How To Run Longer: Distance runners, whether rookies or seasoned vets, often come across barriers, whether physical or mental, as they try to increases their running distance.
It’s very common for runners to reach a plateau, where their body is adapted to run a maximum distance – but is uncomfortable going any further. This can be extremely frustrating for distances runners, rookies or otherwise – leaving them to wonder how to run longer.
When you feel tired, bored, fatigued, discouraged, or even pain, there are tools you can use to combat the issues – and training techniques to mitigate them, allowing you to run longer and farther,
The most important thing is not to give up. Remember, you haven’t reached your limit. You can always run longer.
In this article, we’re going to go through changes you can make – whether in training or in your running strategies – to improve your running endurance and help you run further.
First we’re going to dive into ‘The Wall’, that classic phenomenon that occurs when your body runs out of juice, then we’re going to go through several other physical and mental factors that can affect your running endurance.
Potential Reason For Maxing Out: Hitting the Wall
When a runner gets to a point where they feel depleted and empty, like the can’t go on any further, it’s called hitting the wall, or bonking.
This happens when your energy stores get depleted. You have a shortage of the carbohydrate glycogen, which causes feelings of fatigue and negativity.
It can happen after about an hour of running if you’re new to distance running. The more experienced you are, the better your body is adapted and the longer it should take before you crash out.
Your body runs on energy from carbohydrates and fats during your training or race. Even if you eat plenty of carbs right before your run, you can still run out around miles 18-20.
(This is very common during marathons, and is probably one of the most important issues to train for).
Many runners wondering how to run longer are simply battling against The Wall.
Beating The Wall Technique #1: Eat Right (Before and During Your Run)
The good news is, as the body runs out of carbohydrates, it takes more energy from its fat stores.
Stocking up on a healthy diet with plenty of carbohydrates and healthy fats will keep your body strong through the run.
Some carbohydrate sources last longer than others:
- Brown rice
- Whole wheat grains
See our recommendations for 11 awesome natural carbohydrate sources for runners!
Accompany those grains with healthy fats such as:
- Olive oil
- Nuts and seeds
It’s also crucial that you fuel during your run, especially during long runs of over an hour.
Many runners also bring along some additional energy sources for the trail.
Nuts and raisins are an excellent natural option since they’ll immediately replenish your body of the fat it needs, plus a little sugar (from dried fruit) for a quick surge.
You can also reach for energy gels, bananas, energy drinks, jelly beans – anything that’s going to give you that energy boost!
Beating The Wall Technique #2: Train For Longer Distances
As well as getting your run nutrition dialled in, the other important aspect of beating The Wall is adapting your body through long distance training.
Performing regular long runs which gradually increase in distance – usually best done by following a training plan – is the best way to get your body adapted to running long distances.
- Improves your running economy (essentially your miles per gallon as a runner)
- Improves your mitochondria effectiveness – how efficiently your body converts stored fuel to energy
- Improves your body’s ability to use fat as a fuel source.
Unfortunately, there’s no magic potion you can drink that will suddenly allow you to run a marathon without distance training.
It’s why so many under-trained runners crash and burn around mile 20 of their marathon.
Becoming a long distance runner – and avoiding the wall – requires a gradual process of increasing long run distances to adapt. That’s the secret of how to run longer!
How To Run Further: The Physical and Mental Sides
During a long run, there are 2 main areas that fail:
Pay attention to both of these areas since they play equally important roles in keeping up your energy, strength, and attitude while you race.
1. How To Run Longer – Ways to Strengthen Your Physical Health
Try out a few of these methods at a time to find which ones muster your strength during the challenging parts of your run.
Running too fast at the beginning is a sure-fire way to deplete your energy before the end. Even though you’re pepped up and ready to run, keep the pace steady so you have enough stamina to finish your goal.
Use optimal pacing during your run.
For some runners, it’s no problem to keep a steady pace while they move forward. But for others, their pace is pretty haphazard.
Optimal pacing helps you track your speed through the run instead of going faster and slower on a whim.
Do it by downloading an app (Map My Run will update you on your progress and track your time increments) to track. You can also glance at your watch from time to time.
If you track yourself and stay within your set time, you’ll find your energy lasts much longer.
Stop to Stretch or Walk
The inner competitive spirit will tell you to keep running during your entire race. But stopping for a quick stretch or a minute of walking can do wonders to help you revitalize.
In the Jeff Galloway run walk method, he recommends that runners approach their entire marathon by running and walking, to conserve energy and allow time to replenish your stores during the run. Many people have even finished at their best times because they’re replenishing their energy.
