Make Your Long Runs Easier

Your long runs can be the most challenging part of training for a long-distance event such as a marathon, especially as the mileage creeps into the double digits. Follow these tips to make your long runs easier and more comfortable, and get you prepared for race day.

Avoid Chafing

happy runners

Sam Edwards / Getty Images

Nothing can ruin a long run like painful chafing. Don't assume that you're not running long enough to chafe in the usual spots. Even just running 5 or 6 miles can lead to some serious chafing.

Wear Cool-max or synthetic blend socks, shirt, and shorts that wick away moisture. Be sure to wear appropriate and well-fitting gear for your needs, such as a supportive sports bra or leggings. Use Body Glide, Vaseline, or similar anti-chafing products (on feet, under arms, between thighs, nipples, etc.) to prevent chafing and/or blisters.

Stay Loose

Woman running on city street

Moof / Cultura / Getty Images

Some runners get tense in their shoulders and arms when they start to get fatigued, leading to neck and back pain. You can prevent tensing-up and slouching by shaking out your arms and shoulders regularly. Also, make sure you don't ball your hands up in a tight fist—that tightness will radiate up your arms, to your shoulders and neck.

If you're carrying a water bottle in your hand, make sure that you periodically switch sides, so one side doesn't get more tense from gripping it the entire time.

Rethink the Mileage

Runners running by water

technotr / E+ / Getty Images

Mentally break your course into smaller sections. Your 15-mile run will feel much more doable if you break it into three five-mile segments. Once you get to the 12-mile mark of an 18-mile run, think to yourself, "OK, just under 10K from here."

Nothing New on Race Day

Runner eating gel

Joshua Hodge Photography / E+ / Getty Images

Start experimenting with different foods, such as energy gels and chews, and clothes so you can figure out what works for you. The goal is to find your favorites now, so you're not trying anything new on race day. As you get closer to your race, treat your long runs like dress rehearsals for your big day.

Take a Walking Break

Trio of walkers

Geber86 / E+ / Getty Images

Don't feel guilty if you stop or walk to get the fluids down during your long run. Many people walk through water stops in marathons. And taking a short walking break gives your running muscles a quick rest, so you'll feel more energized and refreshed when you start running again.

If you plan to take regular walk breaks, you can take them by distance (every mile, for example) or by time (every 15 minutes, for instance). Follow these tips for your walk breaks so you're able to easily get back to running when your walk interval is over.

Find a Running Group

Group of runners

kristian sekulic / E+ / Getty Images

Running with other people can make your long runs easier and more pleasurable. Chatting with a running partner definitely makes the time go faster, so your run won't be as mentally challenging. Look for running clubs or join a charity team in your area.

Run on a Softer Surface

Runners on a dirt trail

Sam Diephuis / The Image Bank / Getty Images

If possible, try to run on a softer surface, like a hiking trail, for at least part of your long run. A dirt path is gentler on your body than asphalt or concrete, and running on it will help you recover faster after your long run.

Staying Hydrated is Critical

Women running with water
Zia Soleil

You must make sure that you're getting proper hydration throughout the long run, especially when running in the warmer weather. You can carry fluids using a hand-held water bottle or belt carrier. Drink for thirst—when you feel yourself getting thirsty, take 4-6 mouthfuls of water or sports drink.

By Christine Luff, ACE-CPT
Christine Many Luff is a personal trainer, fitness nutrition specialist, and Road Runners Club of America Certified Coach.