Long distance running sounds intimidating when you’re first beginning. When a mile or two feels like a struggle, it’s hard to imagine that running double digit mileage could ever feel normal.
However, running long distances can actually come naturally with the right training.
How to run long distances?
Ah, the golden question.
Most runners find themselves wanting to run longer distances as they begin to build fitness. After a few months of consistent training, running feels easier and completing longer distances starts to sound more realistic.
But although it sounds less far fetched, trying to actually run longer can bring its fair share of struggles.
Adding even a single mile to your weekly long run for the first time can feel nearly impossible.
However, once you begin to run long distances on a regular basis, each long run sounds and feels a little less intimidating.
Long distance running involves consistency.
In order to run long distances without getting tired, you’ll have to be consistent in your training. Heading out for a 20 mile run feels a lot easier after consistently completing long runs of 14, 16, and 18 miles the month before.
On the other hand, heading out to run 20 miles after taking three weeks off is bound to feel miserable.
Many new runners surprise themselves with the love they develop for the sport and the drive they feel to improve. As a mile starts to feel easier, you’ll probably set out to run your first 5k.
Whether you’re hoping to train for a distance race, wanting to increase your mileage, or simply hoping to get in better shape – long distance running provides many benefits.
Becoming a better distance runner is a lifelong process.
Long distance running helps cultivate a unique sense of accomplishment. Challenging yourself to long runs each week helps create both mental and physical strength that can translate to just about any area of your life.
Learning how to run long distances is just the beginning. Spend time increasing your stamina to complete your long runs without getting tired, and before you know it you’ll be conquering goals that once felt impossible.
As long distance running continues to grow in popularity, we find more and more opportunities to practice our sport. These 10 tips for long distance runners will help you run farther, easier and enjoy every moment.
10 Tips for Long Distance Running
Break each long run into sections.
Nothing feels more intimidating than knowing you have a long run ahead of you. Running out half way and turning around usually makes the run feel like it is dragging on.
Instead, try breaking your run up into sections, both mentally and physically.
For example, a 16 mile run can be broken up into four 4 mile runs, rather than two sections of 8. Try running a four 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.
Run long runs slowly.
The purpose of long distance running is just that – to run long distances.
If you want to run long distances without getting tired, 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.
Prepare for the mental battle of long distance.
The best way to set yourself up for failure is to think negative thoughts before you even begin. One of the worst things you can do before a long run is to tell yourself that you are heading out for a really long run and it will take forever.
Retraining your brain and focusing on a positive mindset is key to surviving long distance.
Starting your run with a negative 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 running for the length of a movie. Whatever helps make it sound a little easier!
Run/walk when you need to.
If you are really struggling, allow yourself to take walk breaks when you need them. Using a run/walk method is a great way to run longer distances without getting tire the first time.
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.
Take your long run outside!
I can’t say this enough: if at all possible, 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, allow for some extra time to drive to a nearby trail. Those extra minutes or hours you spend traveling to a beautiful trail will help the miles fly by – and be greatly worth it.
Plan a reward for your run.
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 while 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 it is just that: hard.
Running long distances is a physically challenging feat, one which quickly displays any weaknesses you may have been able to hide before.
More mileage requires more strength, so you may suddenly find some random aches and pains appearing that you have never noticed before. These pains show off your weak spots, serving as a vivid reminder for the importance of building 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 exercises for you to complete each day in order to stay strong and healthy!
Prioritize nutrition and fueling.
No two people are the same, which means that you can’t count on your friend’s mid-run fuel or the snacks provided at aid stations to work for your body.
Start experimenting with mid-run fuel sources early on in your training, even before you are running long distances.
Practice carb loading for long runs, and find healthy pre-run snacks that keep you fueled for those long runs. If one type of fuel makes your stomach feel queasy or leaves you with GI distress, try something else.
In addition, focus on maintaining a healthy diet and drinking enough water each day. Long distance running means you are expending quite a few extra calories each week, making proper fueling essential.
Find somewhere you love to run.
Give yourself something to look forward to with each of those long runs! As you begin running longer distances, 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 neighborhoods. 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.
Decide that you want to run the first mile without walking, get to the halfway point without stopping, enjoy your running fuel, or just make it back to the shade. These goals help you feel accomplished as you go, especially when the long distance feels like a stretch.
Long distance running is rewarding.
The challenge that comes with running long distances 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 time 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.