Since 1982 I've written a newsletter, Running Commentary. A new issue appears here each week, and material is archived.

Sun, 16 Aug 1998 08:54:24 -0400

The Far Side

(from RC 275)

Arthur Lydiard didn't invent the long run. It was the bedrock of marathon training before the New Zealander was born, and he's now 81 years old.

But Lydiard put the long one on everyone's map when his track runners and marathoners alike trained on his mountainous 22-mile course. Then they won Olympic medals at distances as short as 800 meters.

That was the 1960s. More than 30 years later we're still running long on weekends -- "long" as in twice normal distance or farther. And we're still trying to figure out how far, how fast and how often to go long.

Hal Higdon probed those questions in the August issue of Runner's World. He focused on the value and use of the long run in marathon training, and asked several coaches and writers for their views on the subject.

"Long runs of around 20 miles are considered the key to any marathon training program," Hal wrote to introduce his questionnaire. But simple as this might seem, not all runners understand how to do long runs. And even if they do, or think they do, there's always something new we can tell them."

Hal attempted to focus the answers by pointing out:

"1. Yes, we're interested in how the Kenyans train, and what it will take [Americans] to earn that $1 million from New Balance, but most of our readers don't run that fast. Think of the average reader of RW as running 25 miles a week. With that as base, he/she will nudge his mileage upward to run a marathon, with much of that mileage coming on the weekly long run.

"2. Yes, we're interested in theories and research, but you're probably getting this questionnaire because you coach Real Runners. What do you tell them? What have you learned from them?"

I don't coach anyone -- not directly anyway. Hal included me in his survey because I'd written the book Marathon Training.

I'm better at giving advice in this form about going long than on doing it myself. In the first half of the 1990s I ran more than a half-dozen marathons without training longer than a half-marathon.

The last marathon, in 1995, was so difficult that I promised myself not to try another one until better prepared for it. That was 2-1/2 years later.

Hal contacted me just as I had completed my final step toward the Vancouver Marathon. This had been a 30-K, which still didn't fell slightly short of the 20 miles considered to be a magical key to marathon success.

Little of what I said in Hal's interview appeared in his August RW article (read it if you haven't already). But he made me think more about the subject, and to speak more spontaneously about it, than I had in a long time. The full text of our talk will appear in this space next week.


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