You are ready to take your training to the next level of endurance and integrate long runs into your training plan. What exactly is a long run? The long run is when you build your endurance for much longer races like the Half-Marathon and Full marathon. You start with the longest distance you have run over the past two weeks and then you steadily increase your mileage each week. You can go as high as twenty-six miles depending on what training program you are using. The long run is the time to take it nice and easy and focus on completing the distance.
It is true that the long run part of your training is not easy. It take some planning to be properly prepared for it. You do not want to go out for 3+ hours without a proper plan. Here are some tips to help keep you safe and healthy during your long runs.
Be sure that you are properly trained for the long run you are planning to do. The general rule of thumb is to not increase your mileage more than 10% each week. For example, let’s say you did two three-mile training runs midweek and you did a six mile long run on Saturday. That is a total of twelve miles total for that week. Ten percent of twelve is 1.2 miles. That should be added to your next long run for building endurance. Therefore, your next long run should be 7.2 miles long or just seven miles. Th key here is to ensure that you do not over-train by running too long on your long run. You may be able to push yourself further but you are risking injury. Plan your distance based on the 10% rule and stick to it.
Hydration (Before, During, and After)
Hydration is probably the most important thing you need to focus on before, during, and after your long run. You have to be pro-active about drinking enough water. Being dehydrated during a run can not only prevent you from finishing the needed distance but it can also be very dangerous. Focus on this year round but especially during the spring and summer when the temperatures are sweltering. Don’t forget that it is just as important to drink before and after the actual long run. You need to start consciously drinking water the day before your long run. Drink about a cup of water every hour starting in the afternoon until bed. Start again in the morning. Drink as needed during the long run and then pick up the cup/hour when you get home. Being proactive about your water intake will keep you healthy and energized during and after the run. Don’t forget your water!
What you Eat Before the Run
Think carefully about what you are going to eat the night before and morning of your long run. Think very carefully. Eating the wrong things can put a major damper on an otherwise great run and can even cause extremely uncomfortable digestive distress in the least convenient places. Eat things that you know from experience that don’t bother your stomach. It is not a good idea to eat heavy, fried foods, or overly sweet treats. Think simple, yet nourishing foods. It is a tradition to have a spaghetti dinner the night before a marathon. You can do the same thing before a long run. Fill up on good carbohydrates that will fuel you through the long miles.
The night before a long run is not the time to stay up late. You need a lot of sleep so you will be rested. The long run is already very tiring. You need quality sleep and resulting energy in your tank so that you can pull from there while running. You have a goal. Don’t let lack of sleep sabotage that goal.
Be sure you follow all major safety precautions when running for so long. Be sure to carry identification, run facing traffic, and run with a partner (if possible). Tell your spouse where you will be running and how long you will be gone and carry a cell phone in case of emergencies. Wear reflective clothing so that drivers can easily see you when the sun is setting. Stay alert! Runners can be good targets but they don’t have to be if they are conscious of their surroundings and alert. Take the time to ensure your safety.
What to Carry
What you carry will depend on where you choose to do your long run. Are you going to be doing laps around a park with access to your car on each lap or are you going to do an out-and-back route? If you are running laps the logistics aren’t quite so complicated. Just be sure you bring your water and nutrition with you. Park your car close to the path, if possible, and place all your supplies close by. Your car becomes your aid station of sorts. If you are doing an out-and-back route you need to do a bit more planning. You will need to carry your water and your food on your body. Consider a hydration belt or Camelbak. You will also need to carry a form of identification and a cell phone. If it is cold outside don’t forget your chap stick. Wear a hat to stay warm or keep the sun out of your face. Take the time to plan adequately and you will be just fine.
Remember that the long run is for building endurance. It is not for increasing your speed. You need to add about two minutes to your training pace for the long run. So, if you run at about a ten minute per mile pace during your mid-week training runs you need to hold back and run at about a twelve minute mile. It can be hard and sometimes frustrating to slow down like that but you must do it. Otherwise, you will lose all your energy and won’t be able to finish the run. Your long runs are also practice runs for long races. You need to teach your body to pace itself so that you can finish strong. Your body is already being asked to go beyond its perceived limit. Don’t ask too much of it by trying to run too fast. Take your time and enjoy the scenery.
Good Luck pounding that pavement!