This isn’t about whether long runs are an important part of training for ultras. In my opinion, they should be a key component to your preparation. One of my core beliefs is that in order to get good at running long distances you need to . . . run long distances. Period. No, this is more of a thought experiment into how much weight any single training run has on your overall fitness.

If you’ve been reading my last couple posts, you can probably guess what got me thinking about this. I was supposed to do my final long run as build up for Rabid Racoon 100 last weekend and bailed on it. Swapping in an eight miler instead*. I’ve been pretty consistent about doing a 20 mile run two weeks out from my races the past couple years, however was feeling less than enthused about a three hour run the day before. My motivation plummeted when I woke up to a forecast of steady rain for the next 6 hours. A sopping wet run in forty degree temperatures? Hahaha, bag that.

So now I’m in rationalization mode. Maybe I didn’t really need to run 20 miles. Maybe a fast 8 miles was almost as good. How critical is this single missed long run to my preparation for my upcoming race? Discounting this long run seems pretty hypocritical though right after saying how central they are to your ultra training. Waffle much?

As with anything in life, context is key. If you’re looking at that week, then I missed 100% of my long runs. Pretty big whiff and no way to get yourself ready for a hundred miler. I ended up doing three of my four twenty mile runs in this training cycle. Well 75% is better, however still probably not what I would recommend someone needs. Zoom out a bit more and I’ve managed to finish 5 ultras in the past 12 months. Hmmm, those were pretty good training runs. How about 52 straight months with at least one 20 mile run? Sixty plus ultras so far in my career?

Too often we think of training cycles as distinct entities completely unrelated to what came before. This is not the case. They all stack on top of each other and the bigger you can build your base, the more leeway you’re provided as you go along (hello, snooze button). You might not be able to progress to faster times or longer distances, but your fitness won’t disappear overnight.

For those of you that are just starting on your ultra journey, focus on getting in those long runs. Yes, it’s a lot of work. Yes, they’re uncomfortable. No, you probably won’t enjoy any most of them. The more of them you do though, the better you’ll get at running long distances. And the better you get at running long distances, the more long runs you can skip. But only when it’s cold and miserable outside.

* That 8 miler last weekend ended up being one of my best runs this cycle. I’ve run that route over 300 times the past five years and never gone that fast. I was about 20 seconds/mile faster than my second best time from a couple weeks back. Just an awesome run. Now I wonder how close to a 20 miler it was from a fitness standpoint. . .

2 thoughts on “Musing On The Value Of A Long Run”

  1. Such a spot on literary reflection on what we all think and feel the morning those long runs pop up on your calendar! Great write up.

    1. Thanks! Hopefully you’ve got better success than me getting yours in. Haha.

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