Putting Together Your Training Program and Pacing Plan

Long Runs: The most essential, but often the most misunderstood, component of your training schedule. Most weeks should include a long run of 60-90 minutes. Advice on how hard to run these varies somewhat, but most successful runners run these at two to two-and-one-half minutes slower than 10K pace, or 60-90 seconds slower than marathon pace. That can seem quite slow at times, but the purpose of these runs is not to build speed or wear yourself out by a hard pace. (The effort, and fatigue, will come from long distance you are running running). It can take great discipline to keep these runs at the desired pace. Another way to measure the right effort is heart rate: about 70-75 percent of maximum heart rate is just about right. This can mean an even slower pace in the hot summer months. Towards the end of a training cycle, when you are approaching your "peak," some of your long runs should include a significant stretch at your marathon pace (40-60 seconds slower than 10K pace) or a shorter stretch (20 minutes, or 2 x 15 minutes) at tempo pace.

Don't overdo the distance of your long runs, even when training for a marathon. Multiple 20-milers tend to prove out the law of diminishing returns. For most marathoners, a series of gradually longer runs during the 4 to 5 months preceding the marathon, with the 6 to 8 longest runs averaging 16-18 miles, will be sufficient. The key is time on your feet, not distance. Coaching guru Dr. Jack Daniels, for example, recommends a long run of not more than 2 hours and 30 minutes.  Obviously, there is a place for one or two 20-milers in your preparation, but do not overdo them.

Tempo Runs: The next most important part of training. We spend much of the winter training at tempo pace. This is your pace for a fast 10-Mile or 15K road race.

Tempo and Cruise Intervals: We run a variety of tempo-and "cruise"-paced workouts. Tempo intervals are run at just slightly faster than 10M race pace, while "cruise" intervals are done at close to 10K race pace. Recovery intervals are short. Again, the McMillan calculator will give you precise pace ranges for these types of workouts.

Interval Workouts: Repeats from 400M to 5:00 in length, run at 5K pace, with a long break for longer repeats, and shorter breaks for shorter repeats.

"Faster" Interval Workouts: These are shorter distances, usually 400M or less, run at 3K pace, Mile pace, or faster. If done at 3K pace, a jogged 1-minute recovery is enough. As you get faster, a longer recovery is needed. We do relatively few of these workouts on Wednesday night, but they can be used as a second speed workout in the late summer and fall to complement our Wednesday night efforts. But these should be "short" workouts, covering no more than 2 miles in total repeat distance.


Directions to Track

Track workouts are held on the track at Washington-Liberty (formerly Washington-Lee) High School.

From Washington DC: take I-66 east to the Glebe Road exit, turn right on Glebe, right on 15th Street for about 0.4 miles, to Stafford Street, turn right and cross over I-66 and the school is on your left.
From Vienna and points west in Virginia: take I-66 east to the Fairfax Drive exit, follow Fairfax Drive for about 0.8 mile to Stafford Street, turn left for about 0.3 miles and the school is on your right.
From Alexandria: take Glebe Road going north until turning right on 15th Street, and proceed as from DC.
Metro: Washington-Liberty is a short walk from both the Virginia Square and Ballston Metro stations (Orange/Silver lines).

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The DC Road Runners Club is a member of the Road Runners Club of America and is also affiliated with USA Track & Field. We provide a year-round schedule of running events that offer everyone a chance to participate regardless of age, gender, or athletic ability.