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Marathon training: Fitting in the long run

Fitting in your long run

I love half marathons. I love the race distance and I love the training. But whenever I make the leap to the full, it’s a whole other ballgame.

Why? Because marathon training rules your life. It’s a huge time commitment. On paper, the difference between a 12-miler (my longest typical training run in half marathon training) and a 20-miler (my longest marathon training run) is only about 70 minutes. But it feels like so much longer than that.

During half marathon training, I never run for more than one hour and 45 minutes. However, during full training, I often have to carve out 2- 3+ hours to run on one day, and that’s a huge chunk of time.

Frankly, I don’t always have time every week for a long run. But I know the key to marathon success is to find ways to make time to properly train.

Here’s how I plan to fit in the long run this time around:

  • Run long on Saturday mornings. Things pop up on the weekends just like they do on the weekdays. Whenever I save my long run for Sunday, something always happens forcing me to cut it short or skip it. Then suddenly it’s Monday and I have no time to fit in the miles. Scheduling my long runs for Saturday is the perfect solution. That way, if one of my kids gets sick or it’s down-pouring, I at least have the option to move the run to Sunday.
  • Waking up (really) early on the weekdays. We have a couple of trips planned during this round of marathon training. Usually, I’m all for squeezing workouts in when on vacation. But something about waking up super early on my brother’s wedding day to run 18 miles just doesn’t sit right with me. So, I’m doing that 18-miler on one of the weekdays before his wedding. I’ll be on the treadmill by 4 something a.m., and it will be ridiculously hard to get out of bed. But I’ll remind myself that it’s only one day. Meeting my marathon goal is definitely worth the extra yawns.
  • Splitting it up. That 4:00 a.m. scenario doesn’t always work. Carving out 2- 3 continuous hours of exercise on the weekdays is almost impossible for many people. So, sometimes you need to split up your long run. Maybe 8 miles before work and 10 miles after you leave the office. Here’s more on splitting up your long run, including when it’s OK to do so.
  • Adding warm-up and cool down miles to races. There’s a half marathon I want to run. The problem is, it’s the same weekend as a scheduled 16-miler. My solution? Run one warm-up mile, race the half, and run two cool down miles afterwards. I’m taking the same approach with a 5k race earlier in training.
  • Skipping it (when needed). Life happens, and sometimes it truly is impossible to fit in all of our training runs. Here’s a secret, though – you don’t have to do every single training run on your plan to have a successful race. True, you should do most of them – especially the long runs – but if you have to sit out one planned 15-miler, chances are your marathon finish time won’t be affected.

What are some creative ways you’ve fit in long runs?

Written by Jen Matz.