Double the distance of your long run in 8 weeks!
How do you go from running for 20 or 30 minutes to being able to run and run for as long as you like? Would you like to transform your running and start completing longer (and faster) runs than you dreamed of? This really is possible for you! And you can get there faster than you think!
I’m Kevin Draper, triathlete, runner and coach, I’ve gone from running 5 and 10ks to running everyday of the year during 2017 and then during 2018 completing FIVE 50 mile ultra marathons on some of the South East of England’s hilliest trails. I’ve averaged 2500 miles per year for the last 5 years. And I’m going to show you how you can more than double the distance of your longest run in only 8 weeks.
When it comes to running LONGER there are a few important limiting factors, things that STOP most runners in their tracks but which you can use to transform your endurance and run longer than you ever imagined.
- Mobility and Muscle tightness
- General fatigue / muscle failure
- Fuelling and Energy Sources
- Strength and Conditioning
Most of your energy comes from breathing! So one of the most important elements to being able to run longer without getting tired is to breathe well! Practice breathing deeply into using your diaphragm and staying relaxed. Nose breathing can really help you to relax but you will need to practice. To start with try nose breathing for a part of each mile or kilometre that you run. This book “Body, Mind and Sport” by John Douillard is an excellent guide to using “nose breathing”, I have read, applied it and referred to it frequently and it has truly transformed my distance running ability.
The following tips will help you to run with good posture, making running easier and faster, and helping you keep going for longer…
- a slight retraction (squeezing together) of your shoulder blades,
- run “tall” – imagine a string pulling you up from the top of the head, keeping you running nice and tall
- a slight forward lean with the whole of your body – don’t “hinge” at the hips. This way you can utilise gravity and work with a controlled falling motion.
- relax your shoulders allow your arms to swing straight forward and back with a bent arm (about 90 degrees) and relaxed hands – imagine you are holding a potato crisp between your index finger and thumb.
- land on the mid part of your foot – avoid “heel striking” where your heel hits the ground first as this slows you down and damages your joints.
- lift your heel towards your bottom in a relaxed “cycling” motion.
All of these should be integrated gradually into your running programme. Pick one aspect to focus on at a time. Over time running this way will completely transform your ability to stay relaxed and just keep on running!
(the number of times your feet strike the ground in a minute)Most elite long distance runners run with a cadence of 180 – 190. Typically average runners like you and I, find that their cadence will drop off as they tire towards the end of a long run. The consequent ‘plodding’ or trudging can really exacerbate feelings of tiredness. To improve your cadence or keep in consistent towards the end of your run or when you are tired, use a metronome, a little beeper, you can download one on your phone or get a Finis tempo trainer and set it to beep at your regular cadence when fresh. Then use it as a reminder to pick up your cadence. Strength and conditioning training and ‘speed ladder work’ helps to maintain muscular strength to be able to keep a consistent cadence.
4. MOBILITY AND MUSCLE TIGHTNESS
Typically as you go on with a longer run you may start to experience some tightness in your muscles and maybe ‘pains’ in your joints as muscles stop working effectively. Stop this from making you curtail your longer runs by using this tip…
- Stop and stretch! You may have seen runners stop during a long run or even during a race to stretch their muscles especially if they are experiencing the onset of cramps. Static stretching is NOT the answer! Instead try dynamic stretches! The athletes I coach use dynamic stretches like leg swings, lunges or squats to stretch out at the start of a run. It’s a great way to warm up your muscles. Never us static stretches before your run. You can also use these stretches as your muscles get tighter towards the end of a long run.
- Better still use this preventative strategy – try stopping every 8 – 10 minutes after 50% of your intended distance. Take 1 minute to perform one of the three stretches. See my YouTube video for a demonstration.
5. GENERAL FATIGUE
As you go beyond what your body is used to you will begin to feel a sense of general fatigue. Your mind will start playing tricks on you and finding reasons why you should STOP! This a good sign! You are beginning to push your limits and now is when you start to train your MIND and your BODY to run longer. All the running up till now is getting to you to this point of mental and physical growth. There are a few strategies to prepare you for this moment in your long run…
- Use fast “strides” to improve your running form especially when tired, so practice doing 6 – 10 strides of 100m or so at the end or your steady runs, followed by a 5 minute cool down. Remember to focus on good technique rather than ‘sprinting’, just keep the pace consistent.
