Sunday, April 28, 2013

7 Tips to Make Your Long Run Easier

I ran my second 20 miler of this training cycle yesterday.


I am not sure what is so funny, but maybe I was just giddy, relieved, delirious to be done.

We all know long runs are tough physically. But, sometimes we make the whole thing even harder on ourselves because we psych ourselves out mentally. Here is how I make a really long run easier (at least mentally). Note I did not say “easy,” just a bit “easier.”

1. Plan a Route You Can Get Excited About. I like to use Map My Run to get creative. There’s nothing like starting a 20 mile run already bored to tears with where you are going. I’d rather drive a bit to start somewhere that inspires me versus following some old worn out route that puts me to sleep. And, if you’re lucky a porta potty will appear out of nowhere – a gift from the turd gods (this one showed up on some back road in Boulder County yesterday).


Joie was happy to step inside the blue box

2. Drag Someone Along. Distraction is a wonderful tool. Bring a friend and talk about every mundane thing you can think of like the high cost of peanut butter or how long it takes corn to move through your system (this is very easy to figure out. Just keep a diary of when you had corn chowder and when it showed up later). A good friend will also share supplies with you like toilet paper, an extra gel, a tampon or condom (now that really would make your long run more fun).

3. Bring Happy Fuel. If you hate the taste of Clif Shots, but you eat them because you are “supposed to” or they were on sale, that’s no fun. Bring along your most favorite candy or gel flavor. Or, do what I do and bring Clif Shot Bloks that are flavored like alcoholic drinks (margarita) and pretend it is happy hour already. Maybe companies should market cocktail themed gummy treats for runners (jam packed with electrolytes and carbs of course) like Rum Runner (get it?), Sex on the Beach (for the wild crowd), Bloody Mary (for those running in the morning or during Sunday brunch time) and Mint Julep (for the Southerners).  

4. Tell People Even If They Don’t Care. I like to let a few friends know if I’ve got a really long run (say 18-20 miles) because in my head I think they are cheering me on and that they really care if I finish or not. Somehow it holds me accountable, and it’s nice to finish up and a have a few texts checking in to see if I’m still alive.


5. Break the Mileage Up. Do not start the run and think “Yay! only 19.82 miles to go!” Think “Okay, only 5 miles until I can have my Rum Runner”, then “Only 5 miles until half way” etc. I find that 5 miles feels manageable in my head, but use what increments work for you (three 10Ks plus a bit more, two 10 milers – you decide).

6. Get Lost in Your Head. If running alone, let your mind wander. Meditate as you listen to your breathing and the sound of your feet. Focus on the sights and sounds around you. Visualize yourself crossing the finish line of the race you are training for and how it will feel to meet your goal. If you like listening to music, set up a special playlist just for your long run. There are some good song suggestions in the comment section of this post.

7. Try Not To Stare At or Be Consumed By Your Garmin. Watching your Garmin and waiting for the miles to tick by is a bit like watching a pot of water until it boils. It feels like forever. Just let it go. Tell yourself you’ll check in every 30 minutes, every 3rd song on your iPod, whatever. But, don’t constantly check it or you will feel like you ran 40 miles, not just 20.

Does any of this really help? Personally, the little things give me a mental boost and then sometimes my physical body follows. My long runs for this training cycle are DONE and taper has officially commenced. Overall for the past few weeks my long runs (12+ miles) have been:

One 14 mile run
Three 16 mile runs
One 18 mile run
Two 20 mile runs.

Let’s hope it was enough…damn, it felt like enough.

What’s your best tip about how to make long runs easier?

What’s your favorite fuel for a long run?



  1. I love this post! During the first marathon I trained for I watched my Garmin every was torture! I had to practice not staring at it every mile..I now wait until 5 songs are over! i'll block my miles up, for example if I run 20, i'll say every 5 miles is water and snacks..keep chuggin along! I like the Clif shot blocks, too : )

    1. You're not the only one to constantly look at the garmin. I do it and don't even realize I do it.

  2. I need to do a few long runs.. I've only been doing 7 miles... and then I bike 8 right after..

    Great idea for happy hour candies for runners. You should make and sell your own before anyone else does it!.

  3. I am coming back to Boulder this summer and I cannot wait to run some good long runs on the backroads! I will be training for the Duke City in Albuquerque this fall. I love using the Boulder course for my training runs, but I would never run the Boulder marathon since I know that course too well! I also love the margarita Shot Bloks as well as Power Bar gel shots.

  4. Can you tell me your training plan for a marathon? Do you go by your own? Do you make stops along the way to hydrate and snack? Do you take walk breaks, can you run the whole 18-20 miles? I know a lot of questions, but I feel its important. I am planning on running the Charleston Marathon in Jan. 2014. How long did you train (weeks)? So I would love other imputs and suggestions.

