Oh, the Sunday long run. If there’s a staple in the runner’s weekly plan, it’s the Sunday run. There are many approaches to the weekly long run and there are different upsides for each. If Saturday nights are filled with dread of the looming Sunday morning run, it may just be time to try something new. You can change your approach without deducting mileage. Consider your running goals before Sunday morning comes around and decide which of these makes the most sense for you.
Option 1: The Classic
Run long and run it slow. Those who take this approach are getting in the Sunday run to teach their body to run efficiently for a long time. The idea is to get the mileage in to mentally and physically prepare for the challenges presented by long-distance running. The focus here is distance, not pace. If a runner is using this tactic, it shouldn’t be a run that they have to work themselves up to. It will fit in easily with the rest of the week. People who don’t intend to race a marathon often fit into this category.
Option 2: The Race Pace Portioned Run
This is a few steps up from the long, slow run. The run might be the same length but runners alter it so that they are running portions of it at race pace. If an athlete is training for an upcoming marathon, they sometimes adopt this method. By running sections at race pace, the body is not only getting used to the distance, but it is also getting familiar with the speed demands that will be placed on it come race day. The more you practice the desired pace, the easier it will be to adjust when competing. This approach can be tough on the body though. If the goal isn’t to do a marathon, runners have to assess whether or not it is actually working for them.
Option 3: The Intermediate Fartlek
Unless you’re really new to the running scene, you know what a fartlek is. But it’s not just for beginners. A marathoner’s version of the fartlek is to run the easy pace of option one, but then to add in shorter bursts at race pace. This differs from the above approach because the parts done at race pace would be much shorter. This is a good choice for the runner who is focused on a race but burns out when trying option two. This runner will still get to practice running at speed but is lessening the likelihood of overdoing it.