10 Tips to Enjoy the Long Run during Marathon Training

Ahhhh, the long run. The most necessary part of marathon training, and yet often the most dreaded. Running for 2 – 3 (or more!) hours at a time can be rather monotonous, on top of being physically exhausting and painful. When I first started training for  half and full marathons (about 4 years ago), I despised the long run. My stomach would be in knots the night before, nervous about the mental and physical pain to come from this part of marathon training. I can assure you that with time, the long runs become much more manageable and *gasp* even a bit fun! Long runs are actually something I look forward to now.

How did I get to a point of enjoying the long runs? Partially, it was just running enough of them that they didn’t seem so daunting any more. But I’ve also accumulated many tricks throughout the years to help me power through the long run. If you’re struggling with long runs, don’t give up! Keep chugging along, and try some of these tips to help your long run fly by. You’ll be glad you did when you’re at the finish line of a marathon with a shiny new PR.

10 Tips for Enjoying Your Long Run During Marathon Training

10 Tips to Enjoy Your Long Run

  1. Stay fueled up and hydrated. I take a Gu every 4-5 miles and drink water whenever thirsty for any run 9 miles or longer. The better you fuel your body during a long run, the better your body will feel.
  2. Find a running buddy!  Having someone to talk to and laugh with during a run is pretty much the best thing ever. They’re also in the same exact pain as you are, so they can commiserate with you during the tough miles. Or, as one of my running partners and I would do, you can list off all the foods you’re craving during those last few miles of the run and start dreaming about what you’ll eat first.
  3. Don’t get discouraged if you start to struggle. Mental pain and physical fatigue will come and go during long runs. Mile 16 may feel like the worst mile of your life, and then mile 17 will suddenly feel fantastic. Acknowledge pain as it passes through, but don’t dwell on it. A good song, a Gu kicking in, turning into a tailwind, the sun suddenly coming out, or seemingly nothing at all can cause you to snap out of your pain. A good mile is always just around the corner.
  4. Think of all the other people doing their long runs. Long runs can be lonely, and often you can start questioning your sanity (Why am I choosing to put myself through this pain? Am I insane?!). Knowing other people are also conquering long runs keeps me motivated and inspired. Even if you don’t know many runners in your life, follow some running blogs to see how other people are training. Becoming a runner is like joining a tribe; get to know your fellow members!
  5. Split the run up into manageable chunks, usually 3-5 miles. Instead of counting down to 16+ miles, just focus on getting through the next chunk. I like something special to happen at the end of the chunk so that I really have something to look forward to. For instance, taking a Gu or turning a corner to get out of a headwind or changing what you’re listening to or whatever other little thing you might look forward to.
  6. Decide what type of long run you enjoy the most. Out and back? One big loop? Several smaller loops? Trail runs? Personally, I hate out and back runs, so I stay away from those as much as possible. If I’m carrying fuel/water with me, I love to do one big loop. If not, I’ll leave fuel/water somewhere and run several smaller loops from there.
  7. Don’t look at your watch! Nothing makes a long run go by so slooooowly as checking your watch every few minutes. I have my watch set up to buzz every mile, so I hardly look at it during a long run. Enjoy the scenery, focus on your music, zone out….anything except for staring at your watch for 3 hours.
  8. Dedicate each mile to someone/thing that you care about. Then use that mile to gather inspiration from the person and, if you’re so inclined, pray for them. This works especially well if you choose people who are struggling in some way, as it puts the momentary pain from the run into perspective. Write your list on a piece of paper or on the back of your hand. Or instead of doing this for the entire run, pick just a few people for the last couple miles.
  9. Mix it up! Don’t run the same route at the same pace every week. If you’ve built up to it, throw in a few faster miles in the middle of the run. Or change up your route so it includes several hills. Run your usual route backwards. Drive to a nearby town, or plan to do your long run while you’re out of town. Anything to keep the run fresh and interesting.
  10. Focus on your goals. In the tough moments, visualize yourself crossing the marathon finish line feeling strong. Picture the crowds cheering for you, the time on the clock, and how amazing you will feel. Come back to this visualization and to your specific goals several times throughout the long run. Never let yourself forget why you’re out there!

Crossing the finish line at the Illinois Marathon


2 thoughts on “10 Tips to Enjoy the Long Run during Marathon Training

  1. Thanks for the great tips! I agree that running buddies make all the difference. I only run with them for my long runs, so I look forward to them! I’ll be starting training for my first full this summer, so my long runs will be longer and these tips will cone in handy!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *