Run for the Journey

Run for the Journey

How to Survive Your Long Runs

Struggling to find the motivation to get those long runs in? David Castle, editorial director at Men's Running UK, shares his top tips to help you find your running mojo and get to your race start line in the best shape possible.

The long run is the backbone of any runner’s training programme. But finding the motivation to nail them week in, week out is never easy. If you’re struggling to log those miles, then these nine tips should prove invaluable!

1. The parkrun

Most people leave their long runs until Sunday. But why not break the habit and build your long run around the Saturday morning parkrun? This is an excellent way of adding a little bit of extra frisson to your usual long effort. You can use the parkrun as a way of building the miles – 3 miles before, parkrun, 3 miles after – or do 10 before, do the parkrun and see what you can finish with. One member of my running group prefers 17 miles before and finishes with the parkrun – and then rewards himself with breakfast at the local café!

2. Mix it up

If long runs were easy, we’d do them all the time. But they can be made easier by breaking them up into mentally-achievable bitesize chunks. A popular session is 18 miles, made up of three lots of six miles done at different paces – so 6 easy, 6 marathon and 6 at a steady pace. Or you could do 20 and set yourself different goals for four 5-mile sections, or try and match your pace for each section.

3. Split it up

If you’re pressed for time or you really can’t face the thought of running 20 miles in one go, one way around it is to run two 10-milers on consecutive days as close as possible. So, you could do one at 6pm on the Saturday and 6am on the Sunday. It’s not ideal, but it does give you the opportunity on the latter to experiment with ‘fasted running’ (not eating before you run) with 10 miles already in your legs.

4. Change of scenery

Bored of the same old routes? Why are we creatures of habit, pounding out the same routes, week in, week out? Break the mould and try something different. Drive to a new park or trail or just look at a map and devise a different run. Or take the train to a town a certain number of miles away and run back. By varying your terrain and location, you’ll add much needed motivation. If you live in London doing a section of the Capital Ring* is a great way to get to know parts of London you might never have seen.

5. Test run

Use your long run as an opportunity to test out things for race day. You don’t want to be eating something new on the big day. These really are the best times to work out what fuel works best for you, and when to consume it. If you’re experimenting with gels, it will give you the perfect opportunity to find one that works for you. Or, if you’re going with the home-made option, you can perfect the ideal protein ball recipe. Better to test it out in training.

6. Dress rehearsal

Don’t use race day as a chance to ‘break in’ new trainers. Instead, give your race day kit a test on one of your long runs. T-shirts, watches, socks, shoes – all should be road tested weeks before the big day. Many people find a pair of shoes that they fall in love with; but don’t assume because you love them, they’ll be OK out of the box. Give them at least a month’s worth of running.

7. Trust the process

Marathon running is daunting. By sticking to your long runs, you’re giving yourself a taster of the challenge ahead – the best possible chance of performing on the day.

Nothing is more morale-boosting than a quality long run. So stick with it, hang tough and reap the rewards come race day. 

8. Two's company, three's a party

When it comes to ticking the miles off, there’s nothing better than a riveting conversation with a friend or two over the long run. You definitely won’t be the only one in your area trying to run a marathon, so arrange to meet at a mutually beneficial time and enjoy witty repartee and running ‘bantz’.

How to Survive Your Long RunsWhen it comes to ticking the miles off, there’s nothing better than a riveting conversation with a friend or two over the long run. 

9. Slow and steady wins the race

It sounds obvious but don’t force yourself into running 20 miles if the longest you’ve run in training is only 10. Build up slowly, adding a few more miles each time. That way, the long run will become much more achievable. Patience is key when it comes to marathon training.

Very best of luck with all your training, long runs and of course the race itself. 

*The Capital Ring

The Capital Ring is a great way to make your long run more interesting. Divided into 15, easy-to-walk sections, it covers 78 miles (126km) of open space, nature reserves and sites of specific scientific interest and more. From Woolwich to Becton District Park, each section starts/finishes near a tube stop so is very convenient for starting or finishing a long run. 

These are some of the sites worth looking out for:

  • Horsenden Hill
  • Eltham Palace
  • Abney Park Cemetery
  • Olympic Park
  • The Great North Wood
  • Wimbledon Common & Richmond Park
  • The Grand Union Canal
  • Welsh Harp Reservoir
  • Finsbury Park
  • Walthamstow Marshes
  • The Thames Barrier
  • Beckenham Place Park
  • Streatham Common
  • Syon Park
  • Wharncliffe Viaduct 

How to Survive Your Long RunsThe Capital Ring is a great way to make your long run more interesting. It covers 78 miles (126km) of open space, nature reserves and sites of specific scientific interest and more.

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David Castle

Editorial Director, Men's Running magazine