Monday, October 10, 2011

How Often Do You Go Long?

*Note: a change/correction has been made to this post from what was originally written. I misunderstood what my client had told me. My apologies. What is written below is now accurate.

I met with a coaching client this week. She is running the Boston Marathon in 2012 and wanted to process her thoughts about her marathon training plan. In early 2011 she completed the Colorado Marathon and got her BQ. During her training cycle, however, she suffered from shin splints and saw a local PT.

During our coffee/marathon planning date, this friend told me that her PT thought her shin splints might be related to her weekly long runs. He told her that the 40+ year old athletes he works with do better in terms of  recovery and fewer incidents of injury when they do long runs once every 10 days versus once every week.

Most cookie cutter training plans (Smart Coach @ Runner’s World, etc.) have runners doing one long run per week. RRCA trains coaches in plans that have one long run per week (after the base building phase). Team in Training coaches its participants this way as well. Most of these plans incorporate recovery weeks every 4-6 weeks.

On that note, here is a long run guide from Running Planet that was interesting food for thought:

image

Yet, at Marathon Training Tips, we are told (regardless of experience), “The long runs have to occur every week and they cannot be skipped no matter what. These runs are what actually train your body to store up the glucose needed to accomplish a marathon long run schedule.”

Spacing out long runs seems logical, but like with anything, this depends on the individual. I think most people would agree that one long run per week is standard, but there are always exceptions. I don’t believe you can say, as this PT did, that “everyone must do a long run only once every ten days.” IMHO, nothing applies to every.single.person across the board.

How often do you do long runs while training for a marathon?

Have you ever done/heard of a marathon training plan that does not have weekly long runs (not including recovery weeks)?

SUAR

58 comments:

  1. I have completed 3 marathons, 10 half marathons and a bunch of longer distance trail races and doing a long run every week is a no brainer. That's how I improve, that's how I keep my endurance in check. Even between marathons when I am not really in training, I am still doing some higher mile runs (not 20, but let's say 13-15 miles). It works for me and it helps to be prepared what whatever it's coming next in terms of my racing schedule that is never really planned ahead;-)
    I have never heard of any plans that would not include long runs on a weekly basis.

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  2. Huh - interesting. I have never even considered anything less than once a week.

    Hubs has done some research and plans to switch from a 7-day to 10-day cycle next time around, only every 10 day cycle will include TWO long runs. Now that's just crazy. :P

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  3. Every plan I've seen has a weekly long run, though if you are following a 10 day training week, they would probably not occur every calendar week. I think its interesting the PT said that in 40 years they've NEVER seen a plan with a weekly long run. Hard to imagine.

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  4. Every plan I've seen has a weekly long run, though if you are following a 10 day training week, they would probably not occur every calendar week. I think its interesting the PT said that in 40 years they've NEVER seen a plan with a weekly long run. Hard to imagine.

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  5. I've only ran 3 half marathons, but I run 1 long run once per week. That's what I would do for a full, too.

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  6. I have a coach who has me do a long run every Sunday.
    It doesn't seem smart to train for a marathon but not do a weekly long run, but what the hey do I really know? That's why I have a coach.

    My coach seems to go against the grain for other things... Like I asked him about the standard 3-week marathon taper and he's all, "You've been reading too much Runner's World." Yikes. Or eating GUs during races... He thinks that's bunk and what causes so many people to find a port-a-potty or a bush to explode behind. He does sports drink only during races. And recovery weeks? I'm not sure about that. I have only worked with him on half marathon training thus far, and there was no recovery week on my plan. We'll see when I start my official marathon training after my October 23rd half.

    I might poo poo him a little more if he wasn't 73 and still logging insane mileage and running 3:29 marathons. He obviously knows what he's doing considering his longevity in the sport.

    He is having me do a recovery week after my October 23rd half because I am still recovering from injury, and he wants be to be fresh, rested and ready to train.

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  7. I thought Shin Splints were more about too much intensity too fast whether it be mileage, speed work and what not. I am training for a 50 miler, therefore do 2 long runs a week. I think as long as you have a healthy base and gradually build - and listen to your body - at least one long run a week is OK.

