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Long runs are important for every runner. You will find them in almost every training plan, regardless of whether you are preparing for a 5K or a marathon. However, how long is too long for a long run? You will find the answer in this article.

long run - how long is too long

How long is too long for a long run?

Generally speaking, long runs are too long if their distances are greater than 30% of your total weekly mileage. When you do it for too long, the physiological benefits of running are insignificant when you take into account the greater risk of injury and the appearance of overtraining.

For instance, if you run for 3 hours, you will reap most of the benefits of that workout during the first hour of running, then a bit less during the second hour, and the least during the third hour. The further you go after three hours, the lower the benefits of that long run will be. Meanwhile, you will risk overexertion and possible injuries, and you will not be able to recover within 24 to 48 hours and be ready for the next workout.

Read below what happens if you run for too long and how long should your long runs be if you’re preparing for a 5K, 10K, half marathon, or marathon.

What happens if you run for too long?

Long runs are an integral part of every runner’s training plan. However, if you overdo them, that is, if you run longer than you should, then they will have negative effects.

Despite your motivation or will to run your best time, you must be patient and gradually increase your mileage, thus increasing the length of your long runs.

If you run for too long, you are at a greater risk of injury.

Injury is probably the last thing you want. It is not always better to run faster and longer. It is important that you stick to your training plan and listen to your body. If you injure yourself, you are forced to stop running and you might take months to recover. That way, when you run for too long, your training has the opposite effect.

Moreover, if you run for too long, you will probably become overtrained.

Symptoms of overtraining vary from person to person. Some of the most common symptoms that appear in most runners are chronic fatigue, lack of motivation, insomnia, elevated heart rate, loss of appetite, weakened immune system, frequent injuries, and declined performance.

It is important that you listen to your body and react as soon as you notice the first signs of overtraining. Pain and injury are a sign that you might be overdoing it and that you should take a pause from running or reduce your mileage. Sometimes it is not easy to determine whether the pain and fatigue you feel after training is normal or if you are overtrained.

Overtraining appears when you expose your body to extreme exertion. For example, if you run for too long in relation to your current fitness level and the distance for which you are preparing. It is caused by too intense or too frequent training, insufficient recovery time, lack of sleep, or a bad diet. A common mistake made by recreational runners is that they think they will be stronger and faster simply if they train more often, but the truth is the exact opposite. Excessive training weakens your body and builds fatigue. This most often leads to injury or forces you to take a pause from running.

Tip

Remember, as soon as you feel a dull pain or notice some of the common signs of overtraining, it would be best that you take a rest from running for a couple of days to make sure that you react in time.

However, what should you do to avoid overtraining?

You can avoid overtraining by following a structured training plan tailored to you. It is important to gradually build your physical fitness, be patient, and listen to your body.

Recovery is just as important as training. The more your train, the more your body will require sleep and recovery to avoid accumulating fatigue.

Keeping a training log can help you track your progress, but also help you notice where you might have gone overboard or have made a mistake. Write your workouts down, describe how you feel each day, what your resting heart rate was in the morning, in which training shoes you ran, how was the weather, RPE (rate of perceived exertion), and your heart rate during training.

The best way to recover from overtraining is to stop training immediately. It is necessary that you rest and give your body time to recover.

In order to speed up your recovery, you should focus on a balanced diet. Consume greater amounts of carbohydrates to replenish glycogen and raise your energy levels.

Your recovery can also be boosted by stretching, massage, and enough sleep.

There is no correct answer to how long your body needs to recover. The recovery period depends on whether you reacted to the first signs of overtraining as well as the seriousness of the symptoms. If you notice some of the signs of overtraining, take at least three weeks of rest before you start running again.

how long is too long for long run

How long should long runs be?

The length of your long runs depends on your goal, what you want to accomplish with training, your training capabilities, the current distance you are running, your experience, and your propensity to injury.

Generally speaking, we can use two rules to calculate how long should long runs be. When calculating, you can consider your daily or weekly mileage.

The first rule states that your long runs should be one and a half or two times longer than your usual daily mileage. This means that your long runs should be 6 to 8 miles long if your daily mileage is 4 miles.

The second rule states that your long runs should be around 20% to 30% of your weekly mileage. This means that your long runs should be 8 to 12 miles long if your weekly mileage is 40 miles.

These are just general numbers since there are a lot of factors that will affect the distance of your long runs.

It all depends on how long you have been training and what your goal is, that is, on the distance that you are preparing to run. Do you want to run a faster 5K or do you wish to run a marathon?

