Should I Run Long Runs at Race Pace?

Tuesday, July 28, 2015 | By Hal Higdon
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Should I Run Long Runs at Race Pace?

Have a question about running? You're in the right place. Every Tuesday, world-renowned coach, author and athlete Hal Higdon posts and answers athlete questions here. You can submit your question by joining the discussions on Hal Higdon's Virtual Training Bulletin Boards.


I struggle with pace runs. For example, I run my long runs at the pace I hope to run in my marathon. In my mind I need to run them at this pace to know that I will be able to complete the marathon at that same pace. I fear that if I slow down my long runs I will not know how fast I will be able to run the full 26.2. Since I run race pace during my long runs, how fast should I run on days when I am scheduled to do pace runs? I know others who struggle with the same issue.


Obviously you have not bought into the idea that long runs should be run anywhere from 30 to 90 seconds or more slower than your planned race pace. Yes, you probably can float through a workout at race pace for up to a dozen or so miles. But as the mileage continues upward, suddenly you have begun to convert a workout into a race. Run the final 20-miler at race pace, and even the three-week taper may not be enough for recovery before the marathon itself. Couple that with race pace workouts on the other days of the week (particularly Saturday before a Sunday long run), and you are in double jeopardy.

What can I do to convince you to slow down on those long runs? All I can say is that not merely thousands, but tens of thousands, of runners have followed my advice to not do the long runs at race pace. Trust them and trust me. While logically it would seem that the harder you trained in the 18 weeks leading up to the marathon, the faster you should be able to run in the marathon itself, it doesn’t always work out that way. You want to arrive at the starting line well trained, not overtrained. Run those long runs at a more comfortable pace, and save race pace for other days of the week, or for the marathon itself.

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