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Should you add pickups to your long run?

Does injecting speed into your long run make sense for marathoners?

The long run is a staple in any distance runner’s weekly routine. However, because it’s part of so many runners’ training, it’s a highly-debated topic – how long should your run be, at what pace should it be at and when should you do your last one before a big race? Today we answer another question: does my long run need picksups? The answer is maybe, it depends on where you are in your build. 

RELATED: Long run recovery: how long does it take?

Reid Coolsaet is a 2:10 marathoner and coach who says he likes working pick ups into his routine, especially at the beginning of a build. “It’s something I’ve worked into every build, but I don’t do them every week. For example, most weeks I’d do an interval workout, a marathon pace workout and a long run. If I’m adding pick ups, it counts as a workout as well.”

A pick up is simply running for a sustained period at a faster pace than you’d typically do your long run.

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Coolsaet says the benefit of combining speed and a long run into one workout is both mental and physical. “Pick ups are difficult because you’re already tired, and then you have to refocus. It’s good practice to run a certain effort on tired legs. This forces you to stay tough and learn to turn over even when your legs don’t feel like it.”

Coolsaet says runners should start by adding small pickups for 1K, and slowly add more as they progress further into their build. “By adding the smaller pick ups into a long run at the beginning of a build, I’m introducing my marathon pace without doing too much. It’s a gradual introduction.” As a runner’s build progresses, they can add a steady-state pick up at marathon pace, as opposed to shorter intervals. 

Long-run workout ideas for marathoners

Coolsaet suggests that runners warmup for the first 5K of their long run (this should be easy). Then do 25K averaging marathon pace (this is the workout portion), and finish with a couple of kilometres of easy cool down at the end. 

RELATED: The long run’s role in endurance training

However, as with anything training-related, it’s important to remember to not overdo it. If runners are adding pick ups to their long runs, especially sustained efforts, runners should back off or completely eliminate one other workout from their weekly schedule.