9 Essentials For Those Who Want To Start Running Long Distance



Last night, my brother tagged me in a Facebook post.  Here’s what he had to say:

Ok so I gotta improve my running in general, but especially before Tough Mudder next month. To this point running has been little more than an afterthought to my workout regimen.

Distance runners (looking at you Jon Stolpe): Any suggestions for making improvements in distance running? I’m mostly looking for endurance/stamina and general motivation rather than pace. Any ideas welcome – workout ideas, exercises, mental exercises…

Have never been a strong runner and not expecting miracles, but I want to be able to say I did my best.


His Facebook post go me thinking.  There are probably other people who would like to find ways to start running long distance.  While steroids and other performance enhancing products might help a little, I wouldn’t recommend these (especially based on the impact of steroids we’re seeing in NFL and MLB players who used PEDs, etc.)

So how can someone who has done little distance training make improvements to become better distance runners?  In today’s post, I’ll help you identify several keys to become a stronger distance runner.  This advice is primarily geared to people who haven’t done any major distance running for a while, but it could also apply to someone who is simply stuck in a rut with their distance running.

9 Essentials For Those Who Want To Start Running Long Distance

  1. Slow down.  Many people who jump into distance running believe they have to run a four or five-minute mile repeatedly.  They take off rather quickly on their training run, and they soon collapse failing to make it very far.  Several years ago when I started running, I fell into this trap.  It wasn’t until I started running with a friend who told me to slow down that I realized I could run much further and for a greater length of time by simply slowing down 30 to 60 seconds per mile (or even slower).  If you want to go further, slow down.  (You can always add speed later.)
  2. Set a weekly goal.  It helps to have goals.  I would recommend having a weekly mileage or time goal.  Start small.  If you run 2 miles a day four times a week, 8 miles would be a great initial goal.
  3. Keep track of your mileage.  It helps to have a running log.  I use a calendar to keep track of my daily running activities.  So far this year, I’ve run over 1,000 miles.  Keeping track of your mileage and your run information helps you learn more about what went well on your runs and what didn’t go so well on your runs.  For me, it’s also inspiring to see my mileage totals climbing.
  4. Slowly increase the goal from week to week (add no more than 10% each week).  Many people who start distance running think they should run 30 miles a week right out of the shoot.  Increasing your mileage too quickly leads to injuries and kills your motivation for running.  If you ran 8 miles last week, go 9 this week.  If you ran 20 miles last week, go 22 miles this week.
  5. Don’t overdo it as far as mileage goes (especially at first).  As I mentioned above, starting at 30 miles is probably not healthy.  You need to give your legs and the rest of your body an opportunity to stretch and become stronger.
  6. Find an accountability partner (you might even want to consider a running partner).  I really helps to have someone who will hold you accountable to keep running.  For a long time, I got up early and ran with my friend, Joe.  It was so helpful to know he would be waiting for me at 5AM.  I didn’t want to let him down, and he didn’t want to let me down.  When I was tempted to hit the “snooze” button on the alarm clock, I was reminded that Joe was waiting for me.  Accountability is essential to excelling at running and at life.
  7. Cross train and rest.  Especially at first, don’t run every day.  You need to work other muscles, and you need to rest.  Cross training and scheduled rest days are key to keeping your running motivation as high as possible.
  8. Have fun.  For me, this means listening to music or podcasts while I run.  It means playing math games in my head as I run.  And it means hanging out with other fun people.  Throwing in a little fun into your running routine will help you sustain your new distance running habits.
  9. Sign up for a race.  There is nothing more motivating than signing up for a race.  When you’ve put money down for the race registration, you have made a deeper commitment to show up to the race.  And you don’t want to show up to the race unprepared.  A pending race will provide a lot of motivation to keep training.

When I was younger, I hated distance running.  It just didn’t seem to be fun.  In fact, it seemed a little boring.  This changed several years ago when I started following the steps above.  Now, I look forward to going for a long run.  Utilizing these nine ideas and adding a little initial persistence, you will be off and running in your pursuit of improving your distance running.

Have you ever tried distance running?  If so, what has helped you improve?  If not, what is holding you back?