Image Source: running.competitor.com
As a running coach, I often get asked the following questions,
“How far out from my goal race should my longest run be and how many miles should I complete for that long run?”
According to an article that appeared in Competitor magazine by 2:22 marathoner/coach Jeff Gaudette, it takes approximately 4-6 weeks to reap the benefits of a long run. So ideally, your longest run should be at least 4 weeks out from your goal race. Which, if you want to have a 3-4 week taper leading into your race, you want to be tapering off your long runs about this time anyway. What adaptations or benefits are our bodies receiving from logging those long run miles? Long runs are designed to build the body’s aerobic system. Physiologically this means increasing the number and size of the mitochondria in your muscle fibers and increasing the number of capillaries, which both contribute to the body’s ability to more efficiently transfer and utilize oxygen and fuel within the body.
My former college coach Paul Pilkington coached me through my 3rd marathon and I remember him telling me that my longest run before the marathon should not be based on miles, but rather should put me out running for the same amount of time that I planned on finishing my marathon in. Since I was shooting for a 2:46 marathon, my longest runs ended up being in the 2:45 to 3 hour range. I never covered a full 26.2 miles in that amount of time, but at least my body was used to working for a similar number of running minutes as my planned race.
Good luck logging those miles!
by Janae Richardson – Runner | USATF Certified Coach | Masters in Exercise Science