How to Run Long Distance

Whether you’re a beginner runner or someone who’s been running for years, eventually you’ll want to start running longer distances. The trouble is, running long distances can be really tough – especially if you’re not used to it!

Long-distance running sounds intimidating when you’re first beginning. When a mile or two feels like a struggle, it’s hard to imagine that running double-digit mileage could ever feel normal.

How To Run Long Distances?

Most runners find themselves wanting to run longer distances as they begin to build fitness. After a few months of consistent training, running feels easier and completing longer distances starts to sound more realistic.

But although it sounds less far-fetched, trying to actually run longer can bring its fair share of struggles. Adding even a single mile to your weekly long run for the first time can feel nearly impossible. 

However, once you begin to run long distances regularly, each long run sounds and feels a little less intimidating. 

Long Distance Running Involves Consistency

To run long distances without getting tired, you’ll have to be consistent in your training. Heading out for a 20 miler is a lot easier after consistently completing long runs of 14, 16, and 18 miles the month before. On the other hand, heading out to run 20 miles after taking three weeks off is bound to feel miserable.

Many new runners surprise themselves with the love they develop for the sport and the drive they feel to improve. As a mile starts to feel easier, you’ll probably set out to run your first 5k.

After completing a 5k, the next natural step is a 10k, half marathon and marathon. As most runners will agree – long-distance running is addicting.

Whether you’re hoping to train for a distance race, want to increase your mileage, or simply hope to get in better shape – long-distance running provides many benefits. Becoming a better distance runner is a lifelong process.

Long-distance running helps cultivate a unique sense of accomplishment. Challenging yourself to long runs each week helps create both mental and physical strength that can translate to just about any area of your life.

Learning how to run long distances is just the beginning. Spend time increasing your stamina to complete your long runs without getting tired, and before you know it you’ll be conquering goals that once felt impossible.

As long-distance running continues to grow in popularity, we find more and more opportunities to practice our sport. These 10 tips for long-distance runners will help you run farther, easier and enjoy every moment.

How To Get Better At Running Long Distances

#1 Get The Right Running Gear

If you’re serious about running long distances, you need to have the right gear. That means a good pair of running shoes, comfortable clothes that won’t chafe, and maybe even some accessories like a water bottle, electrolytes, or energy gel.

Not all shoes are made equally for all runners and you really need to make sure you know what kind of runner you are. Remember, there are specific shoes designed for how you hit the pavement and how your foot rolls.

Again, investing in the right gear will make a big difference in your long-run experience.

#2 Develop a Long-Distance Running Mindset

You do not want to go into a run and say “oh! I gotta run this long?” “I can’t wait to be done with this one already”. When you do that, mentally you burn yourself out.

So one of the biggest obstacles to running long distances is mental fatigue. It’s easy to convince yourself that you’re tired and that you can’t possibly run any further.

The key to overcoming this is to cultivate a long-distance running mindset. This means convincing yourself – through whatever means necessary – that you can indeed run long distances.

So with the right mindset, anything is possible.

#3 Get Small Realistic Goals

One of the best ways to become better at running long distances is to set small goals. For example, if your goal is to run a marathon, start by running lots of 10-kilometre races. Or, if you want to run a half-marathon, start by running lots of five-kilometre races.

By setting small goals, you’ll be able to slowly build up your endurance and become better at running long distances.

#4 Always Warm-Up and Cool Down

Warming up before you run and cooling down afterwards is crucial, especially if you’re running long distances. A good warm-up will help get your muscles ready for the run ahead, while a cool-down will help your body recover afterwards.

When you warm up slowly and properly, you want to do a slow walk or even a little jog.

#5 Maintain Good Running Form

As you’re running, it’s important to maintain good form. You do not want to have a stiff upper body. You want to run in an upright position with your torso straight and not be bent too far from the waist area.

Don’t take big shots because you want to be efficient. So, look at the horizon, not your feet, cup your hands, shorten your strides, keep your head up, relax your neck and shoulders, keep your arms close to your body, and swing them so they can propel you forward.

Additionally, make sure you’re landing on your midfoot and pushing off with your toes. If you’re a pure heel striker, do not try to change your running form as this can lead to injury.

If you feel like your legs are getting tired, it’s okay to stop. Pump some squats a little bit, which is going to release your hip and also get your glutes and hamstring involved so your legs get a little more power.

Overall, the proper running form will help you breathe effectively and easily. It can also help you run more efficiently and therefore even prevent injuries. 

#6 Start Slow

If you’re new to running long distances, it’s important to pace yourself when you’re running long distances. That means starting with shorter runs and gradually increasing your speed to keep your speed comfortable so you can go longer.

