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A Guide for Running Long Distance Races

Updated on April 5, 2013

A Guide to Running Long Distance Races

If you’re like me, then running is more to you than running. It becomes a way of life. A way to express yourself in a manner that lets everyone know you take this sport serious enough to invest time, energy, and money into it. I can’t say I have always enjoyed running long distances, but in recent years it has become increasingly exciting for me to push my body and my mind to its maximum potential. Running does that for me because I must push through minor aches and pains associated with running outside on pavement and different types of weather. When you get to the point when you want to start running competitively, that’s when the adrenaline and excitement really begin. I had such an adrenaline rush after my first 5k race that I wanted to do it again and again. I wasn’t very fast, but I completed the race with a time I was proud of. This guide will hopefully give you some knowledge, insight, motivation, and tips for running long distance races outside or even on a treadmill and what I mean by long distance is three or more miles per run. I know three miles is not much, but it is a starting for most people on their way to the longer distances.

Running outside

There are two types of people in the running world, those that love to run outside and those that love to run on treadmills. I want to spend some time and focus on the runners who run outside because if you take this sport seriously, meaning you spend time training for races then you obviously have to start running outside. This was a difficult adjustment for me when I first started because I was used to the treadmill dictating my pace and outside it was completely up to me. I had to gain a feel for the terrain and my speed and thankfully running on a treadmill help me get into a pace that was comfortable and as a result, I could give a relatively accurate prediction of my completion time. Training outside is the best way to prepare for any race simply because it will help you deal with running on different terrain, inclement weather, and wind factors on race day.


5K Training

This particular type of race of 3.1 miles is how most long distance runners start their career. It’s a simple, fun type of run that is fairly quick. Training for a 5K requires minimal preparation and it’s an event the whole family can enjoy. I won’t go into too much detail here about training for this race because you can read more about it in my other article, How to Train for 5K Runs. If you’ve never run before or you’re just starting out, then starting slow is the key. Too many injuries occur because people start off too fast and try to run too far which can cause injuries that could take you out of the sport for several weeks. Start off by walking for 15-20 minutes per day and then incorporate one day per week where you job lightly for 10 minutes followed by 10 minutes of walking. Add more days of jogging every two weeks or so unless your body tells you otherwise. If you follow this for at least 90 days, you will have no problem completing your first 5K race. As you continue to train, add some days of speed work and longer runs so your body becomes accustomed to the added strain.

10K Training

10K Training

The 10K run is the next step after you’ve mastered the 5K race. This 6.2 mile run takes a bit of preparation and training which should involve running at least 3-4 days per week. The schedule I use gives me 5 days of training per week and is broken down as follows:

Monday- 5K timed race, to gauge my speed

Tuesday- 30, 20, 10 Speed work routine- This simple routine involves a warm-up of approximately ½ miles followed by 30 seconds of jogging, 20 seconds of running and 10 seconds of sprinting and then starting over with 30 seconds, 20, 10..etc. This set is repeated five times for a total of 5 minutes and then begins 2 minutes of jogging. After the 2 minutes, the next set begins. I usually complete 3-4 cycles of these 30,20, 10 sets. It’s an intense and quick way to build speed over distance.

Wednesday- Long run of 6-10 miles

Thursday- Speed work- 30, 20, 10

Friday- Intervals- I sprint 400meters, then jog 800meters, sprint 400 and job 800 and so on. I do this for about 30- 40 minutes.

Saturday and Sunday are off days.

You get the picture from this schedule how much and often I run. I only do 1 long run per week and the rest are shorter, more intense workouts. After all, who has more than 30-40 minutes to workout? I know for my long run I wake up early in the morning and do my best to be done by the time my wife and son wake up.


Half Marathon Training

Half-Marathon Training

Now we’re getting into the big boys club. Running a half marathon is no east feat. There is a lot of training and preparation that goes on behind the scenes for a runner to compete. First off, you should be running an average of 30-40 miles per week at this point in your training if you want to finish a half-marathon strong. I have found in this sport that it doesn’t necessarily matter how talented you are. It does matter how many miles you put in each week and how consistent you are. The only difference between the elite runners and the amateurs is training. The more you train, the better you’ll do. During this particular race you will want to eat calories while running. This will ensure your body has enough energy to make it to the finish line. These foods can be gels you buy at the store or you can create your own. There are plenty of websites that give you natural energy boosters. The training schedule should be similar to the one I listed above however you must add more mileage to each run. Your long run should be at least 10 miles, two days per week. The week before the race make sure you take it easy. You should have 1 long run in and then maybe a few shorter runs to keep your legs in good shape, but all running should stop about 3-4 days prior to the race, at least that’s what I do. I then focus on my eating habits and begin eating more healthy carbohydrates to store energy such as pasta with tomato sauce, peanut butter sandwiches, fruits and vegetables, rice, Quinoa, fish, and chicken. These foods will give your body the nutrients to repair muscles and will provide you with energy storage. The food you eat prior to a race is crucial! If you eat pizza the night before or even two nights before a race, you will feel it on race day.

As your level of experience and training increases you will be ready for more intense running like the marathon or ultra-marathon. These demand a much more rigorous training regiment. Overall training for these races means running consistently and increasing mileage slowly over time. You can increase mileage by 10% each week as I have read on or you can double mileage every two to three weeks. Just make sure you listen to your body and stop when you experience pain. Running should not be painful until afterwards. Just kidding.


Training for a race is an exciting way to keep your body in shape and keep your mind motivated. The 5K run requires the least amount of training and most people can prepare for this in a matter of weeks. The 10K race takes more preparation and a consistent running schedule with increased mileage. The half-marathon requires more training, better nutrition, it incorporates taking in calories during the race, and demands a higher level of commitment. When you’ve mastered the half-marathon, go on and try the marathon. There is no easy or quick way to go from couch to a marathon. It requires work, dedication, commitment, nutrition, respect. And don’t forget to buy a good pair of running shoes. It could mean the difference between a debilitating injury and finishing first. Good luck and happy racing.

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