Eat, sleep, forget the miles: how to run long distances
Training for a marathon? So, how many miles did you run this week?
Keep note of each long run as very soon these long runs will be considered short runs to you.
With three months to go until marathon day, most runners are incorporating a long run into their weekly training. This run tends to be the highlight of the week and the only run that friends and colleagues are interested in.
Everyone wants to know how many miles you ran at the weekend. This attention can place added pressure on first-time marathoners who are now running the longest run of their lives every week in the build-up to marathon day.
Respect the long run
Some runners dismiss these long runs as chores that need to be ticked off in order to get closer to the big marathon day. It is important not to place all the attention on marathon day.
Instead, the weekly long runs should be respected and celebrated.
Each of these runs are huge milestones on the journey to marathon success and how you approach them and their preparation will influence how your head and your body will be prepared for the final long run of 26.2 miles.
Listen to your body
The best runners realise that training for a marathon involves a lot more than churning out miles. There is no medal for how many miles you complete in training. Sometimes miles need to be cut back due to injury or fatigue.
There are days when a rest is better than a run. We have to become strong and listen to our bodies. Focusing on the right pace, fuel and technique in a long run will help us identify any potential weakness or injury long before they become an issue.
The purpose of the long run is to notice how the body is adapting to longer mileage and identify what we need to do to help it perform at its best.
Building the mileage gradually and sensibly is essential but remember that your long run is only a few hours each week. Is your lifestyle outside of running helping or hindering your long run?
Marathon training does not need to take over your life but you can make simple changes midweek which will help you in the right direction. The success of your long run at the weekend is a result of how you have prepared your body in the days leading up to it.
The speed of your recovery after your long run is linked to how you treated your body in the 48 hours after your run.
With such busy lives we often cram the long run into an already crazy schedule, only thinking about it the night before. We cut corners on many complementary components of marathon training while prioritising mileage instead. Imagine if this week was marathon week. Would you prepare differently midweek if your marathon was this coming weekend?
Chances are you would be more mindful of food, hydration, niggles, rest, weather, clothing and logistics. Your long run deserves the same respect as marathon week. Take a little time this week to consider some of these components of training which take only a couple of minutes of your day during the week.
Food and drink
There is no need to overcomplicate midweek food and hydration. Simply remember that what you feed your body with will be used to fuel your run and repair your body afterwards. It is up to you to decide the quality of the food and drink that you would like your body to operate on. Many people are extremely mindful of what they feed their children to facilitate growth and repair yet compromise their own nutrition.
Strength and flexibility
Build a few minutes of strength and flexibility into your daily routine and avoid becoming a marathon injury statistic. Many of these exercises can be multi-tasked with watching TV, playing with kids or even quietly completed while waiting for a bus. Work on hip stability, core strength and aim to keep the entire body as flexible as possible as the mileage increases. Pay particular attention to the areas of your body you have noticed feeling tight or stiff on your long runs.
Rest and recovery
Plan ahead to your long run and make sure you have set aside time the day before and after to rest. Rest does not mean dancing in high heels, spending hours walking around town or working on your feet for the day. Your muscles repair while you sleep and, as all athletes know well, sleep and rest is considered training too.
Keep note of each long run as very soon these long runs will be considered short runs to you. This may seem like a tedious task right now but closer to marathon day you will enjoy being able to look over your running history. All these milestones you have reached and setbacks you have overcome will build your confidence for marathon day.
Remember, each long run is a trial run for marathon day. Each long run builds your confidence or dampens your spirits depending on how successful it is. Make the most of these long runs and the days either side of them. They will be over all too soon and be just a series of memories.
Treat each one with the respect it deserves.
Mary Jennings is founder and running coach with ForgetTheGym.ie. Mary is also the creator of all our Irish Times Get Running programmes – Beginners Get Running, Get Running 10k and Get Running Stay Running. Find out more at irishtimes.com/GetRunning or at Irish Times Running on Facebook.