How Fast Should Your Easy Long Runs Be?

Summing It All Up

The preceding pages were full of a lot of research, percentages and numbers. If you’re not as analytically inclined as I pretend to be, here is a neat chart to sum up the research:

Physiological system

Perecent of V02max

Percent of 5K pace

Pace for 20 min 5K runner

Capillary development 60-77 % 50-75% 9:40 – 8:00 pace
Myoglobin content 63.1-77 % 55-75 % 9:20 – 8:00 pace
Glycogen storage No Research 65-75 % 8:40 – 8:00 pace
Mitochondria development 70-75 % 65-75% 8:40 – 8:00 pace

The body of evidence is clear: your optimal “easy” long run pace is between 55 and 75 percent of your 5K pace, with the average pace being about 65 percent.

It’s also evident from this research that running faster than 75% of your 5K pace on your long run doesn’t provide a lot of additional physiological benefit. Therefore, pushing the pace beyond 75% of 5K pace only serves to make you more tired and hamper recovery.

In fact, the research indicates that it would be just as advantageous to run slower as it would be to run faster. Regardless of your ability level, 50-55 percent of 5K race pace is pretty easy, but the research clearly demonstrates that it still provides near optimal physiological benefits.

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If you’re feeling tired and the long run isn’t scheduled to be a “hard” day, don’t be afraid to slow it down. Start on the slower side of the pace recommendations (50% of 5K pace) and slowly pick it up throughout the run if you feel good. The long run is one of the stapes of your training week — make it count!

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