Whether you’re prepping for a marathon or a 10K, long runs will be part of your training routine. If you haven’t logged more than five miles before, distance runs can be incredibly intimidating—and incredibly rewarding. Elite marathon runner Deena Kastor shares her tips for making the most of your miles.
“The runner’s high from accomplishing ‘your longest run so far’ can last weeks,” says Deena Kastor, an elite marathon runner who won the Kaiser Permanente Rock ‘n’ Roll Pasadena Half Marathon on February 17, finishing in 1:12:57. Whether you’re lacing up for your first 6-miler or gearing up for a 20-mile run, use these expert tips to make them as enjoyable as possible:
Being low on H2O will literally slow you down. A good rule of thumb: take in four ounces of liquid for every 15 minutes you’re running, says Susie Parker-Simmons, a U.S. Olympic Committee sports dietitian. If it’s hot and humid outside, double that amount. You can either stash bottles in bushes along your route or invest in a fuel belt. On recreational runs, feel free to drink whatever you’d like (Kastor mixes Pomegranate Berry Cytomax with her water). But if you’re training for a race, try to find out what brand and flavor of sports drink will be at fuel stops. That way you can practice using that specific solution, Kastor says.
Your body can perform for up to an hour without your refueling. But during longer runs, you’ll want to start restocking your carb supply before then. Since it takes time for your body to process carbs, plan to consume about 15 grams of carbs every half hour during long runs, Parker-Simmons says. If your fluid of choice is a sports drink, you’re probably already good to go (many of these contain all the carbs you need). If you prefer H2O, bring along sports gels, beans, or chews to keep your energy up.
Novelty is your friend. Download some new tunes on your iPod, treat yourself to a new running outfit, or plot out a new route (mapmyrun.com is a great site for estimating mileage). Also important: having the right mindset—and staying focused on the end goal. Kastor likes to write a personal mantra (think: “Go the distance”) on a sweatband or rubber bracelet and wear it during long runs to stay inspired.
“Long runs are all about getting in the time or distance, so speed is less important,” Kastor says. You should be running slow enough to have a conversation (even if it’s a slightly breathless one) so that you can maintain the same pace throughout your route. Keeping a steady speed should help you run all the way to the finish line, but if you do run out of steam before then, walking for a while is better than quitting.
Feeling uncomfortable (too hot or cold, like you have to pee, or like you’re trapped in a sports bra that rubs you the wrong way) is manageable if you’re only going a few miles. But if you’re in it for the long haul, it’s smart to minimize these types of annoyances. Spend some time anticipating possible irritants and trouble-shooting them. For example, if it’s cold outside, wear a coat and plan a route that allows you to swing by your house and toss your jacket off a few miles in, after you’ve warmed up. You’ll also want to practice running in the clothes you plan to wear on race day. That way you’ll know if anything rubs you the wrong way ahead of time, Kastor says.