Tips for Solo Long Runs

Starting in July, I began training for the Richmond Marathon. This is my third full… but the first time that I’m training on my own! With my new schedule as an instructor, I now have the freedom to do my long runs mid-week, freeing up my weekends for teaching, leading workshops… and, let’s face it, happy hour and college football! But logging long run caliber mileage and running alone for hours at a time takes some pre-planning to hang on to your sanity, push through training, and not lose your love of running. Read on for my tips on how to conquer solo long runs during marathon training!

Safety: Step one of running by yourself is to BE SAFE! Always let someone know where you’re going, when you’re leaving, and how long you expect to be gone. Sure, it may be a rough estimate, but if I tell Bruce I’m leaving for six miles and it’s been two hours, he’s going to know something has happened. Also, ALWAYS bring your cell phone on a solo long run. Sometimes we want to just “unplug” and unwind on long training runs, but if you’re by yourself, never leave home without a way to communicate. And as always, whether it’s 18 miles or 3 miles, always run on a well populated route and during the daytime!

Route: Speaking of your route, make sure you plan it in advance for a long run! Sure, I can head out the door and come up with a little four mile loop without any planning, but if I’m leaving for more than eight, I always make sure to plan it in advance. I also encourage you to have a FUN route! Do you love the river? Make sure you take a route that crosses it every few miles. I really enjoy running in the city (so many interesting people and places to see!), so I plan my runs through downtown rather than through neighborhoods, it’s just more fun for me! I use the app “Footpath” to plan all of my routes and LOVE it! I also make sure to write down the basic turns on my route on a little sticky note so that I can easily take a look if I get confused, instead of having to take out my phone. But with that being said, make sure you also know your city in case you need to modify. Sometimes things happen, maybe a huge rain storm sets in, or you get to a street only to find that it’s closed. In those cases, it’s really helpful to know your city well in order to re-route and make it home in the same mileage you set out to complete. Yes, this comes with time, but make sure you pay attention to your surroundings… after all, running is how I learned all the streets in Richmond when I first moved here!

Stay Entertained: This is the big one… you have to figure out a way to stay entertained when you’re running by yourself for hours at a time! My three favorite things to do: call someone, podcasts, and audio books! I love to run with my Apple Airpods which keep me hands free and able to grab fuel and water. They also have amazing audio quality and I can make calls without having to pull my phone out and hold it while I run. I love to call my grandma when I run. Not only does it help me to control my breathing, but conversations with Nana are ALWAYS set for at least thirty minutes, so it’s a great way to catch up with one of my favorite people, and knock out a few miles without even realizing it! Podcasts are my go-to for long runs. I’m probably one of the happiest and most positive people you will ever meet… but I LOVE true crime and horror podcasts! Sword and Scale, Lore, The No Sleep Podcast, and The Black Tapes are all some of my favorites right now. Sword and Scale is normally my go-to as the episodes are super in depth, CRAZY and at least an hour long… it’s a great way to zone out for a six mile stretch and get entrenched in a good murder story! I also love using Audible for audio books. Stephen King is my dude, and Audible always has a great selection and nice voice tones for their books. When I listen to audio books, I try to reserve them ONLY for running so that it’s a treat for logging miles!

Fuel Up: Make sure you have enough fuel and water to last your entire long run. During a race, I’ll stop at aid stations to take in water and fuel, but when I’m training, I don’t have the luxury of those stations so I have to carry everything I need on me! Currently I’m fueling with Honey Stinger gels (the official course nutrition of the Richmond Marathon) and loving the “Gold” flavor, which is essentially just honey. I carry my gel packs and a huge bladder of fresh water with me during long runs using this CamelBak hydration pack. I’ve been using the same “Circuit” model for almost three years and absolutely love it. It holds enough water for the longest of long runs and has lots of little pockets to hold my gels, tissues, phone, chapstick and anything else I might need out on the road!

Have a Great Post-run Reward Waiting: Once you hit about an hour left to go, it’s going to get tough. Maybe you’re bored with your podcast, or your feet are starting to hurt… but you still have seven more miles to go, how do you keep going? That final hour or those final few miles are much easier when you know you have something awesome waiting for you at the end! I personally LOVE to come home from my long run, take a hot shower, put on comfy leggings and my Oofos sandals (they feel like heaven on your feet), make a BCAA cold drink, and sink into the couch to watch Netflix and take a nap! Knowing that this blissful ritual is waiting at the end makes pushing through those final miles a little easier!

Sheer Willpower: Honestly though, as much as you plan and stay entertained and properly fueled… running alone for three plus hours sometimes just requires sheer willpower! How do you push through? You stay so determined to reach your goal that nothing will stop you! Every time you finish a long run on your own, you’ve increased your willpower and made it stronger for the next time!

Are you training for a big race? Training with a group or partner is SO much fun (check out treadHAPPY for studio runs, AND outdoor training runs to keep you pushing forward with a great group of people!), but sometimes you have to put in the miles solo, and I hope these tips help next time you hit the road!