the anatomy of the long run

Wednesday: rest day/kickball

Thursday: 5 mile tempo run

Friday: strength training (at the gym)

Saturday: 12 mile run

In my last post, I said I wanted to talk about hills next, but I need to get a few more hill runs under my belt before I blog about them.

Let’s talk about the long run instead.

Most marathoners would agree it’s the most important run of race training, and it’s the one run of the week that I’m trying not to miss. If I miss a 4- or 5-miler, I can make it up in weight training or a boot camp class. But there’s really nothing that can substitute being on your feet (and in your head) for the couple hours of the long run.

I’ve been trying to break my long runs into quarters:

  1. Warm up – I use the first 2-3 miles of the long run to warm up my legs. I don’t pay attention to my pace, and I try to, well, pretend I’m not really running. I look around at the scenery, create a mental map of where I want to run and just try to relax.
  2. Kick it up – I like to imagine the run really starts here, around mile 3 (or 4 or 5, for even longer runs). Generally I’m allowing myself to run slow and steady for the entire long run, but I do try to take it up a notch after the warmup. At this point, the cobwebs are cleared out of my legs, and I’m trying to get into a good rhythm.
  3. Mix it up – By mile 6 or 7, I’m starting to get fatigued, both physically and mentally. Now’s the time I begin to feel a little tightness in my hip or knee, and while it’s usually something I can address with a small form adjustment, it messes with me mentally. (Uh oh, am I over training? Can I handle today’s run?) So I mix it up in this section of the run: by doing a loop around a park, quickening my pace for a block & then slowing down, changing my playlist. As long as it’s something unplanned and spontaneous (well, as spontaneous as you can be while running), it tends to help these miles go by.
  4. Home free – When I’ve got 2-3 miles left, I tell myself I’m on the home stretch. You can do anything for 20 minutes. If I’ve got energy to spare, I’ll try to race the last couple miles, or at least pick up the pace. I’m finding that every long run feels more and more mentally rewarding. No matter how slow I’ve gone, it just feels good to conquer them.

And it also help to wear neon from head to toe:

long run

Some other important reminders for the long run:

  • Don’t be afraid to stop and stretch. You won’t compromise your endurance if you stop. In fact, you’ll likely hurt yourself if you feel tightness and don’t address it. Use stoplights as stretching points, or plan a couple stretching breaks at different mileage markers.
  • Bring water. I run with this Nathan belt, and I’ve started to realize that it’s not enough water for runs longer than 10 miles. I thinking of getting this hand-held bottle, or maybe even running with my Camelbak that I usually wear for hiking. It’d likely be a little awkward to run with something on my back, but staying hydrated is so, so important. Don’t want to feel nauseous for the rest of the day? Bring water on your run.
  • Eat before and during. I really want to scold folks who say they can’t eat before working out. Look, we’re not talking about polishing off a plate of pancakes and bacon. We’re talking about fuel. Have a 200-300 calorie snack. I like peanut butter on an apple,  a scoop of almond butter and a protein bar, or almonds and dried cranberries. If I’m going to be out for more than 70 minutes, I’ve started bringing jelly beans, Clif shot gels or fruit leathers. I’ll snack just after the midway point. It provides a boost of energy, and it breaks up the run, too.

What about you? Any long run tips & tricks to share?


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