How to survive the long runs during marathon training

If you haven’t read Part 1 of the series, you should do that. Long runs are just one of the many things you do during marathon training. But it’s a rather important one. During these awfully long runs, you build your endurance, and your legs get used to long distances.

About long runs

What do I call a long run? Anything more than 15km.

How did we increase the distance? We started with 15k and each week we tried to increase with 3-5km. We had 18, 20, 25, 28, 32.

How often did the long runs happen? Every other week. We also had a few consecutive ones, but not too frequently.

How long does it take? The 32k run was loooong. I left the house at 7:30 am and came back just a few minutes after 12. But I had no time pressure, so I stopped whenever I needed. I also did a parkrun during those 32k, so I had a few minutes break before and after the 5k.

Do you eat or drink anything during the long runs? We start drinking water after about 1hour and a half of running. As for food, we hate the idea of running gels, so we decided to opt for real food. We bought Trek bars (vegan oats bars), and we had 1 per run. During the longest run, we had 2 – one after 10 miles, the other one after 15. Update: we stopped eating during runs, you can read more about intermittent fasting in Alin’s post about the Chester Marathon

Everyone is different. Try a few things and see what works for you. The main reason why we prefer oats bars over gels is that bars will be broken down a lot slower than gels, and they’ll provide you with energy for a longer time than gels. So you need to eat fewer times per run, which will put a lot less stress on your digestive system. Gels will spike your blood glucose for some minutes, the body will use that sugar, and you’ll be back on burning glycogen a lot faster than with bars.

How can I not get bored during all that time? We listened to music or podcasts. “Serial Season 1” and “Marathon Talk” have helped me get through hours and hours of running.

What do you carry with you? We carried our water, Trek bars, keys, cards, tissues and phone in one waist bag. It’s easy to carry and doesn’t bother you. But, wireless headphones would have been useful. Lessons learnt, we ordered some.

What do you eat before a long run? Everyone is different. I noticed my long runs were much better without having any breakfast, just some coffee, as they were in the morning.

Tips for the long runs

Surviving the long runs of marathon training. Marathon training | Running tips | Fitness tips | Run a marathon

1. Treat them as they are – preparation runs. Wear as many of the clothes you’ll wear on race day (especially the shoes!), try foods until you get to the perfect one and test when you need to start drinking water.

2. The time it takes you to complete the run doesn’t matter, you’re not racing. The purpose of the long runs is to do as many miles as possible, to get your legs used to doing time and distance.

3. This is not a tip for long runs, but for running in general: your running shoes need to be 1 or even 1 and a half size bigger than your normal shoes. If you can get a custom-made insole, even better. Add a pair of proper running socks, and you’ll have the perfect formula. Proper shoes help you avoid blisters and black toenails.

4. To avoid blisters caused by sweating during long runs, I put baby powder on my feet before putting on my socks.

5. If you’re a man and obviously don’t wear a sports bra, Alin recommends putting plasters on your nipples to avoid chafing. We’ve seen a guy running the London Marathon with bloody nipples. The disaster can be avoided :).

6. Warm up before the run. Sometimes your knees hurt because they’re trying to compensate for some muscles that weren’t activated and didn’t do the work. Do exercises that will activate your calves, hamstrings, quads and glutes. Squats, (walking) lunges and inchworms are a few good examples. Dynamic stretches are also good – running sideways, knee ups, but kicks, etc.

7. Stretch after the run. Your recovery will be much quicker, and you’ll feel satisfied with your effort, instead of frustrated of being in pain. A foam roller and some bath salts are also very useful; you’ll be back to normal by the next day.

Do you have other tips for the long runs?

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