Long Runs - What Pace ? ? ?

Hi All,

Any advice about what pace I should be doing for long runs.

My long runs for my first marathon were 21 miles in distance and took 2h 45 mins.

I was aiming for 3h 30 m in the race itself, but cramped in my quads at mile 22'ish, around 3 hours.

I think I need to run my long runs over more time at a slower pace. Any ideas on my long run training pace for an 8 min/mile marathon pace ? ? ?


  • Conflicting stories on this.
    For starters you run at around the same pace as me (3.31pb) , and for last years marathon (run in 3.44) I did my long runs at around 8.15-8.30 min/miling.
    This year I tried to run more or less at marathon pace , so I did 20 mile race in 2.43 , and 2* 22 mile runs in just under 3hrs.At the marathon I managed to keep sub 8min miles up until about 22 when I got a little tired , but still managed 8-9 min miles at the end and finished in the pb 3.31.

    Bottom line is that I think getting used to some long runs at race pace is beneficial but maybe some runs at estimated finish time (so 3.30) will help even if the distance is only 24-25 miles.

    This is my plan for next year (target 3.20)
    so I'll do some 20 milers at 7min30-45 pace but also some longer runs of 3- 3 1/2 hours.

    The books all say that you should do these runs slower than race pace, but I'm not convinced.

    Be interested to know other forumites comments.
  • My long training runs are at 2 different paces depending on the time I intend being out:

    Up to 3 hours – Slow 10m/mile
    Over 3 Hours Dead Slow 11.5 m/mile

    My marathon target is 4 hours – I never Train Marathon distance Marathon speed I either do one or the other – EG 22 mile dead slow or 15 miles @ Marathon pace
  • ChaosChaos ✭✭✭
    I think Dustins got a good point there with doing a couple of runs nearish the intended finish time of the marathon (3:15-3:30 in my case). The longest runs I did were 3 hours and I have no idea what distance they were as they were in v.hilly areas around Somerset. I simply made sure I did a rough loop that allowed me to shortcut back home around the 3 hour mark when necessary.

    However the pace for these really long runs was certainly slower than marathon pace - remember the adrenalin, carbo-loading and pre-race tapering will combine to make it up to race pace. Like WildWill I did do my 13-15 milers at marathon pace but nothing longer.

    End result - finished marathon in better than expected time!

    [Dustin - with the paces you're quoting a sub 3:15 sounds within grasp - are you also doing hills and track work?]
  • drewdrew ✭✭✭
    As Dustin says there are conflicting training programmes for marathons. Some recommend long slow runs and others MP runs.

    My thoughts are that for a time of more than about 3:15, time on your feet is important and therefore long slow runs may be beneficial. Doing MP runs would simply take too much out of you for the following week's training.

    An HRM is ideal for these runs as you would be running at your recovery run pace of between 55% and 65% MHR.

    If you want to go faster than this then MP runs are a must, although I'm sure someone will be able to prove me wrong. Because your weekly mileage is likely to be substantially more the MP run shouldn't take as much out of you.

    In my own situation my MP target pace for the 2003 FLM is about 6:20 pace. I know that if I can do 20 miles at this pace, on a flat circuit, then I should be able to achieve my goal on the day, simply because I will be in much better shape during the event than I would be when doing my long runs.

    Don't forget that the long run is only a part of the marathon build up. VO2max training, Lactate Threshold training and strenght training are also key elements which can help you run faster for longer.
  • Some interesting points here:

    Drew, I wouldn't dream of doing my long runs at target marathon pace. I know that a) I wouldn't be able to push myself for that length of time in training and b) I would completly kill myself for the following week.

    For next years FLM (hopefully around the 2:50 mark), I plan to do all of my long runs at an easy pace - I find from experience it is around 146 bpm (max 197) and incoperate 2 longer distance races into my schedule (a 30k and a 20 miler) to prepare my body for running that length at speed. Ideally I will be looking at 4 x 20 miles and a 22 miler 3 weeks out in total.

    Doing these long runs slowly builds the endurance base required, whilst the speed sessions and tempo run provide the necessary speed.

    I intend to leave all of my suffering till race day itself!

  • I'm coming up to my marathon debut and have been doing all my long runs at slower than marathon pace (about 1 minute per mile slower) - most books suggest somthing in the 1-2 minute per mile slower. Most books will also recommend that about 2:30-3:00 hours is the maximum you should aim for and I would tend to agree with that irrespective of pace as anything more will only a) encourage injury and; b) take a lot out of you for the week ahead.

    Despite that I think it is important to practice some marathon pace running (say up to one hour) just to get yourself used to what the pace feels like (and possibly what HR you generate at that pace).

    I would also recommend that you schedule some races of half marathon and above to get you used to running under pressure for an extended period of time.
  • ChaosChaos ✭✭✭
    Working on the basis that one needs 3-4 weeks to properly recover from a marathon, it stands to reason that in training you'd also need a few weeks to recover if your really long runs were at marathon pace.

