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Table 2 Specific training methods for world-class long-distance runners

From: The Training Characteristics of World-Class Distance Runners: An Integration of Scientific Literature and Results-Proven Practice

Training method


Continuous running


Warm-up/cooldown, easy run

Low-intensive running (typically 3–5 km h−1 slower than marathon pace, i.e., 3:45–4:30 and 4:15–5:00 min km−1 for men and women), however, the last part of the warm-up may approach marathon pace predominantly performed on soft surface (grass, woodland, forest paths, etc.). Typical duration for warm-up/cooldown is 10–30 min. Easy runs are typically applied prior to or after hard training sessions, typically lasting 40–70 min

Long run

Low-intensive steady-state running (~ 1–2 km h−1 slower than marathon pace, i.e., 3:05–3:30 and 3:30–4:00 min km−1 for men and women, with marathoners in the faster ends of these ranges). Typical duration is 45–120 min for track runners and 75–165 min for marathon runners. The running pace is not necessarily constant throughout the session. This training method is more specific for marathoners than track runners

Uphill run

Low-intensive steady-state running uphill (grades 3–6%). Typical duration 20–45 min (6–10 km)

Threshold run (also called tempo run)

A sustained run at moderate intensity/half-marathon pace (i.e., 2:50–3:05 and 3:05–3:30 min·km−1 for men and women). Typical duration 20–50 min (7–15 km). The session should not be extremely fatiguing


An unstructured run over varying terrain lasting 30–60 min, where periods of fast running are intermixed with periods of slower running. The pacing variations are determined by the athlete’s feelings and rhythms, and the terrain

Progressive long runs

A commonly used training form used by African runners. The first part of the session resembles an easy run. After about half the distance, the pace gradually quickens. In the final portion, the pace increases to half-marathon pace or slightly past it. Typical duration is 45–90 min. Athletes are advised to slow down when the pace becomes too strenuous

Interval training


Threshold intervals (also called tempo intervals)

Intervals of 3–15 min. duration at an intensity around half-marathon pace or slightly faster. Typical sessions: 10–12 × 1000 m with 1 min. recovery or easy jog between intervals, 6–8 × 1500–2000 m with 1–2 min. recovery or easy jog between intervals, or 4 × 5000 m with 1000 m easy jog in between. Recommended total time for elite runners is 30–75 min. Such intervals are advantageous because they allow the athlete to accumulate more total time than during a continuous threshold run

VO2max intervals

Intervals of 2–4 min. duration at 3–10 K pace, with 2–3 min. recovery periods between intervals. Typical sessions: 4–7 × 800–1000 m or 2 × (6 × 400 m) with 30–60 s and 2–3 min. recovery between intervals and sets, respectively. Recommended total time for elite runners is ~ 15–20 min. This training method is more specific for track runners than marathoners

Lactate tolerance training

5000-m runners perform 1–2 weekly training sessions with high levels of lactate in the pre-competition and competition period. Such intervals typically range from 150 to 600 m at 800–1500 m race pace and 1–3 min. recoveries. Typical sessions: 10–16 × 200 m with 1 min. recovery between intervals, or 1–2 × (10 × 400 m) with 60–90 s and 3–5 min. recoveries between intervals and sets, respectively. Total accumulated distance ranges from 1500 to 8000 m in elite athletes

Hill repeats

The main intention is overloading horizontal propulsive muscle groups while reducing ballistic loading. Typical incline is 5–10%, and repetition duration vary from ~ 30 s to ~ 4 min. depending on intensity, goal (aerobic intervals, lactate production or tolerance training) and time of season. Typical sessions: 8–10 × 200 m with easy jog back recoveries, or 6–8 × 800–1000 m with easy jog back recoveries

Speed work



5–15 s runs with near-maximal to maximal effort and full recoveries. These can also be performed as strides, progressive runs, hill sprints or flying sprints, the latter where the rate of acceleration is reduced to allow more total distance at higher velocities. The main aim of the session is to develop or maintain maximal sprinting speed without producing high levels of lactate

  1. The outlined running velocities across the varying methods are based on running at sea level in flat terrain. The exemplified sessions evolve throughout the training year, either in the form of duration, number of repetitions, running velocity and/or recovery time between repetitions (depending on the goal of the session)
  2. Varying definitions of the term “threshold” are used in previously published literature. In this review, we refer to “threshold” as an intensity close to half-marathon pace. For elite runners, half marathon pace is at the upper end of the intensity range demarcated by LT1 and LT2 and approximates maximal lactate/metabolic steady state. This appears consistent with how distance runners interpret the term in practice