4 Ways to Make Your Long Runs More Effective

Training for a marathon is a significant undertaking. Crossing the finish line is the final capstone in a months-long project. It's the reward for doing all the hard work to prepare.

While you may not know how many miles you run a week, or the goal behind Tuesday's strides session, runners know the distance of their long runs.

For some, these runs are a rite of passage. For others, they're a glimpse at the challenge that awaits them on race day.

More: 7 Running Experts on Effective Long-Run Training

The long run is an essential component of marathon training. But just running long isn't enough. Accumulated mileage doesn't determine race-day success or performance.

Here are some critical points to consider as you prepare for the final push to your marathon.

Run No Longer Than Required To Be Ready

Instead of focusing on the mileage, remember that intensity and time have a greater impact on your body.

Intensity: Your longer-distance sessions should be run at a pace that is 15 to 30 seconds slower, per mile, than your target race pace.

Time: Any run over two hours is legitimate; the fatigue from this run doubles at the two-and-a-half hour mark. For most runners, I recommend stopping around this time; it's at this point that the cost of the run begins to exceed the value.

If you run slower than 10 minutes per mile, you can go as long as three hours for your long run.

Keep these guidelines in mind:

  • Don't run longer than three hours in one session
  • Don't run more than 30 minutes/ 3 miles than you have in this training build up
  • Consider a loop course that gives you options for fueling, stopping, etc.
  • If you're concerned about getting in enough miles but are limited by the three-hour rule above, consider splitting up your long run into two sessions

More: 4 Ways to Use Long Runs for Marathon Training

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