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"How Slow Can You Go" (and Still Make a Time Goal)

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Tony Alonso

Joined: 12 Feb 2007
Posts: 81
Location: Deer Park, OH

PostPosted: Sat Jan 10, 2009 3:43 pm    Post subject: "How Slow Can You Go" (and Still Make a Time Goal) Reply with quote

I recently e-mailed Jeff Galloway about my last race marathon (Detroit, Oct 2008) since I fell a bit shy from my goal of 4:20. While this is a rather long post, here are the main takeaways -

1) long run is for endurance only
2) there are elite runners who go 3 mins/mi slower in training than in a race
3) mile repeats up to 14 and 29 miles for the longest run are keys

So there you have it!

Hello, Jeff -

I am Tony Alonso from Cincinnati, OH, one of the group leaders in
Suzelle Snowden's program. We have met face-to-face a few times over the
past 2 years. I wanted to get your perspective on the following scenario
in terms of long run pacing. My question is most simply "how slow can
you go" beyond the 2-minute/mile recommendation on the long runs and
still be prepared to meet a time goal? I have the below scenario for
your consideration, based on my personal experience from this past
October when I raced a marathon. I did not shoot for a time goal in the
spring marathon I completed earlier in May.

My average magic mile pace (hard run, near 100% effort) - 6:55
Predicted marathon goal pace - 9:00
Predicted marathon finish - 3:58
Chosen marathon goal - 4:20
Marathon pace needed for chosen goal - 9:55, done with a 3:1 run/walk ratio

I had a consistent execution of the below training plan over a 16 week
a) run/walk 3 or 4 times per week
b) one of the runs was the long weekend long run (got up to 26 miles),
done at 12:00 with a 2:1 run/walk ratio
c) another of those days was spent on hill repeats for the first 8
weeks, then it was replaced by mile repeats for the last 8 (got up to 12
maximum, all run at 9:25)
d) the remaining days were 4-6 miles in distance, done at different
paces from 10:00 to 12:00 minute/mi

On marathon day, I had very good conditions. The temperature was in the
40s at the start and got no higher than mid 50s, low wind, fairly flat
(except for 1.5 miles of a hill while crossing a bridge around mile 5).
I was rested and well-hydrated. My half split was 2:10, but I seemed to
slow a bit in the second half. At 20 miles, I was at 3:25 (should have
been 3:18 ) and I felt enough fatigue around mile 23.5 that I eventually
came in with a 4:29. Mentally, I felt strong all the way to the end, but
it felt like "the tank was running dry" near the end.

I definitely appreciate the messages of "long runs are endurance only"
and "run at least 2 minutes/mi slower on the long runs". I also know
that going to 29 miles is an aid to meeting a goal. What I think would
help me be more effective as a group leader is if I am able to explain
my experience to someone in the correct context of your training method.
In other words, if someone asks me "Why didn't you do your long runs at
11:55 instead of 12:00 because maybe you didn't 'have enough' to meet
your goal?", I can respond with accuracy about the long run pacing and
time goals.

Sorry for the long diatribe, but I am hoping this makes sense, and I
look forward to your insight and comments. Thank you for everything!

Best regards,



After having received feedback from over 250,000 runners I can tell you
with certainty that it was not the slowness of your long run that kept
you from your goal. I've had several people in our Galloway programs
run under 3 hours in their marathon when their long run pace was no
faster than 13 min per mile. Most of the African marathoners that I've
interviewed run more than 3 min/mi slower than goal pace on their long
runs. There is a lot more information in my book on this, which you can
read to the members of your pace group who don't understand. The bottom
line is that the long run is only designed to build endurance.

The MM predicts the fastest you can expect to run on race day, provided
your body is free of disease and other issues, and you have done all of
the training necessary. There are many variables, inside and outside
the body, which will slow you down on raceday.

If you really want to get your best time, you need to follow the time
goal program. That means getting up to 29 miles, within 4 weeks of the
marathon, and doing all of the mile repeat sessions listed, including
the 14 x 1 mile.

You were only 9 minutes off. Considering that you did not do all of the
training elements, and you had a significant hill on the course, you
were close. You probably ran about a half mile farther than marathon
distance due to the weaving in the crowd. This is about the distance I
find in smaller marathons. In large marathons, the extra distance is
about a mile. Your body could have been fighting off a cold that you
never quite suffered from. There are a lot of reasons why you slow down.

You certainly have it in you to run below 10 min pace and faster. Feel
free to read through my book again and send me any questions.

You can do it!

Jeff Galloway
US Olympian
*E-coaching to your goal
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