Colin and Anne talk about the importance of the long run in the training week. They tell you what a long run is, how to build up your long run and what the benefits are. They also describe three traps that are easy to fall into.
What is a long run?
Many runners are happy to run the same distance three or four times a week. But to progress your training, get fitter and faster it is better to vary the distances you run. Adding a longer run in the week has specific benefits and will increase your fitness.
Any run that takes you over an hour to complete can be classed as a long run if your other runs are between thirty and forty minutes long. Gradually building up this hour long run to 1 hour 30 minutes and eventually to 2 hours, will give you enormous benefits.
How to build up your long run
You can build up your sixty minute run to 1 hour 30 minutes by adding five minutes each week. After this you have two choices. You can continue the gradual increase by adding five minutes a week or add ten minutes each week, if you think your body will cope. The theory is that once you can run for 1 hour 30minutes your heart is much stronger and your blood capillaries are well developed so they can cope with bigger jumps in training.
Do you need to run for 2 hours?
Not if you are happy with running for less time and it is giving you the benefits you need. If you want to improve further however, the 2 hour long run will work wonders. You will find your chatty pace just gets faster and faster once you are running for 2 hours regularly.
What happens in your body when your long run is two hours or more?
1. Your fitness improves as more blood capillaries are made to transport blood to your running muscles.
2. Instead of using carbohydrates your body starts to use fat as a fuel so you can run for longer
3. Many more mitochondria (the energy factories in your cells) are made. This occurs up to the 2 hour 30 mark but not beyond it. Hence there are no real benefits to be gained from running for more than 2 hours 30 minutes. We have had great results with marathon runners running only up to 2 hours 30 in training.
Long Run Traps
It is easy to fall into any or all of the following traps when you are doing a long run.
1. Running too fast. Trick your body by walking for a bit, then run at a Superchatty pace for first half hour. It is much better to go too slow than too fast and walk a bit if you need to. Time on your feet is more important than pace for the long run. You can read more about how to run at Chatty pace her.
2. Eating on the run. Avoid taking sugary sweets or energy drinks on your long run. You want to teach your body to use fat as a fuel instead. This will help you run for longer. Yes, you will need to eat when you run a marathon or a half marathon (if it is going to take you 2 and a half hours or more). In this case, it is worth practicing eating on one of your long runs nearer race day.
3. Going too far. Plan your route carefully or have someone at the end of the phone ready to pick you up if you are out for longer than planned! You should finish every run feeling that you can do more. If you are exhausted at the end of your long run then you have gone too far for your fitness at that time. It is also important to maintain good running form. If you are tired and still have half an hour to go then your form will suffer and you will be at an injury risk. Never be afraid to stop a long run early.
The importance of the long run cannot be underestimated. It is the key driver of increased running fitness. If you can only do one run in a week for any reason, make it the long run.
Follow our tips and enjoy your long run. Not only is it the most important run of the week but it can be the best run of the week!