Running Tips: 8 Tips for Mastering the Long Run

Ahh, the long run. A staple of any distance runner’s training plan, the one weekly workout you shouldn’t skip in marathon training and either the love of your life, or the bane of your existence (there’s no in between!).

Running Tips - Mastering the Long Run. Whether you love to run long, or distance running is a necessary evil for you, check out these 8 tips to make your next long run a successful workout in your training program!

Whether you love it or hate it, it’s usually tough, especially when you get up past double-digit mileage. Sometimes I think that just looking ahead in your training plan a few weeks and seeing a distance casually placed on a weekend that you know you’d have no chance of completing if you were trying it today, is enough to overwhelm you ahead of time.

I’m firmly in the love it camp. I relish the big chunk of alone time I get when I’m running long. I love getting it done early and knowing I’ve accomplished a big goal for the day. I enjoy planning the route out and finding somewhere new to explore for part of the distance. And even though I definitely like long running, it’s still hard. It’s still overwhelming. It still requires a few tricks up my sleeve to make it really count as a quality workout.

So today I’m sharing with you my tried and true 8 Tips for Mastering the Long Run today, as part of the Running Tips series. These have all worked for me and made me love the long run more – hopefully they’ll do the same for you!

Running Tips - Mastering the Long Run. Whether you love to run long, or distance running is a necessary evil for you, check out these 8 tips to make your next long run a successful workout in your training program!

1. Break it up, baby. No, I’m not talking about splitting one long run into two segments on the same day (although some people swear by this technique). I mean split up that run to make it seem manageable before you even get started. Let’s say you have a 15 mile run to tackle. An easy way to approach it is in thirds – three 5 milers. Now, think of each 5 mile run as a separate workout. You could have a different goal pace for each segment, or have a different place to run for each third. Even think about planning a different focus for each – like the first 5 miles is about breathing, settling into your pace, enjoying the scenery. The second can be working on your form and checking in with your body, making little adjustments. The third section could be on pace and gradually increasing your pace at the point when your body is most tired.

2. Speaking of pace, get negative. Training long runs are the perfect opportunity to nail the negative split. Especially if you’re someone who often makes the mistake of going out too fast at the beginning of a race and suffering at the end, getting used to negative splits in training will be key to overcoming this common slip-up. Whether you mentally split the run into two splits, three, or even each mile, really focus on gradually increasing your pace as the run progresses. Here are three ways I approached the long run as a negative split workout when training for both the marathon and half marathon distance:

  • The rule of thirds (I like splitting it in three, what can I tell you?!): First third easy pace, second third medium pace, last third medium-hard pace.
  • Fastest last mile (this works best with shorter long runs): Run at your regular long run pace throughout, then run your last mile fast. Make it your fastest mile split. It is a great boost mentally to know you have that energy left at the end of a long run.
  • Gradual speed increase. This requires a lot of either concentration on your RPE (if you are aware enough of how your pace ascribes to how you feel), or checking in with your Garmin or GPS at least every mile. Each mile should be slightly faster than the one preceding it. Try taking off a couple of seconds each mile for long long runs, or bigger chunks of time each mile for shorter long runs. Just do some quick math before you head out to ensure your overall pace for the entire run will still fall into the right pace range for your overall racing goal.

3. Practice Race Day. I know you’ve heard this advice in a thousand different iterations before. That’s because it’s excellent advice. Your long run is a weekly chance to ensure that everything will be as practiced and natural as possible on race day. Things to think about experimenting with in the early long runs, then having down pat towards the end of your training cycle include: clothing – test out race outfit options on your long run days; fueling; hydrating; PRE-fueling and hydrating (what works for breakfast the day of your run and what works as the night before fuel as well). You can even practice key elements of the race course if you want to get crazy. If there are hills at mile 10 of the race elevation, then incorporate hills at that point in your long runs once you get to that distance.

4. But remember, every long run doesn’t have to be a replica of race day. For example, I’ve never raced with music, but once I get above 12 miles for a long run in my training, I need my iPod with me. I know that the spectators, atmosphere, fellow runners and excitement of the actual event will mimic the distraction training music provides.

5. Think about the hardest part of your long run and make it better. Is it hard for you to just start, feeling overwhelmed at the distance? Do you flag in the middle, when you know you’re only halfway? Or is it the last few miles, when you just want to be done already? Plan accordingly for those mental blocks. Organize a friend to run that portion with you, even if it’s just a mile. Create your playlist so your favorite, motivating music comes on just at the right moment, or start using music or a podcast just for that part when you want to quit. Ask friends to text/tweet/message you at a certain time and take a quick walk break to soak in the support before tackling your nemesis. Bonus: Do the same for race day, even if it’s just organizing your spectators to be at certain points on the race course when you already know you’ll need the boost.

Running Tips - Mastering the Long Run. Whether you love to run long, or distance running is a necessary evil for you, check out these 8 tips to make your next long run a successful workout in your training program!

6. Use the long run as a chance to check in with your body. It’s so easy to get caught up in pace and fueling and just slogging through the mileage. A great way to make sure you’re staying healthy and running your best is to use the longer time and distance to pay attention to what’s going on physically. When you’re tired, what happens to your form? What corrections can you make that work to keep you running strong and pain-free? How does your breathing affect the way you run, or your effort level? Get to know your body’s signals and how to improve throughout the workout.

