Ironman long runs in training…max 2.5 hours

So how long should your long run be during training for Ironman?

…afterall, you are training to run a marathon at the end of a long day…this 26.2 mile ‘run’ will take most age group athlete’s 4-6 hours to complete…and in training ‘just’ for a marathon, tradition has those long runs up in the 20 mile + range, usually at a slow aerobic pace…at least 4-6 times before the marathon…so 3.5-4’ish hour long runs…or longer…for age group marathoners.

For Ironman training there’s a growing sentiment to go faster…and shorter on those long runs…like 2.5 hours…only a few times…that’s it…even for us slower guys

…here are 3 sources of that opinion for your consideration

First are the Endurance Nation (EN) folks…they’ve been beating this drum for a few years now…to the point of ‘shouting’ 🙂

…here’s a particularly good post by one of the EN coaches Rich Strauss…there are 2 coaches, the other is Patrick McCrann, that summarizes the philosophy very well…in part:

I’d like to stir things up again by encouraging you to stop running longer than 2.5hrs in your weekly long run.

Ironman athletes will often receive advice from old skool training partners or coaches pretending to know the Ironman game that they should schedule a weekly 3hr long run. This one piece of advice is probably the single most high risk, low return, ruin-your-training-week thing you can do to yourself.

Very Low Marginal Benefit
We schedule our Ironman athletes for 2-3 x 2.25-2.5hr runs during their training for their goal race.

The Endurance Nation premise is largely that adding Intensity rather than Distance into your long run gives you a better Return on Time Investment, and keeps your legs fresher than flogging them down the pavement for extra time at a slower pace

…a little ‘intense’ in how it’s expressed perhaps…even though I like a lot of the EN thinking, I find myself saying ‘ouch’ as I read some of it, since there are in fact many ‘old skool’ methods followed by world class athletes…having said that, the EN folks might say that they would be even better with another approach

So much training ‘stuff’ is just simply copied from one coach to another, without any thought process, and I _love_ folks that are passionate about what they do and think…and take the ‘lazies’ to task for copying and pasting without any idea on the basis for an approach.

…definitely worth reading the whole thing here…including the Comments at the bottom:

…and another article with a softer tone by Coach Rich, dealing specifically with separating the long run from the long ride…my long run is Tuesday to get it as far away as possible from my long bike on Saturday…of course, some…like Iron Daughter…would have a challenge doing that with a ‘real’ job…but maybe worth consideration if you can fit it in:

Our second source today is Matt Fitzgerald…he’s now hanging out mainly at …if you search for Matt Fitzgerald on their site you’ll get 4,960 results…Matt’s a pretty prolific guy…I’ve quoted him a number of times before on various subjects, so must like his ideas and philosophy 🙂 …11 results on our site where we’ve referenced his ideas…in part:

When I trained for my first Ironman in 2002, my run training was severely compromised due to injury.  My race took place in mid-September.  Through July I averaged just 15 miles of running per week.  Not until five weeks before the race was I able to do my first “long” run: a 12-miler. I squeezed in a 16-miler and a lone 20-miler before race day.

Despite these limitations, I was able to run a 3:23 marathon at Ironman Wisconsin—not as fast as I could have run with better training, but faster than all but 42 other participants in the race nevertheless.  The reason, I realized, was that my excellent cycling fitness carried me through the run.

You can count on the fitness crossover from cycling to running to trim back the amount of run training you do in preparing for an Ironman

Matt, of course is _fast_, so _maybe_ a bit beyond us mere mortals, but does make the point that core fitness from the bike crosses over onto the run in his opinion…and many others…the alternate view is ‘specificity of training…run fast/long to run fast/long’ …but if it makes sense to you that there is a cross-over in fitness….and that a marathoner, that’s just running, doesn’t have that, so may need to pound on more ‘fitness’ miles…it could be a factor…some other interesting points in his article:

…and in another article where Matt again reinforces that the bike is the biggest focus for Ironman training…doesn’t like a lot of speed work in the run…and some other interesting thoughts on the run…oh, and also suggests that you:

Complete at least four runs of 18 miles or more, and feel free to go as long as 26.2 miles in training to cement a solid reserve of running endurance.

…I don’t know about you, but 18 miles is going to take me about 3 hours on a long run, unless I want to collapse at the end…so yes, it probably depends on how fast those 2.5 to 3 hours are

…this last point is an important one, and often made by world class marathoners that complete 26.2 miles in just over 2 hours…their 2 hour, relaxed long run can be 20 miles…an age group marathoner may take 4 hours for that same 20 mile training run…that’s a lot more wear and tear for the same distance.

Our final source, and last because she’s been a great mentor to me for 6 years now, and the final voice of reason in a lot of conflicting ‘stuff’…and got me through my 1st, and now coming up to 5th Ironman…and always open to consider a new idea…won’t adopt it just because it’s the hot training tip of the week…but will consider, and research, and ‘keep them honest’…Coach Gale Bernhardt…Gale, are we growing old together 🙂

So I asked Coach Gale a few days ago, whether she thought if I could ‘get away’ with a maximum long run in the 2.5 hour range…this question was initiated by both my ongoing issues with my bum right knee…and therefore trying to reduce its trauma to the degree practical…and the reading that I’ve been doing.

Coach Gale’s immediate response was ‘sure’…and cited examples of athlete’s that she’s worked with, that for some reason or another, did/had-to-do less run training and still had great Ironman run results…even though her ‘stock’ Intermediate Ironman training program suggests 2 long runs in the 3 hour range…her Beginner Ironman plan has 1…so probably overall a ‘moderate’ in the ‘cap-at-2.5 hours-no-matter-what’ conversation.

…so it appears that a 2.5 hour maximum for an Ironman training long run is not only doable, but maybe preferred…I could carry on about how we’re all a science experiment of one, what’s best for you and all that…enough to say that’s the approach that I’m going to take…I tend to ’round up’ in time on a workout, so may end up adding on a few minutes, but will essentially keep it to 2.5 hours

…having said that, this is not a wimpy 2.5 hour long run…I think that a slow, plodding 2.5 hour maximum long run isn’t the idea, and won’t be enough to get near your run potential…I’ll add some details in a blog the next few days about the Intensity that goes into making the shorter long run time ‘work’

…I’d keep going, but I do have to step on the scale this morning for my ‘official’ 2 month weigh-in…’lost’ a vacation week since my last post 2 weeks ago…added a few pounds…maybe back…details tomorrow

…where is my camera 🙂


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