Finish Long Runs Fast

Running in the Houston marathon taught me that I need to work on endurance. I was running down a hill and about to run up it on the other side. There was a sign on the bridge that we were running under: 1 1/2 miles to go. It might as well have said: you've only just begun!

As I ran down the hill, I read that sign and I stretched out my arms, just to do anything that might help. I didn't even notice the people on the side of the street until they put out their hands and high-fived my outstretched arms! Funny! 

I need to change the way I do my long runs. I ran some 18's and 20's. Here's how my three 20 milers went:
  1. 9:09/mile average pace. I finished with two faster miles (8:55 and 8:42). Marathon goal pace for a 3:50 finish is 8:47.
  2. 9:10 average pace. Pace for mile 16 was 8:47, mile 19 was 8:43 and mile 20 was 8:55.
  3. 9:35 average pace on a hot 70 degree day. I started at 10:00 and ended at a 9:13 pace.
(I ran the 2010 Houston marathon in 4:05:35 - 9:22/mile average pace.)

I ran the last 20 miler 3 1/2 weeks before the marathon and it did me in. First, I felt like I had shinsplints. After that, my right ankle hurt. I ran about 42 miles in the three weeks before the marathon. Not enough miles!

Still, I don't blame all of my poor endurance on the aches I had. Jon Warren, Rice University track coach, says that we ought to be running 4-6 marathon paced miles at the end of our long runs. I hope to run more marathon paced miles at the end of my long runs.

Photo: Brett Gotcher (in the white shirt), who finished in 2:10:36, said that the last miles were tough for him, too. Made me feel better!


  1. Another trick is to incorporate MP miles in the middle of the long run; you recover a little better this way. But not EVERY long run, give yourself a slow, plodding long run maybe every 3rd one so. Every body reacts differently to the long run! Tough is why we keep doing these things, right?? :) Happy Wed!

  2. It is good to reflect and give yourself something concrete to work on.

  3. Thanks for the long run tip, Jill!

  4. That's an interesting tip! I too try to pick up the pace in the last couple miles of a long run. Doing it for 4-6 miles would be a challenge!

  5. Great post, Tina. I've been learning some things this time around. This will be my 8th marathon and I've learned that just extending the mileage isn't enough for endurance. In fact, when I decreased mileage and added different types of long runs, I had my best times; 3:36, 3:28. Every third week, I was including a different type of long run. The other weeks I kept the run at race pace or slower. This really helped for recovery too. We'll see what happens Sunday...that will be a whole lesson in itself but hey, like you said, four days is a LONG TIME! I'm truly hopeful : )!

  6. Meg, good info! This is just what I need!

  7. I agree that the goal paced miles are important. I ran a 16 miler and worked to keep it at the 8:45's. I started with shorter runs and worked my way up. I also would try at the longer runs to run middle or end miles at goal pace.

    I'm not sure if you really need more miles. I'm running 4 days a week and will have hit 40 miles twice. This week I won't get to the miles. The quality of your runs is important. Granted I haven't run my marathon yet and may agree with you in 4 weeks.

    I think your endurance is pretty good since your long runs were truly long and decent paced. I think you went out too fast. The beginning miles were quick, much faster than goal pace and I think going out slower would benefit your next marathon.

    Again, great job on the race. Take it easy on the recovery and enjoy the fact that you've done something most people will never do.

  8. Wow! To run 16 miles at goal pace would make me feel very confident about the marathon!

    And your right, I went out too fast! Afraid of getting under goal pace!

  9. that exhausts me just thinking of it! you all are amazing! i am such a turtle. i want to learn how to do speed runs to help my turtle time decrease some!

  10. Kate, keep learning and training and you will get faster!

  11. Thanks for stopping by my blog. How many marathons have you run? I have done 5. Each one was better but I did not do so well on the 5th one so I need to rethink my training next time too.

  12. This was my sixth marathon and I wish I could say each one was better than the last!

    Well, this one was better than the last one - I can say that!

  13. This is great information. I think that's my problem - not running enough of the long run miles at my desired MP. (or in my case, 1/2 MP!)

  14. Hi Tina,
    Sometimes it's just not your day, when it comes to marathons.
    I really believe that quality is more important than quantity, particularly for beginners (few past marathons, I am one of them). Every training cycle I try to add something to the plan. I am a strong believer in lots of 20 milers (I do 5-6) and lots of MP runs (I do 2 10 milers at MP, and than my last 2 long runs, a 15 miler and a 13 miler are done at MP). I also believe in running even pace, and not starting out too fast. Thanks for stopping by my blog!

  15. All of this MP mile talk makes me want to get out there and see what I can do! Thanks for the tips!

  16. These have all been such great tips for my training this time! I am going to try to follow a lot of the tips and see how it goes! Thanks Tina and everyone else!


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