The long run; when prepping for a long-distance road race it's the center of your entire training plan.
Each week the distance increases and you push yourself a little bit further in pursuit of building the cardiovascular and mental endurance needed to complete the course come race day.
Long runs are typically scheduled for weekends because they tend to take up a lot of time. Due to their lengthy nature (as the name so obviously implies) compared to workouts of lesser mileage they require a bit of extra preparation.
After all, if you're going to be out on the road for an hour or more— sweaty, tired and fighting just to finish— you won’t want to deal with any mishaps because you didn’t plan properly. To ensure your endurance workout goes smoothly, make sure you have all of the following items in check before you head out the door.
1. Check the Weather and Dress Accordingly
Dressing right for your long run is probably the most important part of preparation, because when you’re out on the road for a prolonged period of time an outfit that doesn’t work can ruin your entire workout.
Picking the right apparel will keep you comfortable and help prevent chafing. But putting together a weather-appropriate running ensemble takes practice; it’s a skill that you’ll continue to hone in on the more you get to know yourself as a runner. Runners are typically advised to dress for a temperature 10 degrees warmer than what the thermometer reads. This rule is helpful for running in cooler temperatures because you can use it to gauge how many layers you might need, but when it comes to running under the hot summer sun, opt for pieces that are light, loose and airy.
2. Plan Your Route
This step is mostly for the purpose of making sure you don’t get lost, and also so that you can make sure you’ll cover the proper amount of miles. A three or four mile run you can probably estimate accurately, but when you have to cover a long distance it’s best to make a solid plan so you know they’ll be no mistake about the mileage.
No matter what the weather is like, you will lose fluids (aka sweat) while running, and when you’re working out for more than 40 to 60 minutes you’ll definitely want to replenish them if you want to perform your best.
Most public parks have water fountains available in spring and summer, however, unless you’ve run the route before and know exactly where they’re located it’s best to bring your own water so there’s no chance your workout will be derailed by dehydration. Handheld water bottles or water belts are one option for carry-along hydration, or you could place a few water bottles along your route beforehand so they’ll be waiting at strategic spots throughout your route.
There are benefits to both running with and without music. The benefit to running without music is that you’ll be better able to focus on your form. However, unless you thoroughly enjoy hours of total solitude or are running with friends, it’s probably a good idea to bring along some form of entertainment to help the time pass by during your long run. If you plan on running your race without music (many runners do, especially so that they can enjoy the encouragement from the cheering crowds), try acclimating your body and mind to running unplugged by ditching your earbuds for the last few miles of your long workouts and also during most of your shorter workouts.
5. Charge Your Electronic Devices
Setting up the perfect long-run playlist won’t do you any good if your iPod battery is on its last leg as you head out the door. Plus, in case of an emergency (and if you use it as a music-playing device) you'll want to make sure your phone is fully charged, too. And for runners who use them, the same can be said for gadgets like GPS watches and heart rate monitors. Don’t wait until the last minute to plug them in. Keep in mind that it takes some time to collect a full charge, so plan ahead and plug in more than five minutes before the start of your workout.
6. Money and/or Credit Card
Here’s the thing: you really never know what’s going to happen during a long run. Hopefully everything goes according to plan, but there are just some parts of the universe that you have no control over and it’s nice to have a safety net in the form of a couple of extra bucks in case of an emergency. Cash is probably your best bet, but if you have one it probably couldn’t hurt to carry a credit card just in case.
And no matter what type of distance you’re covering, it’s also a good idea to always carry your ID with you. Not only might you need it if you need to use your credit card, but you’ll also definitely want to have it on you in case of an emergency.
7. Hat and/or Sunglasses
Hopefully your scheduled long run lands on a day when the sun is shining. In such a fortunate case you’ll certainly want to have something that will shield your eyes from the sun. Whether you choose a hat or sunglasses (or both) is up to you, but keep in mind that visors work better when running in warm temperatures because they’ll allow some body heat to escape from the top of your head. (And if your skin will be vulnerable to the sun, don't forget to cover up with sunscreen, too.)
Unless your activewear has lots of handy pockets where you can store some of the items mentioned above (money, credit cards, keys, electronic devices), then you may want to invest in a running belt that you can clip around your waist. Belts that promise not to bounce, like the SPI Belt or FlipBelt will be your best bet.