The following article says it all about the Long Run from coach Greg McMillan , M.S.
From October 2008 : Running Times Magazine
It is no secret that training to complete a marathon requires long runs. What has been a secret, however, is that training to race a marathon requires several specialized long runs. Incorporate the long runs below in your fall marathon plan to achieve your fastest time on marathon day.
Long and Steady: Lydiard’s Tried-and-True Long Run
The tried and true long run for the last 50 years has been Arthur Lydiard’s long, steady run. Lydiard found that by running for 2 to 3 hours at an easy, yet steady pace (preferably over a hilly route), the body and mind developed the endurance to withstand the race-specific workouts in the rest of a marathon training plan. Build up to 20 to 26 miles, and perform several of these long runs in your plan, particularly in the early stages of your training.
READ THIS: Run to the Top by Arthur Lydiard and Garth Gilmour (1997, Meyer & Meyer)
16-week program = 15 long runs
Make sure you have the following in your next 16-week marathon plan:
4 Long, Steady Runs
4 Long Runs with Surges
3 Fast-Finish Long Runs
2 Long Runs at Marathon Pace
2 Long Runs with Pace Changes
Long Run with Surges: Squires’ Boston Beater A unique aspect to legendary coach Bill Squires’ marathon long runs is that they include surges. On nearly every other long run throughout your plan, he suggests you throw in “surges” every 10 minutes. These surges may last only 30 seconds or up to 10-12 minutes, and the pace varies based on the duration of the surge. Athletes find that surges help avoid boredom and provide a faster average pace across the long run.
Fast-Finish Long Run: Rosa’s Way to the Winner’s Circle With his athletes winning every major marathon on the planet (multiple times in fact), it’s no wonder that Gabriele Rosa’s training is influential. A unique aspect of Rosa’s plan is to finish the last few miles of the long run fast. “Fast” means averaging marathon goal pace for the last 4 to 8 miles, but also running the last 10 minutes as fast as possible. This “emptying the tank” long run is quickly becoming a staple in the marathon plans of elite and competitive distance runners like you. It’s likely one of the most challenging long runs you will do, but the benefits are worth the effort.
READ THIS: Paul Tergat — Running to the Limit by Jurg Wirz (2005, Meyer & Meyer)
Long Run at Marathon Race Pace: Pfitz’s Advanced Marathon Long Run Specificity is a crucial concept in marathoning. While the long run is the most specific in terms of duration, it’s also important to practice your goal marathon race pace within the long run. Pete Pfitzinger advises a couple of long runs where you run 12 to 15 miles of your total long run at your goal marathon pace. Come race day, you’ll find it easier to dial into your goal pace. An example would be a total long run of 20 miles with 12 miles in the middle at goal marathon pace.
REFERENCE: Advanced Marathoning by Pete Pfitzinger and Scott Douglas (2001, Human Kinetics) Pace-Change Long Run: Variety in Pace Gets You Ready to Race Athletes in championship marathons like the Olympics must practice changing their pace, because rarely are these events run at an even pace. Run like the Olympians by alternating a faster-than-marathon-pace mile with a slower-than-marathon-pace mile. For example, if your goal marathon pace is 7:00 per mile, then a pace change long run should include 20 total miles with 8 miles in the middle of the run alternating between 6:45 pace and 7:45 pace. As your marathon approaches, you may even be able to alternate between 6:45 pace and 7:15 pace. This is a very tough long run, but is great for marathoners who expect to need to “change gears” throughout the race due to tactics or terrain. In your 12- to 16-week marathon plan, try incorporating each of these types of long runs. Not only will you ensure the ability to go the distance, but you’ll be able to go the distance fast.
Greg McMillan is an exercise physiologist and USATF-certified coach who helps runners via his website mcmillanrunning.com.