The long run is an important part of any training program. A long run teaches your body to burn fat as a fuel after your glycogen stores are running low. This is essential in a race because if your body can burn more fat you’ll have more fast glycogen stores in your muscles at the end of a race. A long run also teaches you how to run when tired, and it promotes the growth of new blood vessels. Aside from the physical benefits of a long run, I also think that there are mental benefits. If you can train your mind to stay concentrated over the course of a long run, which can last anywhere from 60 minutes to 2 hours, you should have no problem staying focused during the duration of a race. Here are some pointers about long runs.
How Many Miles for the Long Run
The common wisdom on a long run (for 5-10k distances) is that the mileage of the run should be, at the very least, 3 times your race distance. Therefore, for 5k racers, your long run should be around 9-10 miles. When I was in high school, I liked the 10 mile long run because it made it easy for me to figure out my pace (70 minutes = 7 minutes per mile pace). Also, when starting to do long runs, you should maybe start with 6 miles, then move up 1 mile each week to 9 or 10 miles. Running 10 miles without any build up puts you at risk for injury.
Keep in mind that for any talented junior or senior high school runner, running 9-10 miles for a long run should be a minimum. If you have any inclination to run in college, it’s important to realize that long runs for college athletes average anywhere from 12-16 miles.
Frequency of a Long Run
This really varies on how you feel. If you are feeling really tired and sluggish from workouts, you probably
shouldn’t go on a long 10 miler, but, rather, should settle for an easy 4 or 5 mile. I would say that 3 long runs a month would be a good rule of thumb. I also recommend that you take the day after easy, or completely off. A long run is taxing on the system, and you usually need a day to recover. Therefore, it might be a good idea to include the long run at the end of your week. Maybe run it on Saturday and take Sunday off. And don’t go more than one long run a week!
Speed of the Long Run
The pace of your long run depends on your level of fitness. However, keep in mind that distance, not speed, is the important aspect of a long run. Try to keep your pace such that you could easily carry on a conversation with someone running next to you.
A Long Run in Marathon Trainng
The long run is perhaps the most important workout that you will do in your marathon training. A long run teach not only your muscles how to handle the long marathon distance, but it also conditions your mind to focus for such a long period of time. The general rule of thumb is that those training for marathons should work up to at least 2 or 3 long runs of 20 miles. It is also important that marathoners use the long run to experiment with taking energy gels during long runs. As discussed in the carbohydrate section, marathoners really need to take energy gels during their races to prevent “hitting the wall.”
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