Today was the first Long Run of my Road to Boston 2009 Training program. It was a perfect winter run in Anchorage. The temperature was only 5 degrees above at the start, but it you wear the right kind of gear it is really no big deal. We took off from Skinny Raven around 10 am just when it turns light in Anchorage (today is the shortest day of the year) and it was pretty cool to run in all the low laying fog. The running conditions were great. We did the twilight 12K loop up by Government Hill and then did the rest of the workout on the Chester Creek trails which were nice and hard snowpack. I ran with Jerry Ross and John Clark and we were cruising pretty good around 7 min. pace for the run.
The Long run is a very important ingredient for the Marathon. A long run is any run 17 miles or longer. The intention of long runs is (obviously) to improve your endurance in preparation for the marathon. They should be run 10 to 20 percent slower than your goal marathon pace. If you do long runs slower than this you risk being unprepared for the marathon. If you do long runs to fast you risk being too tired for other key workouts during the week. I have learned from runners here in anchorage and through books/magazines that it is good to start off slow in your long runs but by mile 5 you should at least be within 20 percent of your marathon pace. Gradually pick up the pace so at the end of the run you are around 10 percent or faster of marathon pace.
These long runs do take a toll on the body, so its a good idea to take a recovery day the following day.