The long run is a staple in most runners’ training plans. The long run builds your endurance and mental toughness while actually changing how your body works so that you become a more efficient runner. For newer runners or those running their first marathon or half marathon, the long run means covering a new distance each week and facing the physical and mental challenges with that. For more experienced runners, the long run can be adjusted in a multitude of ways to provide a new training stimulus beyond the long slow distance. No matter how “long” your long run is or what your goals are, these tips will help you maximize your long run.
Long Run Workouts
Once you’ve done the long slow distance run a few times and are running more than 20-25 miles per week, you can safely add on extra stimulus to your long run. You can add miles at marathon pace and/or threshold pace, short fartlek-style intervals, hills, or a fast finish – have fun with it! The hard long run should be specific to your training goals and mimic the demands of the race, especially if you are training for a half marathon, marathon, or ultra.
Long run workouts are more demanding, both mentally and physically, so emphasize recovery after these runs and do them only once every 2-3 weeks. Most runners only want to do two hard runs per week, so replace your similar midweek workout with an easy run.
Try one of these hard long run workouts:
Long Run Tips
The long run can be intimidating, whether it’s your first 10 mile run or your 20th 20 miler. A bit of knowledge goes a long way and can help soothe pre-long run nerves and improve your experience. From preparation to pacing, these tips will help you maximize your long run so you have an effective, enjoyable, and injury-free run.
- Don’t go into your long run unprepared! Use this pre-long run checklist to make sure you do not leave your Garmin or energy gels at home.
- If you find yourself stuck on the treadmill, you may be tempted to skip your long run. Who wants to run on the treadmill for 2 or 3 hours? These tips for surviving treadmill long runs (hint: variety is key!) will keep you on your training plan through the worst of winter or summer.
- Curious about just how far you should run to train for your marathon or half marathon? This post gives you answers based on your level of experience and goals!
Poor nutrition equates to a poorly done long run. From what to eat the night before to how to take fuel on a long run, these
- What you eat the night before your long run can provide you with plenty of energy during your run – or it can leave you with an upset stomach and sluggish legs. Pick easily digestible carbs and protein, avoid heavy foods, and find a good balance between eating enough without overeating. Most of all, find what works for you – every runner is different, and the cheese pizza that your friend loves may not work for your dairy-sensitive stomach.
- How often to fuel on a long run is a common question of novice and experienced runners alike – but thankfully, with a bit of knowledge and some individual practice, you can find the fueling strategy that works best for you.
- If you’ve hit the wall before in races, you may consider doing low-carb (aka zero-calorie) long runs. You eat your normal pre-run breakfast but then only ingest water on the run to teach your body to tap effectively into your glycogen stores and stored fat. These type of runs are not for first-time marathoners.
- The long run is the ideal time to train your gut and practice your race-day fueling. Gut training teaches your body how to digest and absorb carbs while running, which helps you stay energized and strong throughout the entire run.
- The heat can make fueling for a summer long run extra challenging. Try these tips for fueling during summer long runs and stay well hydrated during your summer long runs to avoid heat-induced runner’s trots.
Once you finish a long run, don’t just plop down on the sofa for the rest of the day! Making sure that you recover well will improve your fitness, as recovery is when your body fully adapts to the stress applied in the long run, and will prevent injury and reduce soreness.
Recovery includes eating within an hour of completing your run, jumpstarting the process of muscle repair, and striking the right balance between rest and light activity. In the hours after your long run, you can use this post long run checklist to recover well. For one or two days following your long run, keep activity light with walks, yoga, and recovery runs.
What’s your best long run tip?
What’s your favorite distance for a long run?