When people ask me what I love about running, one of my first answers is always the long run. I, along with most long distance runners, have a continuing love-hate relationship with the long run. Running long distances pushes my body outside of its comfort zone, to points of exhaustion, pain, and mental instability. But at the same time, long runs leave me feeling proud, accomplished, high on endorphins, and excited like none other.
Long distance running brings about some inconceivable highs. Increasing long run mileage each week is what brings so many runners back – to see their progress, challenge themselves and experience those mental and physical battles.
As long distance running continues to grow more popular, I am excited to hear more and more runners experiencing the same joy as myself. Completing those long distances not only makes us better runners, but makes us better and stronger in many other aspects throughout our lives.
If you are challenging yourself to long distance running and wondering how to improve, these game changing tips will be just what you need. These long distance running tips will help you run longer without getting tired, increase your mental strength, and discover the beauty in every long run.
10 Game Changing Tips for Long Distance Runners
Break each run into sections.
Nothing feels more intimidating than knowing you have a long run ahead of you. Running out half way and turning around sometimes makes the run feel like it is dragging on. Break your run up into sections, both mentally and physically. For a 16 mile run, break it up into four sections of 4 miles, rather than two sections of 8. Run out a few miles in one direction and then switch it up for the next section. Finding a way to keep these sections different will help you mentally break down the distance and feel confident in your ability to accomplish it.
No matter how “slow” you feel like your regular running pace is, make sure to slow it down for your long runs. The purpose of long distance running is just that – to run long distances. Focus on the length of the run rather than the speed at which you complete it. Take your time, don’t push yourself, and enjoy the miles.
Related: What Speed Means to Me
Mentally prepare yourself.
The best way to set yourself up for failure is to think you are heading out for a really long run that will take forever. Starting your run with that attitude will only make it feel impossible. Mentally prepare yourself for the distance – tell yourself anything you need to make the run feel possible and manageable. Maybe you only have to run your usual 4 mile run four times, or you’ll just be gone for the length of a movie. Whatever helps make it feel like a breeze!
Take walk breaks when you need them.
If you are really struggling, allow yourself to take walk breaks when you need them. Remember that the point of long distance running is to get in those long distances – not to run fast. Break each mile up into a section of running and a section of walking if you need to, or plan a walk break at each quarter of the run. Don’t get down on yourself if you need to walk. Walking is sometimes the best way to increase your distance for the first time! 16 miles is still 16 miles whether you walk or run.
I can’t say this enough: complete your long runs outside. There is nothing more miserable than being stuck on a treadmill for hours at a time! Staring at the same scenery for that long feels incredibly dreadful – not to mention the fact that the treadmill never lets you run across different terrain or up and down hills. If there is no trail or running route near your house, designate some time to drive to a nearby trail. Fresh air and beautiful scenery will make those long distances fly by quickly!
Plan a reward.
If you’re struggling to stay motivated during your running, plan a reward that makes completing those miles worth it. Maybe your reward is as simple as a cool shower after a hot run, or a slice of pizza and binge watching your favorite show. Plan your favorite activity or meal to coincide with those days you have a long run. Running longer distances means you will be more tired and hungry after each run, so use this to your advantage.
Take strength training seriously.
One of the biggest reasons long distance running feels challenging is because those weak spots surface as the wear and tear on your body increases. Running longer distances requires more strength, so you may suddenly find some random aches and pains appearing that you have never noticed before. These pains are a sign of weakness, and the only way to fix it is to increase your strength. Designate one day per week to focus on strength training and it will pay off in the long run – literally.
Download this 30 Day Strength Training Challenge for Runners (for free!) to stay injury free. This challenge maps out 5-10 minutes of strength training moves to complete each day to stay strong and healthy!
Experiment with nutrition and fueling.
No two people are the same, which means that the one type of fuel at those aid stations may not actually work for you. Start experimenting with fuel types early on in your training, even before you are running long distances. Practice carb loading for long runs, or find alternative meals that keep you fueled for those long runs the next day. If one type of fuel makes your stomach feel queasy or leaves you with GI distress, try something else.
Find somewhere you love to run.
Give yourself something to look forward to with each of those long runs! As your mileage increases, you’ll need a longer running path. Explore your area or drive to some local trails to check them out. Find trails by water, through the woods, or in beautiful areas. Run in scenery that makes you happy and excited to get running.
Set micro goals for each long run.
Sometimes the distance of your long run sounds impossible to complete. When the distance feels really long, set micro goals for yourself along the way. Run a mile without walking, get to the halfway point, enjoy your running fuel, or just get back to the shade. These goals help you feel accomplished as you go, especially when the total distance feels far off.
The challenge that comes with long distance running is what makes it feel so exhilarating. Knowing that very few people are strong enough to conquer these types of long runs brings a sense of well-deserved pride to every long distance runner.
Whether you have been completing long runs for years or are just beginning to increase your mileage, make sure to take a second to appreciate everything you have accomplished. Long distance running is a sport unlike any other, requiring rare mental strength. Be sure to celebrate the successes and learn from each struggle.