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The Importance of Long Run

Posted December 27, 2022 by June Calet, AT

Older woman running outside

Long runs produce many beneficial physiological changes. According to Running Times Columnist and Coach Greg McMillan, when you run long, you physically increase enzymes in your muscle cells and grow capillaries, which are the small vessels that surround the cells. These important changes allow more oxygen to be delivered to working muscle. You also strengthen your muscles, tendons and ligaments.

“The more oxygen that you can deliver to the working muscles, the better your performance will be,” says McMillan.

The long run also helps you build physical stamina in preparation for race day. Fatigue can set in on your feet, calves and quads, and you may experience nausea. Your body must know what this feels like and figure out how to fix it before race day. If you skip the long runs and only work on the shorter ones, you’re likely to have physical pain that can last longer than the race itself.

The long run helps you build mental stamina, as well, which runs hand-in-hand with the physical. If you are mentally done, it doesn’t matter how much you physically have left. Your mind can control you. You need to know what it’s like to hit “the wall” and how to fight through it.

However, you can’t just jump into long mileage. When training for a marathon, you have to gradually build yourself up to it. It’s best to follow a training schedule, so you can increase your mileage on a weekly basis. Your schedule should include rest days, speed work and tempo runs to quicken your pace, recovery runs to keep you from getting injured, a short race or two for experience, and, most importantly, long runs that build up each week.

If your long run falls on a rainy, hot or humid day, still go out and run it. Maybe try running during different times of the day, so your body slowly gets use to it. This too will help you mentally and physically prepare for varying types of weather on race day.

The bottom line? Use your best judgment when going out to run. But always remember the importance of long runs.


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