Marathon Training – Importance of the Long Run

Long Run

Photo By: runnr_az

The long run. Sounds intimidating for any beginning marathon runner. I thought the long run was supposed to be the actual marathon, why do I have to do all these other ones!

Many marathon training schedules consist of a couple of short and mid-length runs followed by one long run each week. However, some veterans have adapted their training to include a few long runs and less shorter runs.


Because long runs are what really matter when you are training for a marathon. Obviously, shorter runs have their place, as well as the amount of mileage that you put in per week. Studies have shown that three 18-22 mile runs over eight weeks prior to a marathon considerably increases the chances of finishing the race.

What do long runs do and how do they help you train for your big marathon event?

Increase your VO2 Max

You may have heard of the VO2 Max when reading running magazines or talking with friends. Basically, your VO2 Max is how much oxygen your body can utilize during intense or maximal exercise.

It is thought that everyone has a genetic limit to how high their VO2 Max level can be. This means some people may be “born” a better long distance runner than another individual.

BUT (and that is a big but) a majority of us (if not all) are never at our genetic limit. For beginners, you actually have a greater chance of improving your VO2 Max considerably since endurance activity is relatively new to your body.

While running long distances, you are pushing your body to the limit of your VO2 Max. During the training, as you progress in mileage, your body will begin to adapt and will naturally increase your VO2 Max so that you can run the longer distance.

Build Confidence

Long runs are intimidating for beginning runners. You are reaching mileage that you may have never run before (or at least not for a long time) which is scary at times.

You may think before a 12 or 15 mile run that there is no way you will be able to do this or how dreadful it is going to be to try to accomplish it.

These thoughts (which happen to even intermediate runners) have a way of eating at your confidence levels which is turn may set you back during your training.

Long distances running depends on many physical things, such as muscle strength and endurance. However, it is just as much of a mind game.

While running and completing these long runs (which you CAN do) you build your confidence levels tremendously, making the 26.2 or 13.1 mile distances less daunting.


When you are training for a marathon (which is a long distance) you want to train by doing….long distances. While training and increasing your mileage you strengthen pretty much all important aspects of your body (when it comes to running).

First, you strengthen your muscles to prepare for a long period of exercise. Although you are exercising while doing shorter runs, the real training is during your long run when you are pushing your limit.

Second you strengthen your heart and capillaries which help bring oxygen to your muscles. This is what it means to be “cardiovascularly” fit (yes I made up a word).

The list goes on.

Anything else you can add to the benefits of the long run and why it is important? Comment below!

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