Whether you are training for a marathon, half marathon or just wanting to run further or faster, you will usually be doing a long run each week. This long run may be 6 miles, it may be 24 miles, it is all relative to your experience and your goals.
As you progress, your long run will get further and possibly faster, but to do this you need to follow certain rules to help you reduce the risk of injury, illness and fatigue.
Here are a few of my tips to help you run longer:
If you run your long run at the same pace as your 5k you are heading for trouble. To run further you need to slow your pace. When building distance your pace should feel comfortable and you should be able to hold a conversation (or sing to yourself if you are alone). A good rule is to add 20-25% on to your normal pace. For example, if you are aiming to race at 8 min/mile pace your long run should be around 9.40-10.00 pace.
Add miles gradually
To reduce your risk of injuries, increase your long run by no more than 1 mile at a time up to 10 miles, 1.5 miles between 10 and 15 miles and 2 miles once you get over 15 miles. 1 mile per week is probably the most sensible option. If you think that most marathon training plans run for 13 weeks before the taper, this means you can increase your long runs by at least 13 miles over the course of the plan. No need to panic then.
Pick a day
Make sure that you pick a day of the week where you are not pushed for time. Remember you are running slower than usual so you don’t want to be clock-watching about getting home.
Have cutback weeks
Every 3-4 weeks make sure that you do a shorter long run. The more you increase your distance, the more fatigue you will accumulate in your legs. By running a shorter long run every 3-4 weeks helps to reduce the fatigue and helps to avoid overtraining. My general rule would be to cut back your long run by 25-30% every 3-4 weeks. For example, if you run 12, 13, 14 miles in consecutive weeks, your cutback long run should be around 10 miles.
Walk if you have to
When you are first starting to increase distance you may get times when you just have to walk. Try not to, as this will help you mentally when it comes to a race, but if you do have to then walk until you feel ready to run again. This run/walk method can also be used if you are looking to spend more ‘time on feet’ if you are looking to complete an ultra-event.
Keep yourself fuelled
On runs longer than 90 minutes make sure you have something you can carry that is rich in carbohydrates and electrolytes. These can be energy drinks, gels or sugary sweets such as jelly babies. There are hundreds of different products on the market so you will need to experiment what works for you as some can upset your stomach due to the high sugar content. To keep your energy level consistent, start fuelling about 60 minutes into your run and refuel again every 30 minutes.
Break it down
By breaking the long run into smaller manageable chunks makes it less intimidating. Whether you break it down into times segments, or by distance, it will become mentally easier and less stressful.
Building endurance takes time. Be sensible, be patient and reap the benefits.
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