Marathon Long Run

Long runs come in all different shapes and sizes, but one thing is for sure is they are so important for a successful marathon! You might be able to wing training for shorter distances but sadly this is not the case when it comes to the marathon for the majority of us!

As daunting as it may be to go out and run for 20 to 22 miles, this is an essential element of marathon training. The long run gives you a chance to experience what your body will go through in the final stages of your marathon, allowing you to mentally prepare. It’s also a great opportunity to fine-tune your pacing, nutrition, and hydration strategies.

Much fuss is made over the long run, but it shouldn’t be a huge leap in mileage from what you’ve been running already. If you’ve been adding a mile or two to your weekly long runs (except on recovery weeks when you’ll back off a bit), you should be in the territory of 18 to 20 miles the week or two before your 20- to 22-mile run.

If you’re still in the 15 to 17 mile territory, you may want to add one more build week to make sure you don’t overextend yourself and risk an injury. But if you’ve logged the right mileage, you’re in the right time frame, and you’re ready to get this thing done, here are some tips to having a successful and productive long run:

Get Some Company 

Having a friend or even better a group of friends will help the miles fly by and you can also help each other through those difficult miles, that we all experience. Arranging to run with others is also important for accountability and motivation to make sure you get out of bed and meet your running buddies! Running with runners of a similar ability or goal is ideal but even if you have a friend who can help you on part of the way this can be extremely useful and if you time it right you could run to meet them and they could have a drink on hand to practice that race day fuelling! Running with others is also important from a safety aspect.

Plan a Route

It’s really difficult to simply go out and run for 20-plus miles without making a solid route plan. Choosing your route ahead of time will not only ensure you reach your goal mileage, but will help keep you focused on running rather than figuring out where to run. It’s best to choose a route you’re familiar with so you won’t be surprised by terrain changes, and to choose terrain that roughly matches your race course. I’d always recommend letting someone know where you plan on running so they know what time to expect you back and have an idea of where you’ve headed.

You can use tools like Good Run Guide, Map My Run and routes from past workouts to help you plan your ideal long run. When I’m running somewhere new I always explore segments on Strava to give me an idea of where people run. Since you’ll most likely be out for multiple hours depending on your pace, it’s also a good idea to plan your route around a few potential bathroom stops and water refills (think coffee shops, public parks, etc.)

Plan Your Nutrition

Consider your last long run to be a final test of your marathon nutrition plan—that means prepping for your run like you would for race day, including the dinner, breakfast, and possibly lunch you’ll eat before you run. Bring the gels, bars, sweets, and/or hydration mix you plan to consume while racing as well. If something doesn’t agree with you, it’s better to find out on a practice run than on race day! The earlier you can practice this the better.

Mix it Up

Run in different places, run over different terrains, include a local race as part of your long run, it doesn’t matter just keep things interesting as it will help you mentally! Try and pick routes that have similar elevations to the course you’re racing. Hilly terrain is also great for building strength and endurance and trail running is nice for reducing the impact on your body and will offer a new stimulus to running on the roads.