My long run on Sunday felt fantastic. Monday my legs were tired a bit sore, and I was tired in general because I didn’t sleep well the night before. I’ve been trying to get my long runs back to Saturdays so I can do another run on Sunday on tired legs. But on Monday I couldn’t help but wonder how that run would have gone had I done it.
Monday night I went to bed later than I wanted, so I didn’t run this morning before work. And I have a paint nite after work, so running for me today. I should have ran yesterday… This got me thinking about my training plan, long runs, getting enough miles in and time on my feet. Then an email from UltraSignup popped up in my inbox. One of the featured articles was about the appropriate distance for long runs.
The gist of the article is that your long run, and more specifically your longest long run, only has to be as long as you need it to be. A lot of folks think there is a minimum distance long run you should run before a certain race. Marathoners tend to think you need at least one 16-20 mile run before a marathon. Some tend to think you need to run a marathon before a 50k, a 50k before a 50-miler, and either a 50-miler of 100k before a 100-miler. But is this really necessary? The article argued that your overall training volume is more important.
After a loooong run it takes your body time more time than usual to recover. During that extended recovery time you’re probably not getting any miles in. So did those extra few miles during your long run do you all that much good? This is exactly what I had been pondering!
Your long run only needs to be as long as you need it to be. The article gave three questions you should ask yourself when determining how long your longest run needs to be:
- How long does my run need to be to practice my nutrition plan? (The author says just about any ultrarunner needs at least 4 hours)
- How long does my long run need to be to give me confidence?
- How long does my long run need to be to work on any logistical consideration (running through the night, big temperature swings, etc.)?
After contemplating the answers to these questions you are supposed to compare the times you came up with to the reasonability test – how long of a long run can you reasonably handle for any given week of training?
Here are my answers:
- 4 hours – Because the author says so? Yes and no. Accelerade has worked swimmingly for me so far, but I also know I need to start incorporating solid foods into my runs. One time I drank a Huel before my run and fueled with Accelerade during the run. Although I had plenty of energy and was far from bonking, I was fucking starving by the end of. the run. Four hours should be enough time to try out solid foods and see what happens.
- 3.5 – 4 hours. Honestly, after my 16-mile run on Sunday, I’m already confident. Sure, 16 miles is a far cry from 34 miles with significantly more elevation gain at a significantly higher elevation. But it’s the progress I’ve made so far that has me confident. I still have 11 more weeks of training to become as badass as I need to be to rock 34 miles. As far as the higher elevation, between backpacking at higher elevations the month before the race and already expecting to slow down at higher elevations, along with a generous cutoff time, I’m not all that worried.
- 6 hours – Looking at the weather, there will likely be a 20-30°F temperature difference between the starting gun and the hottest part of the day, and the time difference is six hours.
Now to pass these times through the reasonability test! I honestly don’t know if I’d be capable of doing a six-hour run at any point in my training. Would it be nice to? Fuck yeah! But that’s probably not happening until I’m unemployed. That means four-ish hours will probably be my longest long run.
Ideally, the more runs I do between 3.5-4 hours the easier they will become. This means I shouldn’t need as much recovery time afterwards. That’s when I can really start upping my time on my day-after-long-run runs. Until then, I plan to keep my day-after-long-run runs (should I ever get back to doing them on Saturday) fairly short-ish and plenty easy.
Depending on how I’m feeling, I might try to throw in a double run day here and there where I run before and after work. That will help increase my running volume, which will in turn help make up for my short-ish long runs. But if it doesn’t happen, I’m not worried about it.
Endlessly seeking adventure.