Long Runs 101

What’s Included?

  • What are long runs?
  • What’s the importance of long runs?
  • How hard & how long should it be?

What are long runs?


Why are they important?

Long runs have a number of benefits and they are truly crucial for making progress in your training. The long run will help you to…

Increase Aerobic Capacity

By completing long runs, you will be pushing your body to new levels & forcing it to adapt. It will strengthen your mitochondria – so you can run FURTHER, FASTER, and LONGER. Your endurance will also improve as a result of completing longer runs.

Build Mental Toughness

Long runs are MEANT to be tough – this is because we are pushing our bodies AND our minds to new lengths. In order to complete long runs we must believe that we can, we must push through hard moments, and we must keep going all the way to the end. This is a CRUCIAL skill that will serve you well in your races – and the more you practice it, the better you’ll get!

Build Strength

Long runs will build and develop strength in your muscles and your joints – making you a STRONGER runner.


HOW LONG & HOW HARD?

The distance and the intensity of a long run can vary depending upon what you’re training for, what your goals are, and how long you’ve been running/how much experience you have. Typically, a long run should be anywhere between 1-3 hours in duration and should be approximately 25-35% of your weekly mileage – although this may not be the case for runners who are running lower mileage and/or runners who are running very high mileage.

Here’s a breakdown of long-runs by race distances:

  • 5K LONG RUNS: Range from 2 miles (at the beginning of the training plan) up to 7+ (at the end of the plan)
  • 10K LONG RUNS: Range from 3 miles (at the beginning of the training plan) up to 10+ (at the end of the plan)
  • HALF MARATHON LONG RUNS: Range from 4 miles (at the beginning of the training plan) up to 12+ (at the end of the plan)
  • MARATHON LONG RUNS: Range from 5 miles (at the beginning of the training plan) up to 20+ (at the end of the plan)

While these may be “typical” long run ranges for various distances, it’s very important to remember that what YOU choose to build up to in long runs is very individual to YOU as a runner and YOUR goals. For example, a new runner may only build up to 10 miles as their longest long run when training for a half marathon while an experienced runner attempting to break 1:20 may train up to 16 miles as their longest long run distance. The distances you choose as long runs should build slowly and progressively throughout your training, and should be aligned with your experience level and goals.

When it comes to HOW HARD your long run should be – you should typically keep your long run effort somewhere around 55% – 75% of your 5K pace. This is just a guideline though, and it’s important to remember that we are all different & have unique goals. There are many different types of long runs with varying intensities. Here are a few of them:

Easy Effort:

If you’re doing a NEW long run distance (a distance you’ve never accomplished before) it might be best to keep your run at an easier effort level.

Easy with Intervals or Progression:

Sometimes, mixing in a little bit of speed can be a great way to target different energy systems and build cardio endurance and improve your VO2 max. This type of long run should only be used with distances that you are already comfortable and familiar with, but it can be completed in a number of ways: using intervals, incorporating progressively harder paces throughout the run, or mixing in a tempo effort segment in between 2 easy effort segments.

Sustained Harder Effort:

Sometimes, you may have a hard sustained effort long run. This typically occurs during a training plan when there is a race-pace effort planned or a practice race planned (like completing a half marathon while training for a marathon).


When considering how hard your long run should be, it’s important to look at your training plan as a whole & figure out what you can handle during that part of your training. You should take into consideration what other types of runs you have that week & the next week, how your body feels, and what you’re trying to accomplish with your long run.

Need help with how to structure your long runs? Check out our AIM 1:1 COACHING program to get specific runs tailored to your level & goals!

Amy Haas
Run with Aim, LLC
UESCA Certified Running Coach
NASM Certified Personal Trainer
NASM Certified Nutrition Coach

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