The long run has been the staple of running training ever since competitive running began. Every training guide ever written for running includes regular long runs. This is because it is the tried and tested method of increasing endurance for overall running improvement.
Every runner, regardless of the distance of races they run should run regular long runs. If you only ever race 5km races then a long run will give you the same benefit as a marathoner. The benefit is increased endurance. In running terms endurance is the ability to sustain a prolonged effort or activity. Increasing endurance will help you give your best effort towards the end of your runs and races.
The long run length should be long relative to your overall mileage and race goals. There is no point pushing through a two hour long run if you only ever race up to 5km. A good rule of thumb is to schedule your long run to be roughly 20% of your overall weekly mileage. For a 5km runner who does 35-40km a week an 8-10km long run is more than sufficient. However for the runner training for longer races putting in 80-100km a week they will need a longer run to get the benefits.
As you run longer races the long run should build in time. I am currently in week two of a 14 week marathon preparation, my long run this week was at 1 hour 45 min and will build over the next 10 weeks until I reach a three hour long run. If I’m not focussed on a specific race distance then just maintaining a weekly long run that is roughly 20% of my total weekly mileage still has a great effect on your overall endurance .
Focus on keeping your running at an aerobic pace. Pace doesn’t matter during a long run, keep the pace comfortable and ensure you get through the time. The seeds of endurance are harvested at an aerobic pace. This should also help make the long run the most enjoyable run of the week. Keeping the pace aerobic allows you to enjoy your run and the surroundings your running in.
Run long, run often and then run long again.
How did your long run go this week?