Thursday, August 09, 2007
The long run is the most important component of marathon training because it teaches the body to both mentally and physically tackle the challenges presented in completing the 26.2-mile event. Physiologically, the body must learn to tap into and utilize energy reserves from fat storage sites after the glycogen (fuel stores in the muscles, converted over from carbohydrate food sources) have been depleted. Through long run training, the capacity to store more glycogen within the muscles increases. An increase in glycogen stores translates into the ability to maintain one's pace during the marathon and delay the onset of fatigue. Conversely, trouble is on the horizon when you run out of glycogen, as your pace will significantly decrease.
One must also be accustomed to running for very long periods of time, and the mental toughness that develops from completing long training runs pays off handsome dividends during the actual marathon.
Benefits of the Long Run:
• Provides the necessary endurance to complete the marathon.
• Strengthens the heart (increases stoke volume) and opens the capillaries, both sending energy to working muscles and flushing waste products from fatigued muscles.
• Other physiological benefits include the increased number and size of mitochondria and increased myoglobin concentration in muscle fibers.
• Strengthens the leg muscles and ligaments, thus improving your endurance.
• Recruits fast-twitch muscle fibers to help with slow-twitch tasks (like running a marathon).
• Teaches the body to burn fat as fuel.
• Develops your mental toughness and coping skills, thus increasing/enhancing your confidence level that you can go the full marathon distance on race day.
• Increases your overall speed, even for shorter races