8 Tips for the Perfect Long Run

The long run is an important part of training for a marathon. Your long run is your longest run of the week and should be done at conversational pace, usually at about 70-75% of max HR. Most marathoners-in-training top out at 20 miles for their long runs.

Here are some tips for making sure your long runs help prepare you properly for your marathon, so you're feeling ready and confident on race day.


Experiment With Clothes and Foods

runner eating sports gel
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Consider your long runs a "dress rehearsal" for your marathon. You want to try different foods on the run, such as energy gels and chews, and see what works best for you. Also, try to figure out what clothes feel the most comfortable so you can start planning your marathon outfit. You don’t want to try anything new on marathon race day.


Take It Easy the Day Before

Make sure you get plenty of rest the night before, aiming for eight hours of sleep. The day before or two days before your long run should be a complete rest day. If you do train the day before, it should be an easy run or workout.


Eat and Drink Something Before You Start

You should eat a small meal about 1 1/2 to 2 hours before you start running. Choose something high in carbohydrates and lower in fat, fiber, and protein. Some examples of good pre-workout fuel include a bagel with peanut butter; a banana and an energy bar; or a bowl of cold cereal with a cup of milk. Stay away from rich, very fatty, or high-fiber foods, as they may cause gastrointestinal distress.


Hydrate and Eat Properly Leading up to the Run

The two days before your long run (and your marathon) should be high-carb days. You should make sure that you increase the percentage of carbs in your diet, not the overall calories. Carbo-loading does not mean that you should eat three plates of pasta for dinner! Aim for at least 65% of calories from carbs during those days. You can still have some protein but, for example, instead of having chicken with rice, have rice with chicken. Drink plenty of water and nonalcoholic fluids. Not only does alcohol dehydrate you, but it can also prevent you from getting a good night's sleep.


Do Your Long Runs at the Same Time as Your Marathon

Make sure you do some of your long runs at the same time of day the actual marathon will be held to familiarize yourself with running at that time. You'll also develop a pre-race routine that you'll be able to do on marathon day.


Don't Overdo the Mileage

For recreational marathoners, the risks of running more than 20 miles outweigh the possible benefits. You definitely should not run 26.2 miles as a training run to make sure you can complete the marathon.


Practice Mental Strategies

Take your long run as an opportunity to work on all the mental strategies that will help you through your marathon. Try using imagery, visualization, and self-talk to develop mental toughness and make your long runs easier. And if all else fails, learn how to distract yourself.


Treat Your Legs Right When You're Finished

Do some stretching after your run and, if you can tolerate it, take an ice bath to reduce muscle soreness and fatigue. Later in the day, so some walking or easy cycling to loosen up your legs.

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