With racing season quickly approaching, runners everywhere are starting to really dig deep to complete those weekend long runs. Each week brings a new distance on the training plan – one that felt impossible just a few weeks ago.
Whether your weekly long run involves finishing 8 miles for the first time or completing the final 20 miler of marathon training, we can all relate to the amount of physical and mental energy involved with completing the “long run”.
When training for a half or full marathon, the long run becomes a staple in the training plan. Increasing your long run distance each week is key to adequately preparing to complete any sort of distance race.
However, these long runs can sometimes feel grueling. Just about every distance runner knows the feeling of completing a run and feeling mentally and physically spent. These runs challenge us to complete distances that felt may feel impossible even as we begin.
While long runs are meant to challenge your body, they don’t have to feel miserable. It is possible to finish a long run feeling strong and capable, rather than tired and spent.
I know personally what a toll these long runs can take on your body and am no strange to the feeling of utter exhaustion after a long run. It wasn’t until I was training for my fifth marathon when I finally completed a long run feeling strong.
This experience changed me as a runner. It taught me the importance of mental attitude, preparation, proper fueling and breaking up the distance. Through trial and error, I’ve learned tricks that have drastically revitalized my long runs.
I went from completing a 16 mile run feeling sluggish, weak and bored, to finishing an 18 miler the following week feeling on top of the world. I love using mental tricks to break up the distance and help it feel manageable.
These 10 strategies have helped me have some of my best long runs ever. Whether you’re just contemplating the idea of signing up for a half or full marathon, or are just weeks away from race day, the 10 long run tips will set you up for success.
10 Tips for Your Best Long Run Ever
Don’t dwell on it!
Putting too much focus on an upcoming long run can really stress yourself out. Obsessing about the upcoming distance won’t make it any more meaningful. In fact, it may take away some of the benefits from your current runs.
If you’re nervous about an upcoming long run, acknowledge the fact that it is a long distance and then take the week one day at a time. Plan to prepare for your long run the night before, and try to avoid thinking about it until then. Focus on completing your weekly runs, speed workouts and cross training.
Incorporate yoga and stretching before your long run.
Making a point to go easy on the cross training and add a few extra recovery stretches will help your body prepare for the upcoming long run. There is nothing worse that starting a long run feeling tired and sore from the beginning.
Schedule your workouts to include an easy run or workout the day before your long run, such as yoga. Planning to go easy on your body the day before will help keep your muscles loose and fresh, so you have plenty of energy as you begin your long run.
This Recovery Yoga Routine is a great option the day before a long run!
Focus on hydration leading up to your long run.
Even if you try to drink water like crazy the morning of your long run, your body still won’t feel as good as if you’d been drinking water consistently in the few days leading up to it.
Dehydration plays a significant role in your running performance. If you find yourself feeling sluggish on a majority of your easy runs, chronic dehydration may be to blame. Make a point to focus on your water in take in the few days leading up to your long run. Swap the sodas and alcohol for a water to really prepare for your best long run ever.
Try a shakeout run the day or two before.
It may sound counter-intuitive to run the day before a long run, but oftentimes completing a few easy, slow miles can help keep your muscles loose, flush out leftover lactic acid and mentally prepare you for the long run ahead.
The key to a successful shakeout run is completing it slowly. You’ll likely need to slow down even more than during a regular, weekly easy run. Remind yourself that these miles serve the purpose to help your body relax, and are not a time to gain fitness. If you’re nervous about an upcoming long run, completing a short shakeout run the day before may help ease the nerves and provide a healthy distraction.
Don’t be afraid to eat a late night snack the night before.
I am a true believer in the benefits of establishing a healthy routine, but the night before a long run I always make a point to consume a late night snack. Whether it’s popcorn or ice cream, I make sure to consume a decent amount of calories before heading to bed.
The extra sugar and carbs provides fuel for my body the next morning on the run, and helps avoid mid-run hunger. It’s a nice excuse to indulge a bit too – there’s no need to feel guilty knowing these calories will quickly be burned away in the morning.
Fuel up with plenty of carbs at breakfast.
Finding a pre-run meal is key for any runner’s long run success. Everybody is different, so finding a breakfast or snack that your body responds well to may take a bit of experimentation. However, the guidelines remain the same for everyone: eat more and eat carbs.
Don’t plan to have your usual yogurt cup and then head out to run 18 miles. You’ll need to take in significantly more fuel if you want to have the energy to make it through your long run. Try a bagel, sandwich, toast, waffle, pancakes, or any other carb-heavy meal. Carbs provide a quick source of energy for your body that is easily digestible on the run.
Take in fuel before you feel hungry on the run!
Don’t wait until you feel hungry to fuel during your run. Make a plan to take in fuel after a certain amount of time or distance, rather than waiting for your body to respond. By the time you feel hungry, it’s likely too late.
Staying ahead of the game with your fueling will help ensure you have plenty of energy to continue. Your muscles need those sugars to continue, and lack of energy may cause them to cramp up or feel heavy. Take in fuel consistently throughout your long run to feel your best the entire time.
–>My absolute favorite long run fuel is the Honey Stinger Waffle. It goes down easily on the move and tastes amazing!
Break up the distance of your long run.
This mental trick has been a game-changer in my training. Rather than heading out and back for an 18 miler, I broke up the distance and ran three 6 milers. Instead of heading out for 9 miles and turning around, I went out for 3 three different times. This works especially well if you have the option of running multiple directions.
This simple strategy helps break up the monotony of the long run, makes the distance feel much more achievable, and keeps your mind fresh and focused throughout the run. Since incorporating this strategy my long runs have felt significantly more manageable each week! This is magic.
Run with someone or talk on the phone during your run.
My mom has always been my long run buddy, even before she started training for marathons herself. We try to meet up for long runs as often as possible, but usually this is just not possible. When we can’t get together, we talk on the phone through headphones and run at the same time.
Having the distraction of a conversation with someone else helps those miles really fly by. If you’re able to talk to someone while they are running too, it provides a little extra motivation to continue and push through those tough moments.
Run by feel and not by pace – don’t be afraid to walk.
When I’m feeling really nervous, I always remind myself that 18 miles is 18 miles – whether I walk or run. Reminding myself that I will be successful no matter what pace I go is helpful when I am beginning a long run that feels daunting.
The purpose of a long run is to complete the distance, not run at a certain pace. Your long runs should always be completed at an easy pace. Take breaks when you need them, and remember that pushing yourself too much may actually harm your training rather than help. Be proud of yourself for finishing regardless of your pace!
I am a firm believer that anybody can run a marathon, half marathon, or whatever distance of which you’ve been dreaming. Our bodies are so incredible, and distance running is about so much more than race day. The process of getting there is the true accomplishment, and the journey teaches us so much about ourselves.
Looking for more tips? Check out these articles:
- How to Recover Quickly from a Long Run
- 10 Game Changing Tips for Long Distance Running
- How to Train for a Marathon and Still Have a Life
- How to Overcome the Mental Battle in a Long Run
- How to Progress from a Half to Full Marathon