Marathon training is more than just long, slow runs and high-mileage training weeks. There are a number of variables that need to be addressed when designing a training program, with fueling sitting near the top of the list.
“You can’t get by just on talent because you’ll run out of fuel,” says Brad Hudson, coach of Hudson Elite training group in Boulder, Colo. “The training very much matters.”
One of Hudson’s key marathon-focused workouts is a long “fuel” run, which is done a few times over the course of a 12-16 week training cycle. It’s aimed at helping runners address their fueling needs ahead of race day without all the neuromuscular stress of a full-on marathon-specific workout. During the run, they take fluids and nutrition as they would in a race situation. Here are the key details:
What is it?
A long run of 16 to 24 miles run at 90 to 95 percent of your goal marathon race pace. E.g. If your goal marathon pace is 8:00 per mile, the pace of your fuel run should be between 8:24 (95%) and 8:48 (90%) per mile.
Why do you do it?
“The whole idea is to build a bigger tank and address the metabolic demands of the marathon,” says Hudson, a former 2:13 marathoner in his own right. “You get more aerobically fit and burn sugars and fats the same way you do in a race without totally destroying yourself.”
When do you do it and how often?
Every three to four weeks during a 12- to 20-week marathon training cycle, Hudson recommends doing a fuel run, building up to 22 to 24 miles about three weeks out from race day. For experienced runners, Hudson will sometimes have them complete the second half of the run at goal race pace.