The long run is the staple of the marathon training schedule. Completing them will give you blisters and/or aches, elation and/or pride, and confidence and/or anxiety when you think about how many extra miles you’ll have to add on to it to complete the marathon. Here are 7 tips to enjoy your long runs more.
Carb Load, Carb Maintain and Carb Replenish
If you haven’t already done so, have a read of this blog post, all about marathon nutrition and how to fuel (and refuel).
Run Somewhere Nice
Your long run is an opportunity for you to explore some beautiful local areas. If you want new route ideas, find a local running page on Facebook or Twitter and message the group asking for recommendations. Runners love to share tips!
To widen your choice of locations, consider driving to a different start and finish point. Do make sure you remember where you left the car though! Or get a bus or train somewhere and run home. I would do it this way rather than the other way round, as if the public transport is late or cancelled (I know it’s hard to believe but this does occasionally happen in the UK!) you could face a long wait whilst shivering, tired and hungry.
Consider a Two Lap Course
Instead of doing an 18 mile loop, how about two nine mile loops? The advantage of this is you get to call by at your house (or car if you’ve driven somewhere) and drop off clothing or pick up a water bottle or energy gel – thus reducing how much you have to carry. Two lap courses can feel psychologically easier, as it breaks up the run, and on the second lap you can start to mentally tick off landmarks as your brain realises how close you are to home.
Run With a Friend or a Podcast
I extolled the virtues of running with a podcast in our recent blog post about Running Technology. Running with a friend is another way of helping the miles pass more enjoyably. Chatting from the off means you are unlikely to start too quickly and your words of encouragement to each other will be a nice boost. Planning a joint long run also means that you are less likely to cancel or cut the run short. Having this kind of accountability mechanism in place can really help, especially in the colder, darker months!
Train Like a Kenyan – Start Slowly
Slow early miles will make the later miles easier. Even Kenyans do this. It’s worth trying to mirror their long run model on alternate long runs.
This is how you do it:
- For the first quarter start off at least a minute slower than target marathon pace
- In the second quarter, gradually pick up the pace so you hit halfway at marathon pace
- Run the third quarter at marathon pace
- During the fourth quarter, pick up your speed to half marathon pace
- Try and make your last mile your quickest mile. This will get you used to running fast with tired legs
Training this way is how the Kenyans can break the rest of the field in the last few miles and how you can avoid your pace slowing after 20 miles.
Note – If you find the last quarter too difficult, and you’re not running into the wind or uphill, you may need to rethink your target marathon pace.
Plan a reward for yourself for completing the long run and imagine yourself enjoying the reward when the going gets tough. For example, I often picture myself relaxing in a nice warm bath if the weather is bad. Alternatively, plan your long run to finish an hour or so before a football match, rugby match or TV programme you’re looking forward to, or plan a Netflix binge! Then you can imagine yourself enjoying watching it with your feet up and nice glass or mug of your favourite of drink – knowing that you completely deserve it.
Book in a Sports Massage
The marathon, rather than any individual training run, is the end point in the training process. As you extend your longest run, you’re taking your legs to places they’ve never been before and it’s important to keep them healthy so you can continue your training. Book a sports massage a day or two after any significant long run. This will relieve some of the stress your muscles have been under, get rid of some aches and help to keep potential injuries at bay.
This Marathon Nutrition blog post will make sure you’re fuelled well
Two lap courses can be psychologically easier and are an opportunity to drop off clothing and pick up water or energy gels
Alternate long runs between; starting slow, staying slow and focussing on time on your feet and starting slowly and gradually picking up the pace through the run
Make your long runs enjoyable – find somewhere with nice scenery and take a friend to talk to, even if that friend is on a bike
Plan your post-long run reward. Visualise yourself enjoying that reward when the going gets tough
Book a sports massage a day or two after a long run. Be nice to your legs so they get you through marathon training and the marathon itself