3 Killer Long Run Workouts
This is part of a series of posts I’m doing focused on marathon training. To get “The .2” posts in your inbox, sign-up here!
The long run is without a doubt the most important part of your marathon training program. The endurance that the marathon requires demands that you make the long run an emphasis. But just because a long run involves a lot of miles doesn’t mean that it needs to be a monotonous grind. In fact, mixing up the details and pushing the effort from time to time can give you a big boost on race day.
Check out these three killer long run workouts to take your long run and crank it up to 11:
The ZAP Preview Run
6 mile warm-up
5 miles @ marathon pace
1 mile easy
4 miles @ marathon pace
1 mile easy
3 miles @ marathon pace
1 mile easy
1 mile @ marathon pace
1 mile easy
This is a workout that Tyler Pennel of ZAP Fitness did on his way to winning his debut marathon (Twin Cities 2014) in a time of 2:13:32. Pennel did this workout on the race course to help him become more familiar with it before race day. It is a great workout to practice the demands of the race and allow you to adjust your race strategy. If you don’t have access to the race course ahead of time, you can always find a route that mimics the course (particularly the placement of hills) as closely as possible.
It is a great workout to practice the demands of the race and allow you to adjust your race strategy.
Instead of just running marathon pace for the entire last 13 miles, this workout breaks it up and gives you a mental break to recalibrate. It allows you to assess how the previous segment of marathon pace work went, how you’ll approach that part of the course differently on race day (if at all), and how you want to adjust things for the next marathon pace segment. So not only do you get the physical and mental practice of running hard when you’re tired, you get to practice your race plan ahead of time, too.
The breaks allow you to assess how the previous segment of marathon pace work went, and how you want to adjust things for the next marathon pace segment.
I think a lot of runners struggle with the idea that your training is not just physical training, but mental training for the race, too. This workout is a perfect combo of the physical and mental prep that will leave you ready to rock on race day.
Your training is not just physical training, but mental training for the race, too. This workout is a perfect combo of the physical and mental prep.
Galloway Mile Repeats
Up to 10x mile @ half-marathon pace or slightly slower w/ mile easy recovery
For most people, the name Galloway is synonymous with run/walk. But Jeff’s own training during his competitive days and the training he assigns his clients includes some truly gnarly work (think 30+ mile long runs training for a marathon).
The name Galloway is synonymous with run/walk. But Jeff’s training includes some truly gnarly work.
One area where he pushes people is in the volume of speed work that he recommends. He is able to accomplish that by folding the speed work into the long run as the volume really starts to increase. In this workout, you’re essentially doing a 10x mile repeat workout. Since that would be difficult (at best) to fit in the schedule of most adult runners, Jeff includes a mile recovery and turns it into a long run.
Jeff is able to assign a large volume of speed work by folding it into the long run.
Since the pace is faster than marathon pace, you get great practice running fast on tired legs, but by keeping the pace slower than traditional mile repeats, you’re able to rack up the mileage at the same time.
Since the pace is faster than marathon pace, you get great practice running fast on tired legs.
This workout may not seem like “classic” Galloway, but when it comes to prepping for race day it’s got you covered big-time.
The Squires Fartlek
15 to 20 miles including surges of 1-6 minutes at faster than marathon pace; shorter segments run faster than longer segments
Bill Squires is famous for saying “the long run puts the tiger in the cat.” He’s also famous for coaching a heck of a lot of good marathoners (like, you know, Rodgers, Salazar, Beardsley, etc) as the coach of the Greater Boston Track Club. So when he says you should be running pick-ups in your long run, it’s worth listening to him.
Squires is famous for coaching a heck of a lot of good marathoners (like, you know, Rodgers, Salazar, Beardsley, etc).
Instead of doing long blocks of marathon pace work, Squires likes to inject shorter pick-ups throughout the long run. Usually it’s a mix of segments ranging from 1 min to 6 min (although he would sometimes subscribe shorter or longer, too depending on the level of the runner), on a 10 minute cycle — so 1 min pick-up = 9 min recovery, 6 min pick-up = 4 min recovery, etc. Doing six of these gives you an hour of hard running in the middle of your long run.
A mix of segments ranging from 1 min to 6 min on a 10 minute cycle. Doing six of these gives you an hour of hard running in the middle of your long run.
Like these other workouts, the goal here is partly to get used to working hard when you’re tired. By now you should be sensing that as a theme of marathon long run workouts …
But, UN-like the others, this one varies the pace that you’re running at. That allows your body to get used to differences in pace that you might experience in the race, either because of surges in the race, or hills — remember, Squires is most famous for what his runners did at the Boston Marathon.
Allows your body to get used to differences in pace that you might experience in the race, either because of surges in the race, or hills.
Another difference is that while the ZAP Preview and the Galloway Mile Repeats would most likely be done at the end of a training cycle — maybe even as the final long run in your training cycle — Squires recommends including pick-ups throughout the training cycle as you build up your long run.
Squires recommends including pick-ups throughout the training cycle as you build up your long run.
Each of these workouts will help you bust out of a long run training rut, but make sure that you don’t throw them all in your training routine. A long run requires a good amount of recovery as it is, and adding quality work to it only makes it more challenging. Think about using these to replace a speed work session and give yourself an extra couple days of easy running to recharge.
About Coach Carl
Coach Carl is a USA Track & Field Level 2 endurance coach who works with runners of all ability levels to reach their goals. He has been featured in Runner’s World, Women’s Health, Men’s Fitness, and Competitor. For information on his coaching services, click here.