    1. Yes, I do my own plans, but this one was based loosely on the Run Less, Ran Faster plan. Basically you do three key runs each week (speed/intervals, tempo and long). A good plan, but not sure the best for a first time marathoner. On my long runs, I do stop to eat, use the bathroom, stretch, etc. I try to make the stops infrequent and short, but it depends on the run and who I am with. This training plan was 14 weeks, but for your first marathon I'd recommend doing 16-20 weeks. Good luck - just email me with any other questions

  5. I recruit friends for different legs. 2-5 miles on my own, 8-10 miles with two friends, 5 miles with another, 2-4 miles with someone else etc. In my head it's only 10 miles/5 miles/8 miles. It definitely sounds better than 22 miles! And I stash water and gatorades along my route so I have defined rest and hydration stops.

  6. I recruit friends for different legs. 2-5 miles on my own, 8-10 miles with two friends, 5 miles with another, 2-4 miles with someone else etc. In my head it's only 10 miles/5 miles/8 miles. It definitely sounds better than 22 miles! And I stash water and gatorades along my route so I have defined rest and hydration stops.

  7. Great post. Found port a potties are the shit. Literally. I always promise myself an iced coffee from Starbucks and that normally keeps me motivated.

  8. I've never done a long run longer than 13 miles, but with my first full coming up in the winter, I'll need to keep all these tips in mind!

  9. I'm leaving for my long run in 30 minutes, so nice timing. My long run now is 10 miles - I haven't run farther than a half-marathon at this point, though this will be my third race at this distance. I love running 5-7 miles, but I know that 10 miles will be a chore. When you are running longer, say training for a marathon, does this attitude hold true for you? For example, I'm thinking that if my long run was 15 miles, then 10 would seem easy. I'm asking because I'm mulling over the idea of running a full marathon next year, but the distance is daunting!

    1. YES! Now 12 miles seems "short" - but once I'm done marathon training I will go back to thinking that 8-10 miles seems very long.

  10. I think that's good advice and pretty much in order. The trail can really make the difference. I ran 15 today after running yesterdey's Boulder Distance Classic 15K and my legs were so heavy and sore. Fresh legs probably help.

    1. Hey Ed, great meeting you yesterday at the Distance Classic. Nice job!

  11. Great tips - maybe you could really push for some of those great Happy Fuels you mentioned - Rum Runner and Sex on the Beach or maybe a Hurricane!!! Just the idea of those would make me happy when running long!!!
    And I love the text from your husband making sure you made it without crapping yourself!!

  12. I do the 5 mile rule too. It has always helped me if I break it up like that.

    That text was hilarious!!! That so sounds like my best friend!!

  13. I think i am using the 5 mile rule also but it's probably 5 km. I am Greek :) so i am not used to miles yet. I am getting there. Nothing is better than going with a friend though.
    As for fuel, i started drinking some beetroot juice and it helps a lot. After 5 times of doing I am starting to get used to the taste also :)

  14. Planning a route you can get excited about is huge for me. I love the idea of bringing happy fuel too. Thanks for the tips.

  15. I should totally know better by now, but today's 16 miler found me completely consumed by my Garmin. And it truly was like watching water boil. I got through it, but boy it was rough.

    As far as fuel, when I was training for my ultra last year (jeez, I still get giddy saying that!), I had to do more food than just relying on GU. Jelly sandwiches seemed to be a magic fuel for me. For my normal marathon training, I go with PowerGel Strawberry Banana - with a dash of CAFFEINE :)

  16. I also split up the run into smaller chunks. Helps a TON mentally. I tell myself that after a certain time I can have food too, also something exciting to look forward to during the run. On the Garmin -- I try to just look at it when it beeps for the current mile...just to notice the pace.

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  18. I try to run at a place and time when I know that people will be out and about so I can act like we are all friends and running together even though I'm always running alone! lol... I try to get caught up in the beautiful weather or pray or think about all the things I have to get done the next week...

  19. Do whatever you need to do to break that run up (this includes several of your suggestions): Run several shorter loops that you like, Switch off your running partners if everyone else wants to go for a shorter run, Chunk the run by fueling, whatever - smaller bites are easier to handle than the whole thing at once. And our brains are all silly enough to fall for that trick over, and over, and over again....

    Favorite fuel: Honey Stingers!

  20. I liked your comment about not checking your Garmin or time every other second. Luckily I have my phone on my armband so it isn't easy to check it. I wish I had friends to run with, they all think I am crazy for how much I run. But like you said, I get into the zone and just let my mind wander!

  21. I hope your 2nd long run went well...was thinking about you!
    I still have your phone message for my bday and listened to it again today. We gotta get together and caught up. Soon?

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  23. Great ideas! I will officially begin training for my first full in June. Excited and terrified all at the same time.

  24. Did you follow the training plan from the Run Less, Run Faster book or do you have another plan? I got my half marathon training plan from a free online source, tweaked it, and was pleased with the results. But as I sit here contemplating when/where to jump in the marathon game, I’m looking at a beginner’s plan from the same site and wondering what else might be out there as well. I currently only run three days a week, but could probably do 4 comfortably. I don’t really want to run more than 4 days a week. I’m still inexperienced, and therefore underconditioned, enough that running too many days would undoubtedly lead to injury.