- Build up your strength by a run-specific S&C programme.
- Be ready for the tricks your mind will play on you and prepare some mental tools to deal with them. A positive “mantra” that you repeat either out loud or in your head or a mental list of reasons you want to complete this long run.
- If you find music helpful then now’s the time to fire up those inspirational TUNES! Be prepared with a playlist and headphones close to hand.
- TREAT YOURSELF! Suck on your favourite sweet, it takes 20 minutes for anything you eat or drink to find it’s way into your system but the psychological benefits of something sweet in your mouth goes straight to the brain so if this works for you have your treat ready for when you get to mile XX.
6. FUELING / ENERGY
This is a very complex and disputed aspect of long distance running. In my experience there are two main fuelling strategies used by long distance runners. Either…
- get your body used to consuming food and drink on the run. Find out what food and / or drink works for you and use it when you train to keep your glycogen levels boosted. Your body stores enough glycogen to fuel you for at least an hour of running anyway so anything less than an hour then you really don’t need it. You are simply training your body to get used to eating while you are running ready for those 1 hour plus long runs. Or
- Train your body to utilise fat as a fuel. Use early morning fasted runs to get your body used to using fat as a fuel. BONUS! this also boosts your body’s fat burning potential and kickstarts your metabolism at the start of the day also helping with any targets you may have to lose weight.
- There is some evidence to suggest that mostly training to optimise fat as a fuel and racing using a (tried and tested) combination of certain real foods, gels, bars and energy drinks can work really well for some marathon and ultra marathon runners. If you want to complete a fast marathon then you’ll almost certainly need to use at least either an energy drink or gels.
7. STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING!
Find an excellent 20 minute run specific “Strength and Conditioning” Programme and do it twice a week.
HOW TO DOUBLE THE DISTANCE OF YOUR LONG RUN IN 8 WEEKS!
BUILD SLOWLY AND CONSISTENTLY!
Ok this is how you can go from 10km to 20km over an 8 week period. Firstly I’m willing to bet that if your life depended on it, using the strategies above, you could not only go from 10k to 20k TOMORROW but you could probably run a full marathon!
But this would NOT be advisable and it would massively increase the risk of you getting injured so we stick to the rule of thumb which indicates and advises that you increase your mileage gradually and consistently.
So if you increase your long run by 10% each week you will double your distance in 8 weeks. If you start with 10km on Week 1, Week 2 will be 11km, 3 – 12.1, 4 – 14, etc. By Week 8 you will be at 21km (and you’ll have gone from a 10k to a half marathon distance).
Now a couple of caveats. This is still a relatively fast increase in mileage if you don’t have a base of endurance sport behind you. If you are an inexperienced runner or not coming from a sporting / active background I would recommend taking at least 12 weeks by building in recovery weeks (where you decrease your mileage by 10%) after 2 or 3 weeks of increase, then pick up again at your high point.
So you need to be advised that you take on the 8 week challenge entirely at your own risk.
Here are the key factors that will help you to be successful…
- Keep the pace of ALL your steady runs EASY. At a pace where you could hold a conversation.
- Avoid any increase in speed-work or interval training in any sport for the duration of the challenge.
- If you miss a week for any reason DO NOT try to “catch up”, just go back to where you left off and start building 10% at a time.
- Dynamic stretches before and during, static stretches after running.
- Start every long run very easy pace.
- If you feel a twinge or a muscle feels tight after warm up and dynamic stretches, walk that session instead.
Run 3 or 4 times per week – 1 long run and 2 or 3 easy runs. Look at your current weekly mileage and adjust the distance of your other runs. So if you currently run 3 x 8k per week. Now week 1 would be 10k, 7k, 7k or 10k, 5k, 5k, 5k. Then keep the overall increase no more than 10% too.