    That said, there may be some benefit in fitting a few miles worth of marathon pace in the middle of an 18 miler as a mental preparation thing and for experience of picking up the pace when necessary. I'm speculating though. does this sound like rubbish?
  • Mark H - I dont do track work (no easy access) but I do intervals on the treadmill weekly.In the build up to a marathon I do more 800m/1km/1 mile reps than 400s at around 10k pace which has certainly improved my speed.I also do tempo runs once a week,normally between 10k and halfM pace depending on my goal race.
    Also I do fartlek,strides or hills on a rotating basis so about once a fortnight.However some of my loops on the long run take in some moderate hills which I tend to use by running hard up them thus adding some hillwork to the session.
    Was in S.Devon this summer and it was nice to go out on some of those hills for an hour.

    Agree with Drew to a point re time on feet vs MP runs , but rather than 3.15 I'd suggest 3.45+
    The last 2 years have seen me do my long runs marginally slower than race pace, result:pb each time.
    For my earlier marathons (I was around about a 4hour runner) I did the long runs slower than race pace,result:negligible improvement.
    Some of this could be attributed to all round improvement and better training , but also from a psychological point of view its good to know that I've run 15-20 miles at around race pace.
    I train 5-6 times a week so maybe if I did my long runs slower I could do harder midweek sessions thus improving overall speed ? Thoughts perhaps for next year....

    As I said in my first post , its good to get other runners views on this subject.
  • I'm training for my first marathon (end Oct), and so this is fascinating stuff.

    I am concentrating on two quality sessions each week - one long run of up to 21 miles, and one speed / hill work either with a group or on a treadmill. Between these I'm doing the usual runs to recover and keep the miles ticking over.

    On the long runs, I find it helpful to join a local club having run ca 8 miles already, then do a 10 miler with them before doing the final miles solo to wind down. This middle 10 is at "fast conversation pace" - quicker than I would do alone - and having a group to chat to is great. I'm aiming for 3:15 to 3:30 and 21 miles training takes me 2 hr 50 ish which is a bit quicker than the books recommend, and certainly leaves me knackered.

    On the speedwork, I am trying out "Yasso 800s" which I read about. Basically you run repeated 800m legs in the same time as your marathon goal time in mins & secs - ie for a 3:30hr marathon target you run the 800s in 3:30min. You work up to 10 repeats, with equal mins of rest in between. I managed to get up to 8 sets last night on a treadmill at 3 min pace ... too fast really as I hit max HR ... and so completed the session with 4 x 400ms at 90 sec pace. Next time I'll follow the book a bit more closely and go for 10x800s in 3:15 pace !!

    Any one else tried the Yassos ??

    Looking at the pace you guys train at, perhaps 3:30 is a better goal. My fastest half marathon to date is 1:29 (hilly course and hot). Views ?
  • I think I fall somewhere in between Drew and Ironman on this one. For 3 out of 4 long runs I'll average about 30-40 seconds per mile slower than goal marathon pace but every third or fourth week I'll do a goal marathon pace run, building from about 15K through, 20, 25 and finally 30K. I'll take a couple of extra days off after the marathon pace runs and ease up a little in the couple of days prior to one. So far I've found that if I can do the 30K at goal pace without feeling too bad I can achieve the same pace on rest day providing I'm well rested.
  • Final line should read "..same pace on race day..."

    Please bring back the edit function!
  • I guess this must depend on your experience level and attitude to risk taking too. I ran my first marathon this year and 'though I had a time goal in mind, my long training runs aimed to get the distance on my feet and learning what my appropriate HR was for long runs plus getting the mental confidence I could last the distance. Gradually my long training runs became faster, whilst running at about the same HR. That was a low risk strategy for making sure I didn't blow up in my first marathon. In the event I came in almost bang on the pace I had run my last training run at. (4.07)

    I can see from other posts that once you're starting to want to speed up, and have more racing and long distance experience more sophisticated training, and more experimentation can get different results. Personally I feel there's going to be no substitute for experience and since most people do only 1-2 marathons a year it'll take a while to see the effects of various training strategies. Sadly!

  • Mr C,

    I have read about Yasso 800s and am very interested in how you get on. I don't run marathonsbut surely a sub 1:30 half supplemented by 20+ milers would equate to sub 3:15. What do you more experienced guys think?
  • David B,
    personally I find that my marathons always turn out to be double my most recent 1/2 marathon time + 10 to 15 minutes. However, people vary a lot on this one.
  • ChaosChaos ✭✭✭
    I can't claim to be more experienced but having got a 1:30 1/2 marathon two months prior to the FLM this year I went on to get a sub 3:15.

    Long runs during the build-up went something like the following

    12,13,15,13,18,13,13(race),13,18,12,3hrs (distance not known),13,3hrs,taper,taper,FLM

    so in all i only did two runs over 18 miles neither of which were at race pace. However they were very hilly runs in the Mendips so the suffering was there!
  • MrC - I agree with MM that take double halfM time and add 15 minutes gives approx marathon time, so based off 1.30 half I'd be disappointed with outside 3.15/3.20.

