‘Well, everyone knows Custer died at Little Bighorn. What this book presupposes is… maybe he didn’t.’
Eli Cash, The Royal Tenenbaums
I’m guilty of giving too much importance to the weekly long run. I need a mulligan.
Whaddya say Tony Perkins?
‘You got it Running Man!’
My advice for all my years as a trainer: Long runs are the most important part of a training program. Don’t skip them.
I want to amend that advice a little bit. Question conventional Wisdom. Presuppose that Custer made it.
Long runs are the most important part of a training program if you are healthy.
Consider the benefits:
- They build your confidence and mental toughness.
- You chip a long race down into smaller, digestible chunks.
- They build your stamina.
- They increase your VO2 max.
- They increase your strength (not in the bench press/dead lift sense but in the ability to run 26 miles sense).
See- long runs are great. Don’t skip them.
Most marathon training programs start you off with a “long” run of 6 or 7 miles. You increase for 2 weeks, then regress for one. So on and so forth until you’re running 20+ miles 3 to 4 weeks ahead of your race.
This steady increase in miles is the best way we have to gradually educate your body on the rigors of running 26.2 miles. It’s Progressive Overload. Same as in weight lifting.
From Progressive overload on wikipedia: In order to achieve more strength, as opposed to maintaining current strength capacity, muscles need to be stressed in such a way that triggers the body’s natural, adaptive response to new demands placed on it.
In a perfect world you tear your body down/rebuild it stronger right up until race day.
My experience as a coach has me questioning some of the conventional wisdom of this approach.
Because every year around the same time I see people breaking down. The progressive overload becomes too much. The sore knee becomes tendonitis. The lower back ache becomes sciatica. Plantar fasciitis makes us fear getting out of bed in the morning.
Runners are good at accepting pain. We expect pain. We pride ourselves on our ability to out last it, to soldier through it. Some of the running greats are celebrated not for their speed but for their perseverance in the face of discomfort.
We endure great pain because we believe that it is purposeful.
Because we are force fed how important the long run is we figure that this pain is VERY purppseful.
And let’s be clear: The long run is important. There is no substitute.
But sometimes pain is just pain. It is not progressively overloading us. It is just breaking us down. Suddenly our ability to endure pain is no longer a virtue.
So let’s reevaluate the long run.
There are programs that break up long runs into long weekends. Instead of running 20 on Saturday you run 15 Saturday and 8 on Sunday.
There is cross training too. Run 10 and then swim for an hour.
Or pool run.
Pool running… you thought the treadmill was boring.
Joan Benoit famously won the Olympic trials marathon after months of pool running.
She went on win the GOLD.
Fitness is what matters most. Stay fit and you will get across that finish line.
Basically what I’m saying is running 2 miles on bum wheels is stupid.
Running 26 on injured legs…