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Posted on January 11th, 2018 by

If you are following our marathon and half marathon schedules, you will see that we’ve got a lot of long Sunday runs coming up. For marathons in particular, the long Sunday run is the key session of the week.

One mistake a lot of people who are new to marathon running make is to try to do the long Sunday runs too fast or to go too far too often.

The fact is that running for two hours or longer is tiring, and running it fast is utterly exhausting. It is OK to be exhausted occasionally during training, but not every week. You will see that in our schedule there are a few sessions where you run a long way fast, but they are spread out throughout the schedule to give you time to recover.

What happens if you do not take time to recover? You are very likely to fall ill (perhaps getting a cold that never seems to go or simply feeling tired all the time) or get injured (too many miles can take a real toll). There is absolutely nothing worse for your training than being ill or injured. It is better not to be training at all than to be making yourself sick.

I think there are two reasons people make the mistake of over-training.

  • Firstly, it’s easy to believe that more is more. If you increase your mileage a little, your race times will probably improve so you find yourself reasoning that if you run 100 miles a week you will probably become an elite athlete. In reality if you run 100 miles a week you are for more likely to become someone with a chronic injury who cannot run at all without discomfort. Yes, there are the occasional biologically blessed individuals who can cope with tremendous training loads, but for every elite athlete there are a thousand talented athletes nursing injuries.
  • Secondly, it’s impossible to believe that on race day you will be able to run 26.2 miles with all of those miles run faster than the longest run you did in training. Especially when that longest run was only 20 miles (for most athletes 20 miles should be the furthest they run, some faster runners may do as much as 22 miles or even 24 miles). When I’m training I find it impossible to believe that I can do it too, and yet I have done it time and time again, and athletes I have trained have done it too! It takes a bit of nerve to believe that moderation will pay off, but experience says that it does. That’s why experienced athletes don’t push their Sunday runs too hard. If you are new to marathons you have a choice: the hard way is to learn from your own experience; the easy way is to learn from other people’s.

How fast should you do your Sunday runs? Our schedule will tell you.

Our schedule mostly says “easy” or “steady” and gives you a rough idea of what pace that might be. For easy runs, you shouldn’t be too much of a stickler about the precise pace you run them. Apart from anything else you should sometimes be running on hilly routes or off road and inevitably you should run slower on tougher terrain. An easy run is a conversational pace but not a complete plod. A steady run is a brisk conversational pace.

Occasionally our schedule says that you should run some of the session at race pace. These are key sessions in the training programme. This gives you practice running at your target marathon pace and I recommend finding a flat fast route to give you a fighting chance of achieving this. You will find these sessions are seriously tough. They will make you question your ability to run 26.2 miles at your target pace. But they should do the opposite, if you can do these sessions you’re on track. Come race day it is astonishing what you will achieve.

How far should you go on your Sunday runs? Our schedule will tell you.

If you are doing an off-road route, I recommend judging your run by time rather than by distance. Don’t run 20 miles over mountains, that will exhaust you.

Where should you do your Sunday runs? From Talacre at 9 am using one of the routes on our website!

We’ve got 30 routes for you to choose between and you can easily follow them using a smartphone if you don’t yet know the way.

We encourage everyone to post on Facebook what they are doing for their Sunday runs so we can train together. Fairly obviously if you plan on running 18 miles at 7:30 minutes per mile, you can’t really expect to have company unless you’ve arranged to meet up in advance. Sometimes a solitary 3 hour run can clear your head, but most of the time it is a good idea to do these big runs with other people. I strongly recommend trying to get to Talacre as often as possible over the next few weeks so you can find the running buddies who are going to get you through the long runs ahead.