Finally to finish off our series of the three types of runs we should be incorporating into our training, we finish off with the longest of all the runs; the Long Run. We’ve previously covered the importance of Speed Sessions, and Tempo Runs, and the Long Run completes the set of work out runs that you need to incorporate into your training.
Long run (also known as a Long Slow Distance (LSD) Run) are important for our overall fitness and for our running progression. It is there to improve our endurance and to building our foundation from which to work on. To get the most out of our long runs, we need to be hitting the correct pace. Slower than tempo pace, we need to be at an entirely aerobic level where we can hold a conversation and carry on with that pace for the entire length of the run (or about a 30–40% of intensity).
So how can we prepare for our long runs and get the most out of them?
Plan Your Route
“The more energy you put into worrying about the workout, the less energy you’ll have for it,” says Kathy Butler, Co-founder Indian Peaks Running Club, Nederland, CO.
Pick a route that makes sense for you. If you have a preferred route, neighborhood, or know you can make pit stops along the way if needed. I am a fan of looped circuits as out-and-back routes can be more draining mentally as you cover the same ground twice (especially if you have to encounter the same hill twice).
“Your pace should be conversational and your breathing comfortable,” says Jason Fitzgerald, a USATF-certified running coach in Silver Spring, Maryland.
If you’re struggling very early into your run, you’re most are going too hard. You are working on endurance and efficiency instead of a personal best. You can increase your speed for the final couple of kilometres of a 5/10K and be closer to your race pace. This will help your body adjust to the demands and get your body used to the amount of effort required.
Whether you decide to make it a steady run or what I’ve been training in my running group is what we call 10 & 1s, which essentially is 10 minutes of steady running, followed by 1 minutes of recovery walk, then repeat until we reach the target distance.
In terms of distances, it’s really up to you and how you are feeling, but it should be at least twice as long as your other runs during the week. If for example you are covering around 4–5km in your tempo and/or speed runs, you need to be looking at around 8–10km at a minimum.
In the half marathon training program, we gradually increase the distance of the long run by about 1km each week until your target distance. An example of what we are doing started with a 7km run on the first Sunday of the program and will increase to 20km by week 16, before tapering off prior to the goal race which is the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon (Half Marathon Race).
Eat and Drink
If you’re planning on running for about an hour (or longer), taking water, or other liquids (Nuun, Gatorade, Hydrate, etc.) is a smart idea. Taking gel with you is also a sound idea if you need a quick shot of energy (for me at least, I just have my water belt with some Hydrate and away I go).
For more experienced runners, bring along some calories and hydration for anything over 90 minutes and aim to take in about 240 to 300 calories an hour, or about 60 to 75 grams of carbs.
The key is to start fueling early and do it consistently. “You’ll minimize stomach problems if you don’t dump a bunch of calories into your body at once,” says Cassie Dimmick, M.S., R.D., a sports dietitian in Springfield, Missouri, who recommends a small amount of calories every 15 minutes.
A nice little read can be found here by Christine Luff about how to eat during long runs including gel packs, drinks, solid foods, real food, as well as safety tips.
How to Incorporate Your Runs Into Your Schedule
And there we have it with our three types of runs you need to incorporate into your training.
Now fitting these runs into your schedule shouldn’t be too much of a problem, especially if you have the time to run at least three times a week. For me, typically when running with the Running Room it would be Tempo runs on a Wednesday evening, followed by a Speed session on Thursday, and then after a couple of days to recover, either a steady run on Saturday morning (either at parkrun, or just around home) and/or a long slow run on the Sunday morning.
Thank you for reading this article. It is my goal to post more frequently about my journey, running as well as how it ties to mental health.