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What is the perfect long run training distance for marathoners?

There is no “perfect” distance. 32km (20 miles) is the peak distance used in most training programs, however many elite runners will run 35km or longer on 3 or 4 occasions leading into a marathon. Most coaches feel that once you reach 25km (16 miles)  you’re in long run territory. That’s the point where the psychological changes Vaughan mentioned kick in. But a few coaches prefer talking “time” rather than distance, “hours” rather than kilometres/miles.

Running much further than 35km in training increases the risk of injury, especially for those new to running. Many experienced coaches argue that running further than 40km for seasoned and elite runners is not necessary and again, increases the chances of injury.

It’s well known in the elite running world that some Japanese runners do 5+ hour runs when building up for a marathon. Former world record holder Robert de Castella and Steve Monaghetti from Australia would peak with a 48km (30 miles) run 5 weeks before the marathon, but that’s after steady diet of 35-40km runs nearly every weekend leading in. Most runners would self destruct on that much mileage.

Marathon World Record holder Eliud Kipchoge completes his long runs on Thursdays and alternates 30km one week with 40km the next and does 12 weeks of this 2 week cycle before a marathon, meaning he will complete 6 40km runs before a marathon.

Mo Farah is similar - peaking at 40km runs 4-8 weeks before the targeted marathon.

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