Marathon Long Run Tips

Marathon Monday: Marathon Long Run Tips + Portland Marathon Training Week 8

Today’s post is part of an on-going series on all aspects of marathon (and half marathon) training. New to This Runner’s Recipes? Catch up on all previous Marathon Monday posts here

The long run is an unavoidable component of marathon and half marathon training. If you are going to run a long distance race, then you need to train to run long distances. Make the most of your long runs so you can enjoy your training and run your best race with these marathon long run tips. 

Marathon Long Run Tips


Practice Fueling, Before and During

Nothing can derail your race like GI distress. The best way to avoid that? Practice your race-specific fueling during your long runs. This will help you determine which breakfasts, gels, chomps, and foods agree with your stomach. Not only will you eliminate which gels aggravate your stomach, but it will accustom your stomach to the gels you choose, so they are familiar and easily digestible even during the stress of race day.

You should fuel approximately every 45-60 minutes of your long run. While some people chug their whole gel at once, I prefer to sip on my gel for a few miles to get a slow and steady stream of energy rather than a huge spike in blood sugar. Practice during your long runs to find which method works best for you.

Beyond testing foods and fuels on your stomach, practicing fueling will keep you from crashing during your run or later in the day. Long runs requires at minimum 1,000 calories of energy, depending on your height, weight, and duration of your run; once you begin to run for 15 miles or longer, you are likely burning closer to 1500-2000 calories. You don’t want to start with an empty tank, so you want to eat a pre-run snack or breakfast. How many calories you consume depends on how long before the run you eat. 2-3 hours beforehand and you should eat about 300 calories of primarily high-glycemic carbohydrates, such as oatmeal and fruit, a bagel, or a baked potato. If you can’t stomach a lot of food before a run, eat a smaller snack an hour beforehand such as a banana and a small serving of dry cereal or pretzels. High glycemic but easily digestible carbs will deliver a steady stream of energy without causing a sugar crash.

Practice Pacing Strategies

One of the top pieces of advice you hear for racing a full or half marathon is to start at a conservative pace. Go out too fast and you’ll burn through your glycogen stores, accumulate excess fatigue, and crash. By starting your long runs at a conservative pace, you will habituate yourself so that it is second nature on race day.

The same applies to fast finishes; a finishing kick on race day will feel less difficult if you regularly practice it. This doesn’t mean you should sprint the last mile of your long runs. Rather, begin your long runs about 15-30 seconds slower than your long run pace (which should be 30-90 seconds slower than race pace), ease into your long run pace, and finish 15-30 seconds faster than long run pace.

Dividing you run into thirds like this will also make the long distance seem more mentally manageable. You can practice this strategy on race day as well; dividing your race into chunks will keep the marathon from feeling overwhelming.

Repeat Race Day Mantras

Positive self-talk and mantras are a successful way to mentally overcome fatigue and doubts during your marathon. However, self-doubt and heavy legs are not reserved solely for race day; you likely will encounter these throughout many long runs of your training. Pick a positive phrase to repeat throughout your long run to encourage you to get you through the tough moments and stick to your training. This will also benefit you on race day, when you can draw from memories of the 18 miler you powered through despite fatigue or a 15 miler where you didn’t quit to inspire you during the tough miles of the marathon.

Replenish Afterwards

Refueling afterwards is just as essential to successful marathon training as the long run itself. Without the right amount of carbohydrates within the vital 60 minute window, your muscles will not have the fuel they need to recover properly. Eating immediately after your run will also boost your energy levels so you don’t spend the rest of the day exhausted from your run and prevent insatiable runger later in the day.

You should aim for at least 300 calories of primarily carbohydrates, with some protein and fat added. Most sports nutritionists advise a 4:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein, such as eggs and toast, a breakfast hash, or oatmeal with a side of eggs. If the idea of eating a full meal is unappealing and you feel nauseous after your run, drink a smoothie or some milk to get some calories into your body, and then eat a meal once your hunger has returned. If you frequently suffer from upset stomachs after a long run, try eating candied ginger or ginger chews before or immediately after your run, as ginger curbs nausea.

Don’t forget about replenishing fluids as well, especially if you sweated heavily during the run. Low-calorie electrolyte drinks such as Nuun will give you body all the sodium, magnesium, calcium, and potassium it needs. If you prefer a more natural drink, try coconut water or citrus juice with a generous pinch of sea salt. Continue to hydrate with water regularly throughout the day to prevent any recovery-limiting dehydration, upset stomach, or fatigue.

