Skip to content

the long runs: first twenty

It had not been a good week leading up to the next entry in the long runs series on Saturday morning. The chesty cough (I thought) that I started out on the 18-miler last week turned into a chest infection that spread to my sinuses. Long story short, not too much moaning, it floored me for most of the week and a course of antibiotics for good measure.

I managed a few miles on the treadmill on Thursday evening just to check the lungs and breathing but as of 0700h Saturday morning I was ready to call off the 20. Something happened in the next 30 minutes that changed my mind. I’m not sure if it was weather reports of Storm Ciara, doggedness from having been ill all week, or that inner drive coming back that said, “never quit”. By 0745h I was on my feet, starting into 20 miles with intent.


This 20-miler is an old friend. Having honed in on its structure last year during “the experiments” and ultimately adopting it as my race strategy for the Dublin Marathon. As such, I knew exactly what to expect from it as a run. The unknowns included how I would fare after the week of illness and whether I could repeat the form of last year.

20 miles is always the take notice distance in the long runs
20 miles is always the take notice distance in the long runs

To say I am happy with these splits is an understatement. I am ecstatic. Thus I am going to be hypercritical of some details within as I need to be. There is no perfect run – there is always learning and some weaknesses, even if they are minor. However, to have run the 3 sets of 4-mile intervals keeping the pace in each within a 6/7-second window and faster than the target too… Carlsberg don’t do non-drinker runs but…

steady pacing in each section, controlled and disciplined
steady pacing in each section, controlled and disciplined

Looking at the charts shows consistent and disciplined pacing. No rallying nor erratic bounciness. The heart rate chart is what I’m going to focus on though. It’s shown in the splits image above more precisely but the trend is important to note here. While each of the 4-mile intervals was bang on target, my heart rate for the last mile of each is much higher than I would like (view Garmin data).

I did say that I was going to be hypercritical and I am. Crossing over into the 160+ bpm average domain for 7:20min/mile pace is just not acceptable in a 4-mile interval. Yes, I was sick most of the week. Perhaps I had lost a little cardiovascular fitness as a result? However, this didn’t happen last year when I ran the experiments on this structure. Perhaps I need to examine my aerobic threshold (AeT) and the training surrounding that. It’s food for thought.

no Zone 5 but more Zone 4 than I would like
no Zone 5 but more Zone 4 than I would like

The zones are reasonably pleasing but there is a lot more Zone 4 activity than I am happy with there. Especially knowing that quite a few miles came in at the far end of that zone. No Zone 5 though – there is a silver lining. The long runs are always a test of the body’s endurance, regardless of health state. Getting myself into a position whereby these 20s come easily and smoothly is the goal.


This is a very good run, even not considering the context of the week. I am very happy with the outcome and I have my takeaways too to investigate and build upon. The thing I haven’t yet mentioned is that this was my fastest running of this format by roughly 2.5 minutes. That is significant. Making comparison against previous activities shows that most of the time is made up with faster miles during the 3-up/down. However, finishing strong and comfortable, with that time behind me gives the confidence that I need to push things a little further.

There is possibly another 1 maybe 2 minutes to take by increasing the speed of the ‘hot’ intervals, while maintaining the pace of the ‘off’ miles. However, key will be trying to get that heart rate average under the 160, ideally to around 156bpm. If I can achieve this, the Tralee Marathon is shaping up to be a very good race indeed. The long runs may continue next week with a repeat of this effort.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *