Sunday long runs have been a part of my running and training for the better part of the last 4 years.  In a marathon training cycle my Sunday long runs increase from 10 miles in the early stages of training to a high of 20 miles three times in the final 8 weeks before race day.

When I am not in a training cycle and find myself “between marathons” my Sunday Long runs alternate between 8, 10 and 12 miles.  Long runs which are the cornerstone of marathon training programs also help middle distance runners looking to improve at the 5K or 10K distance.

Running long provides a lot of great benefits:

  • Strengthens the heart – larger stroke volume.
  • Strengthens the leg muscles – endurance is developed.
  • Mind Work – mental toughness and coping skills are developed.
  • Develops fat burning capacity
  • Increases number and size of mitochondria
  • Increases capillary growth into muscle fibers.
  • Increases aerobic efficiency.
  • Increase in Maximum VO2.
  • Over the past three weeks my training has been very “speed focused” with a lot of tempo runs, hill work and racing, including three 5K races in the last 19 days.  So Sunday was a great opportunity to work on my “coping skills” as our Austin temperature and humidity conspired for a heat index of 92 as I left the house at 6:00 a.m. 

    I find that pushing through those late miles on a long run helps my confidence as a runner.  I know that when I am tested and I have to “dig deep” during a key workout or a race that I will have something there.  It is the difference between thinking you can do something and “knowing” that you can.  For me that difference is huge.

    So why all the speed work for this “marathoner” lately?  Well we’ve carved out a stretch goal of securing a starting position in the sub 40:00 minute corral at the Cooper River Bridge Run on April 2, 2011.

    With close to 40,000 runners expected to participate in the 33rd running of the event – securing a spot in the first wave of runners behind the elite men and women is a goal worth chasing.  A race that started in 1978 with 340 runners is now the largest single day sporting event in the state of South Carolina and one of the largest 10 Kilometer races in the United States.

    Starting Line Cooper River Bridge Run

    Just as chasing that magical “Boston Time” in 2009 became a focus of my training – we are now setting our sights on reaching another time barrier at the tender age of 43.  There will be no “benefit” for having turned a year older as the cutoff is simple. 

    Sub 40:00 or everybody else.

    Fresh off a new PR of 19:28 at the 5K distance we clearly have some work to do if we hope to achieve our goal.  Over the next three months we will be spending a lot of time running hill repeats, track workouts, tempo runs and fartleks – all designed at getting prepared to turn in a 10K race at 6:26 pace.

    Sunday October 17th will provide us with the first chance to post an official sub 40:00 minute time at the IBM Uptown Classic here in Austin.  It is a race I have never run before – quite honestly it is a distance I have never raced before – as 5K Races are far more popular especially during the warm summer months here in Texas.

    A 6:26 pace for 6.2 miles today seems like a lot to ask from this marathoner, and it very well may be a goal that is a bit out of reach.  But that is what to me is so great about the sport of distance running. 

    The only one in my way is me.

    It is much too late to talk to Mom and Dad about the gifts they either did or did not bestow upon me at birth.  So all I can do now is work to improve, strengthen not only my body but my mind to push the limits of my abilities for 6.2 miles.

    By breakfast on October 17th we will know just how successful our training over these next 90 days truly was.  My hope is that pushing through this hot Austin summer will pay off large come Fall.

    Just as 7:37 became a number that I saw in my sleep in chasing my Boston Marathon Qualifying time – as it was the pace I needed to post over 26.2 miles to earn my way into the most storied Marathon in the world – 6:26 now has taken on new meaning.

    Conventional wisdom says that you add :15 seconds per mile to your 5K time and you have your 10K “potential”.   Well adding :15/mile to my 6:15 pace at last Saturday’s Holland, TX 5K won’t get it done for me.  We still have to find a way to bring that 10K “potential” down from 6:30 pace to 6:26. 

    :04 seconds per mile may not seem like a big difference, but in a sport where seconds are tracked by hundreths – :04 seconds is going to be a challenge.  When race distances get shorter and shorter, a runner’s margin for error gets slimmer and slimmer.  So to reach my goal of an “under 40:00 after 40 time” I have to get stronger, faster and tougher over the next three months to have a shot at a 39:59 on October 17th.

    Sunday's 12-Miler

    Sunday’s 12-miler in the TX heat was aimed at exactly that.  Run at a much slower pace than “race pace” by design to work on stamina, strength and toughness.  Mission accomplished as I was able to cover the distance comfortably while climbing more than 36 stories in elevation.

    Even though I drank 20 ounces of water and 10 ounces of gatorade on the run, I still returned to the house 4 lbs. lighter than when I left at 5:50 a.m.

    Hydration and proper pacing is critical in logging extended miles this time of year in TX.  It is a good test however and another step in what will be many chasing after that sub 40:00 time as we look toward our 43rd birthday in July.

    Successful or not really isn’t the point.  

    For me it is about the chase.  It is about identifying a goal, planning the work and doing all that you can to get there. 

