It’s the holy grail for runners: “how to run longer without getting tired”. To effortlessly clock up mile after mile after mile without seeming to breathe heavily or show signs of obvious fatigue.
How do some runners manage to make it look so easy? When you’re new to running it can seem hard enough just running around the block!
Even experienced runners can hit an impasse when trying to increase distance. Tackling a marathon for the first time, or even an ultra race, will see a lot of athletes come unstuck, struggling through the final miles with legs of lead.
How To Run Without Getting Tired
- Pace yourself. Many runners set off too fast especially in a race. Your pace needs to reflect the distance you’re trying to run.
- Prepare. Take care of your body. Warm up, fuel properly, eat enough carbs both before and during your run, stay hydrated.
- Train. Becoming a stronger, faster runner makes you able to run longer distances at a slower pace.
- Build your mental strength.
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Pace Yourself To Run Longer Without Getting Tired
Most of us have an instinctive running pace. Mine just happens to be slow. This makes me great at long distances, but you’d have to stick a very hungry bear behind me to make me set off running at a sprint.
When it comes to running longer distances, slow is good. But if you’re a good sprinter, with an abundance of fast-twitch fibers, it can be hard to find the right pace when you run.
That’s why a lot of beginner runners end up out of breath and exhausted after just a few blocks. It’s not always a lack of fitness – they’re running too fast.
Finding the right pace takes practice, for experienced runners and beginners alike. Too slow and you can reach the end of a long run or race thinking you’ve left too much in the tank. Too fast and you risk not making it to the finish line.
Don’t Start Out Too Hard If You Want To Run Longer
Back in 1982, Gunner Borg came up with a Rating of Perceived Exertion Scale. Over the years this has been tweaked and modified by runners to provide a quick and easy guide to pace setting.
This RPE Chart will help you match how you feel running to the appropriate effort for the distance you’re trying to run.
Running at your 5K race pace? You’re aiming for RPE level 8 and you’ll struggle to say more than a few words.
Clocking up miles training for a marathon? Around 80% of your training will be in the RPE 4 to 5 zone. You can chat away as you run but you’re making some effort or pushing to maintain your pace.
Make RPE part of your training. Plan your level of perceived exertion before you start running. It will help you to slow down at the start of your runs and run at a pace you can maintain over a longer distance.
Preparation Is Key For Longer Runs
Don’t expect to jump out of bed, swig a mouthful of tea and pull a long run out of the bag. Longer runs take some planning and preparation.
Equally, don’t set off on a 10-mile run when your longest run in the last few months was just 5K. It’s just asking for trouble!
Injury is the ugly side of running. Suddenly increasing the length of your long run is never a good idea. A good rule of thumb is increasing the distance of your longest runs by no more than 10% per week.
Fuel Your Body If You Want To Run Longer
Low carb diets are for the gym. Trying to run on a low-carb diet is like setting off on a car journey with your tank on empty.
Yes, there will always be exceptions. There are ultra runners who manage to fat burn their way around races – but these athletes tend to be the elite. Runners who’ve put in considerable time and effort to adapt their bodies to fat-burning.
The science is at best incomplete.
You may be running to lose weight, but setting off on a long run without the fuel your body needs will just be a miserable experience.
If you’re running in the morning, eat a good breakfast before you set off. If you’re running for more than 60 – 90 minutes, take some fuel with you. Gels, jelly babies, dried fruit… quick carbs you can easily digest.
The rule of thumb is after the first hour of running aim to consume 1g of carbs per hour for every 1kg of body weight. For me, that’s about 3 gels and I try and space them out at 20-minute intervals.
By all means, experiment in training and find your sweet spot for fuelling. As a younger athlete, I could get away with less. These days, especially when I’ve got my race face on, I’m locked and loaded with my gels.
Dehydration can seriously affect your running performance. The consequences can go from missing out on a PB to ending up flat on your back with a drip stuck in your arm.
It’s not just when you’re running in the heat that you need to think about hydration. Even on cool, cloudy days dehydration can stop you from running at your best.
The best tip is to start hydrating early. This doesn’t mean over-drinking. All runners should be aware of the dangers of water intoxication where runners put themselves in danger from drinking too much water during an event.
Instead of drinking to excess, the aim is to drink to thirst. Just being aware of your thirst during a long run or race and drinking accordingly.
I’ve found over the years that what I drink the day before a long run is important. We all lead busy lives and it’s easy to neglect thirst.
Check-in with your body and be aware of what you’re drinking in the days leading up to a longer run. Drink adequate fluids before you set off and start taking sips of fluid early on.
There’s no one size fits all when it comes to hydration so experiment during your training runs. For runs over one hour, use an electrolyte mix to maintain your sodium balance.
Hot weather can throw even experienced runners into jeopardy. A friend recently timed out on Day 1 of the multi-day Dragon’s Back Race.
Despite his immense experience of running ultra races, an unexpected heatwave left him dehydrated and vomiting for several hours. The lesson – when it’s hot, slow down and drink more.
Warm Up – To Run Longer Without Getting Tired
Race organizers seem to love a spectacle. So often I’ve been in races where everyone is encouraged to set off at a sprint.
You’ll pay for it later.
Nail your warm-up routine. Use dynamic stretches to warm up your muscles and improve your range of motion. Avoid setting off too fast.
Instead, know your target pace and stick to it. It’s better to start at the back of a long race, in control of your pace, and spend your long race taking scalps as you move up through the field.
Set off too fast and you’ll pay for it with heavy legs a few miles into your long run.
Training – The Need For Speed When Running Longer
This seems a contradiction. You want to pace yourself and start slow to run longer distances. But you also need to be able to run fast.
