Ahh, the long run. A cruical part of any distance runner’s training plan, the one workout you shouldn’t skip especially in marathon training. If we are talking ultras, you are probably logging a few of
these a week. Long runs are either the love of your life, or the most dreaded day(s) of the week.
Whether you love it or hate it, it can be really tough, especially when you get up past double-digit mileage. I remember training for my first marathon and looking head on my training plan and getting so intimidated by the huge runs coming up. It was enough to overwhelm and stress me out ahead of time!
Even though the three of us are pretty seasoned distance runners now, these long run days do not come with out struggles. We have intergrated long runs into our weekly schedules and we look forward to getting out on the trails with our friends, but we still have good long runs and bad. And whether you are like us or just beginning, these tips can really help make a difference for mastering your long distance runs:
1. Mentally break it up:
A 30km run can be crazy intimidating, but mentally splititng it up in 3 10km runs can make it seem less scary. You can think of each of these segments as their own workout. You know you can run this
distance, you’ve done it many times before. Today you just happen to be running 3 of them in a row. You can try having a different goal pace for each of these segments or think of a different focus each
one. For example, for the first 10km really focus on your breathing. Don’t let it get away from you, keep it steady. The next 10km focus on your form and check in with your body. And say the third you can focus on pace and speed it up a bit when your body is most tired and you are almost finished! Plus, think of those negative splits!
2. Start slow, end fast:
Really focus on starting your pace off slow and steady, learn to not go out too hard and fast (this can really break a race and cause you to suffer at the end). Allow the first half of your run to be at a
comfortable pace. You should be able to maintain your steady breathing, even hold a conversation with a friend without gasping for air. As you start to feel comfortable with this pace, start focusing on speeding up mile by mile. This will help you become stronger and better prepare you for race day when you go over the mileage of your long training runs. It can also help you meet that goal time better if you are looking to set a new PR or have a completion time goal!
3. Practice Race Day:
Have you heard the saying, nothing new on race day? Probably, and it is excellent advice. Your long run is really the best way to practice how you want race day to go and will help make you more comfortable and natural on race day. If you want to do any experiementing with gear, clothes, shoes, hydration or nutrition, this is your time to do
it. Figure out what works best for you. Are you a big breakfast in the morning kind of person? Do gels just not work for you? Does your race have a particular amount of hills? Make sure to get some hills in mid run!
4. Try running without music
I personally never race with music. I find the atmosphere, energy, other runners and spectators are enough to keep me motivated and smiling. Try getting out for a few training runs without music so you know you can do it without. I used to think that I literally couldn’t run without music, but by training myself to run without, I can do it even when I am alone. On race day, without being plugged in, you
experience a lot more of the positive atmosphere that is unique to a race!
5. Cross Training
I seriously can not stress this enough! You need to incorperate some extra training into your scheduale that isn’t running. Hight intensity
interval training is my favourite. Pick some dynamic moves with a certain rep count and repeat the routine 2-3 times. Workouts like this
improve your strength, your speed and strengthen your cardiovascular system. Lifting weights in the gym will not make you bulk but, it will only strengthen your muscles and help decrease your risk of getting injured. Switching your workouts is key to improving your overall performance and decreasing your risk of injury.
5. Check in with your body:
Use the long run as a chance to check in and see how your body is feeling. It is easy to get caught up in pace and fueling and just putting your head down and getting through the run. Deep into our
training we can start to ignore aches and pains that might be our body trying to tell us something. Listen to your body when you feel your energy just isn’t there, or when an old injury starts to nag at you. If you want to stay a runner for a long time you have to pay attention to what’s going on. Maybe when you get tired you start to loose your
form. Be mindful of that and correct accordingly. Bad form can lead to serious injuries. Pay attention to your breathing, how does it respond to effort level or length of run. If you are breathing too hard or fast this might be a good time to take a walk break.
6. Pick a quote:
Having little mantras inside your head can seriously be a game changer or live saver. Think of your favourite quote or phrase that really means something to you, no matter what it is and say it over and over again inside your head. A favourite part about racing is suprise motivational signs, sometimes they come at a perfect place! I remember when I was training for my first marathon, near the end of my first 32km run there was a pretty fair sized hill that I could see for a few
kms. I just kept saying to myself “I am going to make this hill my bitch”, over and over again. A little out of character for me, but hey! Whatever works!
7. Have a post long-run ritual:
We probably all have a pretty good recovery ritual down such as slamming a recovery drink, stretching (right…), foam rolling (OUCH!) and a hot shower followed by throwing on your favourite PJ pants. But think of something really good to do or have after a long run. This is like self bribary in a way. Make it something that you love, that you
can’t wait to do when you finish your run. For me it’s a carbonated drink… rootbeer, san peligrino, BEER. I hardly ever drink any of the above on a regular day but there is something so wonderfully fantastic about carbonated drinks after a long run. When I get close to the finish I get excited about it.
Incorperate some of these tips and your log runs can improve. But remember that just like any workout or run, sometimes you’re just going to have a long run that sucks no matter what you do. It feels bad, nothing you’ve planned seems to work, it’s a mental and physical drain. It happens and that’s okay too because it’s the terrible runs
that make the good ones that much more magical.
What’s on your list for improving your long runs?
Have you tried something that definitely did NOT work for you?