Where should I be?
The long run takes an increasing role through May and early June before the marathon in September. A great goal is to get in a consistent weekly long run of 1 hour 45 minutes – 2 hours at a relaxed and conversational effort by the end January / beginning of Feb.
How to build?
Even for experienced runners patience is key. Adding 10-15 minutes each week onto your long run is a sensible progression. Don’t be surprised if niggles and fatigue sets in as you start jumping up by 30-40 minutes at a time.
During May / early June aim to keep your long runs at a fully conversational, relaxed pace of 45-60 seconds a mile slower than your planned marathon pace. This will build your body’s ability to burn stored fats and ensure you are fresh enough to hit your quality sessions mid-week.
20 miler myth
Many experienced runners get too hooked up on how many 20 mile runs they plan to do. Instead I would encourage you to think about getting the right quality and pace into your key long runs and look to work to time, for a maximum long run of 3 hours – 3 hours 15 minutes about 4 weeks out from Brighton Marathon.
Go hard, go home
It can be pretty tempting to tackle a 20-mile race in the peaks of your training. Treat these with caution – great if you approach them sensibly and structure them as a mix of easy and marathon pace running. If however you run a hard and fast 20 miler at or faster than your goal marathon pace, you might well find it hard to adapt and recover in time – leaving your best marathon in a training run…
Later in June and July you will see the training plans start adding faster efforts into the long run. Look to include a block of your planned marathon pace into the final stages of your long run. This can build over time to peak long runs of 3 hours – 3 hours 15 minutes with the final 60 minutes at marathon pace, or even tough progression runs such as 35km run as 10km easy, 10km marathon pace, 5km easy, 5km faster than marathon pace, 2km hard, 3km easy.
Using a half marathon race as a marathon paced long run, perhaps adding 20-30 minutes easy before and after can be a great way of building confidence around your goal marathon pace
Hit your max
Your maximum long run will likely be 3-4 weeks out from race day for most. We’d recommend that you cap this at a maximum of 3 hours – 3 hours 3:30 minutes. Beyond this it’s a case of diminishing returns and we find runners struggle to recover in time for the race. Don’t panic if this means you haven’t run beyond 20 miles; the collection of all of your training, not just the long run, will result in your best performance.
Fuelling the long run
In May your long run will start to extend beyond the 1 hour 45 minute mark. From this point onwards I recommend starting to practise with different options for pre run breakfasts and also fuelling during the run itself. Gels are the most efficient and effective way of getting carbohydrates quickly into the system whilst on the run. Take small sips of gel and look to take on every 30-60 minutes or so during the course of your long run.