I recently had a couple of interesting talks about the long run. Anyways, 90% at a time, it is a discussion what triggers a video or an article on a specialty subject. This is very true in this case as we talk a lot during long mountain outings.
I just uploaded a youtube video, where I kind of explained that if you were a mixed fibre fibre 400m runner, and upwards, you just cannot skimp on a lonrun. To further explain this, yes it is possible for some freaks of nature pure-breed fast twitch athletes to not to do any long seances and focus exclusively on their sprint training while being excellent in the 400m distance. These are for sure (100)-200/400m athletes and not running the 400/800 double. So again, if you were a mixed fibre 400m runner, slowtwitch 400m runner, 800, 1500, 3000 steeple, 5000m, 10000m, 5K, 10k, half marathon, marathon and ultra marathon runner, spartan and mud-run athlete, you need that long run, year around.
Crossfit is different. You need endurance, but just like for martial arts and fighting, it is a specialty endurance. Only running or only long running for this purpose will not cut it.
Modulation for the individual and for his/her goals
That is something to apply, to be able to hold on to that long run, lifelong. Yeah, if you were a runner, that is something to work towards. If you could keep that long run in the circle, you would be able to complete and compete in any race. This is just how it is. However if you did 30 weeks of long runs, than after your big race, you cut out those long efforts for 15 weeks, as there is no race in the schedule, you’ll be in trouble soon enough and have to restart from zero. This is because of the mental effect of the long run, the stimulation on the cardiovascular system and most importantly connective tissue like tendons, cartilage, fascia and so. Bones too. Also the adjusted running style and technique will be somewhat lost. You run differently when having a backpack, when switching between walking and running and hiking and up and downhill efforts.
There are multiple type of runners. Some can handle only shorter long runs, but can have a high volume weekly schedule. Some do medium long runs, with less total volume, but more strength training. Others do even shorter long runs, but add in a shock weekend once or twice a month.
Some cannot handle long runs at all and cut it to pieces. That can be a good initial technique, but not sure how it can hold up long term. It needs some very serious planning and a free schedule. For instance you run 80km in two days but you cut those into 4 or 5 runs. Saturday 10+8+22km and Sunday 23+17km.
Lydiard said, that to really stimulate the aerobic system, run at least for 2 hours with no more than 15 seconds of break. That means if you had a big toilet stop and a 5min chit-chat with a person you crossed during the long run, you ruined the purpose. This is why very often leisure marathon training groups do not succeed. Their group long runs are not really effective due to too much interactions and waiting for each-other because of race pace differences.
I very much agree with Lydiard, however In the mountains it is a little different. When you spend 5 hours plus of jogging, up and down running, scrambling, maybe handling ropes and alpine equipment, for sure you need to stop, time to time for a pee, sandwich and so. This was still an effective training session though !
Also there are seasons. Long runs should be modified as if we had some ridiculous schedule, that is not maintainable lifelong, only periodically. For instance when JPD did for months on end, back to back 50mile weekends. Yeah 80km on Saturday and 80km on Sunday, for months. Then she broke the appalachian trail record. Or when the Canova athletes do their marathon special block of 12 + 15km in the morning and 12 + 15km in the evening, maybe followed by a long run with marathon jolts the next day. Together with warming up and cooldown that would be a 60km+ day and might be a 95km double day for a road marathon runner !!! Not sustainable.
Keep the long run going
How long, how often, what kind. I give you an idea here and untie the big knot. However it really depends on the individual. You cannot be boxed into one single idea.
The long run to be stimulating, to be called really as a long run, should last at least for 2h !
If you will sign up for an event, ask your why very carefully before ! What is your goal with this, why do you do this ? What is the point of this all?
Exemple: I found running in 2007/2008, cannot remember. I’ve never stopped since. I found a personality in running. The development, the motion, the movement, the mindfulness, the meditation, the everything. For me there is no day without running. I might have only 20 minutes, I go and run. I don’t look for excuses, I just do it. There is no hard about it. Put on the shoes and run. I don’t need clothing. I can run 50 minutes in street clothes if needed. I do it every day. I compete in events from 200m on track to 200 miles in the mountains. I love the community and I love the family ambiance. In some races I absolutely adore the cobativity. Since the covid19, there are no races. What do I do ? I run. I also enjoy the solidarity. I don’t need a goal to run. I do not need motivation to run. I set up my own goals if needed though. I can set up time / distance goals, local trail circuit time goals, FKTs, hike and run events, mixed strength routine run goals. I enjoy spending time with friends, but prefer running alone in reality. That is ME time.
