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The Role and Rituals of Long Runs in Your Training

·3 mins

If you have started a training plan for running, it probably includes a long run. This is commonly part of the running training plan but it’s not always obvious how it helps you progress.

Long run benefits #

Long runs have lots of benefits. Although distance and time can be different for everyone, the goal is to develop your cardiovascular system, to make sure all muscles have the oxygen they need, and to reinforce tendons and muscles.

Compared to shorter runs, they are also meant to be slow and somewhat comfortable, but we also want to push our bodies to adapt a bit better when we keep the rhythm longer. If we ran at the same time or distance, the body would get used to it, and the progress would stop.

Frequency and distance of long runs #

Depending on your level of running, if you prepare for a half-marathon, full marathon, or ultra run, you will need one long run per week, or every two weeks at least.

I like the frequency of once per week, it creates a ritual for my Sunday and keep them predictable predictable. I’m sure to stick with the routine. Only the distance varies depending on the week of training I’m at.

When we mean “long run”, it should be longer than you are running the rest of the week. So if you do some runs of 5-7km, a long run can be 10-13km. However, if you are comfortable with 11-13km usually, you can push to 17-20km. You get the idea.

Remember that it has to be at a comfortable pace where you can easily breathe or somewhat talk.

Preparing for a long run #

Before getting to any long run for marathon training, I usually spend some time preparing for it the week ahead.

The first part is mental readiness: I usually plan my training during the weekend, so I can anticipate the long distance I’ll need to do throughout the week. It won’t be a surprise on Saturday that Sunday could be difficult.

It also helps avoid putting myself at risk, like going out late at night if I have a long run the next day.

I also enjoy planning for my running route. I usually draw it on Strava. It helps me visualize where I should turn back and anticipate the buildings or sights around me. I can also plan for water points on my way to avoid carrying water, always useful if you are training in a hot country like Singapore.

The day before, I’ll prepare my outfit and my food (i.e. gels, snacks). This might sound a bit overkill, but a comfortable outfit for a long-distance run makes a lot of difference. I want to avoid any reason for me to stop, which consolidates the mental preparation too.

Finally, having it all ready from your gear, water, and running route, there is little chance you will snooze the alarm if you run in the morning. You’ve spent too much time to get into this state, it’s unlikely you will let yourself off the hook.

In conclusion, the long run is a big part of your training, especially for marathons and ultra-marathons. It helps get your body and your mind familiar with the sensation of running for hours, and it’s a great opportunity to sharpen both body and mind.

Preparing your long run ahead will help you get to the right space while running and have fewer thoughts in your mind that could derail your training plan.