Triathlon Long Run Training

How do you really define triathlon long run training?

A long training run is different things to different people.

There also seems to be lots of confusion especially among novice triathletes preparing to take on the Ironman on just how much they should be running.

In most cases they run too much, run at the wrong time, or don’t rest properly before or after when it comes to triathlon long run training.


First of all when should you incorporate long run training into your race preparation?

Say for example you are giving yourself a year to get ready to take on your first Ironman Triathlon.

It’s really a bit pointless to be running long in the early months of your training.

As a matter of fact, the first six months of a one-year Ironman training plan should be spent on refining technique in the swim and bike and not so much on running great distances.

Running long distance too soon and too often can result in fatigue or injury and often this is enough to discourage people and many give up on their Ironman dream because it seems to difficult. triathlon long run training

Running too far too soon can have a negative impact.

In truth, all they had to do was ease into their training and give their bodies time to adapt to longer distances and it would have been a more enjoyable experience.

Endurance is built over months and years and not days and weeks.

In the early months of your training running three times a week is more than enough and there is really no need to run much more than 60 minutes at the longest.

Don’t forget that you will most likely be incorporating three swims and three bikes into your average training week so three runs is plenty.

You will become fitter week by week just by spending your pool time refining a long, smooth, swim stroke, working on an energy-saving spin technique on your bike, and running distances you can handle easily.

There is plenty of time in the last four months or so of your Ironman Training to slowly begin to increase the weekly distance you are running.

If you’re running three days a week, then pick one day a week that will be your longer run day.


Keep in mind that pros race and train far differently from age-group athletes.

They may feel the need to run five days a week and include some very long distances in their weekly training.

However for the most part age-group athletes are just trying to finish the race and ultimately it’s not necessary to be logging three hour or longer runs every weekend.

Dave Scott is one of the most accomplished pro triathletes in the world and once said that if you can run half the run distance of your race run distance and feel like you could do more, than you will be fine.

So for example if you feel it will take you five hours to do the Ironman Marathon your longest run would be around two and a half hours. If you can do that and feel that you could have done more, you are probably about as ready as you are going to get for your Ironman Marathon.

Sure, if it makes you feel better you can pick a day and run three or four hours to build your confidence, but it’s not really necessary on a regular basis.

There’s a point of diminishing returns.

Running for four hours will not necessarily give you a better marathon result in your triathlon then you can achieve by running far less on your longest run training days, so basically they end up by being what we called “junk miles” back in the day when I was a hard-core marathoner.

Basically you are tiring yourself out and wasting time that might better be spent resting or working on your swimming and biking skills.


If you choose Sunday to be your long run training day then you should make a point of making Saturday and Monday either easy training days or rest days.

For instance spending 45-60 minutes at the pool on Saturday working on your swim stroke technique with no biking or running might be considered an easy training day. Then do your long run on Sunday and perhaps take Monday off completely.

ironman triathlon morning after run

Incorporating proper rest will help prevent fatigue and over-use injuries.

This serves two purposes.

If helps prevent fatigue from over-training and it also helps prevent over-use injuries that often plague runners who simply over-do it and don’t incorporate enough rest into their training on a regular basis.


Say for example you have four months(16 weeks)until the big race. If you are preparing for an Ironman Triathlon you should begin your taper with about four weeks to go before race day. In that four weeks all your long run and bike training should be done.

That means that with 16 weeks to go you actually have 12 weeks to ramp up your distance.

If you were to do a 60 minute long run on the first week of that final twelve weeks and add ten minutes a week for 12 weeks, your final long run just before your taper begins would be two hours and fifty minutes.

I believe that’s perfect and all you will really need, because ultimately 95% of those taking on the ironman for the first time will walk a good portion of the marathon anyway.

That’s a reality.

Running further is not going to be more beneficial and as a matter of fact could do more harm than good.  triathlon long training run

Dave Scott and Mark Allen on the Queen K. Highway during the Iron War.

You are running more than enough if you follow the above scenario.

Your long run days would look like this if you started with just one hour and increased it by just ten minutes per week for 12 weeks before your taper into your race begins…..

60 min./70 min./80 min/ 90 min./1 hour 40 min./1 hour 50 min./two hours/two hours 10 min./two hours 20 min./two hours 30 min./two hours 40 min./two hours 50 min………….

Don’t forget you are also doing some shorter runs during the week.

Even those distances I suggested may be too long for some people to do week after week so you might decide that a two hour run is where you will stay for a few weeks and perhaps try a couple of longer runs at the end of your distance training.

So for example when you work yourself up to two hours repeat that distance for four weeks and in the last two weeks of your distance training try and do a 2:30 run.

If you can do that and still feel like you could do more than you have most likely reached the stage of preparedness that Dave Scott was talking about and running further is not really necessary.

This run training plan is just a suggestion and ultimately you can just re-configure it to whatever works best for you and your level of ability when it comes to your triathlon long run training.


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About Ray

Ray hasn’t stopped since his first Ironman in Kona, 1984. He has since run 14 more Ironman races, authored 5 Triathlon books, and is now bringing together a passionate community of triathletes. Contact Ray at

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