I am now halfway through my altitude camp here in Colorado Springs, and the last little bit of snow looks set to melt and the forecast is looking good for the remainder of the time we’re out here. It is about this time when people are getting into the long runs in preparation for the Virgin London Marathon. The next six weeks will be when most people are hitting their highest miles in the long run or the longest run they have ever done. The long run is probably one of the most important aspects to marathon training but they are also something that can easily be done with many mistakes. So here are my top five long run mistakes.
Going too far too quickly
A lot of people will have been following a marathon training plan for the past four weeks and the long run should be creeping up ever so slightly each week. There is a reason for the slow progression of the long run and that is to make sure that you don't overdo it and ruin the rest of the week’s training. The rough rule for increasing the weekly mileage is about 10% each week. This means that you shouldn't increase more than 10% of your weekly mileage in one week. For example, if you are running 50 miles a week, don't then run 60 miles the following week. Using the 10% rule you'd run 55 miles and then the following week increase it further. Give your body the time it needs to adapt to the training.
Getting the pace wrong
Long runs can be done in different ways. The most common way to run your weekly long run is to set off and just run along at a comfortable pace and run to a set distance. This will get your legs used to the distance, and the distance will slowly increase each week, remembering the 10% rule. The pace of these runs is important, start running them too fast and you'll start working different energy systems. Ideally you need to start at a steady pace and really work the last 3-6 miles, sometimes even at race pace. After all this is the closest you'll get to what those final few miles are like during the marathon, when you need to try to maintain race pace when you’ve already been running for a while. So, treat the long run like a session and run it how your coach/ training program recommends.
Hydration and recovery
The long run is going to deplete you the most in terms of fluid lost and the amount of energy you use. Therefore it is important to replace everything you’ve lost. If possible hydrate during the run and get some kind of protein in your body within 20 minutes of finishing. You'll feel much better the next day. If you don’t, you’ll pay the price in the days to come.
Chasing the miles
Never use the long run as a chance to "chase" miles at the end of the week. You might be on your long run and think that if you run an extra couple of miles at the end you would hit my highest weekly mileage ever! No. That is not the idea, because if you want to do that, you have plenty of other runs during the week to run further. The long run is a session, treat it as such. Stick to the set mileage.
Not planning your route
This is kind of linked in with the above point, but you really don't want to be running any further than you're supposed to just because you got lost! You need to know where you're running and make sure you know the way! It's always good to explore new trails and new parks, but just remember you need to get back to where you started within the boundaries of your training program. Good luck to everyone on their long runs, make sure you do them sensibly! You can get a lot of confidence from the long runs going well in your training, because remember, the marathon is just another long run! Until next time.
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