There are eight basic types of runs that are practiced by runners of all levels everywhere. These evolved through a global trial-and-error process over many decades. They survived because they work. If you want to get the most out of the time you devote to training, you will need to learn and practice them, too. You can add all kinds of wrinkles to these formats — for example by combining two of them within a single session — but even in their most basic form, the workouts described on the following pages will help you become a better runner.
A recovery run is a relatively short run performed at an easy pace. Recovery runs serve to add a little mileage to a runner’s training without taking away from performance in the harder, more important workouts that precede and follow them. Recovery runs are best done as the next run after a hard workout such as an interval run. Do your recovery runs as slowly as necessary to feel relatively comfortable despite lingering fatigue from your previous run.
Example: 4 miles easy
A base run is a relatively short to moderate-length run undertaken at a runner’s natural pace. While individual base runs are not meant to be challenging, they are meant to be done frequently, and in the aggregate they stimulate big improvements in aerobic capacity, endurance, and running economy. Base runs will make up a bulk of your weekly training mileage.
Example: 6 miles at natural pace
Generally, a long run is a base run that lasts long enough to leave a runner moderately to severely fatigued. The function of a long run is to increase raw endurance. The distance or duration required to achieve this effect depends, of course, on your current level of endurance. As a general rule, your longest run should be long enough to give you confidence that raw endurance will not limit you in races. There are many spins you can put on a long run, such as progressing the pace from start to finish or mixing intervals (described on the last page) into the run.
Example: 15 miles at natural pace