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Even when I’m not training for a specific race, I maintain a weekend long run habit for several reasons. By far, the most important reason for me is that I get to spend a few hours outside, sometimes alone and sometimes with friends, moving my body. This is precious.
Here’s why you might considers making the weekend long run a habit:
You can be fun and spontaneous in your race planning.
Say a friend hears about a local 10K or half marathon in two weeks. If you’ve been doing consistent long runs most weekends, you’ll be able to finish the 10K or half, no problem! If you are looking to PR, perhaps this wouldn’t be the race to GO ALL OUT in, but you can definitely participate and have another tempo run under your belt. (I personally like to keep my long runs at 10 miles and up during the off-season.)
It is alone time.
Let’s face it. Even if you’re the loudest and most colorful extrovert around, time without interfacing with people can help calm and center you, in a meditative sort of way. It also gives you some mental space to think and reflect.
You will reap the benefits of extended, aerobic exercise.
You’ll strengthen your entire cardiovascular system and continue increasing your endurance. This is all in addition to the added benefit of strengthening your legs and your mind.
It helps keep you fit and in shape for other athletic endeavors.
Say your job has a softball team, or you play basketball at your local rec center. You’ll be able to run up and down the court for hours, wowing everyone in the stands! Also, you’ll probably reduce the chance of injuries because you are already conditioned for extended physical exertion.
You will develop mental toughness.
Long runs are my favorite runs because they are not easy. They are long. They test me physically. They test me mentally. When things get tough, you recruit your emotional strength to help you get through what is physically hard. As ultrarunner and all-around incredible athlete Travis Macy says over and over in his book The Ultra Mind Set, “it’s all good mental training.” It really is. If you haven’t started thinking about how the joys and difficulties of long-distance running is mimicked in real life, start now. You’ll find that everything can be compared to a marathon, and that most things can be accomplished with a little grit and perseverance!