By David Nogle, I.S.S.A. Certified Personal Trainer, I.S.S.A. Certified Nutrition Coach, UESCA Certified Run Coach, USATF Level 1 Certified Coach, US Boxing Certified, USAB Certified Coach, and Runner

This is a continuation of the “Making a Sprinter a (Mid)Distance Runner”. These tips are a little more conceptual and focused on the mental game of distance running.

One thing I wanted to cover in greater depth was the mentality, and differences of it in distance running. First of all, you’ll adjust to a much more relaxed training, as mentioned. So again, know the purpose of each run. Many of your longer runs aren’t supposed to be hard. If you’re doing well, and adapting nicely, these easy runs may start to feel very easy compared to a “pre race” sprint routine with some blocks and strides. Racing will also be a lot different. You won’t want to go into the race as aggressive and pumped up as you would otherwise. If it’s easy to stay motivated, it’s probably the wrong time to be motivated. When things start to hurt, that’s when you want to apply the effort.

Something to note about the general scene of distance running is that you will be humbled. No matter who you are. While sprinting is plenty humbling, you’re almost always racing in a heat dedicated to runners at your speed, with no more than 9 people. Most distance races have everybody lined up on the same line, fighting for the same win. While a one second difference is a lot in sprinting, that same difference can easily add up to over a couple minutes in a 10k for example. Depending on what level you’re starting at, you may find that a top 100 is a good result at many races.

Another thing to discuss on this topic is picking races and goal setting. Your goals can be constructed much like sprinting, and are just as crucial. However, the races you will run will have to be a little more intentional, especially with so many options. The rebound/recovery time for a sprint is also wildly shorter than in distance. While some distance runners race twice in a meet, it’s never optimal (and is often done more as a workout). If you’re hoping to perform your best, give yourself a week’s rest between mid distance races. Maybe more, until you find your sweet spot. Something like a half marathon can take anywhere from two weeks to a month to get back to 100% after. Getting above that, you’re talking much longer training cycles, especially for newer runners. You won’t often find runners having more than one or two successful marathons in a year, and that’s for good reason. When choosing your races, always do it intentionally and with reason. Don’t just pull a race from the hat and go for it. For the sake of running a good time, research your courses. Try to find races with lots of runners your speed and slightly faster to help push you. If you get to a level where you are in a position to try to win races, try to avoid picking races that you know or are anywhere near certain that you will win. If you don’t need to run fast, there isn’t going to be much to push you. It goes the same in the other direction though. Finding races where winning is a stretch goal is bound to push you to your limit. As far as championship races where you’re racing for position, still make sure you’re intentional and do everything with a purpose. Some guidelines on racing include:

  • Don’t race more than once on a race day unless it has a specific purpose, as this will limit you from performing optimally, and prevent the best recovery.
  • If you find yourself dreading races, it’s a sign you’re racing too much. You should always look forward to racing. If you race too frequently you may find it hard to live up to good races without time to train between them, and you may find a regression where you don’t have time to build fitness back up between those races.
  • This is applicable to sprinting too, but try not to commit to many things on race day. Free your schedule up, and set your mind on your race. Walk the course if you can, warm up near it. Stay grounded, and focused. The intensity and limits of distance running require a dedication and complete commitment to a race.


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