The most common thing I hear when someone finds out that I run marathons is this:
“How do you do that?! I can’t even run X miles!”
My response is typically this: “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”
Like any huge challenge or goal in life, you have to break it down into small, attainable goals in order to reach the finish line.
So, how do you build your endurance for long runs? Here’s my advice:
1. Focus on time first. Rather than thinking about how far you need to run, switch your perspective to time instead. Let your watch be your guide. For instance, instead of saying you’re going to run three miles today, make it 30 minutes or 20 minutes instead. The next time you run, add 5 minutes to it.
2. Walk-run. People often ask how I can run 26.2 miles straight. The answer is that I don’t. Many notable marathon runners such as former Olympian Jeff Galloway recommend a “walk-run” method. Typically, it means you run for a certain amount of time and walk for a certain amount of time. This builds endurance while also being kinder on your joints, which can also often reduce the likelihood of injury. You can set some watches to chime during specific intervals so you are running for five minutes and walking for two minutes, etc.
3. Be consistent. Starting and stopping or only running once a week for a long time will not produce terrific endurance results (believe me!). The more you run the same distance well in advance of your race, the better you will feel and the more comfortable your body will be at that distance. So, if your goal is to run a 5K, you should be doing a 2-mile run, a 3-mile run and perhaps a 5-mile run every week, consistently, for several weeks. When you finally arrive at your 5K race, it’ll feel like a breeze.
4. Refuel. Sometimes, when you’re growing your endurance, you’re burning more energy than what’s left in the tank. To stabilize your energy during a longer run (whether you’re at 4 or 14 miles), be sure to adjust your replenishment. Lower mileage like 4 miles might mean bringing a small water bottle with an electrolyte drink cut with water to give your body a boost mid-run. Longer runs will usually mean a caffeinated energy gel, electrolyte drink and/or sodium-electrolyte tablets or capsules.
5. Keep your eyes up. It’s easy to look down at the ground as your slogging along, but resist the temptation! Keep your eyes up and focus on a point ahead of you. Set mini goals along the way such as “I’m going to jog to that light pole and then take a breather.” Challenge yourself to go a little farther than what’s comfortable to push your limits.
Happy running, friends! 🙂