I tend to be a self-proclaimed long run hater. Identifying as a sprinter for much of my life growing up, long runs have always been hard. Endurance... not my strong suit. The last couple of marathons that I have trained for, I have loathed the long runs (why, you may ask, do I keep signing up for marathons? good question....).
During my last training cycle, I actually enjoyed my long runs. Shocker, I realize. Ten miles has, and probably always will be, my favorite running distance. It's double digit, so you automatically feel like a bad ass, but it's not a long run that takes all morning to prep for, run, and recover from. *cough* 20 milers *cough*
While training for the Monster Dash Half, I had a lot of fun training for my long runs. When I train for a marathon, I'm all about that long slow distance for my long runs (see above: not a strong endurance runner, always trying to increase that ability). But when you train for half marathons, there is an option to add in a wee bit of speed to spice things up a bit! (Less injury prone runners are certainly able to add in some speed to their long runs, but it just breaks my body, so I've learned not to.)
One of those long run strategies is the 3:1 long run. The specifics for this is to run the first three-quarters of the run at your regular long run pace, and then pick up the pace for the last quarter of a mile, perhaps goal race pace, to simulate those final miles of the race where you're running hard on already tired legs.
My favorite long run workout is to include three minute pick ups after every 20 minutes of running. This breaks up the monotony of the long boring run, plus by picking up the pace for a few minutes every couple of miles, it reminds my muscles how to run strong instead of relaxing into my poor form that I tend to take on during LSD runs. During this run, when I picked up the pace, I landed almost exactly in between half marathon race pace and 10k pace, which is typically the goal when I do this workout. This workout is especially great when training for a race that has a hillier profile. The surges cause your heart rate to surge, and then your body has to work to recover after the three minutes, similar to bounding up a hill in a race.
I will say that there are times to not do these workouts. When you're just getting started doing longer runs, just getting in the distance is the best thing you can do! I have had a horrific long run more times than I can count by trying to add in 3 minute pickups when I just wasn't in good enough long run shape to do the long run distance + tax my body with some extra speed workout. In fact, I did zero of these types of workouts leading up to the Sioux Falls half, because my body just wasn't in great long run shape at that point.
When training for a half, I tend to do three weeks of long runs, followed by a cutback week with shorter overall mileage and long run mileage. I will do one of these workouts in a three week span. I'm sure some would/could have success doing an additional workout within their long run 2 out of the 3 long runs, but again, I'm overly cautious because of my tendencies to break!
What's your favorite long run workout? What should I be trying?