split up a long run

Should you Split Up A Long Run?

I had a client ask me recently if she should split up a long run? My answer probably didn’t provide her with much ease or certainty – maybe “yes”; maybe “no”. It just depends. On a lot of things.

Follow These Steps to Split up A Long Run

Have you run that distance (twenty freaking miles?!) previously? If you have, then you will probably be more mentally prepared. If you haven’t, then you may not have the mental toughness come race day to feel that ten miles + ten miles = a single twenty-mile training run.

Do you have another long run planned of the same distance? If you can commit to running that second long training run as scheduled, then you will most likely be more mentally prepared on race day.

When running a half marathon or marathon, you are running 13.1 miles or 26.2 miles all at one time. Yes, sometimes you are run/walking or taking brief breaks to collect yourself. But, you are completing the distance in one single session. Your training runs are assigned to prepare you for these one-bought distances.

The exact blend of carbohydrate and fat fuel that you use depends on the duration and intensity of exercise you are tackling during a given workout session. The longer or faster you run or workout, you are burning different types and ratios of fuel. Your body will truly experiment with this during your long training runs as it makes physiological adaptations hour by hour and minute by minute. This is something you won’t experience similarly if you are splitting your run into two shorter distances.

A large part of your training runs is experimenting and training with your nutrition – sports drinks, energy gels, and chews. You can’t truly see what your body will experience during a marathon unless you’ve ran for a couple hours or more. You will want to have your nutrition plan in place for race day – and have already experienced the good (and unfortunately the bad!) from the familiarity of your training. I always suggest using fuel every five miles (45-50 mins) or so and washing it down with water after consumption, and throughout the run.

Keep in mind that if running twice daily, your muscles will be slightly rested and you will also be rehydrated between the two workouts. Splitting up the run will take some of the “stress” off of your body, your muscles, and your tendons during the day.

Long training runs allow you to figure out your pacing for longer distances. If you’ve only raced 5K and 10K events, you most likely are unfamiliar with hitting “the dreaded” wall around mile twenty of a marathon. Long runs allow you to find that comfort zone as you push through each mile, as you focus on your breathing and your legs.

If you are going to split up a long run, try running longer mileage first, followed by a shorter evening session – say, twelve miles in the morning and eight miles at night. Or fourteen at night, followed by a quick six miler the next morning. If possible, try running your lighter mileage at a faster pace. Try pushing yourself on those heavy, tired legs.

And lastly, if one hour is all you have and you are scheduled for eighteen miles that day. Then, by all means, go run that 4-8 miles that you can fit in during that one hour of “free time”. You will feel a lot better about fitting SOMETHING in rather than NOTHING. An occasional missed or skipped run will be ok and life happens. But sometimes if we just show up, then we will have a different sense of accomplishment in that scheduled appearance on the pavement. Sometimes even more so than the long run.

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