16 March 2012

Going (Really) Long

The Jewish Stallion and I had a tempered tempo run this morning.  We took longer than usual to get warmed up--about two and a half miles, and we even started the tempo run slower than usual. However, by the end of the second mile, we found a nice groove, and we ran our third mile on the fast end of tempo pace.  We completed the entire tempo run at 7:22 a mile, more marathon pace than tempo pace.  My legs have finally overcome a lot of fatigue they've felt since last Sunday's race, so I think I'm in good shape for my Sunday long run.

I've been having an internal debate about my long runs in preparation for the Prague Marathon. The last marathon I trained for, the 2010 Amsterdam Marathon, found me running 24.3 miles for my longest run.  I also had five other runs of 19-22 miles in my marathon build-up.  Unfortunately, I had a terrible race in Amsterdam and during my three-week taper I complained often of having tired, heavy legs.  I never felt like I recovered fully from my training.  (It didn't help that on the Wednesday following my 24.3 mile run, I completed 25 x one minute hard/one minute easy.)

I enjoy the long runs and they do give me confidence in my ability to cover the distance on race day.  My dilemma here, though, is do I try an over-distance run.  I've been thinking about trying a 28 mile run in my preparation for Prague.  Is this insane?  Will I get hurt?  Does anyone else complete long runs longer than the marathon distance?  What results have they had?

I understand why I shouldn't run an over-distance run.  The advantages of going over two and a half or three hours in a long run are small compared to the high risk of injury one could incur from running for so long.  I might not recover from an over-distance run in time for my next quality workout, thereby missing important work.  When I begin my long run, my body is already in a fatigued state from running high mileage (for me) during the rest of the week, so my long run mimics more the final miles of a marathon rather than the beginning miles of one.

But in February of 2011 Shalane Flanagan ran a 28 miler.

Again, I understand the consequences of my actions, so the question remains: Why am I so enamored with over-distance training?  Would I allow my curious nature to override my rational self?  Could a 28 miler be the rational choice?  The marathon is the only running event for which people regularly show up on race day not having run more than the actual race distance in training.

Of course, I could borrow from Keith and Kevin Hanson and follow a Saturday eight to ten mile run with a Sunday 18 to 20 miler.  They normally follow an eight with a 16 and a ten with a ten, but I'm looking for over-distance.  Then again, as my wife will attest, I'm the all or nothing type, so this compromise might not work for me.

If I don't complete an over-distance run this Sunday or next, then I won't do one.  I want to leave a bit of room for error and complete such a run seven or eight weeks out from the race. Nonetheless, I'd love to hear what you guys think about the over-distance run for marathon training.  Leave a comment below.  And if you're going long this weekend, have fun.  Do the same if you're racing.

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