The Split Long Run: Is It As Effective?


Sunday – 4:00AM
AKA – Zero dark o’clock and time to get up for a marathon training run

What if I just sleep a few more minutes?
And an hour later…oh man I don’t have time for all 18 miles.

It happens to the best of us at some point in training, we just can’t figure out how to squeeze an extra hour out of our day or maybe for you that’s every single long run. Which often leads to the question: can I split my long run in two or is it less effective?

What is a split long run?

Instead of doing all 20 miles on your weekly long run in one shot, you might split it in to 12 in the morning followed by 8 that evening…or any other variation where your math correctly adds back up to 20/2.

Is the benefit the same as a single long run?

No. Well fine, then why not?

Oh let me count the ways that long runs force you to learn about your brain and your body…

  1. Extended time running forces you to learn the mental tricks you need to keep going when you’re ready to stop
  2. Extended time running helps you learn how to pace for a longer distance
  3. Longer runs teach you what kind of fuel your body can handle and what it needs to avoid hitting the wall
  4. Long runs are where your muscles breakdown, repair and adapt to the SPECIFIC stress of longer distances

Why it's ok to split your long run

Does it still have value?

Yes! There are actually a number of reasons you might employ this a few times during a training cycle. One of the main reasons is for someone who finds themselves chronically injured or returning to higher mileage, it can help early in the training cycle to split up that run.

A good coach will know your strengths and weaknesses, so if you often run too hard on long runs or get injured, they may opt to split your long run occasionally throughout training to provide some different benefits.

  • Entirely over scheduled week
  • Runner returning from overuse injury
  • Runner who often gets injured during marathon training
  • Managing extreme outdoor temps if you can’t stomach the treadmill
  • Using the split to get in more miles at goal race pace
  • Option to cover more miles in the day than the single long run


How to Maximize the Split Long Run?

How to enjoy your long run

If you are going to split your long run, then make the most of it!

  • Ideally your first run will be at least a few miles longer than your second run.
  • If the second run is half as long, try running it at a faster pace than the morning run.
  • Remember time between the runs isn’t meant for hiking, biking and other crazy activities.
  • Use the second run to really focus on good form while running on tired legs.
  • Use both runs to test out pre-run foods that sit well on your stomach and give you enough energy.
  • Remember to hydrate consistently all day so you aren’t at a deficient going in to the second run.

The short and sweet of this my friends is that while it sounds divine to split it up, sleep in, not endure the brain games that start happening around mile 17 you really need to do it. You’re a runner and a marathoner and thus…you’re willing to do the hard things.

Now the next step is finding ways to enjoy the long run!