It might take some time, but eventually, you’ll be able to run the distance you want without getting tired. Don’t worry about speed because you can work on that later.

So, go at a pace that you could talk comfortably, be consistent, and relax your breathing.

#7 Breathing

Establishing a rhythm with your breathing is a vital step to keep you honest with your pacing but also establish good communication with your posture. So for your long run, every one mile, you’re going to spend the first minute of that mile only breathing in through your nose.

You’re welcome to breathe out through your mouth but adjust your pace as needed to allow yourself to breathe only into your nose and out through your mouth.

The reason we do that is that when we breathe through our nose, it’s a good way for us to re-establish communication with our diaphragm. And when we do that, we tend to build a lot more stability in our run and we avoid the kind of side shifting that we might see.

Again, for every mile, you’re going to spend the first minute of it breathing through your nose.

#8 Lower HR

Keep your heart rate at an aerobic state. Again, breathe in through your nose and breathe out through your mouth, which is going to be giving you enough oxygen so you can last for a longer amount of time. The more oxygen, the better.

#9 Cadence

Cadence is how many steps you take in a minute and it’s one of the things that will quickly degrade as fatigue starts setting in more and more. In your long run, try to figure out your natural cadence and check in with it with 10% left in your mileage on the run.

Let’s say you’re running 20 miles. For the last two miles, you’re going to turn your metronome on and see if you can still match the natural cadence that you had when you started.

#10 Gradually Increase Mileage

When you get some shorter runs under your belt, you will feel stronger and you probably would go out and run really fast. Don’t do that because that could lead to injury. Instead, you want to gradually increase that pace as you get into your stride.

The key here is that we are not going to be running more mileage at any kind of faster speed. In fact, most of our mileage increases are going to be a very easy effort. It’s a run that’s very easy either at a recovery pace or at an easy effort that feels comfortable, controlled, and conversational.

5 Tips for Long-Distance Running

Break each long run into sections

Nothing feels more intimidating than knowing you have a long run ahead of you. Running out halfway and turning around usually makes the run feel like it is dragging on. 

Instead, try breaking your run up into sections, both mentally and physically. For example, a 16-mile run can be broken up into four, 4-mile runs, rather than two sections of 8. Try running four miles in one direction and then switch it up for the next section.

Finding a way to keep these sections different will help you mentally break down the distance and feel confident in your ability to accomplish it.

Run long runs slowly

No matter how “slow” you feel like your regular running pace is, make sure to slow it down for your long runs. All of your long runs should be completed at an easy, conversational pace.

The purpose of long-distance running is just that – to run long distances. If you want to run long distances without getting tired, focus on the length of the run rather than the speed at which you complete it. Take your time, don’t push yourself, and enjoy the miles.

Prepare for the mental battle of long distance

The best way to set yourself up for failure is to think negative thoughts before you even begin. One of the worst things you can do before a long run is to tell yourself that you are heading out for a really long run and it will take forever. 

Retraining your brain and focusing on a positive mindset is key to surviving long distances. Starting your run with a negative will only make it feel impossible. 

Mentally prepare yourself for the distance – tell yourself anything you need to make the run feel possible and manageable. Maybe you only have to run your usual 4-mile run four times, or you’ll just be running for the length of a movie. Whatever helps make it sound a little easier.

Run/walk when you need to

If you are really struggling, allow yourself to take walk breaks when you need them. Using a run/walk method is a great way to run longer distances without getting tired the first time.

Remember that the point of long-distance running is to get in those long distances – not to run fast. Break each mile up into a section of running and a section of walking if you need to, or plan a walk break at each quarter of the run. 

Don’t get down on yourself if you need to walk. Walking is sometimes the best way to increase your distance for the first time. 16 miles is still 16 miles whether you walk or run.

Take your long run outside

I can’t say this enough: if at all possible, complete your long runs outside.

There is nothing more miserable than being stuck on a treadmill for hours at a time! Staring at the same scenery for that long feels incredibly dreadful – not to mention the fact that the treadmill never lets you run across different terrain or up and down hills. 

If there is no trail or running route near your house, allow for some extra time to drive to a nearby trail. Those extra minutes or hours you spend travelling to a beautiful trail will help the miles fly by – and be greatly worth it.

Long Distance Running Is Rewarding

The challenge that comes with running long distances is what makes it feel so exhilarating. Knowing that very few people are strong enough to conquer these types of long runs brings a sense of well-deserved pride to every long-distance runner.

Whether you have been completing long runs for years or are just beginning to increase your mileage, make sure to take time to appreciate everything you have accomplished. 

Long-distance running is a sport unlike any other, requiring rare mental strength. Be sure to celebrate the successes and learn from each struggle.


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