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  8. I can't imagine feeling prepared for the full marathon distance without running one long per week. I suppose if my goal was only to finish without a specific time in mind.
    I do think the most important part of running long is going slow enough.

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  9. Only one marathon, and one coach, so I don't have a lot of experience. But even that included one long run per week. "Rest weeks" were every 3 or 4, depending.

    The way it was explained to me - The long runs are at a slower pace than regular training runs. Low zone 3, upper zone two. Talking with a buddy kind of pace. Easy. The idea is to get the body used to moving for a long time, and learn to build efficiency in your running stride. Learn to relax while running. Figure out our nutrition. Use brief (BRIEF) changes of pace so you don't get locked into feeling like you are in slow mo.

    But what do I know? Some of you were in labour for less time than it took me to do my marathon.

    Oh, and A Day in the Life is in progress. Beth tagged, Beth gets.

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  10. Interesting! I have completed 3 half-marathons and the first time I was hurting! My training plan included weekly long runs and very few cutback weekends. These last 2, I used a different plan that included more cutback weeks.

    Interestingly enough, dropping my total mileage during training allowed me to shave 15 minutes off of that initial time.

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  11. Guess it all depends on what is the definition of "long run"? This will vary from person to person unless you are a client of this PT, of course.

    In ramping up to 70mi per week right now I have had weeks where I've gone over 10mi 4 times in a week(10,14,11,21) - I call the 21mi a long run and the other three medium long runs.

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  12. Until I read this, I never knew long runs DIDN'T happen weekly?! I can understand an adjustment if injury strikes.

    Need to catch up on your Denver RnR report!!

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  13. I do once a week long runs. Well that's the plan anyway. Sometimes a late night wine party or outing with the husband means that i oversleep and skip it until the next weekend. But let me say, when that does happen, that long run on the second week is VERY VERY difficult. I need the step by step advancement of mileage..

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  14. I've done 4 marathons, and every time I've done a weekly long run. I don't know that I've ever seen a schedule that didn't have that. I am not a high mileage runner either, but I still do a weekly long run. My schedule usually builds for 3 weeks and then has a lower volume week, then builds again.

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  15. Maybe in an ideal world where our lives aren't scheduled around a 7 day week, we could do our long runs every 10 days. I don't know about everyone else, but with a full time job outside of the house a 2 kids under 3, doing a 20 miler on a weekend is tough enough. During the week? Impossible.

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  16. I think 'once per week' can be more of a scheduling issue than a training one. Most people seem to treat their long runs as special runs and dedicate part of the weekend to them, either because of pre-run prep, post-run recovery, or the actual time duration of the run.

    I'd think that if your client feels comfortable with the sort of time adjustment it would take, and is putting in quality workouts in-between the long runs, it could be worth testing. She's already comfortable with the distance overall, so could work out.

    (I personally run long once per week. I'm so slow that trying to do 4-12 hours of running at a time just fits best on weekends.)

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  17. Wondering what constitutes a long run in that PT's opinion. This plan I am starting with this week has every other week increasing mileage long runs and and shorter distance overall mile repeats increasing in number each time alternating w/ these long runs…all after an initial building/solidifying period. Boy, that makes no sense :P but I understand what i'm doing :)

    I'm a definite believer in individualization of training regimens.

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  18. I've always done one longer run per week. Whether this is 6 miles during a training lull or 16 miles during marathon training it has always been once per week. And like a few people mentioned - it might have more to do with the schedule of a week than the actual ideal training.

    Either way, if done right I think a body will adapt over time. Anyone who says *everyone* must do XYZ is crazy, regardless of the topic!!

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  19. I have had the most success on plans with every other week having a long run and the in between weeks having a medium long run at race pace. This also means the training cycle might be longer than some as you build the mileage slower (increase by 2 mi every other week for both types of run). I absolutely think everyone needs to find what works for them.

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  21. I've never heard of training without a long run. Isn't that called being prepared?

    Interesting topic though....my sister ran a marathon with me and did a CRAP job training and only did 15 miles....she smoked me in time.....

    xo
    Sarah
    Get UP & Go

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  22. I think you're right in that there is no ONE plan that works for ALL people.

