I love long runs. Heading out and forgetting real life for an hour (or more). Maybe (finally!) making a dent in my back log of podcasts.
Oh yeah, and the running part of it. That’s fine too, I guess.
What a ‘long run’ is for you will vary.
It will change based on your running history, your training plan, and where you are in that training plan.
A year ago, I was in the peak miles of training for a 50k, so my longest long runs were up to 26 miles (as a training run!). Now, after nearly a year of lying low on running, anything over 10 miles feels impossibly long.
Whatever a ‘long’ run is to you, you need to respect it.
Respect your long run effort and give your body the rest and recovery it needs to stay happy and healthy for your next run.
Before Your Long Run
For All Long Runs
Consider the Run To Come
Consider how this run fits into your overall running plan. Consider the run, its purpose, and its pace.
Most long runs, especially when training for races like the marathon, should be done at a slow pace.
Slower than you may think.
Commit to running that pace, and no faster, during your run. Check in on your pace occasionally to make sure you are sticking to it.
Check Gear and Fuel
What you should carry with you during your long run varies based on how long you are running.
As you set out, make sure you have what you need:
- A water bottle (recommended for any distance you consider long)
- Fuel (recommended for any run over 60-90 minutes)
- Fully charged phone or GPS
- ID, either your real ID or something like Road ID
Focus and Breathe
Before you start running, take a few deep breaths.
Try to forget about your real life stress and troubles and put them aside while you run.
If Your Long Run Is Preparing You for Race Day
Each long run during your marathon or half marathon training cycle is a chance to practice for your race.
Each week, you’ll have a little dress rehearsal for race day. During every long run, test and iterate something you will do, wear, or eat on race day and see what happens.
Did your pre-long run coffee mean 3 mid-run pit stops? Did your favorite running pants start to chafe after 9 miles?
- Fuel (including on-the-run fuel, pre-run breakfast, and dinner the night before)
- Hydration (how you carry it, what you drink, and how often)
- Your pre-run timing (for example, how long before you start running should you eat breakfast)
For each element you test, take note of:
- What worked?
- What didn’t?
- Is there anything you can or should adjust for future runs?
- What can you not change, and you’ll just have to work around?
- What unexpected results happened during training? Remember, something just as unexpected could happen on race day.
If it works – great, keep on doing it.
Was it terrible? Change it up and test it again.
Was it so-so? Adjust it or try different elements in different combinations until you make it great.
After Your Long Run
Stretch and Keep Moving
It can be tempting to immediately stop and sit down after a long run. But if you do that, your muscles will tighten up and you might be hobbling for days.
Stretch after your run, then keep walking around for a bit.
Stay active throughout the day (think walk in the neighborhood active, not biking the Tour de France active) to keep your muscles moving.
Even if you fueled and hydrated properly on the run, you’ll finish your run with your energy and water stores running low.
Eat something with protein and carbs when you finish (think peanut butter toast) and rehydrate with water or a recovery drink.
Drink lots of water throughout the day (this is true on all days, but especially after lots of running).
Shower and Change
Get out of sweaty running clothes ASAP. Staying in sweaty running clothes too long after your run is a recipe for a multitude of skin issues.
If you are running with friends and are going to brunch or coffee right after your run, bring baby wipes and a change of clothes. You’ll feel better and those around you will thank you for saving them your sweaty running clothes smell.
Take a moment to acknowledge your accomplishment in finishing your run.
Whether or not your run went to plan, seeing a long run through to the end is an accomplishment with acknowledging.
After your long run, take a few minutes to consider your run. Journal about it if you are so inclined.
- What worked?
- What didn’t?
- How was your fueling/hydration?
- How was your mindset? What were you thinking about on the run?
- Is there anything you want (or need) to change for your next run?
Taking note of these things soon after your run, when it’s all still fresh in your head, makes it more likely that you’ll remember what you want to change in the future. If you don’t take note right after your run, chances are you’ll forget about it by next week.
These small incremental changes each week will lead to improved long runs over time.