Going for a long run means running for considerably longer than usual. If your average running distance is 5 miles, your long run might be 10 miles. If your average distance is 7 miles, your long run might be 15 miles, and so on.
Long runs are typically completed by those training for long-distance events like half-marathons, marathons, or even triathlons due to the events demanding nature.
However, long runs can be enjoyed by runners of all abilities who run various distances. Fun runners, those who run 5Ks and 10Ks, and anyone else should add a weekly long run into their routine.
How far does a long run have to be?
There is no set distance for a long run. The distance is specific and relevant to you.
The main purpose of the long run is the distance is longer than what you’re used to and it offers a decent challenge. The prospect of running longer than usual can be daunting at first, but the benefits of long runs are plentiful and well worth the extra effort.
Benefits of a long run
1. Build your stamina
Life isn’t a 100-metre sprint. It’s a long-distance event. Looking after your children, revising for an exam, managing a project, leading a team, organising a group holiday, all require large amounts of effort over an extended period.
Whatever your long-term challenges are, physical stamina will benefit your ability to work massively. Going on a long run builds your physical endurance; it makes your cardiovascular better at pumping blood around the body, and the respiratory system more effective.
Not only will your running stamina improve, additional stamina will prove useful in the other areas of your life.
You will have more get up and go, for longer time periods. You will be more focused, alert, resilient and able to cope with challenges easier.
Do a weekly long run to build up your stamina.
2. Develop race readiness
If you’re training for a race, a long run will develop your race readiness. A lot of runners go into races like half-marathons and marathons with little idea of just how far the distance is.
Say you’re training for a 10K run, you might run 8K in your long run. Your pace will likely be more relaxed than if you were running the actual event, but you will build an understanding and appreciation of how far you will have to run.
if you’re training for a 10K with 3K runs, you will be overwhelmed when it comes to race day and most likely struggle or possibly not finish the race.
A weekly long run, preferably near your race distance, will develop crucial race readiness.
3. Thinking time
During the larger distance, you will have time to think. Life is filled with technology, work, family, friends, and an array of other time fillers. These things are all great and necessary for a healthy life but having time to think is necessary.
Long runs give you this time to yourself. Go on a long run and think about your life. What’s coming up, what excites you, plans for the future, ideas you have or even your training routine.
Who knows, you might have your next bright idea on a long run!
4. Weekly mileage
Runners usually have a weekly target mileage they like to hit. It might be 10 miles, 15 miles, 20 miles or even 30 miles. A long run is an effective way to hit your weekly mileage target or even surpass it.
Weekly mileage targets are set to plan runs for the week, to build endurance, discipline, and ensure you are ready to perform on race day.
Long runs will ensure you hit these targets, so you can progress and develop as a runner.
5. Listen to your favourite music, podcast or audiobook
Long runs, as the name suggests, typically take longer to complete. Some worry about the time being unproductive and unenjoyable, but the opportunity to use earphones presents itself.
Listen to your favourite music on a long run. An entire rock album by The Beatles or The Rolling Stones, a drum and bass compilation album, a Spotify indie playlist, R and B hits of the 2000’s, club classics. Whatever gets you going.
You could learn something. Find a podcast on Spotify, iTunes or Podcast Player. It could be on anything. Job interview skills, gardening, marketing, playing the piano, a school or university subject, a historical matter. Find something that interests you and keep your mind engaged on your long run.
If books are your thing, we’re in the 21st century and you can download many popular titles onto your phone for listening on your long runs. Get lost in the author’s characters, ideas, themes and lands.
Try Amazon’s audible which allows you to purchase and download books in seconds.
6. Challenge yourself
Who doesn’t like a good challenge? A challenge means you undertake a difficult task which tests your abilities.
Maybe the challenge is to run 8 miles in one go, the longest you’ve ever run before. You could take on the challenge of running below an average of 7:30 minutes per mile on your long run.
If you don’t push yourself, you can’t improve. If you don’t challenge yourself, you don’t grow. It’s as simple as that. Challenge yourself with a weekly long run.
7. Keep yourself healthy
As the old saying goes: ‘If you don’t use it, you will lose it.’
You’re like a car. If a car is sat in the garage and isn’t driven very often the battery will discharge itself, the tyres lose pressure, and the engine parts will be stiff due to lack of lubrication.
Driving the car regularly ensures it functions properly and you can use it.
To stay healthy, the NHS recommends adults do at least 150 minutes (2 and a half hours) of aerobic exercise each week.
With everyone leading such busy lives, it can be difficult to hit this mark. However, setting aside time once a week for a long run can help you rack up valuable cardio minutes to ensure you stay healthy and ‘well oiled’. Like with a car, regular use means you will perform better and smoother.
Checklist before your long run
I cannot stress hydration enough. Long runs are, as the name suggests, long. The last thing you want to do is set off without being properly hydrated. Dehydration can cause dizziness, fainting, tiredness, fatigue and other complications.
Have a generous glass of water before you set off. If possible, bring a water bottle with you. You can carry water in your hand or strap a bottle to a waist sports belt for convenience.
2. Energy gels (optional)
Energy gels These easy to consume mid-race snack give you a focused burst of energy so you’re properly fuelled during the run.
When running, you use up glucose which is vital for physical activity. The gels help replaces the store of glucose, and usually provide a hit of caffeine for an extra boost. As a rule of thumb, take one every 45 minutes to an hour.
A pianist won’t give a performance without warming up their fingers, the same way you shouldn’t do a long run without stretching.
Stretching gets the muscles loose, pumps blood around the body, and prepares you for physical exertion. Stretch to get yourself ready for the long run. Don’t go in cold. You could injure yourself.
4. Fully charged running watch
After running out of battery, the watch won’t be able to track any stats. Don’t let that happen to you. Charge your running watch before your long rung.
5. Set clothes out for your post-run shower
When you get back you’re going to be sweaty and knackered. Make no mistake.
Don’t spend your post-long-run time trying to find clothes to wear after your shower. That’s no fun. Be organised.
Lay them out before your long run. This way you can get through the front door, have a well-deserved drink, then immediately freshen up with a shower. You will feel much more chilled when your clothes are sorted and ready to put on after your long run.
6. Go to the toilet
Before you embark on a long run, make sure you go to the toilet. Even though you might not need to go urgently, you should go right before you head out.
An easy way for a long run to turn unpleasant and painful is for mother nature to call. The run should be enjoyable and fun. Needing to go to the toilet can put you off and make things harder than they need to be.
Long runs will help change your running life!