The Scientific Benefits of a Long Run
Every runner should be doing a long run. Even if you’re just training for a 5k, you still need to do a long run. I’ll tell you why.
About a year after my son was born, I decided to get more competitive with my running. I sought the help of coach, Bobby Holcombe, founder of Knoxville Endurance, and told him my goal was to run a sub-18 minute 5k.
I had chosen this goal because I thought the training would be less time-consuming than for a marathon. Low mileage. No weekend long runs. I was wrong.
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How often should you do a long run?
Turns out every runner should be doing a weekly long run.Why? Because running long makes you a better, stronger, and faster runner. How amazing is that? Just by logging in some extra miles, you’re going to see results!
How long is a long run?
Most experts agree that 20 to 30 percent of your weekly mileage should be devoted to a long run. So, if you’re an elite marathoner running 100 miles a week, then your long run is 20 miles. If you’re running 40 miles a week, then your long run should be 8 miles, at least.
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How fast should I run my long run?
The pace of a long run should be comfortable and conversational.
For faster runners, that means it’s about a minute slower than your 10k race pace. For slower runners, that’s about 30 seconds to one minute slower than your 10k race pace.
Need more convincing?
Below are 8 physiological benefits of long runs.
- Build the number of mitochondria in your cells. These are the “energy factories” that power movement and cell respiration.
- Increase max VO2 and blood volume, maximum stroke volume (the amount of blood ejected from the heart with each beat) and build new capillaries and red blood cells.
- Build mental toughness. When you toe the start line, you know you can go the distance because you already have—and in some cases—and then some.
- Make your running more efficient. Muscles learn through practice, so your stride will improve through consistent long runs.
- Teach your body how to fuel itself. Your body will learn to tap into fat before glycogen, delaying glycogen depletion during a long race. This helps delay hitting that proverbial wall.
- Make your muscles and tendons stronger. Running for prolonged periods increases the strength of the leg muscles and connective tissues.
- Open-up the chest cavity because you’re breathing longer at a faster rate. This strengthens your respiratory system.
- Make you faster! By improving your endurance, you’ll be able to hold a certain pace for a longer period of time. And, then as your slow twitch muscles get tired, your fast twitch muscle fibers pitch in. If you hate long runs, or they scare you, recruit a friend. I promise the miles go by so much faster when you’re chatting with someone.
Go long, my friend.