Countdown to Race Day: The Longest Long Run

Version 2This week, we will be talking to Atlanta Track Club Elite team members competing in the  Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon this Saturday, November 5. Each will address a different aspect of their training.  Today, Matt McDonald talks about increasing the distance of his weekly long run.To prepare for his first half marathon, Atlanta Track Club Elite Team Member Matt McDonald ran the longest run of his life. Running with the teammates he’ll travel to Indianapolis with this weekend, Matt logged 23 miles with the final two miles clocking in at less than ten minutes. The buildup has left the 2015 Ivy League 10K champion from Princeton feeling confident heading into Saturday’s Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon.“I’m excited to see what I can do,” says McDonald, who splits running professionally with pursuing his doctorate in chemical engineering. “My goal is to start with an honest pace, progress well and finish strong. I think if I can keep accelerating from mile to mile I can run 66 minutes.” That’s exactly how McDonald and Atlanta Track Club Elite approached their long runs. McDonald says it’s important to progress into the faster pace. He says most long runs averaged 6:20 to 6:30 per mile, starting slower than 7:00 and running the final five miles under 6:00.“Building to 23 miles is a long process,” says Atlanta Track Club Coach Andrew Begley. The team started with a 12-mile long run in June and increased each week. McDonald says at first, he wasn’t able to find that faster gear at the end of a 20-mile run. “In college we treated long runs as workouts,” he says. But Coach Begley takes a different approach. “You can run hard and just hope to hang on,” says Begley. “However, in longer workouts runners have to stay under control early so there is enough gas left for the end of the workout. This same mentality will help succeed in the half and full.”Begley says his runners don’t rest going into the long runs, but instead take a day off from running the following day. To prevent injury, Atlanta Track Club Elite athletes spend three to four hours in the gym each week, have regular visits with a massage therapist and rotate between two or three pairs of Mizuno shoes. McDonald, a New Jersey native, says he likes to recover from a long run with his feet up, drinking coffee, eating pancakes and watching his hometown New York Giants. “When they win, my legs usually feel great, and when they lose it takes a little longer to recover.”McDonald’s 23-mile run came at the end of week in which he ran his highest total mileage. He says that builds strength for what will be the longest race of his career and helps him break down the 13.1 miles in his mind. “I want to finish the hardest 10 miles I have ever run with the best 5K I’ve ever run,” he says. “Together, it will be a great half.” As for his Giants, they face division-rival Philadelphia Sunday. McDonald hopes they play as great as he plans to run.You can follow this final week of training and get race day updates by following @ATLtcElite on Twitter.Click here to read about Andrew McLain's tapering planClick here to read about how Sallie Post fuels for 100-mile weeksAbout Atlanta Track Club EliteAtlanta Track Club Elite is comprised of the Club’s top athletes who train together and represent the Club at local, regional and national races. The team aims to help athletes realize their goals while promoting competitive distance running, track and field and the mission of Atlanta Track Club. For more information on Atlanta Track Club Elite, visit Atlanta Track ClubAtlanta Track Club is a nonprofit committed to creating an active and healthy Atlanta. Through running and walking, Atlanta Track Club motivates, inspires and engages the community to enjoy a healthier lifestyle. With more than 26,000 members, Atlanta Track Club is the second largest running organization in the United States. In addition to the AJC Peachtree Road Race ( – the largest 10K running event in the world, the Publix Georgia Marathon, PNC Atlanta 10 Miler and Thanksgiving Day Half Marathon, Atlanta Track Club directs more than 30 events per year. Through the support of its members and volunteers, Atlanta Track Club also maintains a number of community initiatives including organizing and promoting the Kilometer Kids youth running program to metro Atlanta youth, honoring high school cross country and track and field athletes through Atlanta Track Club’s All-Metro Banquets and supporting the Grady Bicycle EMT program. For more information on Atlanta Track Club, visit