• Helen Phillips

Why do you make me run so slow on my long run?


If you’re following a marathon or half marathon programme, then you’ll probably be heading off at some point during a weekend for a LONG RUN.

The LONG RUN is THE most important run to get right if you’re training for a marathon or half. It’s when you’ll train your body to get used to running further and as well as training your mind for running for longer, and keeping going even when things start to hurt!

But a lot of people compromise their long run training and train in a “dead zone”, trying to run at the fastest pace they can, or trying to run each long run at the same pace they’re aiming for for their marathon or half.

Why do you make me run so slow on my LONG RUN?

Yes my friend … you need to SLOW on your long runs. You should be running at an easy conversational pace. It should feel no harder than "a 5" or at 50% on an effort scale. You need to feel, at all times on the run, that you're running “frustratingly slow”, barely raising your heart rate and breathing easy.

It might drive you mad. You might think it's doing nothing for your fitness. And you might be tempted to pick up the pace, a bit ... heck a lot! But don't!

You need to run your long runs SLOOOOWWWWW ... Really … YES!

And here’s why ...

The aim of the LONG RUN isn’t to challenge yourself to see how fast you can run a distance. By all means do this, but it’s not long run training and you won't be training your body to be better at running longer and further by doing this.

The aim of running so slow in your LONG RUN is to train your body to burn FAT as fuel in the presence of OXYGEN

When you run at a high intensity your body relies on carbohydrate to power the run. Carbohydrate is easy to burn, so can be used by the body to fuel those faster and more intense runs.

However, the body only has enough carbohydrate stored (as glycogen in muscles and the liver) to fuel about 90 minutes of running. Unless you’re super speedy, you’re not going to get around a half, and no way a marathon in 90 minutes!

To run for longer than 90 minutes the body uses fat for fuel.

We’ve all got plenty of fat stored, enough to power our way through numerous marathons. But burning fat is a slow and complex process. It’s an AEROBIC process, so you need to be taking in and getting oxygen to the muscles and fat also needs glycogen available for the process.

FAT BURNING running takes place at lower paces, on those lower effort runs.

The greater the intensity of your running, the more carbohydrate and less fat is used to fuel the run.

For optimum fat burning you need to be running at a slower pace

So the purpose of the long run is to TRAIN YOUR BODY TO BURN FAT. You want to make your body an efficient FAT BURNING MACHINE so that you can run for further for longer.

Over the weeks of your training programme, as your mileage increases you’ll be adapting and training your body to be a better FAT BURNER, so race day you’ll be a more efficient runner.

Running at this pace is HARD. It’s easy and so tempting to speed up. But don't.

Make your long runs super effective by SLOWING DOWN

If you’re interested in finding out more about preparing for, running and recovering from LONG RUNS, click here to check out my tips to make LONG RUNS EASY.