Long Run

Long runs are kind of the movie star of marathon training.

Anybody who’s done even the tiniest bit of research on marathon training, or knows anyone who’s trained for a marathon, will have heard about the long run.

Your weekend morning, Saturday or Sunday, is taken up by longer and longer runs as you prepare for a marathon.

Because it’s usually the most familiar one of the bunch, we’ll keep this short and sweet.

Today we’ll cover:

  • why the long run is the staple it is
  • how it changes your body
  • tips around pacing.

We’ve also put together a few handy pages from around the web with tips to help make your long run less boring (and to avoid some common mistakes).

(are you new? If this is the first article you’ve seen, just as an fyi this is the 5th in our marathon training series of articles. If you’d like to get the series from the beginning, click here to sign up and you’ll get an email every week with a new piece on a different aspect of marathon training.)

What Does a Long Run Do?

The coolest thing about a long run is that it helps your body lay down more capillaries (the small blood vessels that delivers blood to muscles). This helps get more oxygen into the muscles, to increase the amount of energy you create aerobically.

Your long run also builds your endurance, including making your heart stronger, so you’re actually able to run the 26.2 miles on marathon day.

Your long run is THE thing that makes you feel confident that you can run for 3 hours when you step up to the start line on marathon day.

Long Run Pacing

Generally speaking, you want to run your long run 30 or 45 seconds slower per mile than your goal marathon pace.

Why’s that?

Well, there are a number of reasons, including reducing your wear and tear and ensuring you’re working in your aerobic zone as much as possible.

Over the weeks, you add miles until you hit your max at 20 (or some people recommend up to 21 or 22).

Why not 26.2 for your longest long run?

You may be wondering, if the marathon is going to be 26.2 miles, why that’s not your longest run.

If you’re not accustomed to running marathon distances (and believe it or not, there are some people who are), building up to that as your longest long run may make it hard for your body to recover in time for your actual marathon.

In addition, having run it at a slower pace means you’ll have run about the same duration as your goal marathon time in the shorter distance, even if it’s not the full distance.

Make sure you build up week by week, and allow enough time to taper before the big day.

From Around the Web

Here are a few interesting links we found about getting the most out of your long run (and making it less boring).

From Runner’s World: Why Should Long Runs Be Slower? (answering the question as to why your long run pacing should be slower than your goal marathon time)

From Active: 7 Mistakes to Avoid on Your Long Run (and although we do recommend you run by pace, we kind of agree with #4 – sometimes you may have to adjust to how you feel depending on the day – but still use your target pace as a guide to refer to)

From Runner’s World: 4 Ways to Enjoy Long Runs

Your Action Item

I’m assuming here that you’re already on track with your long runs for your training.

Your Action Item for this week is to look at your schedule over the next few weeks and proactively check for any holidays, family or work events that may interrupt your regularly-scheduled long run and make a plan B so you don’t miss this essential aspect of your training.


This post is part of our 3m2m marathon training series. If you’d like to receive these straight to your inbox, click here to sign up and you’ll get an email every week with a new piece on a different aspect of marathon training.

This post has been drawn from our 3 Months to Marathon First Marathon Running Guide and Repeat Marathon Running Guide, by Katherine Creighton Crook with Michel Glendinning from Thrive Fitness. Click on the links if you’d like to purchase the guides, or click here to purchase from Amazon Kindle.

If you’d like to browse the 3 Months to Marathon range of packages including massage and PT sessions, you can visit 3m2m.co.uk.

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