So we all have our favorite workouts, be it a certain route, format (tempo, interval), or time of day. Today on my new 16 mile route I had a major revelation. I contend that 16 miles is the sweet spot workout when training for any distance from half marathon up to 100 milers.
Before I explain why it is good for so race training of various lengths, let me just talk about how awesome the distance is as a training run. Here a few good reasons:
1. It is 'short' enough that your body does not bonk, so you can get away with only carrying liquids.
2. It is long enough that your body has to work for it, meaning you can't sluff it off.
3. It is long enough you will experience lows and highs during the run, so you have to keep your brain frosty.
4. It is short enough you can (after a few times) do it multiple times a week, as opposed to a 30 miler which you can do maybe twice in a week.
5. It is short enough such that you don't have to carve out a major chunk of your real-life schedule to fit it in.
6. It is short enough that you can do it fast (tempo-ish) or you can do it long-run pace.
For half and full marathon training, you are trying to teach your brain that your body can handle the distance. Now, running a 16 mile race in training for a half seems silly, but I would disagree. The 16 mile training run builds endurance which you need for a half, and also give you that mental confidence. And for marathons, well every training schedule has many 16(ish) mile training runs.
Using the 16-miler for ultra training is a little different, as you would think 16 miles is short, but after 16 miles in an ultra is when your body is getting to the point you need to start thinking about putting calories in your body. 16 mile training runs are great when you incorporate them into other ultra important training aspects including ultra diet training and mental end-of-race training. The 16 miler is essential there too. And remember you can train for a 100 mile race and still have a life.
So go out and map a 16 mile route. Find one that is flat and fast. Find another one that is a little tougher. Find one that has nothing but hills. Enjoy!