If you’re new to running, and find yourself totally in awe of people who can run marathons, know that they didn’t get that way by doing long runs every day. Instead, a typical schedule for a distance runner includes a bunch of short runs during the week, and then a single long run on the weekend.
For example, when I trained for my first marathon, the first week of the program had me doing 5km runs during the week and 8km on Saturday. Over time, the Saturday run got longer and longer, until the peak week had me running 8km on weekdays and a whopping 32km run that weekend.
(That said, some weeks had shorter long runs to allow extra recovery: After you’ve done 24km, 19km feels like a holiday.)
A few things that distance runners know about long runs:
- They take a lot out of you, even if they don’t feel very hard.
- You have to run them much slower than you would a race. You need to find a pace so slow that it feels like you can keep going forever.
- You can probably run a lot farther than you think you can.
If you’ve only ever run 3-5km at a time, 8km probably sounds ambitious. It isn’t; you could probably go out and run one today, if you wanted.
Even if you’re an experienced runner, and you aren’t training for a marathon, you’ll still benefit from including a long run in your schedule. You’ll get more mitochondria in your muscles, and more capillaries supplying blood. You’re running slow, but you’re building up endurance that will help you at shorter distances too.
So, this weekend, go out for a long run. Take a distance you’re comfortable with, and go a little farther, up to double. So if you do a lot of 5km runs, try for 8km. If you do a lot of 8km runs, go out for 13-16km.
(If you truly doubt whether you can make it, find a short route that loops back to your home or car. That lets you bail early if you have to.) Put a good podcast on the ol’ headphones, and slow down and enjoy the run.