As you edge closer to race day, your weekly long run will get even longer. At the height of training, you'll run somewhere between 20 and 26 miles. There are several schools of thought on the long run. Some trainers, such as Hal Higdon, believe that a maximum long run of 20 miles will carry you through the full 26.2 distance on race day. Higdon says, "I consider the distance between 20 and 26 miles to be sacred ground, thus you are only allowed to step into it with a race number on your chest." [source: Active.com]. Other trainers, such as Jeff Galloway, firmly believe you should run the full distance in training. Both types of training have produced excellent marathoners.
The one thing most marathon trainers can agree on is that the long run is the single most essential component of the training schedule. Long runs train the heart to endure distance, teach the body to burn fat as fuel, and recruit fast-twitch muscle fibers to support the slow-twitch fibers necessary for distance running [source: Eyestone]. Long runs also help runners build the psychological skills necessary to conquer boredom, burnout and negative thinking.
Long runs also help teach the most essential marathon survival skill: pacing. Read on to find out how.