So you want to improve as a runner?

No?

Well jog on then, slowly no doubt. 😜

If you’re still here then I’m delighted that like me, you want to get faster, fitter and stronger.

Read any training plan, listen to any coach and they’ll all say the same thing. “The long run is key to achieving your goals”.

For those of you with important careers, kids to get to school or those who are just attached to your sofa and netflix, I’m sorry but the long run is crucial. Finding a few hours, whether it means sacrificing some of your weekend, setting the alarm clock an hour earlier or heading out after work at the expense of another episode of Stranger Things, it will help transform your running.

When you cross that finish line with a PB and a huge smile, it will all be worth ignoring that snooze button for.

How far should my long run be?

There are obviously factors which determine the distance of your long run. You goals & targets are a key factor. If running a 5K PB is all you are interested in, you don’t need be lacing up at 5am on a cold Sunday morning and running 20 miles. That’s just mental.

Likewise if you are training for a Marathon you’ll have little chance on the day if your long run lasted 45 minutes (no shit Sherlock).

So planning is key. For 5K and 10K runners, somewhere between 90 minutes – 2 hours is a good time to aim for. If you are targeting a half marathon PB then covering the distance in your long runs will significantly increase your chances.

For those tackling a Marathon, building up your long runs until you reach around 20-22 miles should be your target, but make sure you don’t leave it too close to race day. Give yourself 2-3 weeks to taper to ensure you are fresh on the big day.

One long run a week is generally considered the best approach. Running at a slow pace, based on your ability, is also common advice among experienced runners and coaches. You shouldn’t be breathing too hard and you should be able to hold a conversation.

Alternatively you can track your heart rate. Anything under 140 is advisable. I do feel a lot runners I follow on Strava are running too hard, too often. It’s counter productive. Sometimes the slower the better and don’t fall into the trap of comparing your average speed with others. All that matters is you and your own goals.

What are the benefits of the long run?

The long run has many benefits: including

  • Strengthens your heart
  • Improves your running form
  • Strengthens your muscles & ligaments
  • Helps you get faster.
  • Helps mentally and gives you confidence

I remember when 10K seemed unachievable, now it feels like a warm up. There I go boasting again. Sorry. But putting in the miles really does change your perspective on distances.

If you can run in the morning it might be wise. Most races start in the morning and if you run later in the day you might be fatigued from your daily exertions. It’s not a bad idea to cut back your long run every 4-5 weeks to give yourself a chance to recover. If you are building up mileage slowly for a Marathon adding 10% from the previous week is regarded as a good strategy.

The long run should be your priority each week. Find the best time to fit it in to your schedule and within a month or two you’ll reap the rewards.

PB’s here we come!!! 🥇

You can thank me afterwards.

Now set that alarm or get your arse off the sofa and get out there for a long run. You might even enjoy it. What am I saying. You will enjoy it!

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