Many of our TempoFit listeners and readers are prepping for marathons and half marathons right now. I’ve talked to several runners lately who are worried because they’re tired and the long runs aren’t feeling good. If this is you, what can you do?
1. Remember, that this is normal. For most marathoners and half marathoners who aren’t yet adapted to running long distances, about 4-6 weeks out from race day is the toughest time. Your body is doing the biggest block of work potentially ever and it’s banking away the savings ready for a big withdrawal on race day. So, don’t get discouraged, the fatigue you’re feeling is most likely to be normal fatigue that comes from venturing into new demanding training territory.
2. Glycogen is a factor. When your long runs start getting up over 90-120 minutes you’ll really feel the effect of your glycogen stores running low towards the end of your run. It’s why we take gels and sports drink onboard during long races. So, you’ll want to start practising this ready for race day and also to help get you through these bigger training runs.
3. Fat is a factor, too. When you run slower you will typically burn more fat than glycogen. This is great because we all, no matter how trim, have plenty of fat to get us through even the toughest marathon. So, when you’re doing your long runs, you want to encourage your body to stay in a fat burning zone for as long as possible. I do this by running most of my long runs fasted with no carbs until 90 minutes into the run and starting slow. You may not be ready to do fully fasted long runs, but definitely employ the “start super easy” approach so that you don’t suddenly pop into glycogen burning at the start of your long runs.
4. Use technique cues. Every runner should have some cues to employ when the going gets tough that helps to make them a more efficient runner. For me, it’s stand tall, use the arms and quicken the strides. But check out the TempoFit Audio Coach series for some great ideas and to find out what helps you in the backend of those long runs and races.
5. Have a mental strategy. Alongside the technique cues, have some mental tricks up your sleeve to keep yourself positive in those tough kilometres. It might be that you crank up your favourite tunes, that you say a mantra to yourself, break down each kilometre into bite sized pieces, or, like Paula Radcliffe used to do, count your footsteps! Find what works for you and use it to pull your mind through the tough zones.