If you’ve ever clocked more than five miles, you know that there’s a serious difference between running one or two miles and running multiples of that distance at once. Long runs are more challenging physically. However, they also require a great deal of mental and emotional focus. The longer you run, the more time you spend putting one foot in front of the other. For most people, this can bring about a great deal of boredom.
Long runs are tough on the body. “The pounding your joints and tendons take as you spend time moving your legs in a similar pattern all adds up,” says Melis Edwards, M.S., a running and triathlon coach and author of Deep End of the Pool Workouts. The good news is that there are plenty of tips and tricks to make long runs easier for you in every way. Here, we asked top running experts to share their best-kept secrets for making it through long runs.
Start with a goal of running a set duration.
To make longer runs feel easier, Samantha Clayton, a physical trainer and senior director of Worldwide Fitness Education for Herbalife Nutrition, uses running time as her metric instead of focusing on distance. “After about 30 minutes of continuous running, vary your running speed and terrain. Work on finding your own comfortable stride length and technique,” she says. “As 30 minutes start to feel easier, increase your duration by ten to 15 minutes each week. Before you know it, you’ll feel confident running for a longer time. You can soon transition to aiming for set distances.”
Oddly enough, the farther the training run, the longer it may take to warm up and settle into that comfortable running feeling, according to Edwards. “When training for a 30-plus-mile event, it may take the first eight to ten miles to relax and just enjoy the run. But shorter runs can be even tougher because they’re faster [and] geared for tempo work. And there may be a tendency to push harder just because of the shorter nature,” Edwards explains. She considers her warm-up phase as the time to chill out and get into the groove. “Once I settle into a comfortable pace, I chat with my running partner and perhaps explore a trail that I may not have been on before!”
Have snacks on hand.
The idea of munching on anything during a run may sound a little strange at first. However, Edwards attributes snacking to helping her get through long-distance runs. “What works for me is a treat that’s typically saved for the halfway point of the run, such as thick julienned jicama (the cool and crunchy texture feels amazing in a mouth typically coated with [the] salty and sweet of other training foods), apples or other fruit or veggies, and even homemade savory bars that my husband makes,” she says. “However, I do have a sweet tooth. So I have also run with my favorite candy (Necco wafers) in a pocket, an apple fritter, or a special raspberry flavor of gel.” Of course, she’s not recommending running with donuts and candy in your pocket. But she’s all for a little “yum” along the way.
Run the same route.
Alexandria Williams, Road Runners Club of America’s certified running coach and director on the board of the National Black Marathoners Association, runs the same routes for long runs. Yet as many times as she runs it, she often bumps into new people or sees something unique or new. “This means I don’t have to worry [about] a plethora of other things each week, such as what my routes would be, parking, or any other issue,” she says. “It may sound boring at first, but it’s actually very helpful. I can compare week over week for improvement, and it boosts my self-esteem.”
Or … find a new route!
On the other hand, Meghan Kennihan, an Illinois-based personal trainer and running coach, sees the benefit in choosing alternative routes on occasion. “If you typically run your daily runs on a road loop around your house, go find a destination where there will be new sights to see. A local zoo, botanical garden, or even a new neighborhood,” she says. “The new environment will keep your mind busy. Whether it be looking at the fancy houses in the neighborhood or watching your footing through the rocks and roots on the trail.”
Enlist the help of a running buddy.
Whereas some runners prefer to run solo, others owe their commitment and ability to clock miles to their running buddy. Running side by side with another person (or animal) can be helpful for myriad reasons. For Clayton, running with her dog helps her forget the amount of time that’s passing. “My dog keeps me moving and motivated, along with some heart-pumping music, of course!”