After that quick break, you’ll find yourself with a new burst of energy, similar to what you had at the start line.
Drink and Eat
Don’t forget to drink water frequently during your run. Dehydration is a huge energy killer and needs to be taken seriously.
People who don’t drink enough end up having breakdowns during a race. Not having enough water could mean you don’t finish your race, so be sure to take those opportunities to drink (or eat energizing snacks).
Run With Other People
The company of others can motivate you twice as much as running alone.
Be sure to choose someone who is at the same running level as you. If your friend is much faster, you might feel pressure to keep up and use up your energy too fast.
Someone who runs slower than you can hold you back and keep you from reaching your goal speed.
During a race, you can always find someone to keep pace with, even if you’re running alone. Just look for someone who is running at a similar speed.
Stick with them through the race, staying at a relatively similar pace throughout. Use their companionship to help you stay at optimum pacing.
Make sure you have the muscle power needed to run longer.
Simple bodyweight workouts, hill runs, or sprints can boost your explosive power, which will increase your stamina during the long runs.
Vary Your Route
Most people don’t have the nerves to run around the same track over and over again. There’s a reason for that.
Your brain needs new and interesting routes to stimulate and keep the excitement alive.
Use your runs as an opportunity to explore your city (and even nearby cities). Choose routes with great nature, waterfront paths, and beautiful neighborhoods.
2. How to Run Longer by Strengthening Your Mental Health
Running is never purely physical. The mental strain during a run can take its toll, leaving you with discouragement and self-doubt. Use these strategies to strengthen your will power and push you along in the tough spots.
Get Enough Sleep
You may have previously thought sleep was only important for your physical energy, but it has a huge effect on your mental strength too.
The amygdala is the part of the brain that processes emotions. It does the lion’s share of that job during sleep. So sleep deprivation results in emotional instability.
Without that emotional soundness during your run, you’ll lack the ability to pep yourself back up when you start feeling tired or doubtful. So get plenty of sleep – not just the night before you run, but every night during your training.
Build Confidence, One Step at a Time
It’s easy to move quickly from one goal to the next when you’re training for a race. But it’s important to take time to appreciate your achievements regularly.
Some ways to soak in the accomplishment of your goals are:
- Treat yourself to a nice meal (*or a beer) after a long run
- Post your runs on social media: you can link accounts like Strava to automatically publish
- Buy some new gear for your runs
- Run in a special place (find a new trail with some gorgeous scenery you’ve never seen before)
Listen to Music
Sometimes we turn on music, only to tune it out as background music. Music holds the power to change moods, so it plays a powerful part in your attitude while running.
If you’re feeling like you can’t run any further, taking a moment to change your music might be just the boost you need. Change the genre or pace of your music.
If you’re listening to repetitive pop, switching to hip hop or electronic music can help your brain quickly switch from one mentality to a fresh, new one.
Pay Attention to Details Around You.
Don’t get so wrapped up in your running form and pacing that you forget to have fun.
Be sure to consciously look around and enjoy watching nature, local neighborhoods, and other people. Notice the smells and sounds surrounding you. Pay attention to little details and enjoy the runner’s high.
When you go out of your way to appreciate these aspects of the run, your focus will shift from, “This is so hard; I can’t do this,” to a meditative attitude. That switch might just get you through the rest of a challenging run.
Focus on Breathing
Hitting the wall often happens when your mind latches onto the thought that you’re tired or bored and can’t shift to anything else. I
t soon becomes an obsession and your body will follow what your mind tells it.
If you want to break this mental block, here’s a simple trick that works: count the seconds as you inhale and exhale.
Concentrate on making those seconds even.
Breathe in for 3 seconds, then breathe out for 3 seconds.
It’s a small action but will do wonders in keeping your body strong and confident.
Final Things to Remember – How To Run Longer
No.1 is that long distance running comes with adaptation – gradually increase your maximum distance with long, slow runs.
As you push yourself to run farther, remember that consistency will make a world of difference in your training.
If you decide to cross-train two days a week, make sure you stick with that. Con
It’s ok to change your long run to a different day when you have a conflict, but just don’t allow yourself to skip it.
Reaching your goal distance every week will make a huge impact and ensure that your race difficulties stay at a minimum.
We include these ‘how to run longer’ tips and more in our free marathon training Bootcamp, where you’ll read personal stories and learn all about marathon pace.
Download this free 5-day course and get detailed explanations and help with selecting your training plan.