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Mar 1, 2011

The slow long run!

Last night I had a conversation with my running buddy.  I told him we went way too fast for our last long run.  By the way, we have had similar paces in the past.  12 miles at 8:47 pace.  Several miles we were at 8:30's and slowest was 9:22 and that was mile one.  The first mile is how I wanted to run the entire 12 miles.  The consequence?  Stiff legs still today.  Also, my knee was bothering(not hurt) me and it has not bothered me since last October.  I told him this means I need to slow it down.  My goal is to finish my marathon in 4 hours(yes I know, no time goal for first but you have to have some expectation)  If that is the case, my pace for the marathon needs to be 9:10.  This means I can't run my long runs at 8:47 pace or 1) I'll get hurt, 2) Training will be very tough, 3) I'll hit the wall at the marathon 4)  I won't finish with the time I want, and so on and so on.

Since this is a step back week, we are only doing 9 miles for the long run on Sunday.  He says we can go faster then because it's a shorter distance plus wants to do hills.  My answer, no and no.  Stick to the plan.  Listen to Mr. Higdon and run those long runs slower than marathon pace.  Of course, if he is up for the speed and hills more power to him but I just cannot do it.  I do tend to speed up during the week and average in the 8:30's when the run is only 3-6 miles.  Today's run was slower at 8:43 only because I'm still sore.  My other thoughts are that training for the marathon is different than training for the half.  When I trained for my half last year, I ran faster.  I am concentrating on slowing it down now.

By the way, just a background - he has been running much longer than me but this will also be his first marathon.  He is also older.  So, tell him your thoughts on the subject.  I'd like some more opinions.  He reads this blog so we can both get an education based on your past experience.

Question of the day?  Would you rather finish strong in your marathon but not meet your time or kill yourself and finish with your goal time(excluding BQ aspirations)

Have a great day everyone and.......Keep Running!


  1. Honestly, I think you can finish strong AND meet your time goal, but you do need to run your long slow runs SLOW. And wouldn't specifically hit hills during that run unless you have a hilly marathon planned. The purpose of the LSR is not to teach your body to go fast over a long distance - it's to build your endurance and teach your body to work efficiently. You'll have plenty of other runs to work on speed. Focus on endurance for now.

  2. Hmmm...good question. I know the best feeling to me is when I actually meet my goal, even if it means I feel like I want to die before finishing the race. On the other hand, the races I've had the best time in the world at are those where I was ok with goofing off and taking pictures and having fun....sooo...I dont' really know how I would answer your question! lol

  3. You might want to find another partner on long runs or go solo. Maybe run with you buddy when your training requires a faster pace.

  4. I don't know your running well enough to give you specific advice (not that I'm qualified to do that anyway as I'm not) but I can tell you what I've learned about figuring out what pace to run. Alternate your long runs with your goal pace runs.
    For example:
    If your long run this week is 13 miles run it slower than goal pace.
    Next week you go down in miles say 9 miles so you run it at goal pace.

    So if your goal pace for the marathon is 9:10 then it should look more like this.
    Long run 13 miles (slower than 9:10)
    Next week goal paced long run 9 miles (at 9:10 pace)
    Next week long run 15 miles (slower than 9:10)
    Next week goal paced long run 10/11 miles (9:10 pace)
    Next week long run 16/17 miles (slower than 9:10 pace)
    Next week goal paced long run 12/13 miles (9:10 pace)

    Basically what this will do is your "easy" long runs will prepare your body for the distance and the "goal paced" long runs will teach your muscles how to run at that specific pace (neuromuscular training).
    Continue week after week and come marathon time your body will know how to run that distance at a 9:10 pace. Easy right?

    You don't want to run your "goal paced long runs" more than 2% faster or slower than that 9:10 pace or you lose the neuromuscular training aspect and it becomes a "junk mile" good for conditioning but that's about it.

    Of course this is my 2 cents and I'm not a pro but since you asked this is what I would do.

    (P.S. I was taught this from a professional coach who knows his stuff)

  5. I have the same goal for my first marathon (4 hours), I haven't started my real training yet, but I think you're being smart about the way you're planning. I mean it's better to push yourself during the marathon and stay safe during training, right? Especially when it's your first time!

  6. I had a time goal for my first marathon, but because of injury, I threw that goal out the window. you never know how it's going to go on race day, but I tend to be in the finish strong category.

    btw, I might do your 5k as part of a race I have this weekend, but I'll let you know : )

  7. You have to run your own race - either your running buddy gets it or doesn't. The Hansons would disagree with your LSD runs, but since you're following the Higdon plan and trust it, follow your gut.

  8. I would agree with MCM Mama. If you're adequately trained and pace yourself well on race day, there should be no surprises—you will meet your goal and finish feeling good (good is relative when we're talking about the end of a marathon).

    Resist the temptation to speed up the long run. If your goal pace is 9:10, your long runs should not be any faster than 10:10/mile, and probably slower than that. Not even on the stepback weeks (the point of those weeks are for recovery, and you negate that by speeding up). Hal would say that there is no such as "too slow" for a long run. It may seem agonizing to run that slow, but it's the best thing to do for training, and you'll reap the benefits on race day.

  9. Go with your instincts. I think you are right on track and only you know what is best for your body.

  10. I definitely think you need to slow it down. Go with your gut Jeff. Do what's right for you. I think you can finish strong and hit your goal time if you train right.

