Take Your Marathon Long Runs To The Next Level

Photo: Jeff Clark

Pick It Up: Surging Long Runs

A while back, Competitor editor and Olympic coach Mario Fraioli described the Squires Long Run — a long run that incorporates surges and was a staple worjout of legendary Greater Boston Track Club coach Bill Squires. As coach Mario Fraioli describes the run: “The meat of the workout is a series of surges inserted into the middle hour of your weekend long run. Squires suggests surging for anywhere from 30 seconds to 12 minutes – the shorter the surge, the faster the pace.”

RELATED — Workout Of The Week: Squires Long Run

To make this long run even more marathon-specific, we can incorporate some of the principles we learned from a prior discussion of lactate clearance. We not only want to train the body to clear lactate quickly at marathon pace, but we also want to trigger high levels of glycogen depletion and further improve your ability to burn fat as a fuel source at marathon pace.

Like the Squires long run, this workout is a 22-mile long run with a series of 60-90 second surges. However, instead of running easy between the surges, you will run marathon pace as your “rest”. The surges should be between 10K and half marathon race pace. The 4-5 minute “rest” portions in between are run at goal marathon pace.

Surging at 10K pace will burn through more glycogen than running at a moderate, marathon-paced effort. As you slow back down to marathon pace, your body realizes it must conserve glycogen for these 60-90 second bursts and attempts to use fat as a primary fuel source at this pace.

For a 3-hour marathoner, the workout would look something like this: 22-mile long with 8 x 90-secong surges at 6:15/mi pace with 5 minutes at marathon pace (6:45/mi) for 4 to 5 minutes in between surges, starting at mile 12. Finish the run off with a few minutes of easy jogging.

This long run will include 40 minutes of running at marathon pace and 12 minutes at 10K pace. That’s 52 minutes of hard running between miles 12 and 20. This is a workout that combines the best benefits from two very marathon-specific workouts.

Final Notes

These long runs are very challenging and will require a few days of easy running to fully recover and be ready for another hard session. I have athletes take no less than two easy days after a long run of this caliber and sometimes have three easy days scheduled before the next workout.

Likewise, you should only schedule two or three of these long runs during your training cycle. Spread them out by at least two weeks, with at the last one occurring no closer than three weeks before your goal race. This will ensure that you absorb the hard work and are ready to break through your existing plateau.

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