Training For The Long Distance Runner

You know how to train for that 5k – you’ve got it in the bag – even that 10k, but now you want to move on to bigger and better things: a marathon, half marathon, or any other long distance race. How do you train? Let’s look at the basics to a training program for long distance runners so you can start training for your first big race.

The Long Distance Runner

The long distance runner can be characterized by the distance of the race in which they compete. For this kind of runner, the race distance is 10 miles and up. (16k and up). Now, unlike with competing in smaller races, you should be aiming for a top performance in 2, 3, or even 4 important races that are scattered throughout the year. For the first-timer, one race may be enough. With that said, the structure of your training is much different from training for other distances because you cannot perform at top effort all season because of the physical demand.

Now For The Basic Structure

The training approach we will discuss is different than for other sports or types of runners. Typically a year can be broken down into segments or training phases such as post-season, pre-season, and in-season; however, with the nature of the long distance runner that we just discussed, their training will be based on a six- to nine-month program that points at one particular race.

A long distance race will usually last an hour or longer, so the physical demand is on the aerobic system, which places the importance of training on aerobic endurance. This means you can forget about speed work and interval running for the time being and start putting in those miles.

How Much Should I Run?

The answer to this question really depends on your time restraints. More often than not, your training will be dictated by how much time you have and so, it is up to you to find the type of training program that brings the most results with the least amount of time spent in training.

How Fast Should I Run?

Now before you get all excited and head off on your run, there’s something you should know about speed. The choice of speed for your run is very important and depends on your race performance speed or your goal race speed. Just take the overall time and use it to base your speed for practice. Here is a general guide to follow:

  • Fast – 92.5% to 95%
  • Medium – 87.5% to 90%
  • Easy – 82.5% to 85%
  • Slow – 80% speed or less

For example, if your run for the day is 15 miles, take your marathon race time and find your pace per mile. Use that time to figure out how long 15 miles would take to run in a race and then multiply it by the speed percentage you wish to run for the day. Fast runs should be followed by a slow run to allow your body to recover while a slow to easy run can be performed multiple days in a row. The speed of run you decide depends on personal preference.

The last important consideration is the distance of the run compared to your daily mileage. So, if you average 7 miles a day, a 14-mile run should only be performed at 85% of your performance speed. Or if you average 10 miles per day, a 25-mile run would go at about 80% speed.

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