The long run is a staple of an endurance runner's training week, and with good reason. A whole host of physiological adaptations occur during this run, and it provides you with a wonderful aerobic base. Whether you are training for 5km or 50km, you'll want to get a long run in once a week.
There are certainly some mental strategies you can employ to make sure you are getting the long run done each week, and this is an area we will cover in more detail in a future blog.
This post is to give you some ideas for your long runs to help you avoid the habit of doing the same run at the same pace over the same route each week. We have one small proviso, don't go crazy with your long runs and mix them up each week, you are going to need weeks when you just run at a consistent pace for a long period of time.
The first few tips are based around the planning for your long run
Try running an out and back route. Run in one direction for half your long run, then turn around. Mentally I find this very helpful, as I know I am running home as soon as I turn around!
Loop it up, get creative and find a nice big circuit to go on, and why not go off-road if you usually run on the roads.
Why not get a lift out to a point and run home? It does require a friend or partner to drop you off, but an enjoyable way of mixing up your routes.
The long run doesn't just need to be run at an easy pace, and there are ways of extracting more out of it by turning it into a bit of a session
Run over an undulating route, instead of on the flat. The hills are going to challenge you, building leg strength going up and leg speed going down, just be careful to not work too hard going up them.
Adding a block of Threshold Work or some Kenyan Hills in the middle of your long run can provide all sorts of training adaptations. Just do 8 to 10 minutes to begin with and build from there. It's very challenging to pick up your speed if you have been running at an easy effort level.
I enjoy putting some 1 minute 'on', 1 minute 'off' intervals in the middle of a long run to switch things up now and again. Just 6 x 1 minute 'on', 1 minute 'off' to begin with, building up to 10 is perfect. The beauty of this is the 'on' portion can be as quick or slow as you are feeling on the day! I like to hit a threshold pace to begin with and then work down from there. The 'off' pace is very much recovery.
We talk a lot about putting marathon and half marathon pace towards the end of a long run as you prepare for your key race. Running at goal race pace on tired legs is a great way of mimicking the fatigue you are going to feel on race day without going overboard. 20 - 30 minutes of half marathon pace is more than enough. With marathon pace you are looking at 30 - 90 minutes of it.
If you are struggling with the effort level in your long run, then adding some regular walk breaks can help to get that effort level under control, allowing you to go further for longer. Take a read of our article to find out more.
Our final tip is to get social! The long run doesn't need to be a personal struggle each week, why not grab some friends and just go run!
Start to think about the long run in your week, how to best make the most of it and ways of spicing it up.