Should You Split Your Long Run?

The Long Run and Race Day

One of the most convincing arguments about not splitting will come from anyone who followed a conservative running plan and then had a bad race experience. Somewhere around mile 16 to 20, things got really bad?must have been the lack of a long run, right? Wrong!

Most of the time poor race experiences are a function of poor race execution. This includes everything from poor pacing at the start to poor overall pace selection, from insufficient food to the fact that running 26.2 miles is hard. Really hard.

Don't be deceived by these individual tales of doom. A solid program will get you fit and knowing how to execute makes a huge difference. If you need race execution guidance, be sure to download our quick reference sheet and video here.

Holistic Training and Bigger Picture Goals

The most important thing to consider during your internal debate about splitting boils down to this: Can you accept that your your marathon fitness — not your training — is the sum of countless hours of individual sessions compiled over weeks of working out. That speedwork, hill work, skill work and yes, long runs, all combine to make you fitter and stronger during the training cycle.

If you can agree to this simple truth, then it follows then that adjusting just two to three runs out of 100+ workouts will not undermine your ability to run to your potential. It will take some schedule juggling and focus during the training, but it will help insure that you meet your biggest goal: arriving at the starting line healthy and ready to go.

You can't overestimate the importance of showing up to the marathon starting line 100 percent physically and mentally ready to race. Middle of the pack runners are plagued with over-use injuries because they spend significantly more time running than their swifter counterparts (since they follow the same training plans!). Running 2 hours longer than a 3.5 hour marathon finisher is already hard enough; doing it with cortisone shots in your hip, knee, calf, and/or foot doesn't make it any more bearable. A healthy runner is a happy runner.

Splitting Options

There are several different ways that you can split your long run workout. Here they are in best possible order; you pick the option that best works for your schedule.

Option A: Split Morning and Night (12 Hours)

This is the best possible option, as it allows for active recovery during your day and ensures you are still carrying some fatigue into that second run. It can be tricky to manage your food across a single day, as you'll need to recovery from the first run but don't want to be too bloated / heavy for the second effort.

EXAMPLE: Split a four hour run into 2.5 hours in the AM, 1.5 hours in the PM.

Option B: Split Night and Morning (12 Hours)

A close second to Option A, as this choice means you will be getting a bit more rest with a night of sleep between the two efforts. This additional rest option makes it ideal for beginner marathoners or folks who will be running over 5 hours to cover the long run distance.

EXAMPLE: Split a five hour run as 3 hours on Saturday afternoon, then do 2 hours on Sunday morning.

Option C: Split Morning and Morning (24 Hours)

Also know as the "weekend option," this plan would allow you to split the long run to a pretty reasonable Saturday and Sunday morning schedule. Not as optimal as the other options listed above, but certainly very doable.

EXAMPLE: Split a five hour run as 3 hours on Day One an 2 hours on Day Two.

Option D: Split Thursday and Saturday (36+ Hours)
This is the least ideal option as your body will be 100 percent recovered before the next run. That said, some times life gives us no other option. Ideally you would be able to do this as a PM effort for the first run and an AM effort for the second, keeping the runs to about 36 hours apart.

EXAMPLE: Split a five hour run as 2.5 hours on Thursday and 2.5 hours on Saturday.

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