    For example: what is a "long run?" For me, this year, it's 12 miles. Five years ago my long run would have been 18-22. (I focused the past 2 years on 5k speed, and am building distance back up again). But some people would look at my 12 mile "long" run and laugh. Some people eat 12 miles for breakfast!

    That said, I've always trained best with a 2-week-on, 1-week-off approach. 2 weeks of stretching-my-distance long runs, and one week where my "long" run day cuts back by about 30%. So my long run schedule would look like: 12, 12, 8, 14, 14, 10.

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  23. I do really long runs (18 mi+) every other week. I'm an overweight, newer runner, so I want to give my body time to recover. On the off-weeks, I still run a 'long' run of 13-15 miles.

    It irks me when people say you hae to run long every week or you can only do it every 10 days. That may be what one person chooses to do, but different things work well for different abilities and lifestyles.

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  24. I am going to preface this with I am not a marathon runner - I have only done half marathons thus far, but I definitely have one 'long' run (as in 15km - 30km) per week, sometimes two later in training (well, a 15km run with the last 10km at race pace). Knock on wood, I haven't had any issues thus far, however I know when I just started running, I did have issues with shin splints, even though I wasn't running that far. Different things work for different people though. That being said, I personally haven't seen a schedule without a longer run once a week.

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  25. I did see in Running Times's section about Masters, that it can be beneficial to do change your training cycle to 10 days so that it includes more rest, but that was the only time I've seen that.
    I thought the general consensus was that you ought to have been running for at least 6 months if you were going to train for a marathon. If you built the base in that 6 mos, you should be able to handle it, or those months would tell you were not ready yet.
    My BIL ran a marathon using a plan that didn't count mileage, you ran so many minutes each run, no matter your distance. He got his butt handed to him and had to walk for an hour to get across the finish. Long runs are necessary. It's 26.2 miles, no matter how long it takes you to get there!

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  26. I'm not marathon training, just half - but I'm doing my "long runs" every week with rest weeks every 4 weeks where my mileage decreases by 3 miles.

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  27. What I like about personal coaching is that: We are all an experiment of one!! What works for one does not always work for all. As an old fart, I do not recover well from weekly long runs so I tend to do the really long ones every other week or ever 3rd, especially if I am doing a lot of weight training!

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  28. In marathon training I always have a long run every week and typically have a ML run or at least one other double digit run too. Everyone seems to have their own methods and its always so interesting to hear what other people/plans do.

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  29. My training plans have had weekly long runs (not counting rest/step back weeks). I do agree that there is no "ONE RIGHT WAY" and runners need to be more flexible with training plans and mindful of their bodies.

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  30. Once a week here... If I had the organizational skills to get started on a training plan more than 18 weeks out, I'd consider running long every 10 days, but I think the 1 LR/week format suits most peoples' work lifestyles which is why that is how most plans are structured. I know I have the time to run long every Sunday, for example.

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  31. Everyone is different. But everyone I have ever met/heard of(and I read a LOT of running blogs, websites, etc)goes long once a week. So, even if some people out there don't, the fact that her PT said that means he doesn't know jack about running. So, she needs to find a PT who does know about running.
    But, to the point of what you need, I'd say you absolutely need the long run, but you can also absolutely train for a marathon(I've done it)on 3 runs per week;1 Long, 1 3-5 miles(speed, turnover), and 1 mid-range tempo(at about 2/3 of your long run distance). I think a lot of people wear themselves out running every day when they don't need to, if they don't recover well enough.

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  32. Love the topic and all the ideas out there, I try and get my training up to 1 run at 20km and one at 30km a week for 4 weeks of Marathon training. Now I hope to be running 2h50ish so that translates into 1 run of 90+min and one run over 2 hours. Now for a slower runner I would stick to the time on the road and not the distance.

    Good luck

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  33. I know that I'm in the "weirdo minimalist camp" but I don't hardly ever run below ten miles any more. I do this about 5 or 6 times a week. Now I realize that I'm an odd duck here, but this works for me. But I believe only because of the way in which I run. I take it easy. Focus on form, and find ways to finish straight up barefoot on either grass or a track.

    So I guess the answer to your question is "every time I run".

    I maintain, running is not supposed to hurt.

    I've never had a shin splint either. I personally do not believe it's a coincidence.

