Running Longer and Longer Distances
March 23, 2009 12:50 PM   Subscribe

What do I need to know/buy/wear to run longer and longer distances?

It appears I’ve caught a running bug. I’ve built up my weekly mileage to 20 miles: 4 mile short runs during the week, and an 8-miler on the weekend. I hope to keep building on this and train for a half marathon and maybe even a full one someday. The max my body can sustain at the moment is 8 miles (65 minutes), but I expect that threshold to creep up over the months. For short runs (6 miles and under), I’m fine going all amateur-hour: cotton socks, beat up shoes, coffee to rehydrate (only half-kidding here).

What do I need to know to run longer distances? Good synthetic socks? Special underwear to prevent chaffing? Bodyglide? Vaseline? Is this typically only on runs over (X) miles? Is this in lieu of band-aids over my nips? (I have a hairy chest, so I think band-aids are out of the question.) What’s this I hear about gels? Do I take one whenever I rehydrate with electrolytes? I've heard bits and pieces from websites, but nothing organized to guide me.

Is this stuff that comes standard in a book – and if so, which? There seems to be information out there for first time runners, e.g. C25K, and general information about injury prevention online, but little to guide me in the world of long distances lasting over an hour. I already bought a Garmin 305, and the Stick – both of which have been great investments. And sunscreen. I learned that one this weekend. What else is there? Running suddenly went from intuitive to complicated.
posted by yeti to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (17 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
The programs are great. They took me from a guy who could always run three, but never more than that, to being kinda disappointed in myself at the end of the half for not pushing harder through the race (i.e. it was nuthin').

You need to hydrate properly - whether it be takign a water bottle or routing yourself past park bubblers, and past 45 minutes, you ought to be taking a sugar kick such as those gels.

Do a second, long-ish (six miles) run every week opposite your long run - i.e. thursday if your long run is Sunday. But drop the pace by a minute per mile. Also, push yourself on the long run out to ten miles, but run slower.

And always, make sure you're hydrated. Water's fine under 1.5 hours, but the propel packets make it easier to slug. The gels are pure carb/sugar.

The Band-aid brand nip guard, smeared on your tits and behind your chode, plus a little between your toes and on the outside of your big toes, ought to do it.

Don't forget to hydrate.
posted by notsnot at 1:07 PM on March 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Look, the original marathon may well have been run barefoot and in the buff. Even top runners can do without this stuff. The equipment you use isn't nearly as important as in your physical conditioning.

Work on that.
posted by valkyryn at 1:09 PM on March 23, 2009

Good shoes and moisture-wicking socks & clothing will probably help out a significant amount. Cotton simply sucks for getting the moisture away from your body which means your feet are cold in the winter and hot and sweaty in the summer. This can definitely lead to increased blisters. Good short and tights will definitely help for the chafing problem. Good shoes make a significant difference in the comfort of running.

I see a decent number of runner using camelbacks on longer runs for hydration. I think it really depends on your preference as not everyone is going to like running with a water filled backpack on their back.

Food intake and hydration are definitely issues of significant importance. What and when you eat are definitely major factors in performance at all levels.

If you want to go faster then definitely focus on interval training as it's one of the best techniques for speeding up your running, cycling, etc.
posted by vuron at 1:10 PM on March 23, 2009

Up the mileage slowly and carefully -- in my experience, your cardio & muscular endurance will increase faster than the endurance of your tendons and ligaments and joints etc. You'll THINK you're doing great, and then suddenly you'll get hurt.

Bodyglide. (To prevent chafing)

Energy gels or alternatives for long runs -- basically one every 30-45 min. They have calories & electrolytes. If you're good about them, you can drink water instead of electrolyte replacement, unless it's really hot. What do I mean by "alternatives"? Energy jelly beans (jelly belly makes some); energy jelly cubes, etc. The flavors vary a lot -- some are NARSTY -- and you also will need to experiment with all-natural vs. not, and caffeinated vs. not. (Yes!! Some gels are caffeinated!! Yay!!)

Note: when it's hotter, you will need WAY more fluid than you do now. Look into devices for carrying some fluid (like FuelBelt), or figure out ways to stash some along your route ahead of time.

GET GOOD SHOES!!!! Otherwise you can injure yourself badly. Is there an independently owned specialty store where you live? They can look at your feet, watch you walk or run on a treadmill, and make recommendations. You don't need the most expensive pair, probably, but you do need to replace your shoes every few hundred miles. And they can give you tips on all the other stuff I'm mentioning here, too.

Socks: Thorlo and Smartwool make really fabulous running socks.

Runner's World is a great magazine, and there are a few others that I don't know so well -- Running Times, etc. They all have websites.

Have fun, and don't hurt yourself!
posted by kestrel251 at 1:11 PM on March 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Definitely you'll want to invest in some wicking running socks & shirts, especially with the seasons about to change. Blisters and bloody nips aren't much fun. Get some running shorts with a liner, you won't need to worry about special u/w.

See if you can work a water stop in every 30-45 minutes of your long runs, hydration is important. Sports drinks are an easy way to get some carbs in there as well. Gels and other solid carbs are good to look into when you get to running over 90 minutes or so.

Something to remember, especially on the long runs: don't be afraid to run a little slower than you're used to to build up your base. Your body will be able to suffer the pounding longer than it usually would, plus you get the bonus of a stonger cardio base. Don't push yourself at the same 8 min/mile pace during every run.

As for books, I've been using and enjoying The Competative Runner's Handbook by John Glover. Got me off the couch 2 years and 70 pounds ago, now less than one month from banditing my first marathon (sorry, Boston qualifiers. Yeah, I'm one of those people)!

