Marathon training: The importance of the ‘long run’ and how to progress it

With marathons in sight and training at the front of our minds, we chat to the coaching team from RunningWithUs about the 'long run' and how you can use it to your best advantage for your marathon training.

Two people running

The 'long run' can be the most daunting part of your running training plan. The length of a long run is relative to the person running it and the distance that they are training for, but generally speaking a long run is between one and three hours, running at a low intensity. The long run takes an increasing role through February if you're training for a spring race. A great goal is to get in a consistent weekly long run of 1 hour 45 minutes to 2 hours at a relaxed and conversational effort by the middle to end of February. Here are some key pointers what will help you get to and through your long run:

Increasing the miles

Two women running

Patience is key, even for the more experienced runners. Adding 10-15 minutes each week onto your long run is a sensible progression. Don’t be surprised if niggles and fatigue set in as you start jumping up by 30-40 minutes at a time.

What pace should I run my long runs?

In early February, aim to keep your long runs at a fully conversational, relaxed pace that's 45-60 seconds a mile slower than your planned marathon pace. This will build your body’s ability to burn stored fats and ensure you are fresh enough to hit your quality sessions mid-week. 

Pre-marathon race prep

Woman stretching with gels in gel belt

Using a half marathon race as a marathon paced long run can be a great way of building confidence around your goal marathon pace. As extra preparation, try adding 20-30 minutes easy before and after the half marathon. 

How to fuel your long runs

When your long run starts to extend beyond the 1 hour 30 minute mark, we recommend you really start to practice with different options for pre-run breakfasts and also fuelling during the run itself. Your long run is the best opportunity to practise your race day nutrition strategy. Gels are the most efficient and effective way of getting carbohydrates quickly into the system whilst running. To start with, take small sips of gel and look to take one every 30-60 minutes or so during the course of your long run. 

What gels should I choose?

There are lots of brands out there offering similar sports nutrition. HIGH5 have always been our ‘go to’ brand for fuelling and recovery. It's clean energy with no added nasties, like artificial sweeteners. HIGH5 Energy Gel Aqua is the on-course gel at marathons like Edinburgh Marathon Festival and Brighton Marathon. Take one Energy Gel Aqua Caffeine sachet every 20-30 minutes. Wait until 30 minutes from the start of your race before taking your first sachet. The most convenient way of carrying gels is to use a Gel Belt but make sure you test it out in training. There are always a few runners that lose their gels within the first miles of a race because the gels are the wrong size for their belt!

To ensure you are fuelling and refuelling yourself the right way, check out HIGH5 Marathon Nutrition Guide.

Be safe, work hard and enjoy your run! RunningWithUs

HIGH5 Run Pack

Marathon Nutrition PackThe HIGH5 Run Pack contains the nutrition essentials to support your next run or race with a combination of our most popular Energy, Hydration and Recovery products for runners. Get yours here.


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