    My half pb is 1.36,set 2 weeks after London where I ran 3.31.
    I'm aiming for 1.30 half next year (did the GSR 10miler in 69 minutes) so it should be possible and a 3.20 marathon.

    Read about the Yasso training , not tried it but for marathon training I do 800m repeats at 10k pace (so 800m in 3m20) with 200m recoveries which is tantamount to the same thing.Also do 1k,1mile and 2 mile reps at 10k-10mile pace.

    To follow up Mark H build up to London my last 12 weeks my long runs were : 12,10,14.5,17,20,20 (race),13 (race),22,13 (race),22,17,10,FLM.

    Not sure this helps anyone , but its good to exchange views.
    As a postscript, I only do 1 marathon a year but this autumn/winter I'm maintaing a long run of 12-16 miles every other week to keep the endurance base.
  • ChaosChaos ✭✭✭
    Good lot of additional races there, especially that 20-miler early on. Definitely something I'll aim for next year. Which one did you do?
  • Bramley (Hampshire), they also do a 10miler.
  • Thanks for the views - will go for 3:15 then ! Did a 21 - 22 miler today, so just one more 20+ miler to hit the "5 longest runs adding up to 100 miles" rule of thumb I read about. Still feels a very long way to even get round, let alone race.
  • HillyHilly ✭✭✭
    Hi Mr C,
    it's interesting that you are trying yasso 800's in training for your marathon, as I did these as part of my FLM training this year. I trained with a friend at a track and over 12 weeks we built up from 5 yasso's to 10. We ran the 10x800's for two weeks the last being the week before tapering (3 weeks to marathon)then we did 5x800 as we lowered our mileage in the two weeks before the marathon.

    I was aiming for a 3.30 marathon, having already done a 3.37 marathon. The yasso's, I too always seemed to run too fast, 3.15-3.19. As I could do them for the 10 I believed this to be ok and I still do. I also always ran 3 miles down to the track and 2 miles, short cut, home.

    My long training runs were done at a pace slower than the 8min marathon pace I was aiming for. Apart from I did one 20 miler at marathon pace and several 10-15 mile runs too. As long runs I did something like 2x18 miles, 2x20 miles, 1x21miles and 1x23miles I also did a 15 miler mid week run every week.

    Unfortunately I didn't get my desired time having suffered with stomach and breathing problems in the race. But I don't think it had anything to do with the build up as I was getting very good race times, for me, while training for the marathon.

    By the way my 1/2m pb is only 1.36, a time I know I can lower, but not anywhere near to your time, so you should be quite capable of sub 3.15. Good luck! My friend who I trained with ran 3.25 finishing with plenty of running still in her legs. Her 1/2m time before the marathon was 1.34 and she knocked 12mins off her previous marathon time.
  • I also do a long run midweek whilst training for a marathon, but I'd never get to 15 miles.
    As a rule I run easiest on a Wednesday as a recovery/endurance exercise between Tuesdays reps and Thursdays tempo/threshold run. The distance varies between an hour and 90 minutes at my slowest pace (about 8.5-9.0 min/miling) & is generally about half the distance of the Sunday long runs.

    I think that if you can do the 800 reps at around 3.15/3.20 (I do mine at 3.20 * 8-10 reps, and the rest of the training goes well then we should be thinking around sub 70 for a 10 miler (thankfully achieved at GSR) close to 1.30 for a half (1.36 so far)
    and 3.15 for a marathon (3.31).
    When I get there,I'll move on to the next step.(It wasn't that long ago I hoped to break 1.50 for a half).
  • HillyHilly ✭✭✭
    Dustin we seem to have similar target times. I'm looking to get sub 70 for 10miles next year, my pb is 71mins 6secs from earlier in the year. I would also like a 1.34 1/2m which I'm going to attempt in Nov and a 3.30 Marathon that I might go for next year. I would also like to lower my 10k time at the end of this year.

    As you say though it's down to the training going well.

    It's so frustrating as most of us know when running is going so well, times are coming down etc and then injury or illness strike.
  • Know what you mean.
    Did the 10 miler at GSR (69.04) was chuffed to bits as you may have read on other threads as I was hoping to get below 72 (previous best) and nearer to 70.
    Hoping to beat my 1.36.03 halfM at Windsor next week but woke up this morning with stinking head cold so I'll have to see how the week goes.Training has gone well so its up to me killing off those bugs this week!

    Re marathons was elated to get near 3.30 last year, but based off my long runs I'm going for sub 3.30 next spring and hopefully nearer to 3.15. If I don't get into London I may do Rotterdam - nice and flat perfect for a pb attempt!

    Luckily I don't really suffer too much from injury - I say that before my first winter of off-road running!
  • HillyHilly ✭✭✭
    I hope your cold clears up for you Dustin as you certainly appear to be on form for getting a pb at Windsor.

    My injuries in the past were because of over training and having gait problems, both of which I think I've dealt with. Mind I do tend to suffer with my calves, which is to do with having a bad back, otherwise not too bad.

    I think off-road running helps to prevent injury by strengthening ankles etc. Unless you twist something of course!

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