Transitioning to longer distances is both a physical and a mental process. I’ve seen plenty of good, bad and ugly ways to do it.
I’ve bonked a few times and it’s not pretty. I have found the secret to not bonking again is good nutrition - a good balance of carbs and protein. When during a long run, at about mile 18, you start to see little green men or feel like you are running in clown shoes, grab a good candy bar quick. Or drink down a glass of orange juice. You need carbohydrates pronto!
In the mid-18th century when I began running, I found the 3-mile mark to be my first threshold to conquer. Once beyond 3 miles, I focused on 5 miles. After I accomplished that distance, it became easier to add mileage. I think it was the psychological barriers more than physical efforts. Once I conquered 5 miles, I was a runner in my own mind. So, more distance became a function of training. Adding 10% to my weekly long run got me to the 12 mile distance. After that, I added 10% every two weeks in order to give my muscles a chance to recover and repair.
Training for longer distances is all about endurance, not speed. Your pace should be easy enough to hold a conversation, and you want to make sure you’re not adding too much distance too soon. Going too fast, or adding too much distance too soon, sets you up for a far greater risk of injury. Don’t overdo!! Keeping your heart rate at about 70% of its maximum will actually increase your overall fitness by burning fat as your primary source of energy. By training your body to burn fat you’re also training it to save other energy sources it needs during harder workouts and races.
It’s funny. When you go out for an 8 mile run, it feels like a long run. And it is! But when you are running a marathon and you get to the 18 mile mark, you think “only 8 more to go. Piece of cake!” That is mind over matter.
The most enjoyable way to increase distance is to do it with a group or with a training buddy. The miles go by quickly and you make great friends.
And finally, drink lots of water. Hydrate!
For more information about Hartford Marathon Foundation training groups, please visit http://www.hartfordmarathon.com/Training/Training_Programs.htm . Training programs for the Shamrock 3.3 and the Amica Iron Horse 10k start this weekend!