How long should my long run be? It’s a classic running question and one which it’s tempting to answer, “How long is a piece of string?” But that’s not very helpful.
So we’re going to give you a simple answer that, providing you have no immediate long-race plans, will see you through until the New Year: 90 minutes. That’s how long you should run (or run/walk) for, once a week, every week, between now and January. Here’s why.
You can build up to it
If you’re running for half an hour now and have no injuries, it’s possible to safely build up to an hour-and-a-half over the next couple of months. And there is a huge difference between being able to run continuously for 30 minutes and being able to do it for 90 minutes; it’s the difference between just about completing a parkrun and easily completing a 10K, or being well on your way to running a half-marathon. It’s a great endurance goal to keep you motivated as the weather gets worse.
You can build up from it
Would you like to run a marathon or half next spring? Then making sure you can easily bash out a 90-minute run is a great starting point. In that time you’ll run anything from seven to 13 miles, which is a great base for building up to a long-distance event over a typical 12- or 16-week training plan. Suddenly, the thought of running 20 miles on a Sunday morning in training – before you do anything else for the day! – won’t seem quite so ridiculous.
It’s the perfect speedwork partner
What if your race aims for 2017 are shorter and faster – surely 90 minutes is too far to run? Not at all. In fact, all other things being equal, it’s always better to be able to run a lot further than your race distance, especially if you’re hunting for a fast time. If you want to run a fast 10K or 10-miler, being able to cover the distance shouldn’t even be a question mark for you. Building the endurance base with your long run means that the shorter speed sessions you do down the week are just about sharpening your top speed ready for your race.
You can break it down
When is a long run not a long run? When it’s kind of a speed session. An hour-and-a-half is the perfect time to break down into a race practice session. Your first half an hour is a warm-up, your last half an hour is a cool-down. In the middle 30 minutes, you can play around: try to run it at half-marathon race pace, or do some five-minute threshold intervals or long hill sets. The total duration of the session isn’t so great that you’ll be dead on your feet, but the combination of running a long way and throwing in some fast effort in the middle is great practice for races from 10K upwards.
It’s far… but not too far
If you have already run a half-marathon or further this year, you might already have become used to running up to three hours on a weekend and feel as if you’re skiving off just sticking to 90 minutes. However, if you have no long races before March, there’s really no point running for longer than 1.5hrs at the moment – you’re simply building up stress in your body and putting yourself at greater injury and illness risk, at a time of year when many of us are more susceptible to picking up bugs anyway. Rest assured that, as far as your body’s concerned, 90 minutes is well into the endurance bracket and you’ll be able to build up easily from there when your race comes into sight.