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With fall marathon season preparing to kick into high gear, it’s time to work on your long run! Here are five tips for making the most of every mile.

Start slow, finish strong

It can be tempting to punch your speed right out of the gate, but this can cause you to cut into your stamina. Begin at a pace that doesn’t strain you, and slowly speed up, saving a little energy for a boost near the end when you need it most.

Stay hydrated

If there are no natural stops along your training route where you can replenish fluids, consider stashing some drink bottles along the way, or running loops starting and ending at a location where you can access water or sports drinks. You should be adding fluids back into your system at least every 30 minutes during long runs. 

Don’t overestimate your abilities

Several loops of a five mile course can be better than a long ten mile course that can leave you far from home or help if you pull a hamstring or trip and fall. If you want to run a longer course, consider running with a trainer or a friend to ensure you don’t end up alone and overexerted. Having a running buddy can also make the miles go more quickly and keep you motivated.

Accept incremental improvement

If you’re a new or out of shape runner, it can take time to build up your endurance. Going from seven or eight miles to twenty overnight can leave you stiff, sore, and unmotivated to repeat the experience. Instead, try adding a mile or two per long run to slowly build up your tolerance to long runs. This can cut down on the potential for injury and allow you to run each day without having to take time off due to damage. 

Commit to recovery time

Recovery after a long run should be taken seriously. Long runs deplete the glycogen in your muscles and liver. Kickstart your system with a meal that contains four times as many grams of carbs as protein, eaten within the first 30 to 120 minutes of finishing your run to give your body the tools it needs to recuperate.  Don’t forget to stretch when you cool down, before you go to bed, and once you get up the next day. 

Long runs can be the toughest part of training for a marathon, but can be what gives you the strength and consistency to make it over the finish line. If you’re training for a marathon, talk to Dr. Strasburger about ways to achieve your goals while preserving your health.