I don't know if I can answer your specific questions, but I can tell you what
worked for me. Let's go back 10 years to when I was properly conditioned and ran my best marathons. Here are my typical race
and training paces in those days. 5k race pace - 6:45. 10k race pace 7:00. Marathon race pace - 7:45. Normal
easy training pace 8:00-8:15. LSR pace - 8:15-8:30. These paces all assume good running conditions. Obviously, a very tough
course or bad weather would affect them.
As you can see, my easy run (6-10 miles) training pace was about 60-75 seconds
per mile slower than my 10k race pace. My LSR (15-24 miles) pace was about 30-45 seconds per mile slower than marathon race
pace or 75-90 seconds slower than 10k pace. Mid-range runs (10-15) were in the middle. Remember, this assumes good weather.
They would be slower in the middle of the summer, like now.
When a marathon training program recommends training at a pace 1-2 minutes per
mile slower than race pace, this is related to 10k pace, not marathon pace. I tried training at 1-2 minutes slower than marathon
pace and simply could not do it. That might be OK to just finish a marathon, but I think it's much too easy to prepare you
to run your best.
Liam, if you should be capable of a 3 hour marathon (6:52 pace), then I think
an 8 minute pace is much too slow for your LSR's. I wouldn't try to force them to there. Just let them flow at 7:20-7:40 if
that feels reasonably comfortable.
Byron, at 7:20 it sounds as though you are running long runs faster than you
hope to run your marathon. If 7:30 is a true measure of your current marathon potential, then you simply have to make yourself
slow down on your LSR's. There are two reasons for this. One is, as you said, running faster is getting in the way of your
LSR training objective.....they should be constructive, not destructive. And making every LSR a tempo run is not constructive.
The other reason is that it's excellent training for what you are going to have to do in the marathon itself.....hold yourself
back in the first half. If you think you are too fresh and strong for a controlled LSR, just wait until you see how you feel
at the beginning of the actual race! You will be so strong, tapered, rested and pumped with adrenaline coursing through your
system that you will have to fight yourself to keep from running too fast and crashing by the 18th mile. Obviously, I'm assuming
from your comments that you haven't experienced a marathon before.
Maybe you just haven't gotten to the long run distance yet. If that's the case,
then you will have to slow them down as they get longer. You can not possibly run 20-24 miles at a pace 10 seconds faster
than a realistic goal race pace without making every long run a race itself. Or, at least, a tempo run as you said. When the
long run reaches 15 miles and beyond, it does get a lot tougher. Under 15 miles, they might be the longest run of the week,
but I consider them to be mid-distance runs.
Concerning your question about when you train at marathon pace.....you don't.
:-) Virtually all of your training is done at paces slower or faster than marathon pace. Easy runs and LSR slower. Speed work
and short races faster. Actually, it is a good idea to run marathon pace for a few miles shortly before the race just to get
comfortable with the pace. Some people like to run a 10k-half marathon race 2-3 weeks before a marathon at marathon pace.
Others like to pick a training run or two and run a similar distance at marathon pace. Some even use the middle miles of a
LSR 2-3 weeks before the race for this purpose. Still others run a few miles at marathon pace during the taper. Personally,
I use a midweek medium long run (12-13 miles) during the first of my two taper weeks and run 8-10 miles at marathon pace.
Then, I run 2-3 miles of a 6 mile run during the last taper week at this pace.
Hope you guys find something in all of this that gives you an idea or two for