In today’s post, we’re going to talk about how to get better at running long distances.
Whether you’re a beginner runner or someone who’s been running for years, eventually you’ll want to start running longer distances.
The trouble is, running long distances can be really tough – especially if you’re not used to it!
In this blog post, we’ll discuss tips, tricks, and tactics that will help you become better at running longer distances without getting tired.
Let’s get started!
How To Get Better At Running Long Distances
#1 Get The Right Running Gear
If you’re serious about running long distances, you need to have the right gear. That means a good pair of running shoes, comfortable clothes that won’t chafe, and maybe even some accessories like a water bottle, electrolytes, or energy gel.
Not all shoes are made equally for all runners and you really need to make sure you know what kind of runner you are.
So, are you a…
- Heel striker that needs some higher drop shoes?
- Midfoot runner?
- Neutral or underpronating runner?
- Overpronator that needs stability running shoes?
Remember! There are specific shoes designed for how you hit the pavement and how your foot rolls.
Again, investing in the right gear will make a big difference in your long-run experience – trust us!
#2 Develop a Long-Distance Running Mindset
You do not want to go into a run and say “oh! I gotta run this long?” “I can’t wait to be done with this one already”. When you do that, mentally you turn yourself out.
So one of the biggest obstacles to running long distances is mental fatigue. It’s easy to convince yourself that you’re tired and that you can’t possibly run any further.
The key to overcoming this is to cultivate a long-distance running mindset. This means convincing yourself – through whatever means necessary – that you can indeed run long distances.
So with the right mindset, anything is possible.
#3 Get Small Realistic Goals
One of the best ways to become better at running long distances is to set small goals.
For example, if your goal is to run a marathon, start by running lots of 10-kilometer races. Or, if you want to run a half-marathon, start by running lots of five-kilometer races.
By setting small goals, you’ll be able to slowly build up your endurance and become better at running long distances.
#4 Always Warm-Up and Cool Down
Warming up before you run and cooling down afterwards is crucial, especially if you’re running long distances. A good warm-up will help get your muscles ready for the run ahead, while a cool-down will help your body recover afterwards.
When you warm up slowly and properly, you want to do a slow walk or even a little jog.
#5 Maintain Good Running Form
As you’re running, it’s important to maintain good form. You do not want to have a stiff upper body. You want to run in an upright position with your torso straight and not be bend in too far from the waist area.
Don’t take big shots because you want to be efficient. So, look at the horizon not your feet, cup your hands, shorten your strides, keep your head up, relax your neck and shoulders, keep your arms close to your body, and swing them so they can propel you forward.
Additionally, make sure you’re landing on your midfoot and pushing off with your toes. If you’re a pure heel striker, do not try to change your running form as this can lead to injury.
If you feel like your legs are getting tired, it’s okay to stop. Pump some squats a little bit, which is going to release your hip and also get your glutes and hamstring involved so your legs get a little more power.
Overall, proper running form will help you breathe effectively and easily. It can also help you run more efficiently and therefore even prevent injuries. (Source)
#6 Start Slow
If you’re new to running long distances, it’s important to pace yourself when you’re running long distances. That means starting with shorter runs and gradually increasing your speed to keep your speed comfortable so you can go longer.
It might take some time, but eventually, you’ll be able to run the distance you want without getting tired. Don’t worry about speed because you can work on that later.
So, go at a pace that you could talk comfortably, be consistent, and relax your breathing.
Talking about breathing…
Establishing a rhythm with your breathing is a vital step to keep you honest with your pacing but also establish a good communication with your posture.
So for your long run, every one mile, you’re going to spend the first minute of that mile only breathing in through your nose.
You’re welcome to breathe out through your mouth but adjust your pace as needed to allow yourself to breathe only into your nose and out through your mouth.
The reason we do that is because when we breathe through our nose, it’s a good way for us to reestablish communication with our diaphragm. And when we do that, we tend to build a lot more stability in our run and we avoid the kind of side shifting that we might see.
Again, for every mile, you’re going to spend the first minute of it breathing through your nose.
#8 Lower HR
Keep your heart rate at an aerobic state. Again, breathe in through your nose and breathe out through your mouth, which is going to be giving you enough oxygen so you can last for a longer amount of time. The more oxygen, the better.
Cadence is how many steps you take in a minute and it’s one of the things that will quickly degrade as fatigue starts setting in more and more. On your long run, try to figure out your natural cadence and check in with it with 10% left in your mileage on the run.
Let’s say you’re running 20 miles. The last two miles you’re going to turn your metronome on and see if you can still match the natural cadence that you had when you started.
#10 Gradually Increase Mileage
When you get some shorter runs under your belt, you will feel stronger and you probably would go out and run really fast. Don’t do that because that could lead to injury (source). Instead, you want to gradually increase that pace as you get into your stride.