7. Practice mantras. Having a mantra to push you through the hard parts of a workout or race can be a lifesaver (or a PR saver!). It doesn’t even need to be a whole motivational phrase. Sometimes just one word will be the motivation you need, or can repeat as a way of taking your mind off the pain. Experiment with what works for you, in terms of what to say to yourself and when you need to be giving yourself the mantra pep talk.

8. Have a post long-run ritual – one you wouldn’t want to miss. Yes we all (hopefully) have our recovery rituals down pat – stretch, foam roll, refuel, throw on our super-cool and stylish compression socks. But have something you can look forward to on your long run days, whether it’s brunch with friends, catching up on your favorite TV shows as you stretch, taking a bath with a good book or a magazine, or making the night of your long run be take-out or restaurant night for dinner. Pick something that makes you feel indulgent and something you can really look forward to as you’re gritting your teeth through the last mile.

So, there you have it, my 8 best tips for mastering your next long run. Incorporating these tips into my long runs has definitely cemented my place in the love it camp – especially using pace as a tool. I used to just go out and try to hit a certain overall pace for the run, but breaking it up into segments of pace, or trying out negative pacing both really helped me tackle the long run as a workout rather than just a slog. Even so, remember that just like any workout in your training plan, sometimes you’re going to have a long run that just plain sucks. It feels bad, nothing you’ve planned seems to work, it’s a mental and physical drain. It happens and that’s okay, too! Remember, it’s the terrible runs that make the good ones that more magical.

What’s on your list of what works for making running long something you don’t dread? 

Do you love or loathe running long?

Have you tried something that definitely did NOT work for you?

Comments

  1. Great tips! The long run can be really intimidating, and its amazing how quickly you adjust to it. That always surprises me, that on the way up, 16 miles feels like forever, but before you know it, you are doing 20, and that doesn’t seem SO bad! You got almost all the tips I use. I also like to chose a route that means the last 6 miles are as uninterrupted as possible so I can just get in a rhythm and go ๐Ÿ™‚
    Tina Muir recently posted…Meatless Monday- Enchilada Quinoa BakeMy Profile

    • Carly Pizzani says:

      I can’t tell you how happy it makes me when you tell me you agree with anything in my running posts!! ๐Ÿ™‚ Makes me feel like a real runner. It’s true too, that all of a sudden in a training cycle you find yourself thinking 15 or 16 miles is not so bad and a 10 miler is a ‘short’ run. That’s always a great point in training, it can really up your confidence.

  2. I was actually just thinking about you and wonderingโ€ฆ

    I do love the long run and probably most of all because I run it with friends. Our post-long run ritual is always coffee together, provided I am not dashing off to a kids’ event. But I also love being out there for a long time–running is my jam!
    misszippy recently posted…Good day at the races (Cherry Blossom 10-miler)My Profile

    • Carly Pizzani says:

      I’ve never done a long run with friends! I used to run with friends for 5 or 6 miles, but honestly I’ve been a solo runner for such a long time now that it doesn’t really phase me. I feel like I’ve been noticing so many posts about group running and running with friends since the beginning of the year though, that maybe the universe is trying to tell me something and I should sign up for a group when I get back into it!

  3. You have seriously nailed it with these my friend! I’ve been doing long runs every weekend for months now and each of these has helped me. I also never race with music but I never do a long run without it. I can call Eminem or Brittany at will during a race and know each note ๐Ÿ™‚ I also always practice mantras – they seriously help and have gotten me though some very bad down times in very long races.
    Allie recently posted…The Rundown – Making AdjustmentsMy Profile

  4. Carly Pizzani says:

    Thanks, friend!! My running playlists are so bizarre, they’re a mix of stuff I would actually listen to in non-running life as well as stuff I download just for running – usually because of the pace of the song, or because it makes me feel badass when I’m running. I have a client whose running mix is the same and we’re always joking that we’d be horrified if someone thought that was what we listened to on the regular. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Great tips! I’d say I tolerate the long run. I don’t hate it but it isn’t love either. I definitely have to have my head in the game. I’m already thinking about when I’ll have to fire up marathon training runs again in June.
    Marcia recently posted…Loving/Not Loving and a GiveawayMy Profile

  6. Great tips!!
    I love running long:) I try not to think about how much distance/time is left until way past halfway!! Lately I’ve started celebrating each mile instead of focusing on the total!
    Kim recently posted…Living Without RegretsMy Profile

  7. I’m not a distance runner, but the thing that seems to work for me is telling myself I can do anything for [insert time] minutes. If I’m doing 20 seconds of burpees, I just tell myself, “You can do anything for 20 seconds.” And get it done!

  8. Great tips, especially for someone whos struggling with setting up the running routine!

  9. Nice read. This post is very informative. Back during my teenage years, I used to run on a race but only short distance. The longest I ran was only 10 kms. I can’t get the hang of it that’s why I can’t go any longer. Thanks for these tips. I might consider running a long distance this year.
    Sebastian recently posted…Best Yoga Shoes for Women: Perfect for Traveling YogisMy Profile

  10. I often run hill. Yes, i is great. To be able to run better, i get used to applied some of above tips. Glad to see your sharing! I like…

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