Long-distance running is roughly defined as running that covers a significant distance. Included in this category can be anything from runs of just a few miles all the way up to marathons or even ultra-marathons. Unsurprisingly, long-distance running can place significant strain on the body. Even those who are already regular runners may find the transition to endurance running tricky.
Here are six of the most important and practical tips for successful long-distance running.
1. Get the right gear.
Since endurance runs generally last longer than other sorts of workouts, exercise gear becomes especially important. For example, blisters are very likely if a distance runner does not wear properly fitting running shoes or the right socks. Moisture-wicking clothes are also a good idea for anyone who ever runs in even mild heat.
2. Stay hydrated.
Hydration is crucial to healthy exercise, especially for endurance workouts. Besides drinking plenty of liquids both before and after, bringing a water bottle along on a long-distance run is also wise (my water bottle of choice is below).
For any run roughly an hour or longer, drinking a sports drinks such as Gatorade or Powerade rather than water is better. Intense exercise depletes the body’s store of electrolytes, the vital minerals crucial to muscular function. Sports drinks, however, replenish electrolytes.
3. Don’t do too much.
Running long distances places substantial stress on the body. Someone who goes too far too soon runs the risk of serious injury. By slowly building up to harder challenges, a runner avoids the dangers of overtraining. A good general rule is to increase distance by no more than 10 percent per week. This rubric will allow the body to gradually adapt, safely building up cardiovascular endurance over time. The inexperienced may also want to try alternating walking with running at first.
4. Keep an even pace.
Running for long distances obviously requires lots of endurance. If a runner goes out too fast, they run the risk of burning out early, leaving them with nothing in the tank for the latter part of their run. While following a slow and steady pace — even at the beginning of a run — may be difficult for beginners, it is the only truly effective strategy for successfully running long distances.
The book 80/20 Running: Run Stronger and Race Faster by Training Slower taught me a lot about pacing.
5. Try to run on softer surfaces.
Obviously, running for long distances means the body undergoes greater stress. Asphalt and concrete are unforgiving surfaces that can particularly magnify the impact on feet, ankles, and knees. If possible, it’s much better to seek out more joint-friendly surfaces such as grass. Running trails, which can be found in many locales, are an excellent option.
6. Find motivation.
It can be harder to get motivated for endurance running than many other popular workouts. Running for many miles can take a long time, and maybe monotonous and boring; long-distance running can be lonely too. The best solution to these issues is to set some inspirational goals. For example, training for one of the world’s most impressive marathons can make a regular running routine easier to follow. Trying to set a new personal best time might also boost motivation. Running in a beautiful natural area (rather than on a treadmill or in the city) can also help.
Long-distance running is an excellent form of exercise that is especially valuable as a means to improving aerobic fitness. Many people also love the challenge of endurance running, enjoying the process of stretching their body to the limits. Clearly, long-distance running is worth the effort. Newcomers to endurance running should not feel intimidated, but should simply follow the six key rules described above.
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