Speed Work vs. The Long Run – Which Is More Important?

Which is more important – Speed work or the long run?

Both have their risks and benefits –

Speed work:
Benefits: building stronger muscles, increasing heart health, burning more calories in shorter amount of time, greater stamina, increased lactate threshold, you will get faster! On top of that, your brain will learn to handle the discomforts that stress brings

I believe this translates from dealing with the physical stress during the run to dealing with stresses outside of the run and in daily life.  

Risks: increased risk of injury – this can be combatted with adequate rest between speed work sessions and making sure that the other runs are simple and much less intense. One or two sessions per week is more than enough – one per week (or even every other week) will help in speed.

Steal my speed workout!! 
1-2 mile warm up;
3×1-2 mile at 10-15 seconds above goal pace, 400m easy jog between;
1-2 mile cool down
Celebrate because you survived 

The Long Run:

Benefits: increased endurance, mental conditioning, building muscles for endurance, burning fat for fuel, confidence that you can go the distance!

long runs are my thinking time. theres nothing better than just letting the mind wander (of course at first its incredibly boring, but when you get past that, its therapeutic) 

Risks: Increased risk of injury (doesn’t this pop up everywhere?!) – one long run per week is enough, and make sure that mileage isn’t increased too quickly (no one wants nasty shin splints). A gradual build up, with a cut back week (10-20% decrease in miles) every 3-4 weeks will help decrease the risk of injuries.

SO which is more important?

It depends – what are you training for? Are you running to run or running for time?

If you’re running to run the race, then the long run is more important than the speed work.
If you’re running to accomplish a time goal, speed work is the way to achieve that, granted you have the aerobic base and endurance for the mileage built up already. BUT this doesn’t mean that you can skip the long runs, especially in marathon or half marathon training.

I’m a sucker for speed work – I always feel so confident and accomplished after I finish.

With that said, running isn’t about speed. It’s about movement.
A mile is a mile, no matter how fast. Just keep moving, that’s all that matters.


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