Most distance runners will feature a weekly long run in the regime. They can be anywhere from 90 minutes for those training for shorter distances, right up to 6 hours or more for the ultra crew. Typically it’s the Sunday morning ritual where we rise at first light (Sometimes before!) and hit the road or trails for a steady slog with friends. For many this is the most rewarding run in the routine, while others find it a battle. There’s no escaping the reality that if you want to get the most out of yourself, you’ll need to do long runs.
For the marathon runners and those tackling ultras, there then becomes the need for the occasional double long run. This is where you do a standard long run on one day, then the following morning head back out for another. The durations of the double vary according to your race distance. For example, a marathoner might do 32km steady on Saturday morning and then 20km on the Sunday. Whereas someone building towards a 100km race might do 60km on the Saturday and then 30km the morning after.
Why the double long run? Well, there are a couple of reasons. Firstly, it helps develop conditioning to running on fatigued legs. When you do day two of the double your pins will be a bit tight and tired…just like they feel half way through a race! Secondly, the training helps with getting use to depletion. By going long on the first day you use up a lot of the fuel in your system so that when it comes to day two you are running on a half-full tank….just like you do when three quarters of the way into a race! Thirdly, it builds mental toughness. Being sore and hungry but still getting through a long run will make you confident of pushing through the mental barriers on race day. You’ll know that you’ve done it in training, so when the wall approaches at 35km in a marathon, you’ll clamber over it and get on with things.
How do you include the double in your schedule? It’s not something you should do every week. You need to gradually build up to it and only do them occasionally. Start by getting 6 weeks of quality single long runs in, then introduce the first of your doubles. From then on, it’s a good idea to do them every 4 weeks. But make sure you take it easy in the couple of days before and after doing them. You need to come into the double long run on fresh legs and then allow adequate recovery time afterwards. Keep in mind that you will likely be very tired for a few days after so sleep, eat and hydrate well. Also, do your last one no closer than 3 weeks prior to racing.