The aim of the long run is to build your endurance and stamina. The long run is one of the most important training sessions runners and triathletes can do in the off-season. It also features regularly in training plans in both preparation and competition phase, to maintain endurance and stamina during the race season.

The long run also teaches your body to burn fat reserves and it is a mental challenge. It prepares you for the long run you might do in an Ironman, a regular marathon or a half marathon race. But also for those who race shorter distances like a 5k, a 10k or a sprint triathlon, the long run is a useful workout that you should integrate in your training plan on a regular basis.

How long should I run?

It is important to build up the distance of your long run gradually, to prevent injuries and overtraining. You work towards the the longer distances slowly and steadily, only adding about 10% of distance per week. The long run distance you build up to, depends on your goal race. Use the following table as an indication for the distance you could build up to in the long run training:

Race distance Ultimate long run goal
5k race or sprint triathlon 12 to 15 km
10k race or Olympic distance triathlon 20 km
Half Marathon or Ironman 70.3 25-30 km
Marathon or Ironman 32-35 km

The long run workout

This long run workout starts with a warm up. After the warm up, you will repeat 20-minute blocks. Do as many of these blocks as you need to complete your planned training time.

Click to read an explanation of the training zones we use in our workouts

Warm up

10 minutes of easy running in zone 1.

Main set

The main set consists of 20-minute blocks. Keep repeating this 20-minute block for the given duration of the run. Execute the 20-minute blocks as follows:

19’00 running in zone 2
1’00 easy jogging in zone 1 for recovery

Repeat this block as many times as you need. The warm up and cooldown take 20 minutes in total.

Some examples

  • If your long run is 40 minutes, then you execute a 10 minute warm up, followed by one 20 minute block and finish with a 10 minute cool down.
  • For a long run of an hour, you execute your 10 minute warm up, followed by two 20 minutes blokcs and then finish with a 10 minute cool down.
  • For a 1h20 long run you execute your 10 minute warm up, followed by three 20 minute blocks and finish with your 10 minute cool down.
  • If you want to run really long, like 3 hours, you repeat the core block 8 times.

Use the following table for reference.

Long run time Warm up, cool down and run…
40 minutes 1 block
1 hour 2 blocks
1 hour and 20 minutes 3 blocks
1 hour and 40 minutes 4 blocks
2 hours 5 blocks
2 hour and 20 minutes 6 blocks
2 hour and 40 minutes 7 blocks
3 hours 8 blocks

Cool down

10 minutes of easy running in zone 1

Long run variations

To keep your training session interesting, you can vary with the 20-minute block. We have a few variations for you. Some allow for more recovery time, others have a bit more emphasis on speed. Try what you like. However, keep your running workout relatively easy. It isn’t a workout to build speed, so keep your focus on building endurance and stamina in the lower training zones.

Don’t forget to run the warm up of 10 minutes easy running before the block repeats and don’t forget the 10-minute cool down as well.

1. Long run pyramid with more recovery breaks

Use this variation if you need more recovery breaks during your long run training.

2’00 running zone 2 / 1’00 easy jogging in zone 1
3’00 running zone 2 / 1’00 easy jogging in zone 1
5’00 running zone 2 / 1’00 easy jogging in zone 1
3’00 running zone 2 / 1’00 easy jogging in zone 1
2’00 running zone 2 / 1’00 easy jogging in zone 1

2. Long run with some intensity

This is a nice variation if you want to do a long run with a slightly higher intensity. You will end each block with a 1-minute build up to zone 3, which should be around your marathon or Ironman pace.

18’00 running zone 2
1’00 build up to zone 3
1’00 easy jogging in zone 1 for recovery

3. Long run with 1-to-5 variation

With this variation you will also have more recovery breaks, like in the first variation. However, to keep it interesting, these recoveries are spread differently within the 20-minute block.

1’00 running zone 2 / 1’00 easy jogging in zone 1
2’00 running zone 2 / 1’00 easy jogging in zone 1
3’00 running zone 2 / 1’00 easy jogging in zone 1
4’00 running zone 2 / 1’00 easy jogging in zone 1
5’00 running zone 2 / 1’00 easy jogging in zone 1

4. Long run fartlek variation

This 20-minute block variation is a bit less structured and therefore a nice variation to keep the training interesting. You perform a few short accelerations at a moment you choose yourself while running.

Run 20 minutes with a steady pace in zone 2. During this 20 minutes, you execute 3 to 4 30-second accelerations, followed by 1 minute of easy jogging for recovery.

5. Long run, 2x 10 variation with accelerations

Execute the following set twice in each block:

8’00 running zone 2
1’00 build up to zone 3
1’00 easy jogging in zone 1 for recovery

Bonus variations for coached athletes and training plan buyers

Our coached athletes and those who have purchased one of our training plans have exclusive access to 5 additional long run variations. Please log in to gain access:

6. 8-4-8 variation, more emphasis on speed

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7. Long run 4 x 5 variation, more emphasis on speed

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8. Long run inverse pyramid with recovery breaks

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9. Long run 9-1-1-9

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10. Long run with 1 to 5 variation with more emphasis on speed

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