Every runner, marathoner, half marathoner, 10 miler etc, has a long run on their training plan. It may be 3 miles or it may be 20 miles, either way they are dreaded. Unless you are me and look forward to your weekend long runs. I think about my long runs all week and pump myself up. What will I eat the night before? What music will I put on my playlist? Which route will I take? What is the weather going to be like? What will I wear? These are all pretty easy questions for me to answer now but when I first started out I had no idea.
What to eat the night before? Let’s just say ice cream, massive amounts of drinking and Mexican are foods you will want to stay away from. I recommend something healthy and if you are running long (10+ miles) whole wheat pasta, brown rice or quinoa, oatmeal or bread. I love having a turkey sandwich before a long run or race. Figuring out what to eat before a long run will help you figure out what to eat the night before a big race. It will help you to choose which foods fuel you and which foods upset you. Don’t forget to hydrate with water and sports drinks. I try to have a few sips of a sports drink if I will be running for more than an hour and a half.
What’s the weather like? What should I wear? Check the weather before you head out and dress like it’s 10 degrees warmer. You don’t want to over dress in the summer which I do a lot and you don’t want to under dress in the winter. I only made that mistake once this winter. Wear something comfy and easy to move. Bonus points if you wear wicking material. The last thing you want is chafing on a long run. Speaking of chafing, don’t forget BodyGlide. I put it on my thighs (chub rub), on my lower back (my pants and shorts run there for some reason) and feet.
Get a good nights sleep and start early: Actually, you don’t really need to start early, that’s just my personal preference. I love to start a long run before 7am and be done before 10. It’s like I still have a morning to enjoy and didn’t waste my entire day. While training for my first marathon (ages ago 2008?) I would get up at 6, do my long run, shower and climb back in bed. It was one of my favorite things to do. But, for real, get a good nights rest. It’s easier to run long when you aren’t thinking about laying down on the sidewalk to take a nap.
What to eat the morning of? You should always eat something before you run, you will need it to have the energy to get through your workout. However, I am really bad at this. I pretty much head out the door without eating. Sometimes I grab a handful of marshmallows or Swedish fish. Ideally, you should eat something low in fiber and fats. Some good choices are half a bagel (or a rice cake) with peanut butter, banana or an energy bar. Don’t forget to hydrate too!
Fuel on your run: Drive the course before you run it and leave water/sports drinks along the way. You can carry water with you, either a handheld or belt. I carry a regular water bottle in my hand and toss if when I am done. You can also carry change with you so that you can stop and buy water along the way. I also like to take GU or Power Bar gels with me on my run and take them every hour. You should take them every 45 mins but for me it’s easier to remember every hour. ( Hint: If you run out of pockets or don’t have pockets, you can safety-pin Gu’s to the inside of your shirt or shorts)
Keep yourself motivated
- Get someone to run with you. 20 miles goes by fast when you are chatting away with a friend. OR have a friend meet you to finish the last 5-10 miles with you.
- If you run with music, plan a killer playlist. Put on your absolute favorite songs or songs that you can’t help dancing to. My personal favorites, Pump It by Black Eyed Peas, Ladies Choice from Hairspray, Low by Flo Rida and Let’s Get Loud by J.Lo.
- Plan a route that goes through somewhere you like. If there is a certain bridge or store you like, plan your route so you run past it. It will give you something to look forward to. I like to plan an out and back route, that way I run to the furthest point and have no choice but to run back.
- Set small goals for yourself while running. “I want to run 7 miles in the first hour but 8 in the second hour” “I want to run the same pace throughout” “I want to finish in under X hours” “Oh look I only have 3 miles to go, let’s do it in X amount of time”
- Remind yourself why you signed up for a race in the first place. Use that to push yourself to finish.
- Don’t forget bragging rights “I ran X miles this morning”
Recover & Replenish: Find what works for you. Whether it is stretching, legs up the wall, ice baths, downing massive amounts of chocolate milk or wearing compression apparel (or spanx if you are cheap like me). Make sure you eat something. Sometimes after a run I feel tired or sick and eating does not sound good but do it anyways. Even if it is a glass of chocolate milk it is better than nothing at all. Chocolate milk is actually good for you post long run.
Joel Stager, Ph.D., director of the department of kinesiology at Indiana University. According to a study Stager led, drinking chocolate milk postexercise speeds up recovery and increases the time it takes to reach exhaustion during a subsequent exercise session better than sports drinks. And a 2007 British study found that regular milk is better than water or a sports drink at restoring fluid levels following a bout of exercise in the heat. Plus, milk contains bone-strengthening vitamin D and calcium.
Play around with all aspects of a long run and find what works for YOU. What works for one person does not work for everyone.
What are your long run tips? What motivates your long run?
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. I’ve been running since grade school and started marathon running after college. I have completed 10 marathons and my advice is what works for me or what should work for most people.