Marathon long runs: Importance and how to do it right

The physical requirements of a marathon (26.2 miles) are completely different from the ones of a half marathon (13 miles) or shorter races. This is why a marathon is a unique sports event.

Whether you are a professional runner or an amateur, running a marathon will cause you physical and mental exhaustion.

Therefore, it is important to have respect for the distance, do a proper training for it and learn to endure the discomfort and weariness of a distance that will demand the most of your body.

To help you accomplish that, there is a workout you should not miss. We consider it the most important for a marathon: the long run.


Surely there are plenty of other workouts and other important aspects to take into account when running a marathon, but without a doubt, long runs are the best workout for a marathon, so we really recommend that they are never missing.

Long runs (also known as long distance runs) is a workout that involves running a longer distance than the rest of your weekly trainings at a slower and more relaxed pace.

The long run should be included at least once a week (or every other week if you are in a worse shape) in a training plan for a marathon.

Long runs are essential in a training plan for a marathon because the physiological adaptations that occur are extremely necessary to complete a full marathon’s distance and directly affect your performance during the race.

Some of the adaptations caused by the long runs are:

– Increase the number of capillaries and the content of myoglobin in each muscle fiber.

– They contribute in the increase of the number, size and efficiency of muscle fiber mitochondria.

– Our muscles will learn to store more glycogen.

– Habituate your body in efficiently using fat as fuel.

One of the key aspects in properly experiencing a marathon is, without a doubt, training our resistance and our ability of enduring a physical effort efficiently for as long as possible. The long run will help you achieve it.

Besides, long run trainings will help us train our mind to run for a longer period of time and strengthen it to withstand the physical and mental exhaustion caused by a marathon race.


While there is no perfect distance for a long run to ensure a successful marathon, it is very important to keep in mind the following advice:

– Don’t do a 26-mile long run before a marathon. It is not recommended.

– You should increase the distance progressively.

– Even when a lot of runners believe that a 20-mile long run before a marathon is mandatory, it is not true.

– It is not recommended that you do a longer than 3 hours long run, because the risk of an injury is higher; you will take longer to recover for another workout and the physiological adaptations that you are looking for with a long run will be perfectly produced in less than 3 hours.

flickr photo by Juanedc shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

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