What is a long distance run?
Some avenues of thought are that a long distance run is some percentage, 50%-100%, greater than your normal running distances. If you are a normal 5K runner then you might be looking for a 10K race. A half-marathon runner will likely be looking for a marathon distance to train and race for. Prepare, Train, and Run are categories to set yourself up will a plan of action to get to your goal of long distance. Below are those areas and some tips for running long distances.
Prepare for the Run
This entire experience will be a mental game and it can become overwhelming. Don’t psych yourself out; let the anxiety out. Find a level of comfort through preparing your mind and set yourself at ease with a plan that, with dedication, will result in success.
- Why are you going for a long distance? Make sure you are doing this for yourself – your physical and/or mental health. Or are you potentially pushing yourself to support a loved one or a charitable organization? Use this as your motivation from the first day of training up to and during the race.
- Think positively about the distance and your ability to complete along this entire path. Get others to support you in your journey and help you with the task of positive thinking.
Set yourself a weekly workout routine with the distance and back into your training. Try to only build on your normal run length by 10-15% per each week of training. Note that you will likely not be able to mimic larger distances at a race pace, as recovery will need to be taken into consideration. Keep with your current cross training activities and rest days, but don’t overwhelm yourself. As your runs start approaching 150% of normal lengths, you will likely have to offset by eliminating cross training activities and potentially removing some completely.
Diet and Nutrition will be integral when increasing activity levels. If you already aren’t balancing diet and exercise, this may be a good place to start. Applications, like My Fitness Pal by Under Armour, can provide you with an easy tracking tool to make sure you are getting a good balance of nutrients and macros (Carbs/Fats/Proteins).
Train for the Run
The best course of action when training for a longer run is to get as close to race day environment and pace as possible. If there is opportunity to run the race course during your training, this should be considered. This will get you acclimated to the terrain, challenges and mileage markers along the course.
Make sure to stretch before and after each run. Give more attention to those tight muscles; use temperature therapy if needed. If pain occurs, consult your doctor if pain sticks around for two consecutive running days; rest and do not continue training without this step. Most people know when something isn’t right, so listen to your body.
Longer distance race paces will need more recovery time upon completion of the race. Some believe that 1 day rest for a 5K, 2 days rest for a 10K, then a day recovery for every mile afterward. If you are not racing an all out race for time or place, then these recovery days can be modified, but a recovery plan will need to be set as this will be important to prevent issues when getting back to your normal workout routine.
Train with the gear that you will be using on race day. Don’t get all new shoes and attire for the race, risking the potential of being uncomfortable during your long run. This is especially true for your running shoes as you will be training with worn shoes which are far different from brand new. Plan to bring enough gear to have changes of clothing, shoes, laces; elements and weather may be different from what you were anticipating.
Stick to the plans of Diet and Exercise that you had laid out while preparing.
During the Run
I know when I’m running I can mentally defeat myself into stopping for a shorter distance. But on the flip side those mile markers are just stepping stones to the end game. Break the race down into sections and congratulate yourself for progress along the run. You have experience running and you know how to do it. If it were easy, it wouldn’t be as rewarding.
Do you like to listen to music or soundscapes when running? This can be a very beneficial tool to keeping your mind away from focusing on the exhaustion or pain from the task at hand. In preparation for the run, make yourself a playlist for the run. Give yourself upbeat music during any challenging sections of the race.
Hydrate just enough throughout the race and then fully hydrate after the race. It will also be important to restore muscles with protein and restore energy with carbs. This should be done within and hour of the end of the race.
Deciding to run longer distances is the first step at having the will to challenge yourself mentally and physically. Going through with the training and the race shows the determination. If this is your first longer distance challenge at such distance, don’t focus too much on speed and times. Let this be your framework for future runs where you can focus on speed and PR’s. Take note of those guidelines to help you in your continuation of running longer distances. Have a plan in your mind and get it documented to keep yourself focused throughout each run, day, week, and race. Knowing how well you are doing with daily run, exercise and food logs will help with this process.
If it were easy, it wouldn’t be as rewarding.