Running Basics

You will do a long run each week, which is the second most important workout of the week behind your brick workout. During these long runs you should increase your distance each week until you are running at least the distance you will run during the race. If you find yourself struggling to complete this distance, you are allowed to break up the distance into a morning run and an evening run on your long run day, which can combine to total your desired long run distance. These must be done on the same day to prepare your body for the stresses of the race. It’s important not to push the pace on the long run; the entire thing must be done at a comfortable speed.

Note that while this particular workout is called a Long Run, walking is acceptable if needed. The main objective is just to travel the target distance. Many marathoners and long distance athletes have had success with the Galloway method of running, called Run Walk Run. Runners using this approach will run for a predetermined length of time, take a planned short walk break to recover, then begin running again. For non-elite athletes, these walk breaks won’t slow you down as much as you may think, and will allow your muscles to recover a bit while also dropping your core temperature. Depending on your level of running progress, the exact run-walk interval distances will vary, but it’s important that you stick to the plan and make sure to take your planned breaks. There are more details available on JeffGalloway.com, and the site makes the claim that non-stop runners who shift to this method see their times drop by approximately 7 minutes over a 13.1 mile run.

In addition to your long run, you will also do several shorter runs during the week, and these will be done at a slightly quicker pace. As I mentioned in Chapter 3, it is important that you don’t race yourself on these workouts. Pick a desired exertion level and stick to it; don’t worry about your time. Heat, humidity, and residual soreness make it hard to directly compare times, and you shouldn’t be too concerned with fluctuations from week to week. If you follow your plan, you will get faster over the long term.

Regarding heat and humidity, be aware that the run is the discipline most affected by these external factors. A good rule of thumb, popularized by Dr. Jack Daniels (awesome name), is that every 10 degrees Fahrenheit over 55 degrees will slow you down by about 15 seconds per mile. Using this guideline, an outdoor run at 85 degrees should be done about 45 seconds slower per mile than a run at 55 degrees in order to hold the same level of exertion. If you couple this with a high level of humidity (greater than 60%), you should run even slower. For us larger athletes, a higher body mass increases heat generated but also acts as insulation against that heat dissipating effectively. While thin runners can run at higher temperatures without slowing too much, I generally try not to run if it’s hotter than 80 degrees outside. I just overheat far too quickly and can’t get cooled down. While I consider myself an experienced runner, I never fail to be amazed each year at the increase in my running speed and morale as the heat of summer gives way to fall and temperatures drop.

The one exception to my no-running-in-heat rule is if I am preparing for a summer triathlon and need  to get some heat acclimatization work in. At any triathlon of Olympic distance or longer, you are going to be running in the hottest part of the day, and you should prepare your body to effectively do work in that environment. I bought a small kiddie pool which I kept on my front porch, and after one of these tough hot runs I would dump a bag of ice into it and sink in up to my neck. This was very effective in getting me cooled down.

One additional thing to keep in mind if you are an overweight or novice athlete is that the pacing calculators available online may incorrectly translate times from one distance into estimated times for another distance. My body is built for short distances and does not like to be in motion for more than an hour. When I first started training, my coach had me do a 5k run and then we used an online calculator to translate that into my desired training speeds for longer training runs of 10k and further. It wasn’t long before I noticed that I had trouble maintaining these speeds for longer distances, and we both had to adjust our expectations. While every runner notices a drop-off in speed over longer distances, it tends to be more drastic in me than in others, and I have to keep in mind that I may not necessarily be able to maintain the recommended speeds from one of these conversion charts.

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