Going Long for the Last Time: Paris Marathon

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Parkrun, long run, coffee with Mum, wall-to-wall rugby and criminal amounts of GAA… its has by all accounts been a very sedate, normal weekend for a sport obsessive Irish lass, training for a marathon. The one big slab of significance is that the long run which I kicked ass at ground out in the not so wee hours of the morning (more noonish… but I made up for this slovenly start to the day… keep reading!)  marks the last long run of my training for the Paris marathon. Tomorrow, the taper awaits commencement as the countdown to race day begins in earnest.

First off, I should probably beg pardon of Messrs Pfitzinger and Douglas for thinking I know better. I’m quite certain I do not. Their training plan calls for a 20 mile run as the last long run, 3 weeks out from race day, before tapering begins. The reasoning for the long run is quite simple – your goal in doing long runs every week during training is to train your legs and your mind to run for a protracted period of time, gradually building up the distance towards that which you will be running on race day.

You need to run long enough to simulate the physiological adaptations necessary to properly prep your body and ensure it is sufficiently fit to withstand the trauma it will undergo on race day. By that, I mean (a) you will be able to complete the distance and (b) your body won’t suffer injury as a result of the effort. BUT if the long run is too long, this can negatively impact on the rest of your running week because your body cannot recover enough prior to these other sessions, resulting in increased muscle fatigue and risk of injury. In addition, if your last long run pre-race is too long, you run the risk of  causing more damage to your body than it is capable of repairing before race day. The key is to getting the balance right.

Messrs P &D say that steadily building up your long run to 21 or 22 miles will maximise your chances of reaching the marathon in top shape while remaining healthy, but long runs greater than 22 miles take much more out of the body. In their training plan that I have been following, the longest long run is 20 miles, including the last one pre-taper. Today, I bumped it up to 22. This may be bold, but there is logic behind it.

Psychological bit: if I run past 20 miles in training, I conquer a major hill in my mind. I’ve gone past 20, I know I can do it and by my reasoning, if I’ve already ran 22 in training, then there’s only 4 more to do on marathon day and sure that’s not much at all…

Physical bit: Running in a body that has already ran 20 miles is something that cannot be mimicked any other way. If I do it, I learn what it feels like, what to expect and train myself to be able to keep running on these tired, achy legs.

So I ran 22 miles today. I wasn’t much in the mood for it when I first headed out the door but I popped on Radio 1 and faded away into the Marian Finucane weekend talk show and before I knew it, I was 8 miles into the run and over all the major hills. The second 8 miles went much the same and my pace was reasonably consistent. I’ve noticed lately that my long run pace is faster than it used to be in previous years. I haven’t been consciously trying to run faster but rather I run according to perceived effort- long run, for me, has always been about keeping it relaxed, saving energy for the later stages and knowing that the pace should be slower than other runs. So while I’ve been running with the same level of effort, my pace has increased genereally for long runs. Little tangent right there…sorry!

Miles 16-20 were actually okay. I was feeling it at that stage and was a bit puffed but I was able to tip on. Of course, I spent the whole run trying to decide if I would or would not cut the run short at 20 miles and was still undecided when I got to the 19.5 mile mark. But then I just turned right, instead of left for home, and thought I may as well. I knew I’d another couple of miles in me and it was my last chance to try out 22 miles pre-Paris. Mile 21 was a bit tedious, to be honest, but in my defence, it was mostly uphill. Mile 22 was much better and I ran it out in 8.45, which is unheard of, for me.

So how was the 22 mile run? Great! I ran the full 22 miles, practiced fuelling with no ill effects, pace was good and I was happy with how I felt throughout – obviously happy is to be taken in context here 😉!

Next week, the long run will be reduced to 16 miles and then 12 the following week. Not long to Paris now and ooh la la, I am getting excited.

Just because I want to bore you:

1-9:37 (gps was not quite located and was out by about .13km…)

2-8:34

3-8:55

4-8:56

5-8:56

6-9:12 (hilly bit)

7-9:37 (continuing hills…)

8-8:35

9-8:08

10-8:31

11-8:51

12-8:59

13-8:45

14-8:30

15-8:47

16-8:58

17-8:49

18-8:46    (2 hours 40 mins total)

19-9:09

20-9:17   (2 hours 58 mins total)

21-9:25

22-8:44

Total time: 3:16:15        Average mile: 8:55

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