By Carissa Liebowitz
The long, slow distance run is an essential workout for any runner attempting to complete their first half marathon. Running long distances will prepare your body for the endurance it will need on race day.
There is no skimping in this workout as it is integral that you continue to build on a base until you reach your desired longest run. Most long, slow distance runs in beginning programs start with 4 to 5 miles and build up to 10 to 12 miles. Over the course of the program, the long run is the one run you want to try to avoid not missing.
The long run for many beginners will be one of the biggest mental challenges during the training process. Running for long periods of time when you are unaccustomed to it can be lonely, boring, and let’s face it, exhausting.
One of the best things you can do is recruit a training buddy. As Christine, a five-time half marathoner from Connecticut says, “Training plans are great. Training buddies are even better.”
Long runs are meant to be run at a slower pace and thus, it should be fairly easy to carry on a conversation. Even if you have a casual runner friend who can run half the distance, it will help to keep things interesting.
Plus, by adding some socialization into your program, you are less likely to skip out on your workout. Just make sure your training pal is respectful of your goals and doesn’t try to amp up the speed.
Be prepared for the boredom if you are going solo. Make a fun playlist if you like to listen to music as you run. Run a new route to keep the scenery interesting. Plan a reward for accomplishing the workout so you have something to look forward to.
The key is to stay motivated to make it to the next run. If you can continue to accomplish long runs, they will give you great confidence in your abilities on race day.
Easy does it
One of the biggest mistakes first-timers make is running long runs too fast. The goal is to finish the mileage set forth by your training program. Take walk breaks if necessary, especially if you feel exhaustion creeping up on you.
A few minutes walking can restore your energy and help you finish the run. Keep moving as much as possible if you do need to slow down. Time on your feet is the important thing to consider if you find that running becomes too difficult.
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Many runners enjoy the confidence they feel after accomplishing a 12 mile run if they are preparing for a half marathon. Knowing that they only need to complete 1.1 more miles is a huge mental boost on race day. However, many training plans have a 10-mile run as the longest run.
M.J. Allen, a four-time half marathoner from Virginia advises, “You should do at least two 10-milers before the event. More is better. Longer is better, but only if you have built up to it. Better to be slightly under-trained than to start the race worn out.”
Allow time for tapering
Joe, a half marathoner from Pennsylvania echoes the same thoughts by suggesting, “You should be able to finish 10 miles with a little left in the tank but if you can work your way up to 12 or 13 miles before the race that’s even better for the confidence bank.”
Plan your final long run approximately two weeks before race day. This run should be your dress rehearsal. If the weather is close to what it is expected to be the day of the race, wear the same clothes you expect to race in.
Try to take minimal breaks on the final long run so your body has an idea of what to expect when the race clock is ticking. Once you finish that final run, relish in the fact that your next long run will be a brand new accomplishment.