Runners who enjoy participating in 10km races and half marathons often fight against doing a weekend long run. This couldn’t be a bigger mistake. The weekend long run is one of the most crucial parts of anyone’s training preparation – whether you’re running 10km or the Comrades Marathon. The long run doesn’t just prepare your legs to be able to run longer distances, but it does a few key things that will help you at any of your racing distances.
I recently read an article about Peter Snell, gold medalist in both the 800m and 1500m events at the 1964 Olympic Games. Two months prior to the event, his coach encouraged him to run 100 miles (160 km) a week and included a marathon in his programme. And, well, the gold medals tell the success of the story.
Other than building lifelong friendships, humbling you and making you realise more about yourself than anything else, running long distance training runs do a few things:
- On a physiological level, it allows your body to increase enzymes in your muscle cells and grow the small vessels that surround the cells. These muscle changes allow more oxygen to be delivered to working muscles. More oxygen to your muscles means that your muscles have enough energy to get you to the end of your race.
- It strengthens your muscles, tendons and ligaments.
- It teaches your body to be efficient.
Now, a long run doesn’t have to be 3 hours long. To gain the effects of the points above, you need only do a long run of between 1 hour 30 minutes and 2 hours 30 minutes.
Whether you are a competitive runner, or a recreational runner, we all have that inner desire to run a faster race than the previous one. Incorporating a long slow run into your training programme could be the very thing that helps you achieve that