Long-distance runs are the best way to test your endurance. When you sign up for a half-marathon, you are not just racing against others but also against yourself and towards making new, healthy habits. Running long distances is a great accomplishment and a great way to challenge yourself and others in continually working towards new goals.
These runs are surely not easy; not everyone can complete a half marathon or marathon, but with proper training and these tips, working your way toward your next long-distance run will be easier.
What Is Considered a Long-Distance Run?
Long-distance running, also known as endurance running, is continuous running over distances of at least 1.9 miles (3km). These distances are relative and depend on the individual and their running experience. If you are somewhat new to running, the first achievable long distance may be 5K. With time and through building stamina with training, the next long-distance run can be 10K, and later that can turn into a half marathon. The marathon, on the other hand, is a more ambitious long-distance run of 26.2 miles, followed by the even longer ultra-marathons that can be of various distances.
How Long Should You Run?
If you are unsure about how long you should run, examine your running pattern first. Typically, if you are a beginner, you should aim for 5K and 10K. If your weekly mileage of runs adds up to 12-20 miles, you can aim for a half marathon, and approximately you need to have been running 30 to 35 miles per week to start training for a marathon. The rule of thumb is that your long-distance run should usually be one and a half to two times longer than your usual weekly running mileage.
What Pace Should You Run?
Unless you are a more experienced runner and you’re aiming for a record time in your endurance run, the pace is not the most crucial thing during these runs. Often, participants get carried away in half-marathons and marathons, running too fast, only to be tired and fatigued halfway through. You may have heard the expression “it is a marathon, not a sprint,” after all. So, a good strategy is to target 10-15 seconds per mile slower than your desired marathon pace, for example, especially in your first few miles. During your training for a long-distance run, you should alternate between different paces to build up endurance and condition your body to resist exhaustion.
Tips for Long-Distance Running
Preparing for a long-distance run needs dedication and perseverance. If you are someone who is willing to work their hardest to prepare for this challenge, here are some tips on how to get better at long-distance running and to guide you towards your next long run.
Prepare yourself mentally
You have worked your way up and come this far, yet long-distance runs are more than just physical preparation. It is normal to feel anxious as the day of your race or planned run approaches. Even the most advanced athletes experience pre-race jitters. However, maintaining a positive attitude can go a long way on the big day. You can help prepare yourself mentally to visualize the training you have done before making it to the long-distance run and all the good effort you have made to prepare for it. Do not doubt yourself; picture yourself in victory after finishing the race, instead.
Incorporate strength training
When you train for running the long-distance, incorporating strength training is a beneficial method of taking small breaks for running while still actively working on your muscles. Strength training exercises will help strengthen each muscle you use while running; they will improve your balance and prevent injuries.
Break it into sections
As simple as they may be, some helpful and popular mental strategies can truly aid you in running long distances without being overwhelmed. One of these strategies is dividing the mileage that you will run into sections. This division can either be mental or physical. Through mentally breaking, say, the 13 miles of a half marathon into sections of 3, 4, 3, 2, and 1 mile runs, for example, will make it easier to establish smaller goals within the race.
These sections can be physical if you decide to take a break and walk during the race. As you progress as an endurance runner, over time these breaks will become shorter as your stamina increases.
Don’t neglect hydration & nutrition
As you run for longer distances, your body will constantly lose fluids due to sweat, especially if you are running in warm temperatures. Therefore, it is important that you hydrate properly, not only on the day of your run or on the days leading to your run but daily. To replace lost fluids during a long run, your best drink options are water, diluted juice, and sports drinks.
As for nutrition, loading on carbohydrates is the best way to ensure you have energy throughout the entire run. They prevent blood sugar from dropping and help restore glycogen levels. The Dietary Guideline for Americans recommends a diet consisting of 45-65% carbohydrates out of the total of your daily calorie intake. This does not mean that you should neglect healthy fats and protein; a good balance of nutrients is just as important.
On the day of the run, depending on how long you will be running, you can opt for mid-run energy sources such as bananas, raisins, dates, energy bars, pretzels, gummy sweets, etc. Other options include various energy gels and drinks designed specifically for runners.
Get durable running shoes
Your running shoes are your best weapon for running distances. If there is one solution on how to run longer, it is properly investing in a pair of durable shoes that you will be comfortable running in for long distances. There are so many running shoes to choose from, of different brands and different costs. Some factors to consider when choosing your shoes are the run’s mileage, terrain, weather conditions, as well as personal shoe preferences depending on your running style.
Don’t forget to warm up
Warming up your body and muscles before an endurance run is crucial to prevent injuries and ensure optimal performance. A warm-up routine is vital, so you do not shock your system and don’t enter the race hyper-energized, only to reduce your race pace significantly after.
A proper warm-up is especially important in 5K distances which typically start fast. In half-marathons and longer distances, your body will have more time to warm up during the race as you can start at a slower pace. However, some dynamic stretches and a brisk walk before your run will help to increase the blood flow to your muscles.
When training to run for longer distances, it is crucial that you don’t overexert yourself trying to run for unrealistic distances if you are new to running. Instead, start by building a training plan in which you can add mileage as you progress each week. This way, you can build up towards your long-distance running goals without the risk of injuries, getting completely sore, and growing tired of running within a few days.
Try running and walking
Whether during training, or an actual long-distance running event, walking for parts of the race is completely fine and not uncommon. Often, during long-distance races, participants take short walking breaks, be that to stop for nourishment or water, a toilet break, or to have a chance to relieve their muscles. Walking is also helpful when you are speed-training; a short rest between intervals is often needed.
Don’t skip post-run recovery
Post-long run, if you are exhausted, that might make it more difficult to take the time to allow your body for proper recovery. But, taking care of your body after your run is just as important as your pre-run routine. When you have crossed the finish line, make sure to properly hydrate by drinking water and eat solid food, so you replenish your glycogen stores. Some good post-run fueling necessities are rich in complex carbohydrates and protein, such as peanut butter on bread, oatmeal, trail mix, etc.
Another crucial step in your post-run recovery is taking time to stretch your muscles and let your heart rate drop into its normal state. A foam roller will also come in handy for a massage which your muscles will thank you for.
Long-distance running is a fantastic sport that builds mental toughness in addition to improving your fitness level. Running is affordable, accessible, and challenging. You don’t have to keep going on these runs, but you choose to, which shows real strength. Hopefully, with these tips, you are now fully informed on running long distances and optimizing them so that your next long-distance run will be a success story.