The long run is the foundation of most running plans as it builds your aerobic fitness and muscular endurance, ensuring you can complete 13.1 miles on race day.
The secret in perfecting your long runs is to keep it simple, with the emphasis being on the quality of your training not the quantity.
Here are our long run tips:
Keep it short
Running too far in training can lead to fatigue and possible injury, due to the repetitive stress placed on your body during long distance runs.
For that reason the focus should be on the time you run for, not the mileage in one session. It’s best to bolster 'shorter' long runs with other quality training sessions such as tempo, hill and speed workouts throughout your training week. This will simulate the fatigue you’ll experience at the end of the race, but significantly reduce your risk of injury and stress you place on your body.
Your pace for a long runs should be steady pace, which is a very easy pace, fully relaxed with breathing only slightly elevated. If you can talk whilst you are running along, you’re at the right effort. A common mistake is to run too fast or at a pace you are ‘used to’, but it’s important to vary your effort level in your sessions.
Running at a pace which is too fast will set you up for disaster on race day - you may feel great for 4-6 weeks but as training progresses you will fatigue, get body aches and your performance will begin to suffer.
Take on fuel
Hydration and proper fuelling are key to successful training will help you complete your long runs feeling strong.
If you’re out running for fewer than 75 minutes, you can usually rely on water taken before you run and your body’s own glycogen stores from a healthy diet to carry you along. For runs over 75 minutes, you begin to deplete glycogen stores and hydration levels which can leave you feeling fatigued, and unmotivated.
Fuelling at regular intervals and before you need to during your long run is a good habit to get into whilst training and will keep your blood sugar steady. A general guide is to take on 30-60
grams of carb per hour to keep your glycogen stores topped up and 170 ml of fluids every 15 minutes - you can do this with chews, gels, or sports drinks.
Try a variety of foods and fuelling habits throughout your training plan to find what works best for you. It’s also important to select foods that you enjoy, and that you know your digestive system tolerates well, because your mood and comfort will affect your performance.
But most importantly, practise your fuel and hydration strategy - you shouldn’t try anything new on race day!