It’s a common goal for many runners: how can you run longer? Whether you are training for a race or simply want to have a longer workout, there are some easy tips that can help increase your running time and distance. Note that many running professionals and trainers advise to only increase your running distance gradually or you will be at greater risk for injury (for more information check out this article from Active).
These are intended to be helpful running tips that I have learned from my experience running, and not intended as professional advice (see disclaimer page for more information). Always consult your physician if you are unsure about your health or workout regiment.
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Set yourself up for success: be well-rested, hydrated and have a nutrition plan
If you are going to run for longer than normal, set yourself up to achieve that goal. Make sure you are well-rested, hydrated, and have a nutrition plan. Eat a small snack before going out. It doesn’t have to be a lot, usually one or two slices of sourdough toast are enough for me. Give yourself enough time to digest so it’s not weighing heavy in your stomach.
Another favorite is a smoothie that includes banana. If you are into chocolate and coffee (and can handle caffeine prior to a run) check out this chocolate banana coffee smoothie recipe which is perfect for pre or post-workout. Electrolytes are also important, especially if it is hot or you sweat a lot. Nuun (electrolyte tablets with optional caffeine) is a great choice to take pre, during or post-run. They also taste pretty good and aren’t loaded with sugar like other electrolyte drinks.
If you are running for a long time consider bringing snacks or fuel to make sure your body has enough carbohydrates. Some runners opt for dried fruit or other natural snacks. A favorite for many, especially if training for a race, are energy gels. My preference are GU energy gels, which I take if my runs are longer than 90 minutes (this will depend on your body though – feel it out).
Run slow, easy, and take breaks on a route you have mapped ahead of time
In order to run longer and have it feel easy, you should work on keeping your heart rate down. Your body is not accustomed to running this distance yet, so do not push it. Take walking breaks or water breaks as needed, and don’t pressure yourself. Run as slow as you need and don’t be afraid to add on a minute, two, or more to your regular pace.
In order to keep your heart rate down, you can do it by feel, but having a tech device is easier. If you do not have a heart rate monitor consider one of these options:
- An apple watch (this is my preference if you have an iPhone and don’t need advanced running data)
- Affordable garmin watch
- Most accurate to measure heart would be a heart rate sensor strap
If you are worried about getting lost consider sticking to a path you know. Maybe add on an extra lap, or go down well-known streets or paths. If you are feeling adventurous open your google maps or Strava app and plan out a new route or extension to your route. During my marathon training, long runs were extra exciting as I was able to explore new places.
Tell yourself you can do it, then try listening to an audiobook, long podcast, or running game
This is my favorite long run hack: if it’s safe for you to listen to something while you run, choose something you can’t stop listening to. For many people, they feel like they cannot run longer because they mentally tell themselves they can’t. Tell yourself you can do it and then listen to something to help motivate you to want to continue.
For me, this is usually a good audiobook (Audible has a ton, this is one of my favorites). Another favorite is a long podcast episode or podcast series. The podcast My Favorite Murder got me through marathon training, particularly their long 1.5 hour episodes.
Another favorite I picked up during marathon training was listening to a running game. Zombies, Run is an audio game that puts you in the role of a survivor in a zombie apocalyptic world. You fittingly play a runner who helps other survivors. The game allows you to listen to your music but intermittently receive story updates. You can also be engaged by zombies (depending on settings) and pick up inventory to use in the app as you run.
Choose the right time of day and check the weather
If you are running longer than normal make sure you plan out your run ahead of time. If you are running for a few hours, what will the temperature be like mid-day? Should you start earlier or later in the day? In the summer, plan so you don’t have to cut your run short from the sun or overheating. In the winter, make sure there is enough light out and you won’t be caught running in the dark (unless if you are in a safe area and take precautions).
Another tip to make sure you are prepared for your long run is to check the hourly weather forecast. If there is any sign of rain in the forecast make sure you bring appropriate accessories and apparel. Runner tip: choose a more detailed weather app like Darksky (if you have an iPhone) to get an as accurate read as possible. Even then, have a backup plan. I got caught in a sudden thunderstorm during one of my long runs and rushed to figure out transportation options.
Electrolytes and hydration are key to long runs
Make sure you are well hydrated and have enough water or electrolytes to last you the time you want to run. The worst feeling in the world is wanting to run longer but you are feeling dehydrated.
If you live in a city or urban area, bring money to purchase water or an electrolyte beverage mid-run. Another good idea if your area is less populated is hiding a frozen or cold water bottle on your route. If you prefer to carry water with you, there are some great accessories that can help.
My personal favorite water carrying tool is a Flipbelt with two small water bottles. They don’t shake or rattle and can be refilled from water fountains. If you don’t have access to water fountains and would like to carry a larger quantity of water, consider buying a hydration vest. These are also perfect for other occasions besides running such as hiking and outdoor festivals.
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What tips do you use to run longer? Will you try any of these ideas on your next run?