Posted by: Joe English | May 18, 2010

Training — How slow should the pace of long-slow runs be?

running-advice-bugDan writes in with the following question about the correct pace for what we would call the “long/slow run” — which is the longer, easier, effort that usually comes in the weeks between our long goal paced runs. Here’s Dan’s question:

I have been training for a ~3:00 marathon this cycle which is about a 6:52/mile. From what I understand I should be running my long/easy runs at about 1:00 to 1:30 a mile slower than goal pace. However, when I run this pace I just feel out of place and I’d swear that I am more prone to injury and feel more aches and pains at this slower pace. My stride just doesn’t feel right unless I am running about 7:40 or less and I find that I run a lot of my longer runs with a 7:25-7:30 pace which according to definition as I understand it might be classified as junk mileage. I even struggle to slow down enough on my recovery runs to a 8:15 or greater pace. The only thing that I have tried to do differently in the last 6-8 weeks is to shorten up my stride and pick up my leg turnover.

What you’re describing Dan is something that we’ve heard a lot from more experienced runners. Our typical guidance is that runners should aim to do their long-slow runs at a range of about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes slower than their marathon goal paced runs. Sometimes people feel that this is too slow and they actually are a bit uncomfortable taking the pace so easy.

Let’s just do a quick refresh on why we want to slow these runs down. We’re working out runs in tandem across a two-week cycle with one week being a shorter goal-paced run and then the other week being a longer slower run. When you put these together you get two benefits: 1) a recovery time of two weeks between goal-paced efforts and 2) the extended duration of the long-slow runs that produces more “time on feet”. If you want to read more about training intensities, see our series on training intensities.

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