How To Train for Long-Distance Running Events

February 17, 2012 § Leave a comment

Last summer I became very into long-distance running. When friends talk to me about my hobby, I frequently hear them say “I could never do that.” This is very untrue.

I wasn’t born one of those people who just loves running and being active, even though that’s exactly what I am now. The majority of my running activity consisted of 30 minute-jogs on the treadmill, 2-3 miles around my neighborhood, and some long-distance running events from when I was on the high school track team. By the way, I was probably one of, if not THE, slowest people on the team and I hated the 800m and 1600m with a passion.

Anyway, in May, I started running as soon as I got home from being abroad in London for a semester. This was when I accepted the fact that I had gained weight (I nicknamed myself “Cider thighs”) over the past 4 months from eating and drinking whatever I pleased all over Europe and not making exercise a priority. A few weeks into my weight-losing adventure, I decided to train for the Bronx half, which would be taking place on August 28th. Unfortunately I chose the wrong race as it was cancelled because of a hurricane, but there were still many benefits of my new-found love for long-distance running.

Not only did I lose my “abroad weight” and keep it off, but I increased my speed by about 2:30 per mile, and learned a lot of new workouts and techniques for staying in shape and strengthening my body (and my mind). In preparation for the race, I participated in a few races in the New York State Parks Summer Run Series (a 10K and a 5K). It’s a good idea to run a shorter race before your big event, if you never have, to get a feel for the racing vibe. Here’s what you need to know to train for any long-distance event you please.

1. Pick an event and plan.

  • Give yourself ample time to prepare, especially if you are planning on running a half or full marathon.
  • Find a training plan. Hal Higdon’s 12-week training programs are great. He breaks them up into different experience levels (Novice, Novice 2, Intermediate, etc.).
  • Track your times and distances so you can see your progress. Make a chart so you can easily keep track of your times and workouts. You can do this in a variety of ways:
    • Get a GPS watch. While these can be pricey, they are very convenient and accurate.
    • Plan your runs on This is a great site for runners, in everything from logging your activity to planning a route and knowing how long your run is to the exact .00 mile.
    • Use an app. I love the Nike+ GPS app because it keeps track of your runs and records, and you can also organize everything online.Nike+ GPS Records

2. Improve your speed, mileage and agility.

  • Incorporate one speed run and one hill run into your weekly schedule.
    • Speed Run: A speed-interval run is best to do on the treadmill because you can easily adjust your pace. Here is one speed work-out that I like a lot, mainly because it helped improve my pace majorly in just a few months. It may take you a few trials before you are able to run at the 6.5-8.5 pace, so you can always adjust it (5.5-7.5, 6-8, etc.) as you desire.
    • Hill Run: A hill run is also best to do on a treadmill. The “hill” you are running is created when you slowly increase the grade on the treadmill (incline/decline). This hill run is 4 miles long, and you are adjusting your speed and grade after every 1/2 mile. This workout is also very tough at first, it took me a few tries before I ran it at this pace. Just try your hardest! Running hills is also a great way to burn fat.

  • Plan to run one long run a week. And no more than that! Running over 6 miles multiple times a week is an easy way to get injured. For my training, I’d go on 3-4 mile runs four times a week, have one day of cross-fit (elliptical and bike) once a week, and one long run (which started at 8 miles and turned into 12).
  • Don’t forget strength training. Lift weights and work out both your arms AND your legs. Running isn’t enough, and you need strength in your entire leg to support your knees. Your core is important too.
  • Rest days are important. Your muscles will be tired, especially during the first few weeks of training. Give them time to heal and restore themselves.

3. Fuel your body.

Your body definitely isn’t going to be used to this new exercise load. So eating right and drinking a TON of water is really important.

  • Drink at least 3 liters of water a day. Yeah, you’re going to be walking back and forth from the bathroom for the first couple of weeks but eventually your body gets used to it. This is really important, so don’t skip it!
  • Eat balanced meals, but increase your protein intake. Adding extra carbs isn’t really necessary unless you’re going on a long run. I always eat a really big breakfast after a long run (eggs, english muffin w/peanut butter & turkey bacon). During the week I base my meals around protein. Eggs for breakfast, sandwich or salad for lunch (loaded with lean proteins like grilled chicken, fish, nuts, etc.). I always snack on peanut butter and apples or celery, other vegetables, Greek yogurt, and nuts. If my stomach is grumbling, I eat. I just make sure that what I eat has significant nutritional value.

4. Have fun with it!

  • Make a good playlist (here’s one, more coming soon!).
  • Buy cute workout clothes & gear. Lululemon makes the best pants (the “Excel Crop,” $78, is my favorite) and long-sleeves (gloves too!), and C9 at Target has a great selection of inexpensive sports bras, cold-weather gear, and much more. Make sure you bundle up and wear proper layers if it is cold out! You also might want to invest in a hydration belt, like one of these. You might think you look funny but it is very important to stay hydrated during long runs. You can also keep your iPod in there, and it will come in handy for race day.
  • Take classes or try other forms of fitness to help you get in shape. Spinning, kickboxing, boxing, pilates, and swimming are a few of my favorites. Each will help strengthen different muscles in your body in ways that running and weight-lifting can not.

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