    1. Yes, I based my plan on Run Less, Run Faster. I pretty much stuck to it with 3 runs per week (speed, tempo, long) and crosstraining with one day of rest per week. I did add in recovery weeks every 4th week because I am old and need that. I guess we all need that!

  25. Great post! Not watching my garmin is the biggest thing for me on a long run - the distance has to get done and if I don't watch it's bound to go faster!

    When I can't find someone to come out with me I fire up a podcast, rather than music. Music allows me to notice how slowly time is ticking by in three minute chunks while a podcast lets me give the paying attention and thinking parts of my brain to the guys talking and lets my legs and lungs do what they're supposed to without me (or music rhythms!) interfering.

    My last post on Boring Run Blog: Physio time - Oh scapula! My scapula!

  26. This is great advice even if you're just getting into running (like me!) I find the visualization of the finish line the most satisfying, personally. I would say to also have a great music line up (if you're listening to music.) Slow songs destroy my pace...

    Great job & I look forward to the marathon post!!!!


  27. I found this post very helpful and shared it on my Facebook page to help the other runners I have encouraged. I'll definitely have to try your tips because I have been pushing myself to run farther.

    Mrs White

  28. Thanks for these tips (although I'm now in taper for my half on Sunday, but still). I'm actually starting to officially freak out but thanks to all of the running gurus who frequent your spot in cyber space I knew that mental game was coming. I'm worried because I had to skip an 8-mile run (my youngest ended up in the ER for dehydration and we had to spend the night) and I'm kinda beating myself up over it. I did run 6 miles on Saturday and I felt strong, so there's that.

    I'm going to check your playlist post now! The race rules say that headphones are "discouraged" but not "prohibited" so I'm going to be a rebel and wear one earbud for the race.

    1. I think you will be fine. One missed 8 mile run won't hurt your race, I don't think. I am sorry about your youngest...hope he/she is feeling better. Best of LUCK. Will be thinking of you Sunday.

  29. Oh man I REALLY REALLY miss my long runs :(

  30. My long run yesterday was 10 miles and I messed myself up mentally. I forgot to turn on my Garmin then at where I thought mile 1 should beep it didn't that's when I noticed & turned it on. Then around mile 7 I couldn't do the math in my head to when I should be finished (when the Garmin beeps 9miles...duh) & thought I was closer to done then I was which made the last couple miles miserable. I know its easy math but I really got it messed up. Grrr! I usually don't look at the Gramin - I just count the beeps. I need to work on my music playlist too. Thanks for the tips!

  31. Tips 6 and 7 are my personal favorites. After a few years of overdoing it (and injuring myself) with my Garmin, I've finally learned to run with the watch on my wrist but not to use it other than a timer if doing intervals. My primary goal on my runs (long or not) is to run by how I feel. So I do alot of getting lost in my head, concentrating on my breathing, how my feet sound.
    In the end, I've become a better runner and I enjoy running more, though I'm still addicted to analyzing my data after the run.

  32. This comment has been removed by the author.

  33. Peanut butter sandwiches and iced animal crackers are my long run favorites.

  34. I switched over to map my run from runkeeper a few weeks ago. Seems to work a lot better.

  35. This list is great!!!! I think the best trick for me is breaking it down into 5 mile segments too.

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  37. Totally agree with breaking them up into 5k/10k bits and dragging people along with me to suffer next to me. I don't feel so bad when I'm the only one hurting.

  38. I like to start out listening to my favorite podcasts (NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour or Marathon Training Academy) the first half of my run then at the end I'll put on my running music. You have a lot of great tips though! I definitely need to work on not looking at my garmin so much -- I'm sure it makes the time go by even slower.

  39. Thanks for such great tips.. so not Fair... You found a porto potty!! Only in my dreams... Thanks so so much.. I will keep these tips in mind.

  40. Hi, I'm finally getting serious about running (... no more procrastinating! ) and I'm intersested in getting a gps watch to use with map my run. However there are SO many options, everything from Nike+ ( which I tried on at Dick's, and hated the bulky fit/face), to Garmin (with enough models pros/problems to make you say "help, IDK"... hence this post), to Bia (which I dont even know if it's out yet or what the reviews on it are if it is). I did see on another page associated with the site that there's a guy, Kevin who does AWESOME reviews but couldn't get his blog to load. I did find yours and liked some of your entries, they were helpful I'll have to read the rest tommorrow and see if I can get more ideas for Saturday's race, (loved the port a potty pic btw! :) ). Soooooo, now that I've talked your eyes off... sorry, I get to rambling
    when I'm tired ... PLEASE, HELP! NO IDEA what to get! I had wanted to get it before Sat but now I realize it's so much more complicated than just going to Dick's! Ugh!

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