So, I've spent the last 5 months training for a March marathon. This last long run has been something I've moved around the calendar now 5-6 times. I put it at 3 weeks out, then 4 weeks out, then 3 1/2 weeks out... I came across this article today and it really helped me firm up my plans to put it back at 4 weeks out and keep it there.
It also helped me with the distances for the last month of training. I was planning on a half marathon 2 weeks from the marathon and will now take that off the schedule. I have noticed that as this distances were getting longer, my recovery was taking longer as well. It's been 2 weeks since my 18 miler and I'm finally starting to get my legs back.
Anyway, I thought this was an interesting article and worthy of sharing.
I also give credit when credit is due, so you can see the article on the
website it was shared on HERE.
When to Do Your Last Long Run Before a Marathon
Carrying out one last long run within a few weeks of race day is one of the crippling
mistakes many marathoners make.
Sure, at first glance that close-to-race-day long run seems like a good idea. After all, don't you need to prove to yourself that you can go the distance on race day? What better way is there to show you've got the right stuff than to reel off a 20-miler just a couple of weeks before you go to the starting line? And - won't such a run give one last shot-in-the-arm to your endurance, almost ensuring a bonk-free race day?
That kind of thinking is perfectly logical, but it fails to take into account one key piece of information: You need to recover after your long runs. After a 20-mile training run, your leg muscles do not possess their normal function or structure. Propulsive force production by your muscles is reduced (making it harder to sustain goal marathon pace), and an electron-microscope exam of your muscle fibers would reveal large holes in your muscular architecture - places where contractile elements are damaged or totally missing. After a long run, your muscles don't return to normal for a considerable period of time. Scientific research suggests that this recovery period may last for four weeks or more!
As you can see, hitting a long run two to three weeks before your marathon ensures that recovery will not be complete - and that you will toe the starting line with rickety muscles. This is exactly what Dutch exercise scientists discovered several years ago in a comprehensive examination of marathon runners. In the Dutch study, about two thirds of all marathon runners had significant signs of muscle injury on the morning of the race, before they had run just one mile of the marathon! The reason for this muscular mayhem, for the most part, was the long running the Dutch had carried out during the month before the race. The Dutch-athletes' sinews were totally non-recovered on race day.
Running the marathon with tattered muscles is not the way to set a PR, and it's not the way to have a good day on the race course. But how can you build the endurance you need for the marathon (by carrying out long runs, including one last 20-miler) - and still keep your leg muscles hale and hearty?
In their careful analysis, the Dutch researchers found that training runs with durations longer than 15 kilometers (~ 9.3 miles) were the ones which seemed to produce the greatest amount of muscle damage. Below 15K, little muscle damage accrued.
So, let's assemble our data. We know that muscle recovery after a long run takes four weeks. We also know that training runs of nine miles or less do not seem to produce additional muscle damage in runners preparing for a marathon. Our logical conclusions are that the last long run should take place at least four weeks before the marathon and that no single run should exceed nine miles during the four-week "window" before the race.
Won't such a long gap between the last long run and the actual marathon decrease endurance and make your body "forget" how to operate efficiently over a long distance like the marathon?
Absolutely not! In fact, this long-run-free, four-week period represents a great opportunity for you to boost your fitness. As you gradually emerge from the recovery shadow of your last long run, you'll be able to step up the intensity of your training progressively, carrying out great, high-quality workouts which boost your vVO2max, running economy, and lactate threshold speed, three key predictors of marathon capacity. The marathon is like any endurance race, even the much-shorter 5K, in the sense that your marathon performance hinges on your overall fitness and your specific preparation. For both the 5K and marathon, your fitness is maximized by the high quality things you do in training. In the 5K, your specific preparation is optimized by conducting workouts at goal 5-K pace. For the marathon, your specific preparation is optimized by your long runs, including your last long run, and by your recovery from that last long run, a restoration which leaves you ready to run your best marathon on race day.
Marathon schedules published on-line and in popular running-related magazines almost always include a weekly long run - or at the very least a biweekly, elongated training session. Shame! With a long run every weekend, your leg muscles are always trying to recover from the impacts and abuses of the Sabbath effort at the same time they are being asked to carry out Tuesday's speed session and Thursday's hill workout. That just doesn't work! It's small wonder that two-thirds of marathon runners are injured during their marathon preparations; their muscles are simply never given the appropriate opportunity to recover from the prolonged exertions of the weekend. A far better strategy would be to carry out a long run every three to four weeks. That would still allow you to learn how to run long, and it would permit much higher-quality training during the weeks which don't have a muscle-numbing long run on the prior weekend. The result? You'll be fitter and healthier on race day, and your chances of achieving your marathon goal will be greatly increased. ©