No matter if you are a marathon first timer or seasoned veteran, a steady diet of long runs is essential as you build miles ahead of race day. These runs offer both physical and mental benefits to help you prepare.
Long runs are your main source of aerobic conditioning – training that improves your body’s ability to use oxygen effectively. Efficient oxygen use matters because energy needs for the marathon distance are met almost entirely aerobically, not anaerobically. Long runs of 75 to 120 minutes at a moderate pace (about 55 to 75 percent of your VO2 max) can set you up for optimal aerobic conditioning.
To run 26.2, you have to know your body and toughen your mind. The marathon requires extreme stamina, and a big part of that is not losing your cool when the going gets tough. Long training runs help you prepare for the mental drain that often sets in for many runners around the 10-15 mile mark. By getting many long runs under your belt before race day, you’ll have a chance to try a few different strategies to block out pain and break up the boredom.
Planning Your Long Runs
The majority of your training runs during the week should focus on aerobic conditioning. In a six-or-seven-day-per-week training plan, three to four days should be focused on aerobic conditioning. There aren’t too many tricks to these base runs – you just have to get out there and train consistently with moderately paced runs.
Here’s a sample week chart that could help you get a sense of where to slot in your long runs with other workouts:
This chart is just what one sample week might look like. For marathon training, you’d typically incorporate anaerobic capacity training only every other week. For a more detailed training plan, get in touch with a coach in your area, or do some homework on training plans available online.