The Long and Short of it…


In a country where long mileage is king, thanks to the focus on ultra-marathons, always remember that short runs are just as important. – BY RAY ORCHISON, REGISTERED COACH

A week of training should be made up of far more than just long slow distance running, or LSD. While LSD has many benefits, such as developing aerobic capacity and endurance, and preparing the mind to go the distance come race day, many runners go wrong by focusing entirely on LSD, with not much room for anything. The problem is, you don’t get fast by only running LSD, because these runs should be done at Two Oceans and Comrades race pace, which will be slower than your marathon pace, and after two or three months of this, it will take a notable effort to get some speed back into your legs.

The good news is that shorter runs will help you rediscover your speed, and they have a number of benefits which supplement LSD: They teach the body to run in a fatigued state and enable speed maintenance, and there are three types of short runs, each with its place in a training programme, depending on your upcoming racing plans, so try to include a balanced mix of these training runs.

1. The Recovery Run: Usually done the day after a hard workout or long run, the purpose of this easy run is not always recovery. It can certainly aid recovery by relieving stiffness, but the real benefit is teaching the body to run in a state of depletion. Imagine you’re in a peak mileage-building week, running consecutively for six days, including two hard days and a long run on Sunday. Instead of taking your normal rest day on Monday, you head out for a short ‘recovery’ run of 30 minutes.

You will be doing this on tired legs and with low energy reserves. This will teach your body to run through fatigue, something you’re sure to experience as you make your way up Constantia Nek or Polly Shortts. However, make sure that you still allow yourself adequate recovery on a weekly basis, so limit the recovery run to between 15 and 45 minutes, avoid the temptation of running too fast, and be careful not to push your body too far and end up injured or ill!

2. The Easy Run: When it comes to Two Oceans and Comrades, the easy run makes up the bulk of the weekly training and should be done at Two Oceans and Comrades race pace – a pace that feels like you could run all day.

3. The High Intensity Workout: This is usually a short but hard workout, and if you have never done these types of workouts, do not add them to your training just before a major race. Once you’ve recovered from your race, you can then reduce overall mileage and gradually introduce one light session of high intensity a week, then build from there. I suggest you always include a high intensity work in your week, so that you maintain the speed developed in preceding months.