Because it’s impossible to run long distances at your maximum pace. You need something in the bag. To run well within your capabilities.
The key to how to run longer without getting tired is easy-paced running. You need to run at a pace you can maintain over a long distance.
That should be a lot slower than your pace over one mile or even your 5 or 10km pace.
But to slow down you need to be capable of fast-paced running in the first place.
If you do all your training at a slow easy pace, this will be your maximum pace. You’ll have no reserve. When the distance gets tough, you’ll be reduced to walking or stopping.
Adding intervals and tempo runs to your training will make your easy long-distance pace seem easier. It will also make you a stronger runner. More resilient to the effort it takes to run longer without getting tired.
Strength Train To Run Longer Without Getting Tired
Running longer distances is punishing on the body. As you get tired you lose running form. When you lose running form your running becomes harder and slower. Those legs are tired!
That’s why strength training should be part of all runners’ preparation. A stronger body will cope better with longer distances. It helps you avoid the injuries that often plague runners in training.
Interval training for speed will also help with your strength, but you can up the ante with hill sessions. You don’t need to live in the mountains to do this, running up flights of steps can be just as effective. (Channeling your inner Rocky).
You can hit the gym to get stronger but it’s important to target the right muscles which will help your running. Too much muscle bulk will just slow you down. Get some running-specific advice or follow these exercises you can do at home.
Build Time And Longer Distances
Training to run longer distances is about time on your feet. It’s not necessarily about distance.
By all means, if you want to run longer without getting tired, you need to be gradually building the furthest distance of your weekly long run. Stick to an increase of no more than 10% per week.
But it’s not just about distance. If you’re training for a really long race, it can help to add in a slow run/walk where the aim is to be out for your target race time. Just make sure this isn’t in the two weeks before your race and you have plenty of time to recover.
There’s a misguided view that to run, for example, a marathon, your longest run in the build-up needs to be almost the same distance.
Often marathon runners will wear themselves out before the big day with excessive long runs of 22+ miles.
Take it from someone who’s run their best marathon time off 10-mile training runs that this isn’t necessary. If you’re a strong runner and you’ve worked on your speed, you’ll be able to pull those extra miles out of the bag on your big day.
Work On Your Mental Strength To Run Longer
Some runners are capable of covering massive distances, even in monotonous conditions, because of their mental strength. This is something you can train. It’s an often neglected part of how to run longer without getting tired.
I don’t mean you need to sign up for a backyard ultra, although it may help. Instead, there are techniques you can use to help you stick at running longer.
Imagine yourself completing the route. Think about different scenarios of what might go wrong and how you will overcome them. There is no such thing as a perfect race, especially when it’s a long one. So if you’re mentally prepared it will help you overcome difficulties on the day.
Break The Distance Into Stages
It’s your run so you get to decide how long each stage is. For example, a marathon could be 42 x 1km stages, 26 x 1-mile stages, or maybe 14 feed stations.
As you run you focus on completing a stage rather than become overwhelmed with completing the entire distance. You complete your current stage in the best possible manner – at your pre-planned pace with optimal fuelling.
When you complete a stage, give yourself a psychological pat on the back and focus on the next stage. Each new stage is a fresh start.
Focus On Your Running
It’s easy to let your mind wander when you run long distances. That’s okay when you’re clocking up training miles. When you’re racing, keep pulling your mind back to concentrate on your running.
Otherwise, you can lose your pace, miss directions from marshalls, or make errors if it’s a race where you need to navigate.
Some people prefer to run with music, (and some believe they can only run with music). If you can run safely with music, without losing focus that’s fine. But it’s worth experimenting and trying to run without. Just look at the pros. They might be using music as they warm up but the headphones are packed away when they start to race.
Be Aware Of False Signals
A good runner will consistently listen to their body. Drink when they feel thirsty, slow down when it’s hot… But be aware of false signals when you’re running.
Your mind can play tricks on you.
Sometimes that niggle in the first few miles is in your imagination. In the last few miles, your mind may be screaming stop because you’re tired. It doesn’t mean you can’t hang in there and make it to the end of your run.
By all means, take action when you have signs of injury, it takes mental strength to pull out of a race and leave the fight for another day.
Just don’t let your mind end a fight without good reason.
Putting It All Together To Run Longer
Some people adapt to running longer distances with ease. For others, it’s a hard slog. It’s not essential to run longer distances. The benefits of running shorter distances for your health can often be better and short, fast races are a lot of fun.
Be patient if you want to run further. As the months and years go by you’ll build your runner’s body and running will become easier. Just remember to be consistent. It’s sticking to training plans that will get you to where you want to be – able to run longer without getting tired.
If you’ve found this post helpful, you may enjoy my other running-related articles:
- Where To Put Phone When Running? (Can’t Run Without It!)
- Running In The Rain (How To Run Safely)
- How To Run Longer Without Getting Tired
- What Is RPE In Running? (And Why Should You Use It?)
- How To Run (5 Steps To Start Running For Beginners)
- How To Run Faster (Tips To Achieve Your Best Times)
- Running Faster Or Further (To Become A Better Runner)
- How Tight Should Running Shoes Be?
Learn how to pace yourself. Most new runners set off too fast. Let your pace reflect the distance you’re trying to run. For most distances, you should be able to talk comfortably as you run. Warm-up, fuel properly by eating enough carbs both before and during your run, try to stay hydrated by drinking to thirst. Train to become a stronger, faster runner – this will make it easier to run longer distances at a slower pace. Work on building your mental strength. A good tip is to break the run down into manageable sections – focus on completing one section at a time.
Increase the distance of your longest run by about 10% per week. This will help you avoid injury. Add intervals, hill reps, and strength training to your regime to become a stronger, faster run. This will help you run longer distances.