Long running is what makes a marathon runner. It’s as simple as that.
If I were to prioritise my top three runs during an average week of marathon training they would be my long run, my second long run and my midweek long run!
But how fast should you run it?
You’ll get a hundred different answers and that’s perfect, as variation in your long run is not only key to a high level of stimulus and performance improvement but it also keeps things interesting.
There is a time and a place for the classic Sunday ‘Long Slow Run’; it’s perfect for the day after a big tempo session or a bit of cross-country when the legs are a bit tender.
Meet up with friends and go for a social run where your target is simply time on feet, just don’t get to marathon weekend and find that’s all you’ve done, otherwise you’ll be nowhere near your potential.
When you decide to incorporate some speed into your long run, make sure you have at least two easy days beforehand.
If you are good with self-discipline then you can incorporate a race in the middle of your long run which will help massively when it comes to hitting your pace targets.
In the later stages of marathon training, I will quite often use a local half marathon in the middle of a 20-mile run, running it at marathon pace or just a little slower.
And what about those weeks you want to test out your speed with a shorter Sunday race?
You may not be able to fit in a long run at the weekend but, if you can, make sure you have at least one midweek run which is slighter longer to compensate.
Drop some speedwork if necessary; I promise you’ll see the benefits come marathon day.