Marathon Speed Training: Plugging Through the Long Run at Race Pace
For the longest time, my weekly long run has been the one run I look forward to the most. I’m a distance runner, and going the distance is what gets me charged. You couldn’t get me to sleep in on a Sunday morning because all I wanted to do was get out there and run long!
That was, until I began seriously targeting a speedy marathon finish. After a personal best 3:20:49 at Chicago in October, I realized the potential for a 3:10 or 3:05 is actually there — that I could get there as early as January if I really applied myself.
To put things in perspective, my first marathon was a 3:52, and less than a year later I cruised to a 3:20 on a hot day, with plenty left in the tank. In fact, I realized that if I really got serious about training, I could even break the 3-hour mark, something that two years ago I would have laughed at!
Of course, I knew that any significant time shaving would entail some real pain and suffering. The only question was: ARE YOU WILLING TO GO THERE?
The answer was yes. I was/am willing. But that also meant that my love affair with the long run would have to adapt, because if I want to run a fast marathon, I have to train at a faster pace. Besides a weekly tempo and VO2 max run, every two out of three weeks requires me to do my long run at race pace for at least 80% of the run. That means logging 7 minute miles for 12-17 miles at a time — a huge difference from the previous 8-9 minute paced long, slow runs I’d previously fallen in love with.
I have found that getting myself up for one of these painful long runs is hard. I mill about and stress not hitting my marks before I even leave the house, continuously thinking I don’t know if I can do this, this is silly, I should just run slow and not worry about my time — all thoughts that have their right place.
But then I get out there… and if I’m feeling good, I just let go. I just… run.
I get in a rhythm. I find that pace and stick to it, as hard as it may be. I try not to think about how much it hurts sometimes and instead focus on being better than my mind thinks I’m capable of being. Because, really, to me, that’s one of the greatest joys running has to offer: OUTPERFORMING THE MIND.
The mind has all these rules. You can’t do that, Jeff. You’re not good enough to do this, Jeff. You’ll never reach that goal, Jeff.
And as painful as the marathon race pace long run can be at times, it’s always worth the satisfaction of telling the mind to fuck off.