Should You Split Your Long Run?

Splitting A Marathon Plan

Of course any marathon plan has more than just one long run in it. Odds are your plan will have anywhere from three to five long runs of 18-miles or longer. Three long runs as 18, 20 and 22 miles for the 10:00/mile runner (or slower) means splitting some or all of the runs.

If your plan calls for 18, 20, and 22 mile runs consecutively — that's very aggressive. Splitting will help to reduce the impact of the individual workouts and will still allow you to reap the benefits of progressive overload.

Here's how we suggest you do it: Add a shorter run week between each long run.

Review your training plan early and factor alternating weeks with a single run. Per the table below, our Split Runner will put in "harder" runs in the non-split weeks. This will still provide a challenging program that ensures a progression of fitness without any individual overload workouts.

split run  chart 

Cautionary Notes on Splitting

While many folks consider the very act of splitting to be a virtual shortcut, there's no denying that you are still covering the same miles, in the same time, each and every week. That said, it still feels easier — after all you aren't suffering through 4 and 5 hour individual sessions. It's only human nature to then compensate?but you shouldn't.

Here are the top three things you should not do when splitting.

1 – Do Not Run Faster / Harder Overall
It's tempting to run the two 2.5 hour blocks faster than you would if it had been one long 5 hour session?but you shouldn't. Remember that the effects of too much on your long runs only appear downstream. What feels okay now might contribute to a problem in 3-5 weeks. Instead, run your workouts like you would any long run. Make it through your cycle and your race, then you can adjust. T

2 – Do Not Split Every Long Run
This technique is really only recommended for your longest efforts; the ones nearing or exceeding the three-hour mark. You still need to build up your endurance and durability, and you can achieve this over the beginning weeks and months of your marathon program. Just remember that you will most likely need to alter your plan by working backwards from the last long run weekend per the table above, so definitely plan ahead!

3 – Do Not Go Crazy Between Split Runs
Splitting runs within the preferred 12-hour window means precious little time to recover and refuel. Add in the fact that you have a life and other commitments, and chances are you won't be spending too much time with your feet up!

While active recovery is great, you still need to be careful not to overdo it. Going shopping or cheering on your kid's soccer game is great; mowing the lawn is not. Tidying up the house and doing laundry is okay; spending two hours tending your garden in the midday heat — not good.

I really hope this advice helps you make running a fun and reasonable part of your fit lifestyle. Training for a marathon is a massive undertaking, and it's important to remember that while we all seek the same finish line, nothing says we all have to train the same way to reach it.

Done properly, you will get fitter and develop a new passion for going long. Good luck!


This article includes an excerpt from the Marathon Race Execution Guide, a free download from Marathon Nation. Head Coach Patrick McCrann has created a free resource outlining exactly how to pace the optimal marathon, including a video and a free pace calculation spreadsheet. Please visit the Marathon Nation website to download your free copy.

Marathon Nation is a brand new virtual team of marathon runners. Coach and founder Patrick McCrann is building a unique marathon community using training plans, forums, podcasts and videos to create an incredibly effective and affordable team coaching solution. Learn more about Marathon Nation online here:

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