30 Oct

The Long And Winding Road

Autumn Runner

For distance runners, the long run is the staple of any training regime. Not only does it increase levels of stamina in the lead up to an endurance event, but binds your other runs, whether it be tempo or interval sessions, to ensure you can complete the race at your optimum level. Psychologically, it pulls together your training for the week, and provides you with - if all goes well, of course - a confidence-boosting run to start the next one with.

Being the most important session, it is also, arguably, the most difficult. We look at the main obstacles that can lie in your way and the key survival tips to ensuring the success of your long run.

Physical Preparation
The lead up to a long run should closely follow that of your race-day routine. Pre-run, treat yourself to a generous breakfast of porridge, with enough time - at least two hours is recommended - for the food to digest. A handful of nuts, just as you're about to set off, are always a welcome boost.

If your training programme allows, aim to have the day prior to your run as one that you can enjoy some rest and conserve energy. There's nothing worse than embarking upon a 10 mile plus journey with legs that are already fatigued and feeling the effects of yesterday's interval session.

There aren't many parallels between runners and comedians other than the fact timing is key to their respective success. A premature or misjudged one-liner is as damaging and counterproductive as an ill-timed run.

Your longest run of the week, as simple as it may seem, is the most time-consuming. Unlike the sneaky three miler or the 25 minute interval session you can fit in after work, the long run can't be shoehorned into a busy schedule. Give the run respect by setting aside a two hour window to factor in warm-up, cool-down and stretching time.

The Route To Success
Unlike the meandering 5k that can be completed by staying in close proximity to your house, the long run is likely going to take you through several different postal codes. As a starting point, mobile phone apps, GPS websites and SCOTTISH RUNNING GUIDE abound with routes in your area - chances are you will be able to find one suitable for you.

By embarking on a pre-planned route, you have a stronger chance of sticking to your target distance rather than curtailing your run with two miles to go. With a bit of research, you will find the best way to avoid traffic and keep up momentum. On a practical level, if you don't enjoy carrying water with you for the duration, ensure your run takes in a shop or two; there's no harm in taking a few minutes to hydrate and gobble a few jelly babies.

The long run would definitely be the philosopher's run of choice. Conducted at a more leisurely rate than an interval or tempo session, you really are left to your own devices as the miles start to roll in. Even if you listen to music, the prospect of running 1-2 hours in solitude - unless you have a running buddy - can be daunting.

The first few long runs are mentally exhausting as your mind adjusts to the continuous hum-drum of lateral movement. Gradually, you will find comfort in the fact that each stride begins to feel automated and that your legs are seemingly working independently to the rest of your body.

Each long run will bring about a series of clawing uncertainties and, in contrast, moments when you feel like you could complete an ultra. As with pacing, it is wise to implement an element of restraint and stick to your target. The reservations you will encounter during a long run follow a familiar cycle and are shared by each and every runner; the ups and downs are purely part of the journey.