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From the 5k to the marathon, one of the most essential ingredients to improving overall endurance is the long run. And what is endurance? Let's see what Webster's has to say:
Those definitions are certainly relevant for runners of all distances. One of our primary goals is to increase the amount of time we're able to hold a specific pace. In other words, you might easily be able to run a mile in 7 minutes, but how about holding that pace for 3.1 miles, 10 miles or 13.1 miles? It doesn't really matter how much speed you have if you can't cover the distance of whatever race you're running.
The long run is simply the longest training run of the week, both in miles and length of time. Depending on experience, I encourage those training for a 5k to cover 5 to 12 miles on their long runs. I began to notice significant improvement when I consistently included a long run in my weekly training plan. Before I became serious about lowering my 5k times, I found myself settling for shorter runs as I reasoned that "it's only a 5k I'm training for." If I was crunched for time, I would simply cut miles off my long run thinking it was no big deal. Since then, I've discovered it is a BIG deal.
Race after race I would run against him. Race after race he would beat me. His name is Joe Baker. It didn't matter if I was ahead of him for 95% of the race. Joe would manage to overtake me in that last 5%. It was frustrating and I knew something had to change. After all, if you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always got. Albert Einstein had a definition for insanity: "Doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result." I tend to agree with Mr. Einstein, especially when it comes to running.
Around the peak of my frustration with losing to Joe, I was invited by a group of guys to join them on their weekly long run. It was January in northwest Ohio which meant it was freezing cold and there was snow on the ground. We did these long runs at one of the Toledo metro parks which contained miles of trails. Each week, we would cover 10-14 miles at 9 minute per mile pace. We certainly weren't breaking any records but I began to notice improvement after just three or four of these long runs. I was able to run longer without becoming as winded. My day of putting these long runs to the test would come at a 5k race in mid-February where I again found myself standing on the starting line with Joe Baker. The air was cool & crisp but the course was about ready to be burned up.
The gun fired and we were off. The first mile was fairly tame as neither of us really wanted to lead but by the midway point, Joe made his move. He proceeded to put a gap of about 15 yards between us as we hit the two mile mark. With less than ½ mile to go, I pulled even and began a surge that gave me a 15 yard lead of my own. I could smell the finish line yet I knew Joe would put forth one final kick. But amazingly, with less than 100 yards to go and the finish line in sight, Joe was now 50 yards behind me and losing more ground with every step I took. That final kick by Joe never happened.
Sweet victory was mine as I crossed the line 11 seconds ahead of Joe!
Joe congratulated me upon finishing and we enjoyed some usual post-race conversation. After that day, the gap between Joe and I continued to widen as I continued to progress and become more consistent in my training. If there's one key ingredient that pushed me past Joe it's the long run. I had known for a while that Joe seldom runs more than 20 miles total for the week and his longest training runs are 4 or 5 miles. To his credit, Joe is gifted with natural speed and back in his prime, he was churning out sub 17 minute 5ks. Since 98% of all the races Joe runs are 5k, he hasn't seen the need to include a long run in his weekly training. But without that long run, Joe continues to sacrifice endurance…that ability to hold a given pace for a longer period of time.
A general rule of thumb for your long run pace is 2 to 2 ½ minutes slower than 5k race pace. For example, if you can hold a 7 minute per mile 5k pace, your long run pace will be 9:00 to 9:30 per mile. Beginners should stay closer to the 2 ½ minutes slower pace until their bodies adjust to the miles.
Are you ready to start holding a faster pace longer with every race you run? Are you ready to see your endurance level increase dramatically? Are you ready to train your body to burn fat as fuel and lose those extra pounds weighing you down?What are you waiting for? It's time to go long!
Millions of people throughout the US and the world struggle with their weight and find it difficult to maintain a fitness regimen. And while everyone has a unique story, there are a few factors that I have found to be consistent amongst those who find maintaining their health a challenge...
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