The Future of Long Distance Running

As I’m ramping up my mileage again, I was talking with Chris at physical therapy about what to do after our session. I wanted to run a few easy miles, he said stairmaster or two 800s at a fast tempo, despite running my 1×1 mile workout the previous day. Then he made a statement I thought was kind of weird.

I don’t believe in slow miles.  I’d rather see you run short, intense workouts.

Uh, what?  Hey Chris, I’m training for a marathon.  You know, 26.2 miles.  Short intense workouts aren’t going to prepare me for 26.2 moderate paced miles.  Right?  Right?

I’m still hung up on the short conversation we had (I ran 2x800m, by the way) and I can’t quite wrap my brain around it.  He said training for anything is about intensity.  How do we adjust intensity?  Well there’s plenty of ways — incline vs. no incline, varying terrain, even footwear, weather, etc. and it doesn’t just have to be about long, slow miles.

I found a couple articles that somewhat explains it pretty effectively on Competitor and No Meat Athlete.

I suppose it makes sense, especially when you see so many runners have overuse injuries.  It’s just really hard to hear when everything I’ve known has been building up the longer runs to train for a marathon and mentally, I will need to see a 20-miler under my belt to know I can do it, especially when I’m trying to not hit the wall (and probably hitting the wall).

I think the article on NMA explains it a little better when he mentions decreased strength, power, and speed.  These are three things we have been hammering on in PT lately.  I’ve been spending an hour or do doing plyometric single leg drills, squat jumps, etc. to gain power and it’s funny to see me do these because that’s just it — I have no power.  Without power, I’m definitely not as fast as I could be and as I’m making gains in these areas, things aren’t hurting like they did.

I casually mentioned that I had also created my own training plan, combining a few training plans because some didn’t have speed work and some I just didn’t care for the speed work or it was too many days of running.  Apparently that wasn’t wise either because each plan has a goal and it’s basically like combining 3 recipes from different cooks for the same food — it’s not going to end up well (in my experience, this actually has ended up well with food, but I won’t mention that!)

What do you think?

Do you buy into less mileage on long runs and making every run “count”, or would you rather continue running 15-20 miles average for a long run and screw anyone who thinks otherwise?

Considering it can take me two full days to recover from a hard track workout, I’m not sure I can handle 3-4 hard runs per week without burning myself out!


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Just a 20-something homegrown Buffalo sports loving, distance running, gin drinking kind of girl.

7 thoughts on “The Future of Long Distance Running”

  1. I’d still do a long run or two along the way to build some confidence – and you don’t want to give up on mileage altogether – but with that being said, I think you can really benefit from doing two or three track-type workouts per week!


  2. I would definitely still do long runs. I think that builds confidence which is important to your overall running (you know I’m a fan of high mileage). I do think multiple track workouts have their place too but I also think they make you far more injury prone. (A reason I have avoided them).


    1. I think it’s really interesting to consider. I could see a benefit to maybe breaking a longer run (20 miler) into two sets of 10 if you’re injury prone, but I feel like you need to train your aerobic system still.

      I personally can’t imagine cutting out long runs, but I’m curious to see if more people start adapting this mindset over the next year (you know how fads come and go in the fitness world!)


  3. I think you need to find a happy medium. Training for your first marathon you really do need to hit some long runs, you need that mentally AND physically. BUT there is something to be said about making the miles count and not necessarily piling on the miles. My first few marathons I averaged maybe 30 miles a week. So nothing crazy, but I made the miles that I did run count more. You are going to gain strength and power with all the hard work youre doing. I can’t wait to watch your progress, it’s going to be awesome. I also can’t wait to meet you this weekend!


    1. My training for halfs has always been really on the low end like 15-20 mile weeks, also making those miles count so I feel like my marathon will probably mimic that (but double). It’s worked fine so far, so I’m thinking my first marathon will be okay too. Then I get to ramp it up 🙂 I cannot wait to meet you this weekend! It’ll be nice to put a face (in person) to the name/tweets/blog haha.


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