The long run is often noted as one of the vital training runs to not only build a base but to increase your mileage. It can be intimidating as you’re looking at your training plan wondering how you’re ever going to get the stamina to get to 14-16 mile runs.
But you can do it. With some of the points I’ve picked up along the way – you’ll be on the road to topping your weekly mileage. You might be running 6 miles todays and
1. Don’t look ahead
It seems counter-intuitive but if you’re looking ahead in your training plan to a distance run you haven’t hit yet – it can become a mental barrier. You may be mid-run of a 6 mile run today. If you’re struggling, your mind starts to question your manhood (gender neutral) on how you’re expected to run 12 miles in 2 weeks.
Focus on today’s goals. Think about how far you’ve come in running and not how far you have to go.
2. Check your pace
80-90 percent of your training runs should be in Zone 2 of your maximum heart rate. Zone 2 is typically 60-70 percent of your maximum heart rate. If you’re not using a heart rate monitor when you run, focus on a pace that you are sure you will be able to maintain for an extended duration. This can be anywhere from 2-3 minutes slower than your 5k race pace.
Humans have this intrinsic nature to focus on numbers. The error in beginning runners is focusing on speed and their time. We want to see results and see them now. Focus on new distance goals and the speed/pace will come. Another bad tendency is that we think others are watching us and judging. It’s why your pace will likely pick up when you come across a stranger on a bike trail. Stop it. Run so slow they think you’re a running mime and be comfortable with it.
3. Give me Fuel, Give me Fire
As you start to increase your distances, you’ll need to remember your high school or college biology classes. Takes notes as there will be a quiz. Food contains macro nutrients. They’re called macro because the body requires these to function. Carbohydrates. Lipid/Fats. Proteins. In the interest of brevity, these are fuels, provide cell health, and build muscle.
Use your long distance runs to experiment and tweak your fueling strategy. See how your body handles running on certain foods. Marathoners or other endurance runners will “carb-load” prior to a race to increase availability during the actual race. If you’re eating a double cheeseburger, it’ll likely carry over to your run the next day and not in a good way. Make sure your fueling before a run with good carb heavy foods (bagel and peanut butter, OJ, oatmeal etc). If you starting to run beyond an hour start to incorporate fuel into your actual run. This requires some planning to carry Gu gel packs or chews. Fuel in anticipation of needing it, not as a reaction to your current state.
Of equal importance is hydration. Water. Make sure your drinking at least 80 ounces of water everyday and particularly 2-3 days before your run. Hydrate during your run as well. Run laps so you can stop at your car or a water fountain. Join a running club who setup water stations on training runs. Or invest in a belt which carries water bottles. Again, drink even though you’re not thirsty. Be proactive and not reactive.
4. Break it down into Smaller Segments
Is it easier to know you have to put together an entire car or are only responsible for getting the tires on? Think of your run as specialized or broken down into smaller parts like an assembly line producing a car. It’s easier to focus on completing this 3-mile segment I’m running than focusing on the whole 12-miles you’re doing today. The benefits of running on a trail or outside vs. the treadmill are that you can create landmarks. Focus on the treadmill or tree up the road as your next goal. When you reach it, scope an object ahead to use in the same manner. I guess if you’re on a treadmill you can focus on the lady on the treadmill ahead of you. But this may get you kicked out and you will never actually reach that target which can be deflating.
There are other things you can do like repeating mantras or taking breaks. The key is to find what works for you. That is why running logs and food diaries become useful so you can document what you ate that led to that personal best distance run and repeat, repeat, repeat.
Is there something you’ve found that helped on your distance runs?