Today’s post is part of an on-going series on all aspects of marathon (and half marathon) training. New to This Runner’s Recipes? Catch up on all previous Marathon Monday posts here.
The long run is an unavoidable component of marathon and half marathon training. If you are going to run a long distance race, then you need to train to run long distances. Make the most of your long runs so you can enjoy your training and run your best race with these marathon long run tips.
Practice Fueling, Before and During
Nothing can derail your race like GI distress. The best way to avoid that? Practice your race-specific fueling during your long runs. This will help you determine which breakfasts, gels, chomps, and foods agree with your stomach. Not only will you eliminate which gels aggravate your stomach, but it will accustom your stomach to the gels you choose, so they are familiar and easily digestible even during the stress of race day.
You should fuel approximately every 45-60 minutes of your long run. While some people chug their whole gel at once, I prefer to sip on my gel for a few miles to get a slow and steady stream of energy rather than a huge spike in blood sugar. Practice during your long runs to find which method works best for you.
Beyond testing foods and fuels on your stomach, practicing fueling will keep you from crashing during your run or later in the day. Long runs requires at minimum 1,000 calories of energy, depending on your height, weight, and duration of your run; once you begin to run for 15 miles or longer, you are likely burning closer to 1500-2000 calories. You don’t want to start with an empty tank, so you want to eat a pre-run snack or breakfast. How many calories you consume depends on how long before the run you eat. 2-3 hours beforehand and you should eat about 300 calories of primarily high-glycemic carbohydrates, such as oatmeal and fruit, a bagel, or a baked potato. If you can’t stomach a lot of food before a run, eat a smaller snack an hour beforehand such as a banana and a small serving of dry cereal or pretzels. High glycemic but easily digestible carbs will deliver a steady stream of energy without causing a sugar crash.
Practice Pacing Strategies
One of the top pieces of advice you hear for racing a full or half marathon is to start at a conservative pace. Go out too fast and you’ll burn through your glycogen stores, accumulate excess fatigue, and crash. By starting your long runs at a conservative pace, you will habituate yourself so that it is second nature on race day.
The same applies to fast finishes; a finishing kick on race day will feel less difficult if you regularly practice it. This doesn’t mean you should sprint the last mile of your long runs. Rather, begin your long runs about 15-30 seconds slower than your long run pace (which should be 30-90 seconds slower than race pace), ease into your long run pace, and finish 15-30 seconds faster than long run pace.
Dividing you run into thirds like this will also make the long distance seem more mentally manageable. You can practice this strategy on race day as well; dividing your race into chunks will keep the marathon from feeling overwhelming.
Repeat Race Day Mantras
Positive self-talk and mantras are a successful way to mentally overcome fatigue and doubts during your marathon. However, self-doubt and heavy legs are not reserved solely for race day; you likely will encounter these throughout many long runs of your training. Pick a positive phrase to repeat throughout your long run to encourage you to get you through the tough moments and stick to your training. This will also benefit you on race day, when you can draw from memories of the 18 miler you powered through despite fatigue or a 15 miler where you didn’t quit to inspire you during the tough miles of the marathon.
Refueling afterwards is just as essential to successful marathon training as the long run itself. Without the right amount of carbohydrates within the vital 60 minute window, your muscles will not have the fuel they need to recover properly. Eating immediately after your run will also boost your energy levels so you don’t spend the rest of the day exhausted from your run and prevent insatiable runger later in the day.
You should aim for at least 300 calories of primarily carbohydrates, with some protein and fat added. Most sports nutritionists advise a 4:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein, such as eggs and toast, a breakfast hash, or oatmeal with a side of eggs. If the idea of eating a full meal is unappealing and you feel nauseous after your run, drink a smoothie or some milk to get some calories into your body, and then eat a meal once your hunger has returned. If you frequently suffer from upset stomachs after a long run, try eating candied ginger or ginger chews before or immediately after your run, as ginger curbs nausea.
Don’t forget about replenishing fluids as well, especially if you sweated heavily during the run. Low-calorie electrolyte drinks such as Nuun will give you body all the sodium, magnesium, calcium, and potassium it needs. If you prefer a more natural drink, try coconut water or citrus juice with a generous pinch of sea salt. Continue to hydrate with water regularly throughout the day to prevent any recovery-limiting dehydration, upset stomach, or fatigue.
Jump Start Recovery
Marathon long run recovery doesn’t end at post long run eating! Take a few minutes to stretch, do some yoga, elevate your legs, or foam roll. If you find that they help, wear a pair of compression socks throughout the rest of the day. While it may be tempting to sit for the entire day, some light activity such as walking will promote good blood circulation and alleviate soreness. Finally, prioritize a good night’s sleep and even take a nap if you need to! Sleep stimulates recovery of the muscles and lowers cortisol levels, which may be spiked after a harder effort.
Portland Marathon Training Week 8
This week I definitely experienced the cumulative fatigue that is characteristic to the Hansons Marathon Method. My legs felt heavy throughout most of the week, especially as this week included three shorter “long” runs. Needless to say, I am certainly practicing what I preach with the above marathon long run tips!
Monday: AM: 8 miles on the treadmill, 1% incline. 2.5 mile warm-up, 3 x 1 mile (6:59, 6:59, 6:56) with 600m recovery jog, 1.75 mile cool down. PM: core-focused yoga and foam rolling.
Tuesday: AM: 5 miles easy with Charlie, 9:30/mile pace. PM: kettlebell strength training.
Wednesday: 10 miles with 7 miles at goal marathon pace (7:48/mile average pace). Heavy legs for this run, but my breathing and effort will still comfortable for the goal pace miles.
Thursday: AM: 6 mile recovery run on the treadmill, with a hill pyramid of 0-8% incline, 10:00/mile pace. PM: Plyometrics and a stability ball core workout, which I’ll share with you tomorrow!
Friday: 10 miles easy, 9:02/mile average pace.
Saturday: AM: 10 mile progression run on the treadmill, 1-1.5% incline, 8:48/mile average pace. PM: 90 minutes of hiking.
Sunday: 30 minutes yoga.
49 miles of running for the week! I’m pretty sure this is my last week of less than 50 miles until the Portland Marathon.
Questions of the Day:
What are your marathon long run tips?
How far is your longest run before a marathon?
How was your training this week?