Using Races As Part Of Your Long Run
Turning a race into a part of a long run is a great way to maximize training while still having fun, especially if you’re training for the marathon. In essence, running a race as part of a long run mimics a fast finish long run.
The specifics are easy to accomplish. Simply substitute the race distance for the last miles of your long run (excluding a 1-2 mile cool down). For example, if you have a 16 -mile long run scheduled, and the race is a 10K, you would run 8 miles at your normal long run pace, race the 10K, and then “cool down” for the final two miles.
The key to successfully executing this type of workout is finishing your easy miles as close to the start of the race as possible. The shorter you can make the time between your easy miles and the start of the race, the more closely you mimic a true long run. For crowded races, this might be a little tricky, but for your typical local race, it shouldn’t be too difficult.
You can confidently execute this type of “race long run” every two to three weeks in place of a fast finish or up-tempo long run. Try not to do a fast finish long run and a “race long run” back-to-back if you’re not an experienced runner, or you run the risk of overtraining.
The advantage to using a race as part of a long run is that you can simulate taking fluids and energy gels while running fast and low on glycogen. It’s the perfect opportunity to specifically practice and hone your fueling skills.
The race/long run combo works great if your expectations going into the race are either: 1. you want to run decent, but it doesn’t have to be great (the results will be published in the local paper, so you’re just looking to run a respectable time); or, 2. you are just out to have fun with fellow runners (time is trivial, you’re just out to enjoy the course and the post race food).