A good running program should consist of different types of runs throughout your weekly schedule. Often forgotten by beginners and those “strapped” for time is the long run. If you are looking to get faster or run farther, a weekly long run has got to be part of your program.

Whether a new runner or an experienced runner, a weekly long run should be part of your running program. Long runs have a lot of benefits that include helping you to run faster in your shorter distances (like a 5K) and run farther if you are looking to increase mileage.

The long run is a “slooooooowwwww” (emphasis on slow in case you didn’t get that) run of your longest distance for the week. The long run should be at a pace that is about 30-90 seconds slower than your “race pace” depending on where you are with your running program. For example if you have run 5K (3.1 miles) but are looking at doing a long run of 5 miles for the first time, set your pace at about 1 minute slower than your 5K pace.

The long run is not about speed; it is about covering the distance. The goal of the long run is to train your body to run longer distances and train your mind that you can run longer distances. Your long run should be completed at the end of your training week. It is also a good idea to take a day of rest prior to your long run and also rest or cross train the day after your run for recovery.

How running long helps you get faster

Some people think that to run a faster 5K or other distance, you should go out and run those distances at a faster pace. That is easier said than done (and your body will tell you that with the heavy breathing and panting). Incorporating long runs into your weekly program will get your body used to running longer, improving your cardio and helping you build endurance. With your body (and mind) capable of working for a longer period of time, over time you will see that you are stronger and more capable at running faster at shorter distances.

Try and you will be surprised

Still not sure is long running is for you? Give it a try for a few weeks and see how they help your running. Long runs are a great way to safely increase mileage, helps you run faster (along with other types of weekly runs) and will build better cardio and endurance. If you are running to lose weight, the long run will also burn more calories.

Don't be afraid to take some walk breaks into your long runs as you start this program or increase your mileage.Try to take your mind off of pace (other than running too fast) or time and just go out and cover the distance. If you need to take a walk break, do it.

Practice what I preach? Sure thing! I am in the process now of building my running distance to move from spring 5Ks to summer 10K and half-marathon training. So my weekend isn’t complete until I run my long run.

I will keep you posted on my progress and hope that you keep me posted on yours.

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