The good thing about marathon training is that the term “long run” changes the farther you progress in your training. Before you considered training for a marathon, running 10 miles probably sounded somewhat nuts. Now it almost counts as an easy day.
The bad news is that just because the term long run has a new definition, doesn’t mean the miles will automatically fly by. Some days they will. But there will also be long runs that feel like they are taking f-o-r-e-v-e-r. You may even want to poke your eyes out from boredom and hang up your running shoes for life. Yet, you keep running, and in the process develop the mental toughness needed to carry you to the finish line.
Since “good for you” can be hard work, check out my 10 tips for making long runs the highlight of your week.
Plan for a day that works best for you, where you will be well rested and can devote a few hours to running.
Pick a new/favorite route
Plan a long run route that you will really enjoy. Even if it means hopping in your car early in the morning to drive to your favorite trail, putting in a little effort to plan ahead and pick an enjoyable location can make all the difference.
Run with a friend
Running with a friend or group makes the time pass much quicker. You have time to talk about everything including all the fun #RunnersProblems we experience.
Listen to music
I very rarely listen to music when I run outside (on the treadmill it’s a whole different story). But when I do, it keeps me entertained for those middle miles when the ‘newness’ of the run is gone and the finish line is still far away.
Break up the miles
Don’t focus on the final mileage goal. Instead break it up into smaller segments at a time. I’ve done a 14-miler with the first four at easy pace, the next six at race pace and the last four easy. It makes the long run go by quickly because you are focused on the segment instead of the entire distance.
Take it easy
Weekly long runs are generally done at a somewhat easier pace than something like a six-mile tempo run. In addition to spending time on your feet, longer efforts help your body learn how to use glycogen and burn fat stores, as well as develop efficiencies needed when running for a long period of time.
Imagine what it is going to be like on marathon day. What will you wear? How will you feel? How will you get yourself out of a funk at mile 11 or 18? Visualizing yourself running the race prepares you for different race day scenarios.
Whether it’s gummy bears, Salted Caramel GU Energy Gel or Clif Bar Margarita Shot Bloks, having something to eat for fuel during your run that actually tastes good can make all the difference. You’ll actually want to keep running longer just to have another shot of the sweet stuff.
Make post-run plans with friends
Make a date with friends for coffee, brunch, lunch or something that is fun. Just think of how you can impress everyone that you already ran a lot of miles before meeting up!
The long run does more than build up your endurance—it builds up your mental strength even more so. During these runs, think of positive mantras that will keep you going no matter how tough the situation. Also, give yourself a pat on the back. Yes, it’s tough, but think how strong you feel, look at how far you’ve come in your training and remember how close you are to your goal!