Long Run Preparations
In preparation for running a full marathon your training schedule will consist of various types of runs. At the center of your training schedule is the long run around which all other days are scheduled. Because the long run is the most intense and exhausting many runners choose to run it on Saturday or early in the morning on Sunday.
A long run is considered to be a run longer than 10 miles which is 16 kilometers or lasts longer than 90 minutes. The long run should be ran continuously to gain from its benefits, however, walking breaks are allowed for beginners who are new to this distance.
Benefits of a long run
Some physical benefits of the long run are that they increase your ability to store more glycogen in your muscles. More glycogen means a high pace can be maintained for a longer time. *Mitochondria as well as capillaries in the active muscles are increased and thereby improving the muscles’ ability to remove and utilize available oxygen. Additionally the long run recruits otherwise unused muscle fibers. This results in a greater pool of conditioned fibers which could be called upon in later stages of the marathon race.
Psychological benefit of the long run is that the long runs teach you to over come the psychological challenges which accompany running a long distance. You experience the pain and the fatigue and are able to continue going, this will be a great experience to remember when you’re running the final miles of your marathon race. Knowing that you are able to continue even though things hurt and your thoughts have turned negative is very valuable.
Another benefit of running a long distance run is that you can practice to drink fluids on the run (while moving). Certain skills are required to be able to hold a cup or bottle in one hand and bringing it to your mouth without spilling valuable fluids. It teaches you how much you can drink at one time without upsetting your stomach. You also have the opportunity to experiment with various *energy drinks which are needed to boost your glycogen levels. It is usually a good idea to drink some water or sports drink to flush down the (sweet) energy drink. Hopefully you’ll learn how many times you need to refuel in order to finish without hitting the wall and experience which energy drinks give the best results without upsetting your stomach.
Lastly the long runs will give you confidence, and teach you to be patient. Patience means not to go too fast even if you feel wonderful during the first half of the race, save that energy for the second half. Try to keep an even pace and speed up during the last quarter if you feel enough energy.
* (Mitochondria are )
* (Energy drinks contain high amounts of carbohydrates which are converted into glycogen, this glycogen is the energy your muscles need to function)
How many long runs?
This is frequently an important question for beginner and intermediate runners. For those of you with little experience should be able to build up to one peak run of 20 miles which is 34 kilometers. Gradually increase your long runs by no more than 10 percent.
Intermediate level runners should be able to handle three long runs between 18 and 20 miles at their peak. Intermediate recreational runners could be able to participate in two or three marathon races a year in which they can try to set new personal best times. This means their training cycle is about four months.
Advanced runners could do several long runs of 20 to 26 or even *30 miles. However, distances as much as 30 miles have not yet been proven to deliver improved results, rather these extreme long distances have an increased chance of incurring an injury. Coaches and professional runners alike agree that there are no significant benefits of running over four hours, it just adds tremendously to the fatigue level. Running extreme long distances such as these should bring us to the next question; at what pace should the long run be ran?
* (30 miles long runs should only be practiced by professional elite runners who are under the supervision of experienced coaches)
Long run pace
The mainstream of coaches and experienced runners say that the long run should be ran at about 1 to 1½ minute slower than race pace. If you are planning to keep an 8 minute per mile pace during your marathon race then your practice long distance runs should be about 9 to 9½ minute per mile.
Preparing for the long run
The intensity of a long run requires you to properly prepare for it otherwise you’ll fail to either reach the desired distance or be unable to reap the benefits.
One day before the long run you should consume lots of water to make sure you are sufficiently hydrated. During lunch and dinner time you should eat high carbohydrate food to load as much energy as possible. Experiment with running the day before and taking a complete day off. Some runners feel more relaxed if they do an easy run the day before the long run, but be careful to keep the run very short and easy on your legs, it is not recommended to go into the long run exhausted. Rest as much as possible and get a good long sleep which will make you feel refreshed.
On the day of the long run you should have an easily digestible snack with plenty of carbohydrates one and a half hour before you start with lots of water to top off your tank. While running you should consume fluids every 3 to 4 miles. Running longer that 90 minutes you should consider a “sports drink” which contains sodium and some carbohydrates. If there are vending machines on your route than you are lucky, if not, you should carry fluid replacement drinks or stash bottles on the route before you begin running. Also try gel carbohydrate energy products at certain stages during your long run. Runners of all levels need these to continue their marathon training.
After the long run
Quickly consume chilled fluid replacement drinks, the colder the drinks are the faster your body is able to absorb them. Many runners prepare recovery smoothies which contain high dosages of carbohydrates, protein and usually fruits with vitamin C. Place smoothies in the fridge or a cooling bag if you have to leave it in the car or elsewhere outside. Replacing carbs within 20 minutes after you fininsh running is said to speed up recovery.
PS: Don't forget to enjoy!