Marathon training long runs can be intimidating and a little scary, especially if you are training for your first marathon.
If you are only used to heading out for shorter runs in the neighborhood, venturing out for runs in the double digits can be an entirely different monster.
Marathon Training Long Run Fears And How To Overcome Them
But don’t let your fears stop you. I learned all about overcoming fear at a recent ‘Mindfulness And The Endurance Athlete’ seminar I attended.
Many of your fears won’t happen, and you can be prepared for, or prevent, many of them.
I Won’t Be Able To Finish
This was a big one for me when I started running longer distances: ‘What do I do if I get out in the middle of nowhere, 10 miles into a long run, and I’m too exhausted to keep going?’
What To Do
- Carry a phone with you on the run. If you really do have to quit mid-run, you can call for a ride from a friend or get a Lyft back to your start point.
- Don’t increase mileage too fast. You shouldn’t increase your long run mileage more than a mile or two a week. You shouldn’t ever have a situation where one week’s long run is significantly longer than last weeks.
- Take walk breaks. Walk when you need to during any run, but especially on long runs. Even if you need to walk more than you’d like, it will get you to the finish.
- Do your long runs on a shorter loop course done multiple times. If you really can’t go on, you can bail on the last loop. But beware this approach can be tough mentally – you will be tired on a long run (you should be tired on a long run) and it can be tough to head out on those last loops. You need to have the mental strength to not drop the last loop (or more) just because you are tired.
I’ll Be Bored
This is more a matter of when (or how often) you’ll be bored on a long run, not if. Most (dare I say all?) marathoners get bored on some long runs.
A big part of marathon training, especially long runs, is training your mind (as well as your body) to get used to being bored, and pushing through and continuing to run anyway.
What To Do
- Run with a group. Good conversation can make the time fly by (I’m a total introvert, and this works for me too).
- Learn to use runs as moving meditation.
- You know that phenomena where you have great insights in the shower? The same thing can happen on the run. Ask yourself a question then head out on a long run and let yourself be bored. Your mind will likely make connections, even if you aren’t consciously doing it.
I’ll Have To Pee
This can be an issue on shorter runs, not just the long ones.
It’s another when not if concern.
What To Do
- Scope out and plan routes to pass locations that have public bathrooms (public parks, grocery stores, and Starbucks are usually good bets)
- Carry a bit of cash in case you need to stop at a place where bathrooms are for customers only (bathroom break and hydration stop!? Double benefit!)
- Train your body to not go.
- Hydrate the night before for a run. This gives your body the chance to absorb hydration and make a pit stop before you run. Drinking too much water the morning of the run (for me, at least) only leads to mid-run potty breaks.
- Never pass up the chance to use an open and unoccupied bathroom. If you pass a place with public bathrooms and you aren’t sure, or are on the fence, about if you have to go, go. You never know when you’ll get the chance again.
I’ll Get Hungry Or Thirsty
A common mistake for new marathon trainees is not fueling or hydrating enough (or at all) during a long run.
When doing long runs, you need to drink and eat something. Even if you start a run properly fueled, your body can only store about 60-90 minutes worth of fuel. You need to replenish your fuel stores to make it through the long run.
What To Do
- Find a fuel that works for you. Gel, blocks, real food, store-bought, homemade. There is an endless list of options. Find one that works for you and carry it.
- Carry water or sports drink (or both). I once had a running coach who didn’t believe anyone needed to carry water on runs because the park where he ran had fountains (he had a hard time imagining anyone leading a life that in any way differed from his). This is, of course, absurd. Carry water. Handheld bottles, hydration packs, waist packs. Again, there are endless options. Pick one and carry it. Relying on public water fountains for hydration on the long run should only be an approach if you are 100% sure they are there AND they are functional (many near me are often out-of-order or turned off due to draught).
- Carry cash, in case you have to stop and buy water during your long run.
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It Will Take Forever
This really isn’t as much a fear as an inevitability.
There is no getting around it, long runs take a long time. Especially if you are a slower runner like I am, long runs can be an entire morning affair, taking into consideration post-run stretching, refueling, showering and recovery, the longest long runs can become full-day affairs.
What To Do
- The length of time long runs take is kinda the point, but if you really can’t manage to finish a long run in one fell swoop, break it up into two long-ish runs on consecutive days. It isn’t exactly the same, but it still gives your body the sensation of running on tired legs.