If you’re preparing to be one of the crazies who gets up earlier on Saturday than Monday, welcome to marathon training!!! Are you dreading the big miles? Freaked out? Or psyched to see what you can do?
It probably depends on the week and just how tired you are from fitting in training around a busy life or perhaps because it’s all new and a little terrifying to wonder if you can.
Getting your mind right is one of the biggest keys to a great long run.
Ok that and not going from a 3 mile run to a 20 mile run because you skipped all the previous training. Unless you happen to be that annoying super athlete like my husband, though as he gets older those little trysts leave him a little more humbled. Ha!
We’ll talk about logistics, but let’s start with your mind.
Setting Your Mind
Half marathon or marathon training can feel intimidating the first go round. You look a training plan that shows a 20 mile run, while thinking 6 is all I can manage right now!
Step 1: Stop Looking Ahead!
Stop focusing on what’s coming weeks or months down the road. Just do this weeks workouts and know that the plans are designed to help you build slowly. No trying to jump ahead because mentally you feel like you should be doing more.
Step 2: Start Milestone Celebrations
Instead of dreading that new distance, start thinking of it as an opportunity to celebrate a new milestone in your running. Even during that run, as it gets hard, focus on knowing that once you’ve finished, you’ll have run farther or possibly the same distance faster, than ever before. We get so focused on the final goal, that we miss all the exciting things along the way!!
Shoot coming back from knee surgery, I did a stationary happy dance the first time I walked 10 minutes and then a full blown happy dance when I ran a mile again without walking.
Step 3: Gratitude Miles
One of the tricks that has worked so well for me and those I coach, is a gratitude mile. Sometimes it’s your very first mile, other times you use that mile to warm up with your music and then shut it off when your mind starts going negative.
The gratitude mile can be for anything! But when I’m hurting mine often goes like this:
- Thank you for my strong right knee
- Thank you for my relaxed shoulders
- Thank you for a body that allows me to do this
- Thank you for that neighbor who put out funny Christmas decorations
- Thank you for the sunshine on my face
- Thank you for my big toe feeling good
I mean really! I will work my way through my body pointing out every single thing that is feeling good to help remove the attention from the fact that I could be running with dead legs.
Step 4: Reframe the Hours
The longer training gets, sometimes the more daunting it can seem to carve out the time. It can help to stop thinking of what you’re not doing (laundry, making breakfast, work emails) and instead focus on what you’re really getting from it beyond training. Reframe it as an opportunity to explore new places or time to think without the interruption of your phone or familyHow to embrace your long runs, let go of the fear and prep like a rockstar! #runchat #marathon Click To Tweet
Ok yes it’s a long time to be alone with your thoughts, but honestly I don’t get bored while running and I think these tactics are why. Sometimes you do need a distraction to move away from thoughts of “Oh my gawd how am I not done yet?!”
I only listen to my audiobook while running. Yup that’s my trick, I can’t sneak it in while driving, I must be running. And if it’s a great book then I’ll want to keep going…which means the key is a great book. I don’t think all books are perfect for a good run, so I created my list of the best running audiobooks.
Music for the Soul
Science has told us how beneficial it is to our motivation, but there’s a key way to use it for long runs. Save it for the last 30 minutes to get that emotional boost. I know this is a massive change for a lot of you, but see what happens if you go with no sound for awhile, then a podcast and then finally to music.
Friends for Distraction
Break it up by having them join you for certain miles or join a group if you love the camaraderie and someone cheering you on. A lot of my friends have husbands who will bike along with them during their run…my husband is busy on the trails and that would be painful for me to watch him do it. BUT I love when we cross paths!
Routes for Variety
Do you love to explore new places? Then take the time to plan out new places for your long runs. I get excited about looking for street art or seeing the streets before people are awake, so it’s worth driving a bit if it puts my mind in the right space. There’s also something to be said for the routine of a familiar place where you can stop thinking about your next turn and really deep dive in to your thoughts.
And of course you can choose to use a shorter race as part of your mileage. The key is to ensure you get in the full miles and be strategic about the race, i.e. force yourself to go easy or use it for goal race pace training.
Running Gear Prep
While gear is crazy important for preventing blisters, chafing and other assorted issues while you run…the best most expensive, high quality gear doesn’t work if you can’t get your mind out of the “I can’t” mode. So focus on that first!
How should you prepare for a long run? Use this checklist to get all your ducks in a row and eliminate stress.
Long run checklist:
- Lay out all gear the night before (no rummaging in the dark)
- Charge everything – phone, wireless headphones, headlamp, GPS watch
- Plan a route to meet your goals (hilly race, flat race, need a confidence boost?)
- Set alarm (and back up if you’re that person)
- Write a note or notify someone of your planned route
- Hydration vest or handheld
- Safety Gear for dark mornings
- Anti-chafe stick or lube (seriously don’t forget this)
- Face sunscreen when running and protection elsewhere!! We too often neglect this.
- Fuel: electrolytes, gels or whole foods (more on this below)
Best long run gear
Is there gear that’s better for the long run than your others? I dunno, but I have found myself trending towards a few things over the years.
- CW-X Stabilyx compression tights: I like the extra IT Band and knee support
- Camelbak Hydration vest: I love that I can carry things like my phone for fun photos, leaving my hands free and preventing a change in running form from carrying a water bottle.
- Bodyglide: Usually just on my things, but for long runs it’s feet, arms, everything!
- Quality socks: I wrote a whole post on different options, but it’s MUST.
What to take on a long run?
I’m pretty basic with my water, phone and some fuel. But I have friends who go out full on mom mode: kleenex, chapstick, extra sunscreen, body wipes, band aids, magic beans.
Honestly, it comes down to what will make you feel more confident? I like feeling lighter, but they feel stronger knowing they’re ready for any situation!
How to fuel your long run
Don’t get too caught up in this piece. It matters, but not as much as putting in the miles! I often talk about whole food options from pineapple to potatoes, but there are other ideas like natural Huma gels. You just need to keep testing to find out what works for you. Don’t trust that suddenly on race day a gel is ok…it’s often stomach distress.
Night before the long run I eat pizza. Yeah and it turns out among my peers this is super common! Now I eat 1 slice with a salad, but still I’m not overthinking it and I’m NOT carbo loading.
I’ve done a big post on what to eat and how long before you workout to eat it, which means I won’t try to squish it all in here. Short version is fasted runs are used for specific training purposes, but probably not ideal for every week.
Morning Of the Long Run
Ok we’re down to the final piece, the actual morning of your run! Whoop, yeah baby, you’re ready to rock this mother..but first:
- Wake up early enough to drink 8 oz of water
- Hit the bathroom, possibly a few times
- Eat your light breakfast
- Foam roll to loosen muscles and increase blood flow
- Do a dynamic warm up (stop skipping this!!!)
- Walk for a few minutes before starting your run (also proven to help endurance)
Post Long Run
You freaking did it, so happy dance all over the parking lot, driveway or wherever you finish. You think I’m kidding, but I have fist bumped myself many a time for making the miles happen.
That feeling of know you did it, no matter how hard, is extremely important. It’s a reminder that you can do more than you think, something you call on come race day and proof that you can keep building by following the plan.
Now it’s time to be really smart about your recovery! Here are some guides to help you out:
- Best post run meals for recovery
- Recovering like a pro without the paycheck
- At home TENS for pain relief
- Ice bath vs epsom salt bath
Any other long run training questions?
What’s something that helped you with the miles?