    That’s a lesson that was taught to me at a very young age and one I hope to pass along to my daughter one day.

    No matter what happens we are going to give it our best shot.   In the meantime we worked up a heck of an appetite for Dawn’s homemade waffles on Sunday.

    Worth every step of the 12 miles.

    1. […] do long slow runs? Joe writes a great post on this. Key takeaways: Running long provides a lot of great benefits: # Strengthens the heart – larger […]

    2. onelittlejill says:

      Two things:

      I want a waffle very badly right now after seeing that! And, in my next life, I am going to run 6 minute miles and then you and I can run together 🙂

      • joerunfordom says:

        Hi Jill! My wife makes a mean waffle that is the truth! It’s funny how sometimes I crave something sweet after a long run (craving those calories I guess) and those waffles hit the spot yesterday.

        I think we definitely need to figure out a race where we can get together here down the road – would be a blast to run with you no matter the pace. Have a great start to the week! Joe

    3. tbrush3 says:

      Great thoughts Joe. I love how from a math standpoint I begin to think about sub 40 and think sure I can do this. Then I begin to think about that same 5k effort over twice the distance, and think Wow. I have to run fast! I love the lessons we learn in this

      • joerunfordom says:

        Hi Trey! Thanks so much for the visit. The mathematics of going sub 40:00 or sub 19:00 at the 5K or sub 3:20:00 at the Marathon distance really do make you realize how precious :03-:05 seconds a mile really can be.

        I’m all in on this one – not sure if we’ll get there or not, but that is what makes the sport great! Best to you in Peachtree this weekend – can’t wait to hear about that race! Best, J

    4. Jodi Higgins says:

      Awesome blog post as usual. You really now how to explain distance running and pace in terms that I can understand. Now don’t get me wrong, there is no way I can run a 6:26 mile for 6.2 miles but I can translate your information into my much slower pace! As always, you are an inspiration. I continue to pray for you and Dom and your families each day. Hoping Dom is experiencing some relief these days.

      • joerunfordom says:

        Hi Jodi! So great to hear from you. Thanks for the kind words as it really helps me to make sense of running and training to share it in this space as well.

        Thank you for your kind words about our hero Dom and his family – he had a brief hospital stay last week again as dehydration from his latest treatment got the better of him.

        He continues to fight and remains the most Courageous person I have ever met. He is truly remarkable and inspiring.

        Take good care Jodi! Happy Trails!

    5. billso says:

      Nice article! Makes me miss the Austin racing scene. I had lots of fun running 3 of the marathon series 10 or so years ago – I still have my jackets, although I rarely need them in Honolulu. The summer heat here is not as bad as Austin, but it’s enough that I must start running by 6 am or the run will be hot. Good luck on the training!

      • joerunfordom says:

        Bill – thanks so much for the visit and the comment. I have a Hawaii Marathon on my bucket list – so maybe we will get a chance to race together out there when our little one is old enough to make that trip.

        We really do have a great running community here in Austin, this February will be my first local (Austin) Marathon which will be a nice “race day” change for me with no flights, hotels, travel home etc.

        Take good care out there Bill and stay cool!

    6. Thanks again for another helpful blog! We haven’t raced a 5K in over a year but did a 10K recently. trying to work your logic backwards to figure out a reasonable goal for PR’ing our upcoming 5K. As always, your advice plus your determination is helpful and motivating!

    7. joerunfordom says:

      Hey there! So great to hear from you. I really have a new “strategy” when it comes to the 5K after racing a few of them so close together – I really thing getting out fast that first mile is key for me. There just isn’t enough time in the race (and distance for that matter) to get back on goal if I don’t really nail that split.

      I think if you ran well at your recent 10K and were happy with the time, I would look to go :15-:18 seconds per mile faster than that as your goal pace and you will be in great shape. Can’t wait to read about the race! Definitely let me know when you are running. Best from Austin, Joe

    8. Andy B says:

      Good luck on the sub-40, Joe. I’ll see you there and I’ll be gunning for a PR, too, assuming things go well.

      One piece of advice is to try a 10k prior to the Uptown Classic. I think 10k is the hardest distance to race. Might be good to know what you’re up against.

      • joerunfordom says:

        Andy – thanks for the visit! We will definitely have to catch up for the Classic – Maybe you will let me chase you on the way to that sub-40:00! I agree with you Andy – I’m going to be looking for a 10K or possibly two before October to try and figure out the pacing especially over the first 5K of the race. There is no better opportunity to learn about racing than racing the distance itself. If you stumble onto an interesting 10K this summer/fall please let me know. Was thinking about the race down in Greune, but that will be awfully close to the baby’s due-date, probably not going to be doing much racing then! Best to you, Joe

    9. […] 5K in anaheim…but back off, she’s mine!), my dream body, the hope that i got from joe’s post today that i might break 30 min in the 5k, my dream body…there were far more reasons to go for a […]

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