So, when I sign up for an event, I already know that in 10 weeks and 20 weeks time, I must hit those long runs regularly and properly. I must do them all the time and I must enjoy them. I understand this and do it with no hesitation and no questions. Is it hard sometimes ? Not to go out, no that is easy. Yeah, I might fall into a nutritional or lack of sleep trap time to time 10miles in, but those hard hard times are manmaker !
If you had correct volume, in some periods, you can do it every 10 days, but other times you might go for a long run and a medium long run every week.
If you prepared for race of 42km to 50km, as a first timer, you would need pre-long-run preparation. That means strength and conditioning, sprinting, downhill running drills, technique practice and so. Then a long run tune-in period of at least 8 weeks but 16 weeks better. If your longest outing was 12km for instance and you wanted to boost it to 25-30-35, you need to be smart and to take your time. The very best way to start out is alway to add in walking time. The second step is to add in warming up and cooldown time. Also, you cannot just increase and increase. If this was the case, we would be running 100k Sundays and keep on improving lifelong. You need to wave around. Add in, hold it, hold it, hold it, drop it, add in, hold it, hold it, drop it…
Once your long run start tapping the over 2h period or touching regularly the 30 to 35km distance, you need to start thinking about specificity. In case of a track event, you start having the warming up and the cooldown on the track. Later you add in 1/4 and 1/3 and 1/2 of the sessions and maybe even some total long runs on the track.
If you were prepping for a 100mile ultra mountain event, you start by adding in equipement first. One bottle, two bottles, back pack, back-pack filled with the obligatory equipment. Then you start increasing the elevation gain and loss. Then you start decreasing walking time and adding in running time.
If you ran 250km weeks, a short 30km long run might be enough to complete and to compete at high levels at any distance. However most of us sleep 6hours and work 10hour shifts. That volume is just not gonna happen and the 30km long run in this case is not going to cut it.
In case of 42 to 50 mile event, a 35km long run is essential and obligatory. In case of a 100km, a couple of 50km events and 50 milers are very essential. In case of a 100 miler, some 50 mile and 100 km events are highly recommended.
So most people will not really agree and not understand this. I give you an example: I am not at all ready for a 100 miler right now. However you put me on the start line and I will be finishing it for sure ! So why on earth would I put myself through a 30 week arduous training period. It is because of health. The readier you are, the least damage you will cause, the faster and easier you will be recovering and the faster you will be back running and training and enjoying yourself. When you can easily run a 50 mile one weekend, a 50km the next weekend and in a couple of weeks later maybe a back to back 50+50km weekend, and recovering from it, then your body is just damn ready. This is not causing health issues, setbacks, fatigue and nothing basically. These are the people, the always ready smart runners, who do not walk backwards down the stairs after the race and who go to work on Monday like nothing happened, with no complaints.
The effects of this preparedness will be very much shown down the aging process. Are you a runner of 10 years or a lifelong athlete ? It is like young guns telling me that 15 to 20minutes of strength and conditioning is nothing. Except that I do not ever skimp on it and have been doing it for 20 years every single day. You do two hours a day for a month, then only 4 days a week, then you take an off week, then you pick up weight winter time, lose it for summer yoyoing up and down, then you stop for 3 months, then you go to a krav maga class and try out crossfit, then buy a bicycle, a pull up bar and a trx, then they collect dust…
We do not cover nutrition and hydration here. Let’s agree that race nutrition is important, but just like in running, being smart and having regularity is key to success. Meaning, that whatever you do during your life outside of running is more important, than what you do during training and racing. And whatever you eat and drink during racing, the stuff you eat and drink you drink during your life, will impact your racing much more ! Unless you do something very very stupid, like eating bacon barbecue, cheese, chocolate pudding and wash it down with coke and beer to a full stomach. During the Templiers, TOR or UTMBS this is actually possible to eat salt and sweet and fatty and sugary to your eye’s desire at any aid station. Your fruit & vegs diet will not offset that for sure 😀
Some of you might ask for concrete guidance. How many 50km runs and how many 50milers for a 100mile ultra. There is no real answer. If you’ve been running over 30km Sundays for 10years, you might even do 4 or 5 self supported 50 milers during a 20week period, or you might go for a 35 to 45km schedule with some back to back and triple back weekends. It depends.
If you were a first time 100miler, I hope that you have already finished a 50 miler and a 100 or 120km race. In this case, normally you start from scratch after little break. You can follow a regular schedule of 20 to 24 weeks. You can add in a 50km a 100km and a 50 miler or tap a 50km run, every 3rd week, having the last tune up event around 6 to 10 weeks out. I do not ever recommend tune up races, especially not for elite athletes. Do your own thing or race !
You might say that it is very tough to go out alone and do a 50miler. Well why the hell did you sign up for the 100mile event on the first place ? I absolutely love being out in the nature all day. I love long 18hour and even 30hour stretches in the mountains. What an awesome time to be immersed with the eternel.