tackling your first 20 miler. It strengthens your legs and your mind by making you push through the point of being tired. You’ll build resistance to feeling tired and teach your body to burn fat, our best source of stored energy. It also won’t leave you physically or mentally exhausted to the point that you aren’t up for it as often as you should be.
The End. A fast finish long run simulates those final miles of a hard race. The last 10k of a marathon and the last kilometer of a 5k are both challenging when you’re going for a new personal record. A finish fast run will help build strength for late in the race, develop that closing kick so many runners look for and make you mentally strong. You’ll run the last few miles of your run at goal race pace or maybe the last 1.5 as hard as you can. For marathoners, this hard workout is also a chance to check in on fueling and hydration strategies for race day.
The Race Pace. Running miles are your goal race pace is an absolute necessity but not all of your miles should be that speed. Adding them to your long run is another way to push your limits and adjust to feeling tired. After a proper warm-up, do some miles at race pace. Run a recovery mile then do more miles at goal race pace. Examples include 3-2-1 with a mile recovery between or, for marathoners, 5-4-3-2-1.
Surge Run. This run is just what it sounds like. You get to surge every so often and run faster. Start these later in your run, after the halfway point. Pick things up to 5k pace for one minute then recover for five minutes. You can eventually lengthen the surges, decrease recovery time or add more repeats. Like the other long run variations, this type of workout will build strength, mental toughness and resistance to fatigue.
No matter what kind of long run enhancement you choose, it will be a hard workout. Account for the mental and physical toll it will take in your recovery and upcoming training plan.
Easy running might seem pointless. How can you get faster if you don’t actually run faster? The truth is you can’t. To improve speed, running economy and endurance you do have to run faster than you are comfortable. But you don’t have to do it all the time, nor do you want to. A balance between hard and easy workouts is the best way to build fitness without risking injury or burnout. The purpose of easy running is to build a foundation. Building this foundation is how your body adjusts to the stresses of road running over time and will ultimately lead to improved race times and a lower risk of injury.
Easy running will help you earn stronger bones, tougher joints, improved running economy, develop slow twitch, fat burning muscles and increased aerobic capacity without beating yourself up. You need fast days to work on turnover, mitochondria and VO2max but easy running days are not necessarily ‘junk miles’ because you’re still working towards a goal. As long as each run has a purpose your time and effort is never wasted.
That’s because going as fast as you can all the time is asking for trouble. Your body has to take care of itself after hard workouts. It has to repair damaged muscle, expand blood vessels and learn to process more oxygen. An easy workout helps clear out waste from muscles, improve circulation and might actually help speed muscle recovery. If you push all the time, those processes never get to finish their jobs and you’re inviting over training and burnout. Alternating hard and easy running workouts gives your body a chance to make all of the positive performance enhancing adaptations it can.
The most important thing is to make sure your easy running is just that. Easy. Aim to be at least one minute slower than your goal race pace for the duration of an easy workout. As your fitness level increases it can become hard to slow the pace down. Keep the goal of each workout in mind when you’re out there feeling like you’re not accomplishing anything. Your body has to have time to adapt to training stimuli so you can ultimately increase your performance level.