Good luck with your running career! Easily the best thing I've ever done for myself.
posted by Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific at 1:13 PM on March 23, 2009

In terms of comfort, any synthetic sock will be vastly better than cotton in terms of blisters. There are two-layer socks that help me with blisters if that isn't enough. I run in compression shorts and a tech tshirt usually. If you're a guy, if it's wet out or you sweat a lot you might want to think about taping your nipples for longer runs. Make sure you have shoes that fit and have adequate padding left. Drink a ton of water during the entire day you do your long runs (stopping maybe an hour or so before to let everything go through). Don't forget to have a cool-down period and stretch after your runs. Don't start building up miles too fast, because you'll probably hurt yourself.
posted by devilsbrigade at 1:18 PM on March 23, 2009

What you need to wear - whatever's comfortable. As long as you're not chafing, you're fine. Sports stores will have lightweight tops and shorts that are more comfortable for long runs (especially if you run in the rain, where cotton gets heavy and extra-chafy).

What you need to know - listen to your body. Learn what kinds of pain can be serious (shin, knee pain esp) and what kinds you can run through (side stitches).

Sneakers (running shoes) - get ones that provide enough support for your feet. If you have good arches, just get the lightest shoes that are comfortable. If your feet are flat / you pronate a lot, get sneakers with more stability.

Increase your base gradually, mix it up with track work, lift weights for strength and endurance (high rep), and have fun.
posted by zippy at 1:19 PM on March 23, 2009

Look, the original marathon may well have been run barefoot and in the buff. Even top runners can do without this stuff. The equipment you use isn't nearly as important as in your physical conditioning.

I agree up to a point. The original marathoner also died upon his arrival, so it shouldn't be completely ignored.
posted by hootch at 1:30 PM on March 23, 2009 [10 favorites]

nthing finding the right shoes, but also:

I used to develop horrible toe blisters when I every time I went over 12 or 13 miles, even in "fancy" running socks. Someone recommended these ridiculous toe socks to me after I tore my feet to shreds in a marathon, and I haven't had a painful blister since. I generally use them whenever I run more than 5 miles.

I know they seem gimmicky, but they work. They're a little more expensive than your usual sock, but I got a deal on 3 pair more than a year ago and all are still in great shape with pretty heavy use.

The other running investments I think are worth the money: some sort of easy-to-carry hydration system, regular yoga classes, and physical therapy (when needed).
posted by activitystory at 1:41 PM on March 23, 2009

What kestrel said about upping the distance gradually, and about a specialty store for choosing your shoes. If no specialty store is available and/or you have any kind of problem like pronation or knee issues you may want to see a sports doctor about special inserts. Find a complementary exercise program that will balance the muscular development caused by running, and back off at the first sign of overuse.

Personally I never run on concrete and avoid asphalt. Grass, dirt or sand are much easier on my knees.
posted by Manjusri at 1:48 PM on March 23, 2009

Proper running shoes, wicking everything, layers for winter (wicking hat, gloves).

My threshold was around 14 miles for needing:

Bodyglide (mostly for shoulder strap/sports bra, though)
Calories (I never used gatorade, but used clif shots or power gel).

As far as keeping healthy, I swear by walking lunges and calf raises after a run and lifting or yoga during the week sometime. My yoga suffered the more I ran (tighter hams), but my running was greatly aided by the yoga. I also always had a morning ritual (esp for the long run--up early, coffee, water, watching the news, etc).

Also, I agree with Gee--don't be afraid to train slow. My fastest races were when I trained 2 min/mile slower.
posted by Pax at 1:54 PM on March 23, 2009

(I have a hairy chest, so I think band-aids are out of the question)

I have a hairy chest as well, but band-aid makes some "spot" bandages that work really well for the purpose.
posted by 0xFCAF at 2:27 PM on March 23, 2009

Use the gels or something along those lines every 45 minutes on your long runs. If you haven't been refueling on your eight-mile run as it is, I bet you're going to see a quick increase in your mileage "ceiling". I once started thinking I was going to have to drop out of a inline skate marathon about twenty miles in. Someone handed me a gel, and the last six miles were actually my fastest of the day.
posted by adiabat at 2:46 PM on March 23, 2009

This is all good advice... and, of course, the important thing to remember is that no one really knows what will work best for you. Experiment! Try out gels / sports drinks / etc... and see what makes you feel good.

For me, good shoes and socks made the biggest difference. I'd also recommend getting something for water if you're going longer distances in warmer temps -- all the trail runners really like the Ultimate Direction water bottle... but you may not want to carry something like that in your hands.

Also, a good hat / runner shirt / running shorts makes it all a lot easier. Maybe look for something made from Coolmax or the like.
posted by ph00dz at 4:09 PM on March 23, 2009

Whenever I run longer than two hours I wear compression shorts to fight chafing. I have a hairy chest and use medical tape over my nipples for every run.
posted by OmieWise at 4:26 PM on March 23, 2009

Find a running partner or partners. Longer runs get easier with company. I used to use road races as training runs because there were lots of people and lots of refreshments along the way. Running clubs exist in lots of places in the country and are a good source of training run partners. Running with experienced runners also expands your knowledge base on everything from clothing, training schedules, diet, good routes, and good places to buy equipment.
posted by birdwatcher at 4:29 PM on March 23, 2009

Don't go too far too early. Build in 4 week blocks, 3 weeks doing no more that 10% further each week, then 1 week at a much less distance.

Carry an amount of money (notes) to get a taxi home/drink/telephone call/food etc.

Don't forget to do some hills and speed work on at least one of your mid week runs.

Nip Guards - expensive, but they work (I sweat a LOT)
posted by lamby at 10:07 AM on March 24, 2009

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