Running a tempo—or other type of fast running—at the end of a long run is one of the most marathon-specific types of workouts that you can run. It forces you to run fast in a pre-fatigued state, which is exactly what you'll experience and need to overcome during your marathon.
You'll not only improve your running economy—your efficiency—but you'll also get a higher-end aerobic stimulus. There aren't any shortcuts in running, but this is as close to one as you can get!
Run Harder and Easier
The principle, "make your easy days easier and your hard days harder," couldn't be truer. But most runners tend to stay in the middle and do most of their runs at a moderate effort. They're missing out on a crucial way to improve running endurance when it's most responsive to training adaptations.
Let's start with easy runs. It's critical that your easy runs are truly easy. To keep yourself honest, it can be helpful to wear a heart-rate monitor to ensure your heart rate stays low enough to qualify as easy. The easy run is not meant to help you gain fitness. It's simply in your schedule to add a little bit of mileage and promote recovery.
With harder workouts, many runners don't put forth the effort they need to maximize fitness gains. Instead, they start to feel fatigued and cut the workout or slow their pace. In effect, they're moving the difficulty of the workout closer to a moderate level. The next time you run a hard workout, make it exactly that—hard.
Balance the demands of your training program, and utilize these training strategies to get more endurance, speed and overall fitness from your workouts. You don't have to always train harder—you just have to train smarter to run faster.
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