Key Run Sessions for Triathletes – part one - The Long Run by Dave Green

Posted On : 09/06/2016

The Long Run.

The long run – also known as the cornerstone of distance running training, done weekly by most runners and triathletes, loved by some, hated by others!

Long runs sit fairly and squarely in the ‘aerobic conditioning zone’ that is between 55 – 75% of Vo2 max  and around 70 -82% maximum heart rate.


  1. Improved oxidative capacity in cardiac muscle, and the muscles used when running.
  2. Improved joint and tendon strength.
  3. Increased capacity to store fuels [carbohydrates and fatty acids].
  4. Increased number and size of mitochondria [the powerhouse of cells]
  5. Improved O2 delivery and CO2 removal through increased blood flow and capillary density.

These benefits are accrued, in all steady state running, but for this article we focus on the long run which can be anywhere between 45 minutes and 150 minutes.

OK, how do we accomplish the long run?

I use four variations, all staying within the designated  zones or paces,

  1. Standard Long Run – stay within 70 – 80% mhr for the designated duration.
  2. As for the above but generally done as 80% at 70-78% mhr, and 20% at 79-82% mhr, so this would work in a 90 minute run as 72/18 split, or round it up to 70mins/20mins.
  3. A little more detailed, but not boring, I call  this the 4-3-2-1 split, done as 40% @ 70-75%, 30% at 75-78%, 20% at 79-82%, and 10% as a cool down at 70-75% mhr.
  4. An out and back run, 50% out holding 70-75% mhr, and 50% back holding 76 – 80% mhr.


These can be rotated weekly or fortnightly, or used when you get fed up of ‘just another steady run’ to add variety, and some worthwhile purpose, to your long run, whilst still remaining within the aerobic zone.

Pace wise, that is, if you prefer using pace over or alongside heart rate zones, I would suggest using 70% as your baseline pace, and then 75% would be around 20 seconds per km faster, 78% would be a further 10 seconds per km quicker again, 80% another 10 seconds faster, and around 82% would be 10-15 seconds faster again, and approaching, but a touch slower than stand alone marathon pace. So you can see, 70 – 82% should indicate a band of around 60 seconds per kilometre.


Next time:- Part II ….. Anaerobic Conditioning or Stamina development.


Dave Green.