  11. I am a "push hard and meet my goal" kind of girl. I've always been that way when it comes to running.

    Everyone says to not have a time goal for your first marathon but I did. I had 3 goals; to finish strong, beat my brother in-law & sister in-law's PR's (4:22, 4:19) and run it in 4 hours. I finished in 3:46:25! So, you running it in 4 hours is totally doable and I truly believe you will!

  12. My first (and only) marathon in November was a disaster. My goal was 4:30 and finished in 4:40. I did the first half in 2:00 (way too fast and I totally burned out). I've learned my lesson!

  13. Always go into a marathon planning to finish strong. Who cares about the time on your first marathon? If you feel you are running too fast, then slow down. You are the only one who knows your body, and you must listen to it. You want your marathon to be a positive experience :) Getting to the end, and being able to smile when you cross the finish line is the goal. There's always another marathon to try again for speed.

  14. I would rather run a smart race and meet my goal time. Then again, goal time is relative because we tend to set a goal far in advance without knowing what the weather conditions will be as well as other unknown factors.

  15. This is all really interesting. It's nice to read the different opinions. I don't have any advice, but I'll probably check back later to see what others have to say. Thanks for posting the question. :)

  16. Your question is a little too simplified, because there are other outcomes.

    i.e. you don't toe the line at all because of injury before the race...a DNC

    You cramp up at mile 23 and have to walk, in pain, the rest of the way..or worse you DNF.

    You really misjudge what you can do for a pace and suffer really horribly the last 10 miles AND you don't make your goal pace (the most common outcome)

    Assuming you can avoid the above, I think it is difficult to do long or hard runs with somebody else

    I was really lucky during my first marathon training to make a friend that was way way more fit than me, but was fine with doing long runs at my pace. And he never ever unconsciously forced the pace as many people will do without even trying.

    I think you can only peak for one or two marathons a year, and if you are going all-out you can expect for the last 10k to be really tough..all from the neck up, as they say.

    But I just don't think your first marathon should be where try to explore the limits of what you can do ...yet..there are so many unknowns that I think it's best to explore the distance and have a strong race and find out what it's like out there.

    Then you'll be much much smarter about the training and racing on the 2nd race and can wack a bunch of minutes of the 2nd time with a much lower probability of the first few outcomes.

    It's good to ask these questions 8)

  17. That's a tough question. I'd love to finish strong and within my time goal. :-)

    If I had to chose....hmmmmmmmm.......I can tell myself from sun up to sun down that finishing strong is the important part, yet missing a time goal would always be in the back of my mind. :-)

  18. Thanks everyone for all the comments and the support.

    Adrienne - I like those thoughts of running at goal pace for some of my long runs so you are used to it race day. I'm not sure I would call it "junk miles" if it's slow. 2% amounts to 9-10 pace change. I'm not sure I could even track that different with my Garmin. I know it's not in Higdon's plan but that makes sense to me to run close to goal pace some long runs.

    Stephanie - Haha! Easy for you to say, you're FAST!

    Paul - you are right. I'm going to open my mind to just finishing and can work out everything else another time but I'll be on the look out for the horrible 10 last times(hopefully not)

    The problem with me is that once I have a number in my mind, it's hard to get it out. That 3:59:59 sounds so nice, doesn't it? HAHA!

  19. Hey, you're not taking anymore comments???? LOL. Crash and burn! Live fast, die young and live a pretty corpse! Run your race and the time will take care of itself.

  20. Not to beat a dead horse here, but I think you should really reconsider doing some of your long runs at marathon pace. If I remember correctly, you're doing Hal's Intermediate 1 plan, which has pace runs on alternating Saturdays, with the longest being an 8 mile pace run. Those are the instances where you want to run marathon pace. (Don't worry about the 2% thing. Go by the course. If it's an uphill mile, you'll be slower. They key is to teach your legs what it feels like to run that pace and be as consistent as possible.)

    Why is it a bad idea to run any of your long runs at marathon pace? Remember that when we want to run fast, sometimes we have to run slow. The physiological benefits of the long run are such that beyond about 90 minutes, you start training your body to use its energy stores more efficiently. This occurs if you run a 6 min/mile pace or a 12 min/mile pace. So, you gain no extra benefit by doing it a marathon pace compared to 45-90sec slower than marathon pace.

    But the real reason you want to do the long runs slow is to avoid injury. At short distances, marathon pace feels fine, even easy. But when you get to 12 miles or 15 miles, racing that distance is a recipe for disaster. You're much more likely to get injured racing those distances if you're not adequately trained for them. But beyond that, if you race your long runs, you're going to be too fatigued to make the next week's workouts mean something. That's how injury happens—doing too much, too fast.

    I've always said that "no training plan is set in stone". And that's true, but there are some basic aspects of marathon training that are more or less immutable (with some exceptions, of course). Key among these are that long runs should be noticeably slower than race pace.

    The risk of injury is too great, and if you push it too hard in training, you're more likely to be cheering from the sidelines of the marathon instead of running it.

  21. my first two marathons were successes because i was able to enjoy myself for the entire time. sure, the second one was slower, but i didn't really care because i'd had so much fun.

    then i decided i wanted to get faster, and i knew that i would not have been happy with my performance had i not met my goals. pushing myself almost to the breaking point was what made the last two marathons so fun. i found out that i was more capable than i'd previously thought.

    so, what about now? i'm training for a marathon that i have no time goal for. its weird, but also freeing. i'm excited to get out there, enjoy the race and meet some new friends. nothing other than that. we'll see how well i stick to it :)

  22. Ken - yes, I'm still listening! Wow, this sparked quite the debate!

    Matt - not looking to be on the sidelines :)

    Dawn - I think I'll try that one day - no worries!