The key here is that we are not going to be running more mileage at any kind of faster speed. In fact, most of our mileage increases are going to be at a very easy effort. It’s a run that’s very easy either at a recovery pace or at an easy effort that feels comfortable, controlled, and conversational.
Related: Best Running Shoes for Easy Runs
So, once you’re comfortable running shorter distances, start by gradually adding a few extra minutes to your runs, then slowly increase the length of time you’re running each week.
Over time, you’ll be surprised how quite quickly you can increase your run mileage.
Remember – gradual increases are key and so is the 10% Rule next…
#11 Follow The 10% Rule
When you want to increase your mileage, you really need to be careful. What we normally suggest is you follow the 10% rule.
The idea is that you never increase any run mileage or any weekly volume by more than 10%, and that’ll prevent you from over-training or even the risk of potential energy.
So the 10% Rule is very important to build all the aerobic fitness and endurance and to prevent injury as well.
#12 Prevent Side Stitches
Side stitches are a common problem, especially when you’re running long distances. The good news is that there are a few things you can do to prevent them.
First, make sure you’re breathing deeply and evenly throughout your run. Second, try to relax your shoulders and keep your arms close to your body.
And finally, avoid eating too much before you run.
If side stitches are a problem for you, we’ve recently published an article on how to prevent side stitches when running.
#13 Focus on Fueling Before and During Your Long-Distance Run
Another important thing to remember when you’re running long distances is to focus on fueling before and during your run because our inability to fuel those really long runs is what really stops us from gaining a lot of endurance.
When you know that the long run is the one workout that contributes most to your endurance and ability to run longer, you won’t shortchange yourself by cutting that run too frequently.
So try to eat a nutritious meal beforehand, and maybe even bring along some energy gels or chews for during the run. If you fuel up properly, you’ll be less likely to get tired as you’re running.
#14 Break Your Long Runs Into Sections
If you’re running a long distance, it can be helpful to break the run into sections. This will help you mentally break down the run and make it feel more manageable.
For example, if you’re running ten miles, you could break it into two five-mile sections. Or, if you’re running a marathon, you could break it into four six-mile sections.
Whatever method you choose, breaking down your long run into manageable chunks will help you get through it without getting too tired.
#15 Try Walk/Run Training
If you’re finding it difficult to run long distances, you might want to try the walk/run training method. This involves alternating between walking and running for a set period of time.
For example, you could walk for one minute and then run for two minutes. Or, you could walk for two minutes and then run for four minutes.
A study suggests that run/walk intervals may lead to similar finishing times and less muscle soreness completing a marathon compared to just running alone.
#16 Prevent Treadmill Boredom
Treadmill running can be boring, especially if you’re running long distances. To prevent boredom, it’s important to mix things up. That means changing the incline, trying different speeds, and even adding in some sprints.
By mixing things up, you’ll keep your mind focused and help yourself become better at running long distances.
#17 Add Strength Training
You want to probably look at incorporating some strength or cross-training into your workout as these can also help you become better at running long distances.
These workouts will help activate certain muscle groups and help with strength and stability because strong muscles will help you run more efficiently and prevent injuries.
Also, there really is no escaping the fact that running is weight-bearing. With that, there is a direct link between running and our own weight.
So while we use strength training to get lean muscle mass which actually helps us with our running and improve our speed, it’s also a great way to cut down on any unnecessary fat.
It’s very important that we remain healthy and so if you are trying to lose some weight, you do that incrementally and do it healthily.
I often actually advise that if you are increasing your mileage and maybe following some of the tips I’ve suggested today, then you may see those changes quite naturally as long as you just keep that healthy diet in place.
So I want to encourage all of you to add some strength training and aerobic workouts to your long-run routine.
#18 Run Outside & Change Your Route Regularly
Running outside is another great way to become better at running long distances. Not only will you get fresh air and scenery, but you’ll also be able to challenge yourself with hills and other obstacles.
But if you’re running the same route every day, you’re likely to get bored. To prevent boredom, it’s important to change your route regularly. That way, you’ll keep your mind focused and challenged. Talking about your mind…
#19 Run With People, Distract Yourself
Additionally, running with people can also help you become better at running long distances. That’s because you’ll have someone to motivate and push you when you’re feeling tired.
If you prefer to face your long runs alone, make sure you keep your mind distracted by listening to your favorite motivational podcasts.
#20 Freshen Up Your Legs
If your feet are feeling tight and sore in the later stage of your long run, this is the way that you can deal with it…
Halfway through your long run, start either doing air squats or leg swings.
Let’s say you’re doing a 20-mile run, at mile 10, you’re going to slow and come to a stop, which is an opportunity for you to catch your breath for a second but also this is where you’re going to start to do your air squats.
Perform 10 air squats and go as deep as you want. It should just loosen up your hips, quads, and legs. Then for the rest of your long run, every mile you’re going to stop and either be doing 10 air squats or 10 leg swings.
