Why is the long run so important in ultrarunning?
The short answer? Because it’s training our endocrine system
Uhhh, what’s that
The endocrine system is – this is Google’s definition – a complex network of glands and organs. It uses hormones to control and coordinate our body’s metabolism, energy level, reproduction, growth and development, and response to injury, stress, and mood.
Here’s an example: (the amount of miles is scalable)
Two runners run the same weekly mileage
Person A runs 12 miles per day, 84 miles per week
Person B runs four 12-mile days, plus a 36-mile day – 84 miles per week
Who is better off facing their first 100-miler?
It’s not the weekly mileage that’s different, it’s how these two people are running their miles
Person B gets the endocrine system shocked more.
So – in theory anyway – The endocrine system is one of those things that takes a long time to build but hangs around for a while, it’s slow to fade, so running long runs every week doesn’t really have to happen once you build that up, everyone’s different. ‘Newbies’ have to pay the price of building that endocrine system – through their Long Slow Distance runs. Veterans paid the price and can really run ultras as their training.
The long run is really the whole essence of ultra-running. Can I really run a 50k? Or a 50-miler? 100 miles? How far can I go? These are all forms of long runs, some may even be races.
One of the most efficient ways to build up how far we can run – how to train and improve our endocrine system – is through the long run, and slowly making the long run longer. People say 10% but whatever you can handle go for it. Live and learn.
The long run should be slow, and enjoyable – no need to gas pedal at all. We’re not going for speed here, in fact, go for time.
“I’ll be running for 4 hours today” is a lot different than “I’ll be running for 20 miles today”
Maybe you hit 20 or 15 or 30 – who cares you still did 4 hours (and that’s the point – the hourly scale, the miles become more “scalable”)
What worked today? What didn’t? What am I going to do differently in the next long run? These are great questions to ask after a long run because that is invaluable information that we can then use for the next long run, and eventually race day.
Finding what works for us, growing, and learning is a reason why this ultrarunning stuff is so fun!
Thank you for tuning in!
Go get your miles, Peace!!!