Home > Training

Speedwork for marathoners: the fast-finish long run

Experienced marathoners: pick up the pace at the end of your long run to get more out of the session

Group of joggers running down the street

Most marathon training plans keep your speedwork and your long run separate. In this training model, your long runs are usually done at a slow, steady pace. There are times, however, when it makes sense to combine your long run and your speed workout. A great way to do this is with the fast-finish, or tempo-finish long run.

RELATED: Two workouts in one: the tempo + hills

This workout is exactly what it sounds like: you do your regular long run, but for the last 30 to 90 minutes, you pick up speed to marathon race pace or faster. Doing this will help marathon runners build strength, while teaching them to run fast on tired legs. Finishing your long run this way is also an excellent way to train your mind to handle the challenges that are sure to arise at some point during the race.

Keep in mind, this training tool is not meant for beginners. The role of the long run is to teach your body and mind to handle the marathon distance, so beginners shouldn’t be concerned with pace, but should instead be focused on putting in the kilometres. For more experienced runners, finishing your long run in this way is a great tool to get more out of the session, but even veterans shouldn’t be doing this every week. At most, they should be alternating every other week with a standard-pace long run. Additionally, if you’re including a fast-finish long run in your training one week, you should cut back on or eliminate one of your other speed sessions to avoid overtraining. Here’s an example of a fast-finish long run:

Total run distance: 28 kilometres

Part one: run at your usual long run pace for the first 20 kilometres

Part two: increase your speed to marathon pace for the next eight kilometres. If you can, speed up until you’re running half-marathon pace for the last two or three kilometres.

RELATED: The importance of speedwork for marathoners