If you're new to running, the 'long run' can be the most daunting part of your training plan. Whether you're building up to a 5K or attempting your first marathon, worry not. We have the lowdown on long runs, what the benefits are, and how to make the most of your training plan.
What is the long run?
The length of a long run is relative to the person running it and the distance they are training for, but generally speaking, a long run is between an hour and three hours, running at a low intensity.
Long, continuous duration runs will develop your aerobic endurance, by improving V02 max (maximum oxygen uptake). A high V02 max, i.e. the body's ability to get plenty of oxygen to the working muscles, is a key determinant of middle- and long-distance running success.
Long slow runs also boost the number of mitochondria in your body, making you a more efficient aerobic machine!
How to run for an hour plus
Long runs should be run at a steady pace, at a heart rate of up to 75 per cent or up to six out of ten on a perceived rate of exertion, and you should be able to chat comfortably.
Pace your long run, so it's 80 per cent of the speed you could race the same distance - or slower. The 'or slower' part of this is important. Time on your feet is what counts when you start running long distance, especially with marathon training.
Follow the 80 per cent formula: if you can race 10 miles at 7:30 pace, you should do your training runs at 9:23. To convert a race pace to an 80 per cent training pace, multiply by 1.25. However, it's also a good idea to try some runs at marathon pace, especially if you're a faster, sub-3:30 marathon runner.
Building up the distance
The key to building running endurance conditioning is to keep it slow but steady. Add one mile a week to your weekend long run.
Most running plans will encourage you to reduce your mileage every fourth week by missing out the long run, or keeping it at the same length as week three.
Then starting building again, one mile at a time, or as general guide increase the volume by 10 per cent a week.