Workout of the Week: 5-4-3-2-1 Long Run

For many runners, marathon season is in full swing. Photo:

As we head into the heart of the fall racing season over the next 4 to 8 weeks, many runners will soon be putting the finishing touches on their marathon training. After 10, 12 or 16 weeks of hard work, there are only a handful of key long runs, challenging workouts and big mileage weeks left to log before race day.

It goes without saying that the long run is one of the pillars of a sound marathon training program. It will account for a high percentage of your weekly training volume, improve your endurance and provide you a valuable opportunity to work on race-specific pacing and fueling strategies.

The 5-4-3-2-1 long run is one of the most demanding race-specific workouts an experienced marathoner can do, but it also provides a huge fitness boost and will give you the confidence that you’re ready to tackle your marathon goal. The 5-4-3-2-1 long run, which totals 21-23 miles and includes 15 miles of faster-paced running, will likely be one of the toughest sessions you complete during your training cycle, so take caution not to go into it totally wrecked and be sure to recover accordingly afterward with at least 3-5 days of low mileage, low intensity runs before you attempt to tackle another hard workout. Note: This workout is not meant for beginners. 

This workout is a great “dress rehearsal” to perform 3-4 weeks before your goal marathon. Wear the shoes, socks, singlet/shirt and shorts you plan to wear on race day. Practice your fueling strategy while running at your goal race pace. It’s better to learn that something doesn’t work a few weeks before your race rather than while you’re out there on the course!

RELATED: 15 Expert Race-Week Tips

Here’s how to do it:

— Warm up with 1-2 miles of easy running.

— Run 5 miles at your goal marathon race pace—no faster!

— Run 1 mile easy.

— Run 4 miles at your goal marathon race pace. Use these faster segments as an opportunity to experiment and practice with the hydration and nutrition you plan to use on race day.

— Run 1 mile easy.

— Run 3 miles at your goal marathon race pace.

— Run 1 mile easy.

— Run 2 miles at your half marathon race pace (15-20 seconds per mile faster than marathon race pace)—no faster!

— Run 1 mile easy.

— Run 1 mile at your 10K-half marathon pace. Stay relaxed and in control!

— Cool down with 1-2 miles of easy running.

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