Like it or not, long runs are a crucial piece of any marathon training program. Guilty of neglecting the long one (my definition of long is anything over 2 hours or 14 miles)for some time now, it's time to see if I can get back into it. Here are some of the principles I am putting to work.
1. Run a new route. I find tackling the same route week after week mentally draining, so I've decided to seek out some new places to run. What a difference when you don't really know where you are going to run or maybe for how long! The danger is getting caught running considerably longer than you plan, which may actually be a good thing.
2. If you can, try to put together 4-5 different long run options, but keep one as sort of a time trial course that you periodically can go back to and test your fitness.
3. Find some off-road. If you are running your long ones on roads, see if you can include some off-road miles. I think it helps recovery.
4. Slow down and forget pace, especially in the dead of summer and winter. If it's been a while since your last 2 hour run, keep the pace slow enough so you still feel ok by the time you hit 10 miles. Today I even went so far as to plan one minute walks every 10 minutes of running (yes-Galloway!). There is something to be said for time rather than distance when quantifying the value of your workouts.
5. Take breaks. It's foolish to think that you diminish the effects of a long run by taking a 5 minute break. I routinely take breaks this long, especially to cool down in hot weather.
6. Leave early. In the summer heat, get out the door early.
7. Extra water. Staying hydrated is crucial. Weigh yourself before and after to make sure you are not losing more than 2% of your body weight. Carry water and/or money.
8. Put in some miles the day before. I'm not ready for 20 miles in one day, but I can do that much on consecutive days. Yesterday I put in a comfortable 11 miles, followed by 15 today. Once my fitness level improves I'll drop the miles on that first day and try to make that second day count.
9. If you are training for a marathon, allow yourself at least 3 months to prepare if you currently have a decent base and can run up to 10 miles. If not, then give yourself 6 months to build up.
10. Run with somebody. I run alone 99% of the time, mainly because I like the convenience of running from home, running my own pace, and not being committed to being someplace at a specific time. However, if you are having trouble psyching yourself to get out the door, it's an option to consider.