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Make the most of your Long Run

The Long Run is a staple of an endurance runner's training diet.

Yet, there are times when it can get a bit dull. If you aren't building the long run for a specific event, it can get very samey.

A whole host of physiological adaptations occur during this run. We learn to become more efficient using fats as fuel. You'll get an increase in Capillarisation. The capillaries supply oxygen to muscles. We'll also build mitochondria density, which allows us to train and run faster.

The Long Run provides us with a beautiful aerobic base. Whether you are training for 5km or 50km, you'll want to get a long run in once a week.

Getting the Mind In Gear

A lot of Long Run Training is about getting the mind ready to endure running for that length of time.

  • Some distraction techniques can be employed to help get you into the long runs.

  • Listening to an audiobook. This was my favourite thing to do when I started out running.

  • Music is a superb way of helping get you out the door and running

  • Find a friend. Have a chat. Runs go so much quicker when you have someone there.

The troublesome thing about distraction techniques is that they can take you out of listening to your body and becoming in tune with it. When we become more in tune with our bodies, we can respond to what they need. This is an ongoing process but something I really encourage.

Avoiding the same Long Run

Let's get you out of the habit of doing the same run at the same pace over the same route each week.

One small proviso, don't go crazy with your long runs and mix them up each week. There are weeks when you just run at an Easy Pace.

Route Selection

If you are struggling with the same routes each week, give one of these ideas a try.

Running an out and back route. Simply run in one direction for half your long run, then turn around and come home.

Mentally I find this very helpful, as I know I am running home as soon as I turn around! A word of warning. I have been known to get lost on an out and back route with my very challenged sense of direction!

Loop it up. Get creative and find a nice big loop to go on. Online mapping tools can be helpful here, and some watches will allow you to send that route to them.

If you usually run on the roads, then get yourself off-road for a long run.

Why not get a lift out to a point and run home? It does require a friend or partner to drop you off, but it offers so much. You are always running 'home'. You get to explore somewhere else. It's such a fun way of running.

Go somewhere new. Whether you cycle somewhere, take a train or drive, go to a new location and get out for a run. Richmond Park is one of my favourite places to run. Once we are out of this latest lockdown, I will head out there again.

I have used Race Routes as a jumping-off point for a long run (especially if the race was mainly off-road or quiet places). Places like Garmin Connect and Strava are great to get ideas of other routes locally.

Session Time

Changing the physiological demands of the long run will mix up how your body responds.

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.

The real magic of these sessions is teaching the body to 'recover' whilst still running. Get to the top of the hill and keep going. Breathe deep and bring the heart rate down.

One of my preferred long runs to set runners at the moment is to alternate Easy and Steady Running. It looks something like this:

10 minutes Warm Up, 4 x (5 minutes Easy, 5 minutes Steady), 10 minutes Cool Down

It stresses slightly different energy systems. You get to run a bit faster and slower. If you've not done a run like this, then give it a go.

Some 1 minute 'on', 1 minute 'off' intervals in the middle of a long run once every few months is a beautiful way of challenging yourself. You can start with:

75 minutes Easy Run - Include 5 x (1 minute at 90%, 1 minute Easy) in the middle

The beauty of this is the 'on' portion can be as quick or slow as you feel 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.

A block of Threshold Work or some Kenyan Hills in the middle of your long run can provide all sorts of training adaptations.

Start with an 8-minute block and build from there. It's challenging to pick up your speed if you have been running at an easy effort level for a long time.

We talk a lot about putting marathon and half marathon pace towards the end of a long run as you prepare for your critical race. Running at goal race pace on tired legs is an excellent way of mimicking the fatigue you will 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 look at our blog to find out more.

Think about the long run in your week. Are you making the most of this training opportunity? Is it time to freshen it up a little? Let us know how you get on with your long runs.

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