Fall is right around the corner and many runners will be digging into the meat of their marathon training over the next 1-2 months. Elite or age-grouper, we all like to have a key workout leading up to our big race that, when we can nail it, lets us know we’re in a good position to achieve our goal.

The 2 x 6-mile workout is one of the benchmark sessions for the members of the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project, an elite group of professional distance runners based in Rochester Hills, Mich., which has produced Olympians Brian Sell (2008) and Desiree Davila (2012), and has seen numerous personal bests set amongst the rest of the team since forming in 1999. The Hansons-Brooks athletes know that when they hit the 2 x 6, which is always performed three weeks before their goal marathon, that they’re ready to race well.

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“I think there’s a lot to this workout,” says Luke Humphrey, head coach of Hansons Coaching Services, author of both the Hansons Marathon Method and Hansons Half Marathon Method and 2:14 marathoner who has been a member of the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project since 2004. “To me, if you can be tired but run somewhat controlled and hit your splits, then you are in a good position. Some people will feel amazing and that’s OK too; however, if you feel sluggish and tired but can ‘toughen up’ a little on the second of the six miles, then I think you get a real idea of where you are for strength. It gives you a good idea of what you are going to have to do in the later parts of the marathon.”

So how can you make the Hansons’ 2 x 6-mile workout work for you?

After a 3-mile warmup, form drills and strides, run 6 miles at 5 seconds per mile faster than your goal marathon pace. So, if your 26.2-mile goal pace is 8 minutes per mile, you aim to hold steady at 7:55s for 6 miles. After completing the first 6-mile segment, take 10 minutes to shed clothes, use the bathroom or jog around a little bit before going into another 6 miles at the same pace as the first: 5 seconds per mile faster than goal marathon pace. If you’re feeling good, it’s OK to pick up the pace a little bit—maybe another 5 or so seconds per mile—but you want to avoid racing the second 6-mile segment and compromising your recovery for the next workout a few days later, Humphrey says.

“I don’t recommend blasting the second one,” Humphrey advises. “I feel like we already do a lot of hard work and speeding up on the second one only takes away from your ability to recover for the next workout and provides no real extra stimulus. I feel like I’ve never raced well after crushing this workout.”