How to get your long run right
You’ll often hear more serious runners undertaking a weekly long run but like many components of a well-considered training programme you need to get it right. So, if you’re considering a long run, you should first answer the following questions to better understand whether a weekly long run will benefit you:
- What’s the benefit of a long run?
- What pace should you run?
- What distance should you cover?
The long run is intended to help develop endurance. This is specifically aimed at the Slow Twitch fibres. You won’t find Usain Bolt doing these, not because they wouldn’t help him, but because there’s simply NOT ENOUGH benefit compared to other types of training. Even Usain has limited time to train. If, on the other hand you’re aiming to run distances from 800m upwards then you’ll certainly benefit from a long run. The physiological benefits are:
- Slow twitch fibre development
- Increased blood volume in the body (to transport more oxygen to the working muscles)
- Increased connective tissue development (ligaments)
- Increased muscle fuel storage (by depleting your energy stores and training your body to store more in the muscles and liver)
- Increased oxidative/glycolytic enzymes (better ability to burn fat as a fuel)
- Increased capillarisation (think of it as more highways and roads to help transport blood to the muscles that are doing the work)
For most people the long run is run too fast. In simple terms it should feel easy enough to carry on a conversation and finishing without any distress. In fact if you feel like you could double the distance then you’re probably doing it right. As a rule of thumb consider your best time for 5k and use the following table as a benchmark. As you can see these paces are easily achievable, don’t be seduced into running faster than you need to – save it for the fast sessions!
5k time 5k pace Long run
15:00 3:00 4:05
17:00 3:24 4:35
18:00 3:36 4:50
19:00 3:48 5:04
20:00 4:00 5:18
22:30 4:30 5:55
25:00 5:00 6:30
30:00 6:00 7:41
35:00 7:00 8:45
40:00 8:00 9:45
For a long run to feel easy and comfortable it needs to form PART of an overall programme and that means accounting for the other work you’ve done during the week. Typically, you don’t want to run more than 20% of your weekly kilometres although this needs to be flexible where the runner is undertaking relatively easier (less) training than usual. For example, in an easy week the training volume may drop from 100km to 50km, or the athlete may be returning from a break and the long run is a non-stressful training session.
A word of caution: for runners intending to run outside of 7 mins per km, it’s advisable to limit the long run to a maximum of 60 minutes while further honing speed and speed endurance to allow the runner to operate at a higher level.