Tag Archives: 55-5 Long Run

Checking In 7/25/2021 (+ a long-treadmill-run recap)

I ran 12 miles on the treadmill yesterday, easily the farthest I’ve gone on the human hamster wheel in one session, let alone without a real rest break.

I knew inevitably I’d have to do a long run on the turbo. Vegas was simply too hot in the mornings for a quality long run outdoors even before the sunrise. And as much as I’d love to, I can’t afford to drive out of town every weekend and run in a cooler, practical high-altitude locale. Even though my current gym has good air conditioning, you can still get hot and humid running on a treadmill for any extended period of time.

This weekend was a good window to try, with a 12 miler scheduled and between planned trips. (Plus, it turns out weather wasn’t great in any potential weekend destinations anyway)

One issue: Gym treadmills are designed to let you run for 60 minutes maximum plus a 5 minute cooldown.

Thankfully, my gym isn’t anywhere close to crowded enough where I need to get out at 60 minutes, so I can restart the machine and keep going. But, to minimize the break (because I want this to be a continuous run, not two 60 minute easy running repeats with a 1+ minute rest), I have to make sure to restart the machine and get it back up to speed as soon as possible once stopped.

I started the morning relaxing with coffee and a croissant, and ate a sandwich at Starbucks right before heading into the gym armed with only my 17 oz water bottle. I made sure to treat the morning more like a pre-race routine because I knew this task was going to demand a lot from me. The longest I’d recently run without a break on the treadmill was 50 minutes, and 12 continuous miles was going to demand a lot more than 50 minutes of running. I’ve gone over how challenging I find running on the turbo for extended time.

I’ve played around with pacing on recent treadmill runs, but made sure to keep a consistent moderate but sustainable pace for this extended run. I’ve also experimented with running without my glasses to minimize distractions, and ran most of this run without mine on this time. I also made sure to sip water on schedule every 10 minutes. How much is a sip? The bottle only ran out after 2 hours of running, that’s how much. I did pick up the pacing at 60 minutes to more of a marathon-pace effort for about 3 minutes, before the shutdown and restart.

I hit stop on the machine, and powered past the slightly dragged out shutdown sequence by jamming the button until the display went completely off, then jammed the go button until the display came up again and showed the starting countdown. Once the machine started I immediately restored my original running pace.

As complex as this sounds, it took about 45-50 seconds. During this time, the belt kept moving as it decelerated to zero, so I still was able to log a tiny bit of distance before it stopped. I did take more than a sip of water as the machine worked to restart. But if this was any sort of rest break, it wasn’t more than a few seconds, akin to stopping to tie your shoes or fidget with fluid at an aid station. I certainly didn’t feel like I was recovering.

Into the 2nd hour, I finally started to truly battle fatigue at around the 80 minute mark. Again, I had the pace set to a more moderate effort and certainly faster than I usually run long outside, so this didn’t surprise me.

At around 100 minutes the lactic feeling was rich in my legs and maintaining my pace was starting to feel too arduous to continue for another 20 minutes. So I went to an old trick I’ve seen coaches recommend: I threw in some pickups, kicking the pace up to threshold/10K pace for 60 seconds. Then I’d pull way back to an easier pace than I was originally doing for about a minute, to get my legs back, before resuming my moderate pace.

I did this surge bit at 1:41-1:43 (38:00-40:00 on the previously restarted display) and it worked like such a charm I wished I had thought to do it sooner. I did it again at 1:51-1:53 (48:00-50:00) with an even faster surge and again it worked great for making the moderate pace feel more do-able. Once I got to 2:03 and the machine once again demanded a cooldown I kicked the pace up to marathon-effort again and made sure I got to 12 miles before shutting everything down at about 2:07.

This was the first long run in a long while where I felt sore after the run, and it’s also the hardest I’ve pushed on a sustained run since… probably since the 2018 Chicago Marathon (even Vancouver 2019 was more of a sustained easy run out of circumstance).

Something I never really did in prior marathon training cycles was steady-pace long runs. All were usually run as easy as necessary to cover the distance and that was it. And while that’s still valuable and I obviously still intend to run long runs like that, I also want to do long runs of 2 hours, possibly more, at a faster moderate pace. This one went remarkably well, and the soreness plus the completion of the entire planned workout as intended tells me this was a significant breakthrough.

Then, after slamming a bottle of Gatorade, I went and did some lower body strength training, which certainly didn’t help with the soreness but felt good to limber up with after the extended running. I left and got a steak burrito before heading home and taking a nap.

Sitting here the following morning with coffee, I’m still sore but it’s more a lingering soreness than an intense soreness. It’s certainly not delayed onset muscle soreness because there was no delay in feeling it following the workout.

I’ll probably ride the spin bike today (we got back together recently) to circulate things a bit, but otherwise take it easy before a big training week next week. The plan’s to train all five weekdays next week before another travel weekend and remote long run. How easy Monday’s training will be depends on how sore I’m feeling tomorrow morning.

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A best practice for very long marathon training runs

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If training for your first marathon, or even if you’re generally not used to regular runs longer than 2 hours… there’s a better way to get in long run mileage than just doing one long uninterrupted run.

Once a single run exceeds 2.5 hours, the physical damage a run does can offset a lot of the training benefits from running long. Many runners may need multiple easy days or days off to recover, which derails some key workouts and disrupts your fitness development more than the long run helped it.

The Galloway Method, aka run/walking your longest workouts, offsets this by building in repeated rest breaks through walking. However, training this way only makes sense if you intend to run/walk the marathon. If so, then Galloway’s approach or any run/walk variation is completely fine.

For those who intend to *run* the entire race, you need to fully run all your long runs. And you need to be mindful on long runs of the 2.5 hour threshold.

Yes, that means your uninterrupted long runs will be well short of many training thresholds like the 20 Mile long run.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t run 14-20+ miles on long run training days. In fact, when new to marathons, you absolutely need to get these long mileage days in.

So how do you do it, if you should only run 2.5 hours max, and you can’t possibly cover the needed distance in 2.5 hours at an easy, sustainable pace?

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A Better Long Run: The 55-5 Long Run Method

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

As with a lot of training approaches, runners have a very polarized approach to how they handle long runs.

Either they do a simple easy run over a long distance, or they add in some tempo with the long run (either trying to run the whole thing at a tougher moderate pace, or mixing in tempo segments with easy running), turning it into a grueling exercise.

Both polarized approaches have substantial drawbacks.

The long easy paced run may develop long aerobic endurance, but it also accustoms you to only handling your longest distances at an easy pace. Any attempt to race longer distances thus becomes a huge struggle, because you haven’t practiced running faster at max distance.

The mixed tempo run may address that issue, but creates another issue: It asks you to work especially hard at points on a run that is already fairly difficult due to its duration. This increases the burnout and injury risks, and at the least makes long runs such a miserable experience that many just forego any sort of intermediate tempo work on those runs. (It’s the biggest issue with the Daniels Marathon Plans. Those quality long runs are super-demanding. Few outside of elites and hardened distance running vets can consistently handle them.)

Regular readers can probably sense where I’m going with this point: There is a vast and mostly-unexplored middle ground to long runs that will allow you to work on and develop aerobic strength (aka the ability to maintain faster paces over longer distances), without demanding so much from you.

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