That’s the way that you’re going to keep your legs feeling fresh for those later stages of your long run.
#21 Don’t Skimp On Recovery
After you finish your long run, it’s important to take care of your body and let it recover properly.
That means eating a healthy meal, drinking lots of water, and getting some rest. By taking the time to recover properly, you’ll be able to run longer distances without getting too tired the next time you hit the road.
So make sure that you are good to your body and rest and recover so that you can return to the pavement stronger than the day before.
#23 Good Days & Bad Days
All runners do have good days and bad days. This is normal and so don’t feel defeated. Just stick to your training plan and stay consistent because progress occurs over time.
You might have days that you do feel tired after a run. This doesn’t mean that you cannot do that run. It just means that your fitness level may not be there at that time.
Now that you have started running a lot more easy mileage, you have really focused on the long run and building that every week or every other week, what’s the next step?
The next step is to focus on certain workouts or faster running sessions that develop that aerobic metabolism.
How To Run Long Distances Faster
Now that you can run longer distances better than when you first started out, I’m guessing that the allure of improving on your personal best times is pretty strong.
If so, then you’ll be pleased to hear that today I’ve got some tips to help improve your speed.
A lot of people have a very little range in their run speeds, and by that I mean there’s a very small difference between their steady-run pace and their top-end speed.
Now, to improve our speed, we need to bump that top-end speed up and raise that ceiling.
The first thing is to increase your run volume…
Related: Best Running Shoes for Speed
#24 Increase Run Volume
The idea behind increasing your run volume is not only to improve your aerobic fitness, which is actually going to make you faster, anyway, it’s also to improve your running efficiency and give you a really good foundation and base to work off.
To go about doing this, you want to gradually overload your body and then recover and adapt to that new stimulus, then overload, adapt, overload, adapt.
But don’t forget the 10% Rule we talked about earlier.
#25 Increase Speed
Trying to improve your speed doesn’t need to be over-complicated and thought of as rocket science. If you want to run faster, then you need to start including some speed workouts into your training.
We’ve got a few different types of speed sessions that you can start incorporating into your training.
The first on the cards is a form of interval session. Now, this doesn’t need to be too daunting because actually the reps are quite short and they’re almost over before it really starts to bite.
I like to think of it as if you’re unleashing and untapping this new speed.
This could be something like 8 to 10 lots of 30 seconds hard, somewhere between 3 to 5k pace followed by 30 seconds easy.
That can then be extended out to 6 to 8 lots of 45 seconds hard followed by 45 seconds easy then even progressed up to 6 lots of 60 to 75 seconds hard followed by 60 seconds easy.
Or, an alternative session template could be 5 lots of 3 minutes at 5k pace followed by 2 minutes easy jog between or, moving up to 3 lots of 5 to 6 minutes at 10k pace, followed by 3 minutes easy jog.
As I’ve said, those interval sessions can be progressed to, or you can, in fact, just alternate between the two week to week.
And now onto our second type of session, the tempo session…
The idea behind tempo sessions is to get you feeling comfortable while being uncomfortable. I know that sounds quite odd, but the tempo pace is actually somewhere around one’s half-marathon pace.
This is arguably the most beneficial type of workout for runners who are training for the two-mile all the way up to the 50-mile ultra. It is the lactate threshold or as a lot of runners call the tempo run.
The real idea is actually to try and bump our lactate threshold up. Our lactate threshold is the point at which our body starts to produce lactic acid. That’s the stuff that makes us feel pretty horrible and slows us down.
So, if you can get that higher, that’s great.
Also, it’s going to improve our fitness and with that also our tolerance of feeling uncomfortable.
So, starting out with these tempo sessions, I like to prescribe something like 4 lots of 5 minutes at tempo pace with 2 minutes jog recovery between each.
Then, progress to 2 lots of 10 minutes at this tempo pace, again with 2-minute jog recovery between those two 10-minute reps, and then finally get yourself to a point of being able to do 15, 20, or maybe even 25 minutes continuous at a tempo pace.
Related: Best Running Shoes for Tempo Runs
You could also consider alternating your tempo runs with some hill repeats…
Hill repeats are great for adding some strength to your running. So, if you do have a short, sharp climb, maybe use this for doing some fairly intense intervals, similar to the interval workouts we were discussing before.
But if you’re using a slightly longer incline with a lesser gradient, then of course knock that intensity back, and increase the length of those efforts.
You’re actually going to be including some speed intervals into your long run.
I know the long run is often regarded as an opportunity just to get some long miles in, time on the feet, and just keep things steady.
But actually including some intervals into your long run can actually help teach you how to deal with that fatigue which, inevitably, we’re going to experience on race day.
I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s article and I hope we were able to clarify how to get better at running long distances. There is nothing better than lacing up for and preparing for a race. It really is quite a satisfying feeling.
Go crush that long run and have fun 🙂