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4 reasons long runs go bad

4 reasons long runs go badWhen I’m headed out for a long run, there’s one item I won’t leave home without: my phone. And not just because I need to use the WalkJogRun app. I always carry my phone because I may bonk, get heat exhaustion, cramp up, or run out of fuel and need to call my husband to come pick me up mid-run.

All of these long run snafus have happened to me before, and then some. Until recently, I had never had a good long run.

I was determined to get to the bottom of this long run trouble. After making some tweaks to my training and my expectations, I’m happy to report that my long runs have gone a lot better this round of marathon training. I even look forward to them now.

Here are common reasons why long runs go wrong:

  1. You’re running too fast. There are several types of long runs. Sure, some of them call for fast miles, but most long runs should be run at a slow pace – up to 2 minutes per mile slower than your goal marathon pace. If you run the beginning miles too fast, there’s a chance you’ll fall off pace in the later miles, which can make the run seem to drag on and on. If you’re always doing your long runs close to goal race pace, it’s akin to racing every weekend. After a few weeks, you’ll start to burn out and you may set yourself up for injury. A good rule of thumb is to start your long runs slow – I aim for a full minute per mile slower than my goal pace for the run. This way, you’ll have energy in the tank left for the later miles.
  2. You aren’t fueling properly. Bonking or “hitting the wall” is that sudden, weak, intense loss-of-energy feeling that can strike a couple of hours into a run. You may feel like you literally cannot run another step. This feeling happens when your body runs out of glycogen – the main source of “fuel” for endurance exercise. That’s why runners must take in calories during distance events to prevent glycogen depletion. Most runners need to consume calories every 45 minutes or so during a long run, and you’ll need to drink even more often than that. Figuring out when exactly, what, and how much to eat to prevent bonking will take trial and error, though. It’s important to eat well in the days leading up to your long run, too. If you skimp on calories the day before a 16-miler, your body will feel like it’s running on empty. Fuel up with plenty of wholesome, nutritious foods throughout training.
  3. You’re dehydrated. Not drinking enough in the days prior to or during a long run can lead dehydration. Keep in mind that you need even more fluids than normal in hot or humid weather.
  4. You’re overtraining or not taking enough time to recover between runs. Our bodies need several days to recover after hard or long workouts. If you’re not taking rest days or doing easy runs throughout training, your long runs will feel much harder because your body is worn out. Make sure you follow a sound training plan and pay attention to your body’s signals to avoid overtraining and burnout.

Written by Jen Matz.

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