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  34. I think there are too many unknown variables to accurately determine the best course of action. For example, what is long? 12-15-18-20+ miles? Also, many coaches/plans have you run easy during your long runs however I will bet some people are pushing harder than they should on those runs.
    Also, the number of times one runs during the week and how hard they push can have a bearing on the body's performance during a long run - perhaps making it more susceptible to injury.

    The plan I use has me dropping back every other week after I hit 18 miles (18-12-20-12-22-11 etc).

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  35. I have run 3 marathons and my 4th will be Boston 2012 (sorry if you are sick of me saying that). I have always run 1 long run per week, and this last training cycle, as well as the one I have coming up, you would almost say that I have 2 long runs/week, because I will have a 10 miler and a 20 miler in the same week, but I will drop down to 12 for a long run between each of my 3 20 milers. It worked really well for me this past spring. I didn't skip any long runs the last time, and finished exactly where I planned. My first 2 marathons I did an easier plan, where I still did long runs every week, but a recovery week every third or so, just not as many 20 milers. I also skipped a long run or two during each cycle. I still finished the race each time, however, the second marathon was rather disappointing since I did not make my time goal. My first marathon my prime goal was to finish, second under 4, and I finised in 4:00:36, with a bathroom stop at White Castle along the route, so perhaps had I not needed that stop, I would have hit my time goal. I'm training for a couple halves right now, and doing my long runs on Thursdays. Since it is a half and not a full, I have only gone up to 12 miles, since we moved and I lost a lot of training. I would have liked to have gotten up to 15 or 16 for a long run, but 12 is my limit for Thursdays due to child care constraints. It worked well to be able to bike long on Saturdays for the summer, but after these halves are done, I will resume long runs on Sat again.

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  37. I am getting ready to start training in a couple of weeks for my first marathon. The training plans I'm contemplating all call for one long run each week varying from 10 - 20 miles each, depending on how far into the plan it is.

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  38. Pretty much every training program I've seen has a weekly long run, though I did read one article on a 10 day training program - not sure how many long runs they had in there, though. Someone else mentioned that your client should consider a new PT who works with runners, and I second that, because this guy sure doesn't seem to know much about running.

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  39. The ten day plan seems to be gaining popularity. I've often read about it being used by female professional runners.
    But, you're right, most of the books on my shelf, as well as internet plans, have the runner do that long run one time a week. In fact, it's typically one day of speed work, one mid range run (10 to 12 miles), and the long run. We're told that no matter what else we miss, don't miss those 3 key workouts.
    I think variation is the key. Some people can run daily for distance, others need to have a day of not running in between each key running session.
    Like you said, it comes down to the person.
    Personally, I enjoy my long runs so I try to get one 16 to 20 miler in each week.

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  40. The right training formula is the one that the given individual responds the best to. The problem is that it is different for everyone and the only real way to find the answer is through experience. Unfortunately, those looking for answers typically don't have the experience and must rely on the guidance of others or some "how to run your first marathon" guide. The idea of long runs being the end all cause of shin splints is ridiculous. Sure they may contribute to the problem but there could be many other reasons such as the person is simply new to running and the body is trying to adapt. It could have to do with the shoes the person is wearing, the persons form or gait or some combination of contributors.

    The best frequency, length and speed of the long run has to do with the persons ability, experience level, ability to recover, the type of complimentary training they are doing and so on.

    A weekly long run is a good place to start with adjustments made from there. It is just as important to pay attention to the training that goes on between the long runs as well. Every day of the week needs to work together with every other day.

    When I initially read the PT's comments about long runs I burst out laughing. When I was actively ultra running, my daily run was a long run of 14 miles. I did that 12 months a year for years. For 6 months at a time, I would insert 26 weekly "long" runs of 36 miles each in addition to the daily 14 milers. Why 36 miles? That happened to be as far as I could go and then recover with a day off and continue with the rest of my mid week running.

    Funny thing, I NEVER got shin splints. Makes me wonder about the running background of the PT.

    Dana

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  41. I just finished up a marathon training plan. The long runs were every week but when you start getting into really long distance like 16-22 miles, the next week's long run was only 8-12. After running a 20 mile one week, the next week's long run seem more middle distance to me.

