How to Conquer the Long Run

I first posted this back in March when I was getting towards the peak of mileage in marathon training.  Since the Berlin Marathon has just gone by and there are some autumn half marathons coming up it seemed a fitting time to repost to give some tips on how to get through a long run to get you going if you’re feeling inspired by Berlin or nervous ahead of your first 13.1.

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1. GPS

Plan your route! Getting lost makes you lose your stride physically and psychologically.  Knowing where you’re going takes the pressure off you to think about it constantly and allows you to focus on your run.  This is why it’s so much easier to focus in organised events and races – your route is pre-determined.

2. Audio

I choose to run with music, but some people find podcasts or nothing at all works best for them.  But whatever you do make sure you have a long playlist or podcast to hand, and one that you know quite well so you start to mentally pace yourself to the music.  I know how long it takes me to run a mile in songs pretty accurately now, and I don’t break my stride flipping through songs I don’t like running to.

(If you do run to music then my two necessary songs are Lose Yourself by Eminem and The Best by Tina Turner)

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3. Visual

I find the sights that surround me when I run are hugely important.  In the first few miles before I start to feel tired I can run anywhere, but when the going gets tough I need visual treats to keep me moving forwards.  I’m lucky that I live in London and am able to run by the river, but think about how the route feels when you’re planning your run.  Those last few miles will be even tougher if you follow a suburban, industrial or commercial road.  This means planning your route on a training run, I can’t focus on this enough, and making sure you know a few landmarks on a race.  Once you have these landmarks memorised and invested with their meaning (e.g. halfway, only a mile to go) you will feel really excited and renewed with energy when you see them.

4. Mental

I find counting miles (or km) a really tough way to do things because no matter if I know that I’ve run 14 miles and I only have 2 left, those 2 miles still seem incredibly hard and what I’ve already done seems unimportant.  Instead I count my progress in percent or fractions.  For example, if I run 20 miles and I’m starting to feel tired, I don’t think I’ve run 14 miles and I need to run another 6 and my life sucks, I think about the fact that I’ve run 70% already. I feel far better putting what I’ve already achieved in context rather than focusing on what I have left.

5. Gels

I’d never used gels previously, instead relying on jelly babies and old fashioned water, but I’ve found that I really do need the support on the longer distances.  I’ve found Torq gels to be successful as they’re gentle on the stomach and don’t taste bad at all.  However, it is important to find out what works for you in training runs and not try them suddenly during a race.  We’ve all heard the horror stories.

6. Smile

This is a little cheesy but if I’m struggling I force myself to grin like a madman.  I genuinely do start to feel better and it’s a reminder that although running can be hard, it should be enjoyable and not torture.

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