I’ve been running long (+10 miles) for a while now so I thought I’d put down how I prepare for long runs. I run in most conditions, usually road running, and sometimes I’m out for up to 4 hours.
Here are some of the benefits of running long:
- Provides the necessary endurance to complete longer distances (ie half marathon/marathon/ultra marathon).
- Strengthens the heart (increases stoke volume) and opens the capillaries, both sending energy to working muscles and flushing waste products from fatigued muscles.
- Inreases bone density, strengthens the leg muscles and ligaments, improving your endurance.
- Recruits fast-twitch muscle fibres to help with slow-twitch tasks (like running a marathon).
- Teaches the body to burn fat as fuel.
- Develops your mental toughness and coping skills, increasing/enhancing your confidence level that you can go the full (marathon) distance on race day.
- Increases your overall speed, even for shorter races.
Here are my tips for running long:
Rest the night before
- Aim to get at least 8 hours of sleep the night before.
- The more rest the better!
Nutition before the run
- Eat meals high in carbs for lunch the day before.
- Drink about 250mls – 500mls of liquid before the run (I drink a caffeine lucozade to give me an early boost)
- Eat a stable and slow release breakfast before the run (I eat porridge and have 250ml of fresh orange juice)
- Check the weather the night before and pick appropriate clothing for the conditions.
- If the weather is going to be really bad for the time you planned your long run, consider rescheduling for better weather. (It’ll be more pleasant running in the sun/cloudy conditions for three hours than running in the pouring rain/snow)
- Use trainers you’ve broken in, don’t wear brand new ones on long runs! It may lead to muscle pain or injury. (done it!)
- Layer up for the worst conditions (you’ll be out for a long time) and if the weather improves at least you’ll be warm or be able to strip off layers.
- Try not to over dress though, once you are out you’ll warm up.
- Wear a close fiting layer on top as a base layer and depending on the weather, more layers.
- If you ‘chafe’ put vaseline on prone areas.
- Always have your route set out before you run.
- Decide on the distance you are going to run and where you will run.
- If running alone, leave the route up on a computer so that your partner/family knows where you’ll be running incase you don’t come back! (I use www.walkjogrun.co.uk, or one of my garmin maps which for routes I’ve already been run).
- Have an idea of how long it will take you and let people know who long you will be.
- Try out some of the course if you can… or the type of course it is (ie: hilly, out and back, flat)
On the run
- Don’t run too fast,long runs are more about time on your feet instead of breaking PBs.
- Run with a freind if you want to take any monotony away and get some good chat on the way.
- Be aware of where you are and your surroundings, if running alone with music, don’t play it too loud (or just have one ear in) and avoid dodgy/quiet areas.
- Run at a conversational pace by starting out slowly to conserve glycogen.
- Running at an easy pace reduces the possibility of incurring an injury.
- Running too fast may lead to injury – long runs are for endurance and to teach your body to burn fat so you’ll be able to run long and fast in the marathon.
- Stay loose by shaking out your arms and shoulders regularly.
- Carry your arms close to your waist or hips to conserve energy. Also avoid unnecessary arm swing, particularly laterally across the body.
- Carry a fiver/tenner with you incase you need to stop to buy anything.
- Realise that long runs will sometimes be difficult to complete and that you may experience some “bad patches” in the later miles. Persevering through these stretches will develop mental toughness, an essential skill that will be needed during the marathon.
- Use imagery, mental rehearsal/visualisation, and self-talk to develop mental toughness. (ie I can do this, Stay strong, Relax)
- Mentally break the course into smaller sections – for my marathon I’m planning: 3.1 miles, 6 miles, 4 miles, 4 miles, 6 miles, 3.1 miles.
- Use long runs as experimentation for the types of gels / energy drinks you’ll take and when in the run.
- Cool down by running the last half-mile at a very easy pace.
Hydration & Energy
- For runs longer than an hour it’s a good idea to have water or energy drinks available.
- Water, energy gels and sports drinks are your lifeline to completing these long workouts without hitting ‘the wall’. They help top up glycogen stores which are depleted the longer you run for.
- I run with a water pack for runs longer than 10 miles, and carry energy gels.
- If you don’t have a water pack and don’t want to carry liquids, you can place a bottle of energy drink (lucozade etc) on route halfway or whatever, the night before.
- Leave the bottle in a plastic bag hidden somewhere, preferably close to a bin so you can drink it (along with an energy gel if you want) then bin it.
- I tend to sip from my water pack after about 20-30 minutes, and drink sips of it whenever I want to.
- I find great comfort in the fact that I have water with me and have access to it whenever I need it.
- Energy gels: I like the SIS caffeine ones, I take one every hour or so, sometimes sooner.
- A good tip for taking energy gels is to run with them in your hand for about 20 minutes (2 miles or so) before consuming it. It warms them up into an easy to take/digest liquid (sometimes they can be glupey)
- I also sometimes carry sports beans and cashew nuts for energy at the end or after the run.
- Use your long runs as a means of experimentation for the trainers and clothes you’ll where and the energy and drinks you’ll consume.
- Dispose of any bottles or sports gels packages in bins along the route, or take home in your bag/pockets – do not throw them aside!
After your Long Run
- Stretch thouroughly.
- Drink and energy drink and eat something nutritious within 15 minutes of finishing to replace your depleted glycogen stores (Carbs for energy, protein for recovery: I eat cashew nuts or a banana for energy, milkshake for recovery.)
- After the run make sure you get warm and dry.
- Take off any wet clothes and change into warm dry ones.
- Get a warm shower as soon as possible.
- Catch a nap in the afternoon if you need one, but if you got enough rest the night before you might not need one!
- Eat lunch or dinner shortly after if you can to top up the energy reserves.
- Make sure you get 1-2 rest days after a long run. Treat it like a hard training day (although your pace may have been easy).
- Do some light walking / cycling in the next few days to loosen up your legs.
Training Plans – how to progress to run long
- Run 3-4 times a week, 1 long, 1 hard and 1-2 easy runs.
(ie 10 miles, long, 5 miles hard, 4 miles easy, 3 miles easy)
- Your long run should be at least twice the distance of your hard run.
- Start with a base mileage (ie 10 miles) for one long run a week.
- Increase distance by no more than 3 miles a week (2 miles ideal – or 10% increases).
- Run long for 3 weeks then cut back on milage on the 4th week to allow your body to recover (easy / recovery week)
- Schedule your longest run no closer than four weeks before the event.
- Taper in the 2-3 weeks before the event (ie 12 miles, 8 miles, Marathon event). (See my Training Plans page for more information)