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.