When it comes to marathon training, a long run is typically defined as a distance over 16 or 17 miles. Long runs (for marathon training) are normally between a distance of 17-21 miles with some runners going up to 22 miles for their long run (there are those that employ the walk-run technique that will walk-run 26 miles, or more, in training).
For someone just starting out in marathon training, the long run is often the most feared workout. It is a long period of time on the feet and it is a workout that you may never really know how it is going to go before you start. After you have been running for a while, the long run can become less feared and even enjoyed. Here are 5 great things about the long run.
5 Great Things About The Long Run
When I have a long run coming up (and my long runs are becoming longer and more frequent as I begin to hit the serious training period for my run around the world), I actually enjoy it and look forward to it as a time of relaxation.
The reason it is relaxing is because long runs are typically run at 10-20% slower (or 45-90 seconds slower) of a pace than your marathon goal pace. That means if you are shooting for a 3:30 marathon, your goal pace will be 8 minutes per mile. For a long run, your pace would most likely be between a 8:45 and a 9:30 minute pace per mile. If your target pace for a marathon is 8 minute/miles, running a 9:30 mile is really quite comfortable. Being able to go out for 20 miles at that pace can translate to a very relaxing time.
It is relaxing because I am pretty much cut off from communication (no computer, not on my phone, etc) and I am just able to take in my surroundings. A 3 hour run is plenty of time to unwind from the week and just get in a groove and enjoy one’s self. For me, relaxing is one of my favorite things about a long run.
Unless you run the same route all the time, a long run is a great time to explore a little bit. It gives you enough miles that you are able to go down a particular road/path without knowing where it is headed and still come back after a couple/few miles without messing up your planned run. Again, you are running the long run at a slower pace as well so it doesn’t matter if the terrain is not as conducive to training as for a speed workout.
Part of the unknown is finding hydration. I almost always run with only a 16oz bottle in my hand. Around here, there are enough small roadside stands where I can grab a cold bottle of water for 50 cents or less that I do not need a bigger bottle than that. Those stands are typically about 2-3 miles apart which is a good distance for me to go through most of my bottle on warmer days.
But, when you head down a different road, you will need to rely on the expectation that the town ahead is going to have some shop with water. On a recent long run, I went down a road since it said the town was only 4KM (2.5 miles) away. I knew I would need water when I got there so it was perfect. However, it was really a lot less than a “town” and there was nothing open so I was unable to get water. I had to keep going until I found a seaside restaurant and go in there to buy a bottle. Just part of the fun of the unknown!
This goes hand-in-hand with the relaxation bit – I like to listen to audiobooks. Hitting the long run is a great chance to get deep into an audiobook without feeling like I am missing too much of the theme jumping in and out of the story. Audiobooks tend to help the run go easier and it allows me to get something else done while I am running.
Running is a great way to help improve memory as it increases the blood flow, but it also triggers small landmarks along the road as signals for what you had heard. There are places all over Rochester that trigger memories of different parts of books or other things that I had learned from listening to things on the run.
A long run is a great time to explore and enjoy sites that can often only be enjoyed on foot. I love heading out around a new city on a long run. Though it may take a little longer due to the unknown, it can also give you a great perspective of a city or countryside. Remember, while there are specific long runs that are dealing with things such as marathon pace in the middle, many long runs are just about the time on your feet. If you spend a little bit of it walking around an area, it is really not the end of the world when it comes to training.
It is really amazing how much of a large city you can cover while doing a long run. Cities are not really as big as it appears when you are driving since you are dealing with traffic. Getting out and going for a long run opens up the perspective and shows you elements of a city that you may never realize otherwise.
Of course, the purpose of a long run (that we are talking about here) is to get you the time on your feet and prepare you for the marathon. With long runs comprising around 30% of your weekly mileage, it is not an insignificant workout time-wise. It does take time and energy to complete but it also is taking that time and energy and putting it in the bank for your goal race.
Not only do you get to see the result of the long run(s) on race day, but you also get to experience close-in results. There is an incredible feeling that comes over the runner at the end of the long run. The knowledge that you have covered a lot of ground and added a significant mileage number to your weekly total is just part of it.
You have managed to break down your body a bit to recover stronger than before and that work causes you to have burned some calories in the process. While in training runners may tend to be more strict with what they eat and how much, the long run does give some license to consume that little something extra at the end of the day. That is always something I look forward to at the end of a run for sure!
The long run really does not have to be something feared. It can be approached as an enjoyable part of your workout week for any of the reasons I wrote about here or some of your own. I know the more I run, the more I enjoy the long run. It is a beast but it really becomes a relaxing part of the week for me. If you approach it with the right mindset, it can not only better your training but also your long run experience.
What are some things you enjoy about the long run?