Recently a friend and I were reminiscing about the times we used to meet on a Sunday morning and run for two-and-a-half hours. I was running marathons at the time and long runs are a crucial part of such training.
There is no other race distance where one single session plays such a large part in the success or failure of the race.
One must get accustomed to running for very long periods of time and the mental toughness that you gain from completing long training runs pays off during the actual marathon.
The key aims of the long run is to increase your ability to burn fat, store more glycogen and to challenge the body and mind to continue running, even when you are tired. During a run we use carbohydrates and fats.
If you are like me, you will be surprised to discover that running the marathon is actually easier than training for it. You should try to gradually increase your long runs to 20 miles. With these sessions your legs will get very tired but will become stronger and better able to tolerate running for such long periods. You receive many benefits in marathon training only after you are tired and the body will grow stronger and more resistant to tiredness.
How long to run?
I really think people running sub three hours should do a long run of 20-22 miles. Someone who is running their first marathon doesn't need to run as far as that because they are running more slowly and will be on their feet for longer.
How fast to run?
Speed is of limited importance but you should aim to run a negative split in your long run, that is the second half marginally faster than the first. This is something you should also aim for in the marathon.
By following this plan in your long runs, you establish the discipline of going out slowly, rather than allowing the excitement to push you on at a pace you need later.
How many long runs?
If it is your first marathon it is probably best to do one or two 20-mile runs. Experienced marathon runners need to do between three to five, 18 to 22 miles in their preparation. These should be spaced out over many weeks. The danger of running too long, too often, can risk injury, burn-out and boredom. Practice whatever you intend to eat or drink during the marathon when you are doing your long runs.
I'd advise people to take a full rest day after their long run and you will recover quicker. You can also improve your long run recovery by making sure you are adequately hydrated. Immediately after a run, drink plenty and replenish lost muscle glycogen stores with carbohydrates and protein for repair.
Hopefully the weather will be in your favour while you head out the door for your long run.
Health & Living