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  42. I think it depends on what you consider long. When training for a marathon, I alternate LONG runs (16+ miles) with LONGISH runs (10-15 miles). This works well for me, because the longish runs are done mostly at marathon pace. I practice endurance one week, and I practice speed and pacing the next.
    I've heard of plans that say to run long every 10-14 days, but it just doesn't seem correct to me.
    Your clients' shin splints could be due to so many other causes: running on concrete, overpronating without shoes that correct, adding on miles too quickly... the list goes on. I think that unless your PT is also a runner, that's not the best place to get running advice.

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  43. If someone told me (admittedly neither a PT or coach) they had shin splints I'd ask them about their shoes (how old, neutral/support) and the surfaces they run on. I think your client could benefit from some trail running and perhaps some new shoes...

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  44. One man's long is another man's short. I typically have one long run a week when I'm training, but some plans build up to a fairly long midweek long run as well. By the table shown, I guess most of us are professionals?

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  45. Our training group runs long once a week - except like you said, fallback/recovery weeks occur about every 3 weeks or so when we will run a shorter "long" run. I have never heard of plan that doesn't have weekly long runs. Interesting post - thanks for the info!

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  46. I think I've consistently learned that no plan works for everyone. Personally a long run weekly works great for me, but that's because I love them

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  47. I also think so consideration should be given to the length of time you have been a runner, weekly mileage base and overall fitness level. No training plan should be cookie cutter.
    I do agree that the "long" run does teach your body how to handle distance events, they provide you with the opportunity to practice fueling and hydration which a big factors in an enjoyable successful race day.

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  48. For two marathon training cycles I have gone long once per week. However, I do them slowly, so I never feel too much pain after.
    I have read that Masters runners (which I will be as of Saturday) should do long runs every ten days. I read it in Running Times fyi.

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  49. How long to go long should depend on the person. I have no trouble going long every week. But others I know need the cutback weeks to avoid injuries. I think my lack of trouble is due to my turtle-like pace.

    The Kidless Kronicles

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  50. oh the old everybody must do it this way theory. Mularkey.

    I run long (over 12 miles) every week after base building during marathon training and have no issues.

    They are varied in terms of aerobic, anaerobic, intervals, etc so they are always different and interesting but long nonetheless.

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  51. The man was a PT not an exercise scientist. He obviously had no idea of what he was talking about.

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  52. When in training, I do a long run every week. Adding 1 mile each week (after I have hit 10 miles). The only time I did more, was when I trained for Goofy's Challenge- then I did back to back long runs one week, and only 1 long run the next.

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  53. I've only done one marathon, and I took a low mileage approach. I did a long run usually once every 2 weeks. I ran only 3 times per week, sometimes even less. I'm not sure I ever even logged 30 miles in a week.
    It did take me 4 hours to finish though so I was hardly speedy.

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  54. coming in late to this but while it isn't a marathon plan I am training for an IM and I have no long runs over 2 hours BUT they have to fit into my 1:2:3 ratio and I run 6 days/week. But I can't afford recovery days from long runs as I've got bike and swim to throw in there also, thus 6 days/week and 1:2:3 ratio of length.

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    1. I am generally very sore and sometimes experiencing pain after a long run (for me, a "long run" is 20 miles but I'm trying to get up to 24). After my long run, I generally take the next day off. If I just do a fast 10-11 mile run, however, I feel perfectly fine, allowing me to do another brisk 10-11 miler the very next day. So I end up running more total miles each week when I avoid the 20 mile run. I also think that injury risk becomes so much greater when I do the 20 miler as opposed to two 10 milers. Based on the comments here, it seems most people believe the single long run (20 miles) every week is more beneficial than doing a series of shorter runs every other week.

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  55. Very interesting take. I haven't run a marathon in six years, but interestingly enough, I found myself basing my training around a nine to eleven day schedule. I did my long runs on a Saturday or a Sunday and then on a Wednesday evening a week and a half later -- then back to Saturday or Sunday again. This schedule worked well for me because I am a big runner -- I just can't recover from a three hour run on six days rest. Another advantage to a longer time frame between long runs is psychological -- unlike other marathon training programs, I didn't find it necessary to have a "drop back week" -- a week of easier running. Every long run was longer than the previous one -- aside from the taper, of course.

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