One of the workout types we do as runners is the long one. It’s an important endurance builder but it’s also important for your mind.
Pushing hard for short distances is fine — and necessary for pace improvements.
But to test yourself for distance you need to run a long way.
How far is a long way? It depends how far you’ve run before. But once you get up to half marathon distance, you are running a good distance.
Running a marathon is a whole lot more. And beyond that? Well, then the fun starts…
How far should your long run be? It depends what your objectives are. You might be training for your local 10K. In which case, finishing the race is often about pace rather than endurance.
If running 6.2 miles worries you then your training needs sessions where you build up to that distance.
If you are training for your first marathon, it’s different. You have to get used to being on your feet for several hours or more — possibly a lot more.
The point is, you train to cover the distance. Then, you train to cover the distance faster. In that order.
But running a long way brings its own challenges.
What does running a long way feel like?
Assuming your training has worked, it feels great. Like any running. But even when you’ve trained hard, there will be long runs that hurt.
That’s part of the job. The hurt makes you stronger. And lets you run longer. But in terms of how it actually feels? Well…
The air was heavy with warmth, like someone left the oven door open. But the wind was doing its best to knock me over like a human skittle.
So I kept the pace even — not pushing for a good time. Just steady, head up and watching the scenery pass.
I’d been passed the 10-mile point. And the half marathon point was now also a thing of the past. The spring in my step had become a bit harder to do. And the lactic build-up in legs was stinging.
But as the rampant wind gusted again, I smiled. My watch chimed for the 15-mile marker. I thought: I might be knackered but I’m still going. This is great…
And it did feel great. Despite the heavy air and the warm sun now burning my limbs. Despite the gusty gale trying to send me in a new direction. This run felt great.
Yes, I was having to work extra hard to keep my form tidy. Head up, lift the knees, etc. I don’t know why, but I knew I was going to reach the 20-mile target point. I just knew. Even though I was aching. Even though every step seemed to sting that little bit more.
I was loving it. Yeah, it was hard. But knowing that I could finish the distance and still maintain a decent pace felt amazing.
I started planning my next long run…
That pain but elation I’m describing? Yep, that’s what running a long way feels like.
Some people don’t like running long distances. And that’s fine — each to their own. But the point about long runs is: they build endurance.
So even athletes training to run shorter events really fast, will include the odd longer run in their schedules.
You might hear it referred to as putting miles in the bank. That’s a good way to describe it because running slower for longer builds endurance — ergo, miles in the bank.
When you train at high intensity, you are withdrawing from the bank. Because that solid base of endurance is being used up while you run faster and harder sessions.
Go long, get strong
Running a long way builds strength. It also conditions your mind to withstand the pressure of sustained hard effort. That/s the technical stuff.
But running a long way is an achievement like no other. That’s what makes it worthwhile. Knowing that you ran 20+ miles (or whatever distance) under your own steam.