Everyone wants their long run to go well, but what constitutes 'well'? This is a question I get asked a lot and there are many different approaches you can take towards what might essentially be your hardest workout of the week. The marathon is a long run at the end of the day. The time you spend on your feet is probably the most important thing, because that will allow your body to get used to dealing with the duration.
How far should my long run be?
Depending on how advanced you want to be with your training (and how fast you are planning on running), will greatly affect the kind of long run you do. What I've always been told by coaches over the years is that the long run should be 20 per cent of your weekly mileage. So if you are running 50 miles (80km) a week you should be looking at your long run being about 10 miles (16km). That is a good starting point, but you would want to get your long run a lot higher than 10 miles, because after all you are going to have to run 26.2 miles (42.16km) !
Food and drink
Some of you might wonder about what to eat and drink on the long run, as this is going to be the session that replicates a marathon the most. I would say it is definitely worth testing out what you plan on eating and drinking during the actual race. It is worth finding out what products are available during the race and getting the same ones. This way your stomach can get used to them, and also make sure there are no problems. The most I would ever drink on a long run might be 500ml (17.59 fl oz) of liquid and maybe a gel of some sort. I think any more than this and you might start having problems. I often see people out running in Richmond Park with numerous bottles attached to them - they can't possibly drink all of that! Be sensible and hydrate before you run, take on board some liquids during, and hydrate once you have finished.
Plan your route
Planning your route is a wise thing to do, as the last thing you want to be doing is running for longer than you planned, especially with a marathon looming. It might even be a good idea to use a loop that you can run a couple of times, and this way it may even be possible to hide a drink somewhere. Then you can practice running with a bottle and taking on board fluids. It also means you'll know exactly how far you're going to be running. Plan the route, stick to it, and run the set mileage you plan on doing.
Find a running buddy
Long runs can be the most daunting part of the training, especially if you are on your own. I have said it many times before, but you really need to find someone to run with you, even if it’s just for a part of the run! This way you can take your mind off the distance and you'll find it goes by a lot quicker. You might even be able to convince your significant other to get on the bike and come on the run with you. Then you'll get fluids whenever you like!
Inject some speed into your long runs
Depending on the level of training you are at, you can get even more out of the long run. I will warn you though this is going to be tough! Let's say for example you set out on running 22 miles (35.4km); you can run the first 13 miles at a nice steady pace like you normally would. Then the run turns into 3 x 3 miles, with each 3 mile segment getting quicker. This will result in the last 3 miles of your long run being the pace you want to run the marathon at. This training method gets the legs used to running race pace when they are already somewhat fatigued. Like I said, it is a tough way to train but it will make you tough!