Beginners should stick to lower distances to avoid injury or overtraining. On the other hand, experienced runners can run longer than beginners.

Distances of long runs will vary whether you are preparing for a 5K or a marathon. For instance, if you are preparing for a marathon, then one hour of running will not be enough.

At the start of your preparations, long runs are a bit shorter, and their distances are increased week by week until you reach your peak. A couple of weeks before a race, gradually reduce distances of long runs to recover and be ready on the day of the race.

Below I will tell you how long your long runs should be if you are preparing for a 5K, 10K, half marathon, or marathon.

long run for 5K - how long is too long

How long should my long runs be for a 5K?

When preparing for a 5K, long runs should be approximately 7 to 10 miles long.

If you are a beginner and your goal is only to finish a 5K, then your long runs will not be typical and you will instead alternate between walking and running until, gradually, you are able to run 5K without stopping. If you are an experienced runner and you wish to run a 5K as best as you can, then your long runs should last around 90 minutes. However, make sure that your long runs are not longer than 30% of your weekly mileage.

In preparation for a 5K, long runs improve your endurance and help you maintain a faster pace for a longer time.

long run for 10K - how long is too long

How long should my long runs be for a 10K?

When preparing for a 10K, long runs should be approximately 8 to 11 miles long.

Long runs will improve your endurance, stamina, and resistance to fatigue. Even though 10K races are relatively short, you will need endurance and stamina to maintain a certain pace for as long as possible.

Long runs will be around 8 to 10 miles long for those who only wish to finish a 10K or the runners with lower weekly mileages. Meanwhile, intermediate and advanced runners should run long runs around 10 to 11 miles long.

long run - how long is too long for a half marathon

How long should my long runs be for a half marathon?

When preparing for a half marathon, long runs should be approximately 11 to 15 miles long.

Those runners who are preparing for their first half marathon should do long runs around 11 miles long. Meanwhile, experienced runners can do long runs that are up to 15 miles long.

Many runners are worried about finishing an entire half marathon since they never ran that distance during training. However, don’t forget that you do long runs from full training, without tapering. On the other hand, you go on races fresh and full of adrenalin. Likewise, running in a group will help and motivate you even further.

If you wish to finish your first half marathon within a time frame, then your long runs should be around 11 miles long.

Most training plans consist of 12 to 20 weeks of preparation for a half marathon. Initially, the distances of your long runs will be somewhat shorter and will gradually increase week by week. However, it is still necessary to reduce distances of long runs every 4 weeks so that your body can recover and adapt to training. Once you reach your peak, that is, around three weeks before a half marathon, then you should start tapering. With tapering you gradually reduce the volume of training to allow your body to recover and to be in the best shape on race day.

long run - how long is too long for a marathon

How long should my long runs be for a marathon?

When preparing for a marathon, long runs should be approximately 20 to 25 miles long.

Running a marathon is a great stress for your body and it thus requires a smart approach to training. Maybe you will want to run the full marathon while training to make sure that you will be able to finish the race. However, that is not necessary because you will exhaust yourself and risk some of the injuries that will keep you from running.

During training, it is not necessary to run the whole distance of a marathon, and instead, you should follow a structured training plan. Long runs are done from full training, which means that your body will not be in optimal condition as on the day of the race.

In preparation for a marathon, long runs will not only improve your endurance and stamina but will also mentally prepare you for the strain that awaits you and improve your resistance to fatigue. Likewise, during long runs, you can try different refreshments to determine what suits you best and avoid any unpleasant surprises during the race.

If you run longer than 3 and a half hours, the physiological benefits are insignificant when you take into account the greater risk of injury and longer recovery time. Due to that, in most training plans, you will find 20 miles as the longest distance for long runs when preparing for a marathon.

Most training plans consist of 16 to 24 weeks of preparation for a marathon. Initially, the distances of your long runs will be somewhat shorter and will gradually increase week by week. However, you should still reduce the distances of your long runs every 4 weeks so that your body can recover and adapt to training. When you reach your peak, that is, around three weeks before a marathon, then you should start tapering. With tapering you gradually reduce the volume of training to allow your body to recover and be in the best shape on race day.

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Matea Matošević
Matea Matošević
Article by:
Matea Matošević

Hi, I’m Matea! I’m Olympic Marathon Runner, founder, and writer behind OLYRUN.com. On this site, I provide help in the form of my knowledge and experience to all who love running and active living. Read more…