The long run, for me, is a fickle beast, with the emphasis changing from week to week depending on what we’re trying to get out of it. It doesn’t always have to be long and slow; sometimes we’ll alternate paces to keep things interesting and get a little more aerobic bang for our buck per mile. The Alternating Miles Long Run, which bounces back and forth between marathon pace and the faster end of your normal training pace, is one of my favorite sessions to assign my athletes, whether they’re in marathon training or not. Here are the details:
What: A 12-20 mile long run, alternating 1 mile at marathon pace with 1 mile at marathon pace + 60 seconds/mile. (For those of you who track your distance in kilometers, you can alternate 1-2 K at goal marathon pace with 1-2 K at goal marathon pace + ~36 seconds/K. 10 seconds per mile is equal to about 6 seconds per kilometer—6.2 to be exact.)
Why: This is a fun—and challenging—long run that helps make the time pass by quickly and keeps you focused because it requires you to stay engaged and change gears every few minutes. If you’re marathon training, it’s also a good opportunity to test your fueling strategy at race intensity and teaches you how to get back on pace after purposefully slowing down (but not too much!).
Where: This one is made for the roads but it translates nicely to a treadmill if that’s more your jam (or a necessity as we head into the winter months).
When: I like to have my marathoners do this long run once every four weeks or so in the 12-16 weeks leading up to a race. My non-marathoners will utilize it as more of an uptempo long run during their base-building phase of their training cycle. (Note: Adjust the total number of miles for your experience and ability level; for marathoners, proximity to race day is also a consideration.)