"The Long Run"|
by Mindy Solkin
The cornerstone of marathon training is the long run. This refers to runs of 16 to 22 miles and focuses mainly on the 20 to 22 mile run. Running these longer training runs teaches your body to store glycogen (carbohydrate) in your muscles thereby utilizing fat more efficiently. Since fats are a higher calorie fuel than glycogen (nine calories per gram compared to four calories per gram for carbos), this will allow you to use more fat in your fuel mixture so the glycogen that feeds your muscles will last longer to stave off exhaustion. If you've been wondering why some people "hit the wall" the answer can be found in the over-anxious runner who started the race too quickly and burned out all their carbohydrate before the halfway point. By slowing your pace during these long training runs you'll be able to take in more oxygen, too, by tapping into your fat storage, first.
The pace of your long run will be determined by your current training paces at shorter distances and your marathon goal time. If you are a beginning runner and/or first time marathoner, your primary goal should be to cross the finish line without a time goal. Plan on running your 20 mile training run at approximately one minute per mile slower than you normally run your four to six mile daily run.
If you are a more experienced runner who has already run a marathon you may want to consider a time goal. Choose a goal that is within your reach, but challenging. During your 20 mile run, run the first 16 miles at 45 seconds per mile slower than anticipated marathon pace, then run the last four miles at marathon pace. This will teach your body to run at goal pace on tired legs, which is exactly what you'll need to do during the marathon.
During long runs and the marathon, your body craves carbohydrates (sugar), electrolytes (salt), and a cooling system (water). you could opt for gummy bears and saltine crackers but now is the time to experiment with the nutritional products that will get you through the race. There are many products on the market, but the following is a suggested plan. One hour before your run drink a 16 ounce bottle of UltraFuel which contains 100 grams of carbohydrate and 400 calories. Think of this as liquid food. Also have an energy bar and a banana. Then during your run drink water and a sports drink which contains a 6 to 8% solution of carbohydrate, every two to four miles. Also, eat an energy gel every 45 to 60 minutes, and remember to drink water with the gel. Within 30 minutes after your run have a bagel, banana or energy bar and drink 16 ounces of Endurox R4. All of these products are available at health food stores.
THE FINAL LOOP
The purpose of the long run is to endure and to enable your body to go the distance, not to make the run as hard as possible. If you already run many hills in your daily training, try not to do so during your long run. Plan out your run ahead of time and know the locations of water stops, bathrooms and traffic patterns. What seems familiar to you during a 5 miler, may be quite different to you as you stretch those miles upward and your pain tolerance gets the best of you. Most of all take comfort in knowing that hundreds of thousands of runners have endured this before, and they all got to the starting line and crossed the finish line. You will too.
Mindy Solkin is the Owner and Head Coach of The Running CenterTM. She is
certified by USA Track & Field (USATF) as a Level III Running Coach (the
highest level) and by the American Council on Exercise (ACE) as a personal
Known as "Coach Mindy" to her runners, she has coached thousands of people
over the past ten years, helping them to achieve their goals on the open
roads and the winding trail, whether it is running their first mile or
pursuing their personal best in the marathon.
Mindy was the creator of the Leukemia-Lymphoma Society's Team In Training
marathon program in New York City and served as its Head Coach from 1994
through 2001. From 1995 through 2002 training over 3,000 runners to run marathons in cities around the world, Mindy was the Head Coach at Reebok
Sports Club/NY. She is also the creator of the Polar Heart Bra® and has been
a PowerBar® Team Elite athlete since 1994. She can be reached at www.TheRunningCenter.com.