Nuun Hydration
Even puggles love Nuun. #pugglephotobomb

Jump Start Recovery

Marathon long run recovery doesn’t end at post long run eating! Take a few minutes to stretch, do some yoga, elevate your legs, or foam roll. If you find that they help, wear a pair of compression socks throughout the rest of the day. While it may be tempting to sit for the entire day, some light activity such as walking will promote good blood circulation and alleviate soreness. Finally, prioritize a good night’s sleep and even take a nap if you need to! Sleep stimulates recovery of the muscles and lowers cortisol levels, which may be spiked after a harder effort.

Portland Marathon Training Week 8

This week I definitely experienced the cumulative fatigue that is characteristic to the Hansons Marathon Method. My legs felt heavy throughout most of the week, especially as this week included three shorter “long” runs. Needless to say, I am certainly practicing what I preach with the above marathon long run tips!

Marathon Long Run Tips

Monday: AM: 8 miles on the treadmill, 1% incline. 2.5 mile warm-up, 3 x 1 mile (6:59, 6:59, 6:56) with 600m recovery jog, 1.75 mile cool down. PM: core-focused yoga and foam rolling. 

Tuesday: AM: 5 miles easy with Charlie, 9:30/mile pace. PM: kettlebell strength training. 

Wednesday: 10 miles with 7 miles at goal marathon pace (7:48/mile average pace). Heavy legs for this run, but my breathing and effort will still comfortable for the goal pace miles. 

Thursday: AM: 6 mile recovery run on the treadmill, with a hill pyramid of 0-8% incline, 10:00/mile pace. PM: Plyometrics and a stability ball core workout, which I’ll share with you tomorrow! 

Friday: 10 miles easy, 9:02/mile average pace. 

Saturday: AM: 10 mile progression run on the treadmill, 1-1.5% incline, 8:48/mile average pace. PM: 90 minutes of hiking.

Sunday: 30 minutes yoga.

49 miles of running for the week! I’m pretty sure this is my last week of less than 50 miles until the Portland Marathon. 

Questions of the Day:
What are your marathon long run tips?
How far is your longest run before a marathon?
How was your training this week? 

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22 Responses

  1. Great job with your training this week! These are some helpful reminders as my long runs begin to grow again. Its crazy how last fall I was running 13+ miles every week and now its been so long since I have done that distance, so it sounds a bit overwhelming!

    1. Thank you, Lisa! It is crazy how marathon mindsets set in and it’s normal to run practically a half marathon every week, and then away from training it’s like, those are really long runs!

  2. I usually love my long runs, but my legs have been feeling like lead of late. We will see what goes on this week, but they need to get their ish together so that I can get back to feeling like 16 is just another day at the office!

  3. My marathon training long run goes up to 22 miles. However, in the summer way to hot here to train for marathon and I just try to maintain fitness with a 7 – 9 mile long run and speed workouts so that I can ramp up in the fall

    1. 22 mile long runs – that’s awesome! The heat and humidity in summer sometimes feel like elevation training, because then endurance just appears so easily once it cools down.

  4. Great advice! I’d add that it’s also great to do “dress rehearsals”. To wear what you’ll actually wear for the race. You don’t want to wear brand new shorts and find out they chaff at mile 7. Some apparel works well for short runs, but you may not find it as comfortable for longer runs. I never would have thought of this, but found it helpful to tryout what I planned to wear for race day.

    1. Thank you, Erica! And great point about testing out the clothes – I find it’s especially true with socks, that some just don’t hold up to 10+ miles!

  5. Great job this week! You do a great job keeping your recovery runs slow and your marathon pace runs fast! I need to focus on that more… my paces are starting to all blend together.

    1. Thank you, Maddy! It definitely took some practice to get my slow runs slow. Like, pulling a type-A and telling myself that the success of the run was based on hitting that particular run’s goal pace, even if that pace was a 9:50/mile. Soon you’ll be getting yours there, it gets much easier when you start adding in the harder workouts!

  6. The longest run I ever do before a marathon is 21 miles! My longest run last week was 12 miles, which went well! My biggest long run tip comes from a running coach I had who said that water intake during a long run should be like an “IV drip”, meaning little sips every now and then. It makes a big difference by keeping me hydrated without those awful stomach cramps!

  7. Great tips, Laura! I think you hit a big one on the head–the long run is all about practicing for race day! You can try new fueling, hydration, gear, etc. to make sure it’s going to work for you on race day. Thanks for taking the time to put together this thoughtful post!

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