If you’ve been running for a little while, but have stuck to the three or four mile distance, this is the perfect time to start upping your mileage! Before you know it, the weather will start to warm up and make outdoor longer runs much more bearable. We are hitting the prime season to start training for a half-marathon in my neck of the woods. You could find yourself knocking out 8, 10, or even 12 miles on a crisp, spring weekend morning!

Long runs aren’t exactly easy, and they do require some thought and planning ahead, but they CAN be fun and The Hubby and I wanted to share our top five tips for a good long run experience!

Great Long Run

1. Fuel Your Body

Your body needs fuel to function properly and that is even more important when you are running long distances. If you’ve only been running shorter distances, you probably haven’t had to eat during a run and eating before your run wasn’t crucial, but all of that changes with a long run!

Carbs the night before are a good idea, but don’t go overboard for every long run. The Hubby and I both prefer to eat a little something about an hour and half before the run – a half a banana or an English muffin with a little peanut butter. As far as during the run, according to Runner’s World:

Runners need to add in 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrate each hour that they are running longer than 75 minutes…Start taking in fuel within 30 minutes of hitting the pavement.

This past weekend, during my nine-mile run on the TREADMILL {blech}, I used fruit snacks and ate some at miles 3, 5, 7, and 8. That worked really well for me this time around! Sports Beans are my fuel of choice, but fruit snacks and Lemonheads have worked well in a pinch for me! The Hubby also likes Clif Shot Bloks.

2. Hydrate Well

I have learned this lesson the hard way. I have spent many afternoons post-race or post-long run sick because of dehydration. Drinking plenty of water is important on a regular basis, but even more so leading up to a long run. If I’m doing a morning long run, I drink water as soon as I get up.

Then there is the issue of hydrating DURING the run. The weather, the distance, and your body will determine how much water you need to drink during the run, but for me I always underestimated how much I would need. So how do you get that water in when there won’t be perfectly spaced water stations? I prefer to carry a small bottle that straps to my hand like this one. For longer runs and/or hotter days, drop water bottles along your route where you can grab them quick as you come by! Just don’t forget where you left them so you can pick up after yourself!

And drink well afterwards! You could also use Gatorade during and after to help replace lost electrolytes.

3. Take It Easy

Long runs are actually supposed to be quite a bit slower than your “normal” or goal pace. For example I was hoping to run my last half-marathon at an overall 9:08 minutes per mile pace. During training, my pace for my long runs {10-14 miles} was between 10:30 and 11:30 minutes per mile. It really feels like you’re crawling along, but it’s a great way to build your endurance and that’s the point of long runs! {And yes, with those slow long runs, I DID beat my goal!}

If you’re training for a race and trying to meet a time goal, you’re going to want to throw speed work into your plan as well. You can work on that even in your long runs, running 3/4 of your run at the slow pace and the last 1/4 at your goal pace. Most of the run is still “taking it easy” but you get a little taste of finishing strong for your race!

4. Plan Some Distractions

My distraction of choice is a running partner, but that is just not always possible. My next choice is great music. I’ve posted a few times about my running playlists here and here and they are seriously inspiring to me. Another great distraction is a good podcast. It almost feels like you’re running with a friend having a great conversation, but you don’t have to talk at all and can just focus on your breathing! Lately, it’s been a great “distraction” for me to run WITHOUT music. The Hubby has done so as well and says that enjoying the fresh air and nature around him is a wonderful distraction.

5. Mix It Up

Run somewhere different than you normally run. Do the first few miles at a slower pace, push yourself in the middle, and end at an easier pace. Don’t make your long runs the same old thing every time or you will get bored and being bored while running makes it much harder to push yourself!

I went from not being a runner at all to running a half marathon in nine months and these tips were very helpful for getting me there. Increase your mileage gradually and you’ll be running longer and enjoying {most of} it, too!

What helps you get through a long run? What questions do you have about running longer distances?