Long runs are a staple of every runner's training. We usually do these in one of two ways: an easy long run, or a long run with a workout within it. Both are super beneficial, though I really think the easy long run is an unsung hero of endurance training for a number of reasons.
1. It can be boring. It takes some openness to appreciate the beauty in the boring, and make that space engaging for yourself. Having a workout in your long run gives you benchmarks to meet along the way, breaking it up into more digestible bits. Having along easy run is mentally arduous.
-This helps build mindfulness, mental fortitude and stamina.
-It teaches you to meet yourself where you're at, be where you're at, tolerate the
suffering, whatever kind of suffering that may be.
2. It builds aerobic capacity. Yes, keeping the majority of your miles easy is integral to building and improving aerobic capacity, but doing easy long runs strengthens aerobic capacity leaps and bounds, provided you aren't stopping during your run. If you stop multiple times, it really doesn't do much for you. Everything we do requires aerobic capacity, the marathon for sure, but even the 5k.
3. It strengthens your musculoskeletal system without undue stress from integrated speed work built into the long run. We take millions of steps. Easy long runs help you to condition your musculoskeletal system for repeated high impact when you do eventually incorporate pace work into your long runs and for race day.
4. It lets you practice the little things without stress of the workout. Some people hear "easy long run," and maybe skip their breakfast, or think it is just easy they don't need to prepare as much. But this is an optimal time to prepare!
-Try your pre-race meal for dinner the night before.
-Practice appropriate race hydration.
-Practice your race breakfast before the run.
-Practice your fueling during the long run.
-Practice your pre-race routine.
It isn't ideal to just wing it race day, your long runs are the best opportunity to perfect your pre-race preparation and the easy long runs allow you to do so without stressing about doing all this AND nailing your pace work.
5. Hearing "20 miles easy," as your prescribed workout is enough to make anybody cringe. Why? Why is it cringeworthy? Because it's really hard to do the same thing for such a long duration of time. This is physical and mental endurance training at it's finest.
Tips for Nailing that Long Run:
1. Wake up early enough before you plan on running to do the following:
2. Dress appropriately. Layers are useful, and keep in mind...long runs heat you up.
Overdressing can be a real thorn in your side.
2. Plan your route before you leave.
-Avoid traffic lights that may interrupt your run and force you to stop. No stops on the
long run is to me, one of the most important things.
-If you will need a water refill, plan so you have access to water on your route.
3. Go with friends!
4. Minimize frustration: If you are running solo and enjoy listening to music or podcasts,
set up that queue so you don't have to mess with it during your run.
5. Procrastination is another way of saying self-inflicted torture. We've all done it. Waited too long to start our long run and then it's ridiculously hot, we're under-hydrated, we feel rushed, we've made it out to be something more than it is in our heads, and in delaying some discomfort, we've made it exponentially more uncomfortable for ourselves. Do your best to get up when the alarm goes off and get moving!