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The Australian Marathon Textbook is a well written volume borne from the experiences of many of the patriarch’s of Australian distance running. There is a certainty that today, being Sunday, there would be thousands of runners across this country performing the weekly ritual of the long run. I spoke about this at length in blog XX and today I would expand on what I find is the most social run of the week.

My long run today was a very easy one but a owing to the pleasant cool yet sunny conditions I found it easy to stay out there a little longer than ’normal’. My ’normal’ during a marathon preparation mode is 2hrs 30minutes. When in 10k training mode 2hrs was about the sweet spot and for 5k 90 minutes up to 1hr 45minutes. Other marathoners do more, some less but for me two and a half is just right. At this stage in my career and experience I am glad that I only perform the 2 and a half for the 12 14 weeks leading into the race. To carry out the “extended ritual” year round would be a challenge. Thankfully I spent much of my younger days doing just that. So why would I do it now?!

My theory, and shared by coaches I have spoken to, is that I have already made all the adaptations I can hope to make during my long career, so all I need to now is to ’wake them up’. One of the first people to suggest this too me about 18 months ago was Sydney (now Melbourne) based coach Sean Williams. He advocated a what I thought was a ridiculously relaxed approach to marathon preparation. It turned out he was spot on and although I ran hard at times, the volume I needed to achieve the solid result in Berlin last year was much less than anything I had done before. It is this same approach that I am now carefully taking into Rio. Now only 8 weeks away.

During todays run I spent time thinking about why we do the long run, probably the most important training sessions when preparing for the marathon. Trent Harlow, a friend and training partner of mine during my time spend in Canberra once told me he had asked Australian marathon legend Pat Carroll during a tough Stromlo Forest long run what he needed to do to get ready for a marathon. Pat’s answer was simple

“Do this run every Sunday for the next three years, then you will be ready.”

Since the importance of the long run is verified by people like Pat Carrol (one of our five sub 2:10 marathon men) there must be more to it than simply adding a ritual to the week.

Of all the reasons that could be used to justify the presence of a long run I think one stands out, and it’s not about the distance covered but rather the time on the feet.

–          Activity at low to moderate intensities utilise fat as the bodies primary energy source, activity at high intensity, but still in the aerobic or huff and puff zone, use glycogen or sugar as the fuel source. I can run flat out for half an hour or even an hour and use only glycogen/sugar but when I step up to the marathon I MUST use fat as a fuel source. This means I must have trained enough in the low moderate zone so that I have practiced using fat as a fuel source.  Ultra-runners and ironman triathletes understand this principle well, finishing their event depends on it!

My long runs are typically easy but as I creep closer towards the goal event I up the speed I run and do a few of them at a moderate to high intensity. I believe that this is helpful too but won’t go into the physiology with only my layman’s understand!

So with one more Sunday down and I reckon I have 7 more opportunities to bring my long run closer to ultimate 42.2km long run test. The marathon.