How to run for longer is one of the questions that I get most from those who are training towards running a longer distance. Perhaps they’ve started to increase their mileage during their weekend runs and they’re finding it tough or maybe they’ve got an ambitious goal of running a marathon and the long runs aren’t going well.
I think this is something that everyone struggles with at some point, so don’t worry.
There are some simple steps that any runner can take to increase their stamina so that they can run for longer:
1. Slow Down
The mistake that most people make when increasing the distance is not to pace themselves. Most of us will naturally slow down the further we run (unless you’re Eliud Kipchoge), so if you want to run for longer you need to adjust your pace.
Pacing is individual for everyone, so you’ll need to experiment. But on your next long run try running the first two miles slower than you usually would. That should benefit you later on in the run, and rather than getting slower each mile, you should be able to start to even out your pace.
Once you’re running the distance that you’re aiming for, you can then work on increasing your pace.
2. Take Your Time
A common mistake is to try and increase your mileage too quickly. You shouldn’t try and increase the distance that you’re covering in training by much more than 10%. So if the longest distance that you’re able to run is currently 3 miles, don’t try and double that in a week.
3. Fuel Properly
If you’re running a 5k race then you probably don’t need to worry too much about fueling, the energy required to run that distance is relatively modest and you can get away with a breakfast banana before heading out of the door. But as you increase the distance that you’re running, the amount of fuel that your body requires increases, in fact, if you’re running a marathon distance, you need to refuel on your run to avoid the dreaded wall.
This means eating properly. If you’re on a diet, then you could be struggling to run for longer because you’re simply not eating enough to fuel yourself through your longer runs.
If I’m doing a longer run on a Sunday, I’m careful to make sure I have a good carbohydrate filled meal like pasta the night before. I’ll get up early and have some breakfast, giving myself plenty of time to digest it (this is different for different people, so just experiment). If I’m marathon training I’ll carry the same food I intend to eat in my race, personally, that isn’t gels but energy balls made with dates, hazelnuts and raisins (all-natural and Vegan).
When you get back in from your run, don’t forget to refuel. For a simple way to get protein into my body I eat Nuts or Chickpeas after a run (again all-natural and Vegan).
4. Stay Hydrated
As well as having the right food to fuel you through your run, staying hydrated is also important.
You should always have a drink before you head out the door and if it’s a hot day consider carrying some water with you. Some runners I know hide water bottles along the route of their long run the night before, so they can stop off and grab a drink without having to carry the bottle with them.
As with food, it’s essential to rehydrate after your run too.
5. Run with Others
Every Sunday my local running group sets off for a 12-mile run. I always notice how much easier it is to cover this distance with fellow runners. The conversation makes the miles pass quicker and your focus is on what others are saying rather than ‘how much further do I have to run’.
If you’re training for a longer race, it’s a great idea to sign up with friends so that you can train together. This will help keep you motivated and has the added advantage of giving you a training buddy to drag you out when the weather is awful.
If your friends aren’t into running, find a local running group and make some new friends.
6. Pick a New Route
Another way to stay motivated and increase the distance that you’re running is to pick a new route. Is there an interesting local landmark that you can head to, a trail that you’ve never tried before?
A change of scenery takes your mind off the miles and lets you focus on all the brilliant places that running allows you to visit.
7. Strength & Conditioning
In the past many thought that a good running programme was enough to build the endurance required to run longer distances, it’s now clear that strength and conditioning training is a must for runners.
We have some information about lifting weights here. If lifting weights isn’t for you it’s easy to do strength training in your home, watch the video below for some great tips on how to do this.
Whatever kind of Strength and Conditioning training you decide to do, this will boost your running, making you stronger and less susceptible to injury.
8. Dress Appropriately
“There’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes”. This is a saying that a training buddy likes to throw at me when I’m complaining that I’m too cold on a long winter run.
With the wealth of running clothes now available, it’s true that it’s possible to find the right equipment for any conditions (below is a picture of me competition in a marathon in the Arctic where the temperature was colder than a household freezer).
Take the time to invest in the right clothing for where you run. This might be a good rainproof jacket, a cap to protect you from the sun or the best winter gloves. Whatever conditions you’re facing, make sure that you have the best kit for the job.
9. Don’t Give Up
Perhaps the most important aspect of learning to run for longer is not to give up. You will undoubtedly have bad days when you haven’t fueled properly or the weather makes you turn back before you have done your miles, but if you slowly build up your mileage you will soon find yourself covering distances that you once thought impossible.
If you do find yourself considering quitting, focus on your goal. Is it to cross a finishing line and get a medal, is it to achieve a fitness goal? Whatever you’re trying to achieve, know that success is never a straight line, but with a little perseverance, you’ve got this!