Long runs, any run over 90 minutes, are not your typical run. The goal of a long run is “time on your feet,” that is getting your body, especially your legs, used to running for 2-4 hours consistently and preparing for race day. To get the most benefits out of long runs requires advance planning. You want to carefully consider the route, hydration and fueling, clothing choices, safety, and transportation needs.
Although the most important aspect of these training runs is plain and simple – time on your feet – following the tips below will help you run your best on race day and feel great.
Course Simulation: Run routes that look like your race course – similar elevation changes and surfaces. You can find the race’s elevation chart on the race website or map it out yourself on MapMyFitness. This is a great way to prepare yourself, and your legs! If you have hills at the beginning or end of your course, practice starting or finishing your long runs with similar hills. If you live in the city where you are racing, practice running portions of the course.
Pace Yourself: During your long runs, aim to run 30-90 seconds per mile slower than your goal race pace. Additionally, practice running a negative split, which is running the second half of the route faster than the first part. To accomplish this, run the initial two miles 15-30 seconds slower per mile than the remainder of your route. Instilling these types of good habits will prevent you from starting way too fast which may potentially lead to hitting the wall earlier than anticipated.
Hydration and Nutrition Strategy: Plan out and practice your hydration and nutrition plan for race day. It’s no fun dealing with stomach cramps and bathroom issues because you ate or drank something your body wasn’t used to consuming. Find out where the water stops are located along the race course and plan to eat and drink at similar intervals during your long runs. We recommend drinking 4-6 ounces of water and eating 30-60 grams of carbohydrates (150-250 calories) every 45-60 minutes. This may include sports drinks, gels or energy bars.
Dress Rehearsal: Wear the clothes and use the accessories (hat, fuel belt, and headband) on your long runs that you plan on wearing during the race. Longer distances bring out chaffing in new, and often unforeseen places, so it’s best to get familiar ahead of time with what works and what doesn’t.
Remember these key points, implement them throughout your training, and you’ll be smiling all the way to the finish on the big day! For more tips on getting the most out of your long run, check out Hot Bird Running’s blog.