As a relatively new runner, I have read everything I could get my hands on and tried various training plans but neglected a vital component, base training. I would read about long, slow runs and wonder what they had to do with running faster. I didn't care that EVERY expert, runner, pseudo-runner talked about the importance of aerobic base training, I didn't believe it until now. I was excited that I ran 1:40:51 for my first half marathon with no run longer than 10 miles focusing mostly on tempo runs and speed work on 30 miles per week.
When I decided to run my second, I knew I needed to increase my volume and my long run. Yet, I while I increased my average mileage to a peak of 40, I still hadn't embraced the LSR. I did get my long run up to 12 miles before my 2nd half which was almost a year after my first, and dropped my PR by almost 5 minutes to 1:35:57. The second half of this race was rough and immediately after finishing I knew that I needed to increase my mileage for two reasons: I wanted to run faster at every distance and I wanted to tackle my first marathon.
Somewhere during my formative running years, I had this idea in my head that I would/could not start marathon training until I could handle a 70 mile week. So I began my first base building cycle the day after my half, planning to spend 4-6 weeks increasing my mileage. Just to give you a baseline, the month prior to my half, I averaged 27 miles per week on 4 runs with 2 or 3 cross training days. Normally the advice is to increase volume by no more than 10% a week to reduce the chance of injury. So what did I do, I ran 72 miles the first week, followed by weeks of 72, 84, 84, 88 and 74 miles. The first 5 weeks did not include a rest day, then week 6 was done on 5 days of running as I was getting ready for a 5K. Most of these miles were a minute or more slower per mile than I was used to. No structured speed work, and an infrequent tempo run was thrown in so I wasn't sure what to expect.
Well, after some shorter faster runs and "tapering" down to 38 miles, I dropped my 5K PR by over 2 minutes to 19:25 with very little race specific training. I was completely sold on the power of a larger aerobic base. I am currently on week 3 of my second base cycle. Week 1 was 86 and week 2 was 90 and it is getting easier to run these distances even with faster paces. I will do 2 more weeks and then start focusing on the Peachtree Road Race 10K before turning my attention to training for the Rock and Roll Savannah Marathon in November. While I might not recommend making as big a jump as I did, I do highly recommend running more long, slow miles!