Splitting a Long Run

splitting a long  HappyFitMama.com

Last week I had 18 miles planned for my long run. But then I realized that I had the Summerfest 10k on Sunday. In marathon training last year, the only race I had during that time was a half marathon. It was no big deal to tack on mileage for a warm up and cool down after the race to get in my desired total. But with a 10k, it’s only 6.2 miles. Add one mile for a warm up and I’ve would still have a boat load of miles to get in. And if I truly was going to “race,” would I have the energy to put in 11 miles more? Probably not. I decided I would instead try splitting a long run, something I’ve never done before.

Thursday morning my plan was to get in at least 10 miles and then complete the remaining 8 once Ron got home from work in the evening. This was the best possible option for my situation but also for training. It allowed for active recovery during the day while still being a little fatigued for the second run. My active recovery consisted of spending the morning and the early part of the afternoon on a field trip with twelve 3-4 year old kids at the beach.

Active, yes. Recovery, not so much.

In 12 hours, I ran in two completely different weather situations.

Morning – pouring rain, high humidity, temps in the low 70s. I also had ran with a friend for a portion of it for some company.

Evening – blue sky, sunshine, a breeze, temps in the low 80s. Solo.

My run in the morning was the tougher of the two. The conditions made it more challenging and I seemed to struggle up a few hills. I was quite surprised how fresh I felt for the afternoon run despite being on my feet all day. I am usually not an evening runner at all but everything kind of fell into place after the first mile. For the most part I ate what I usually eat throughout the day and didn’t alter anything. I did finish the last two miles a little faster than planned just because I was getting hungry for dinner. Running past good smelling restaurants intensified that!

So is splitting up a long run good for marathon training?

Your body is getting most of the same physical endurance training benefits of a continuous long run since you’re not completely recovering in between runs. However, the benefits are not as great as when you do one continuous long run. And, of course, it’s definitely easier mentally to run 10 miles in the morning and 8 miles at night, rather than 18 miles all at once — which is why you don’t want to do it every week. Ideally, you want to run your long run continuously, since that’s what you’ll be doing in your marathon. But splitting your run is a great way to squeeze a long run into a busy week and it definitely beats the alternative of skipping your long run altogether.

Have you had to split a long run in training?

  1. That totally makes sense and with something like marathon training, where there is such a huge time commitment, you do have to adapt sometimes. Since it feels like eons since I trained for marathons, I can’t remember if I split my long runs but I must have at some point. Great job getting it done!
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  2. I’ve never split up a long run before, but it’s a good option when your schedule makes it hard to fit one in and it is certainly better than nothing! That’s crazy how different the weather was – way to go on the second half, it must have made you feel good to have such a good run after running earlier AND going on the field trip!
    Beth @ RUNNING around my kitchen recently posted..What I’m doing differently this training cycleMy Profile

  3. I think it’s a fantastic thing to do and you used it exactly right. There are actually a couple of studies out about how splitting the long run is how slower runners–those for whom a 20-miler would mean 3.5 hrs. on their feet–should do it this way. The risk for injury goes way up when you’re on your feet consecutively that long. Anyhow–I like how you broke it up.

    I actually love doubles and when I’m in full mileage/safety zone, I’ll get them back into my life!
    misszippy1 recently posted..Don’t be a slave to the scheduleMy Profile

    • I read that too! I surprised myself with how much I liked the double. The only bummer was having more laundry and showering again. But really what’s more laundry when I’m swimming in it daily??

  4. Although I have not done this, and my coach is not a big fan of two a days, I could see why this would work, and I know people who do something similar. I would usually just push my long run back, like I will this week as I am racing Saturday, so I will push my 18 miler to Monday, but if this works for you, keep it going! Sure the different weather conditions was good practice too πŸ™‚
    Tina Muir recently posted..Elite Athlete Eats: First and only WIAWMy Profile

    • There’s no way I could fit in a 2-3 hour run in during the week all at one time unless I started running at 3 a.m.!

  5. Ok, the timing on this couldn’t be more spot on. I was literally thinking about the idea of splitting up long runs while out there this morning. I’ve never tried it. I’ve read that it can be a good way to teach your body to run on tired legs though. And Also that you can do one run at a faster pace, then the other run slower.

  6. Such a great idea! I think most people would just half the run, and call it good, but you still managed to fit in your full set! Such determination! That tenacity is one of the reasons I nominated you for the “Very Inspiring Blogger Award.” Hope you check it out! Take care, and go get ’em!
    Jessica Joy recently posted..Very Inspiring Blogger AwardMy Profile

    • I’ve done that before too. It’s easy to get it in when the distance is higher but with the 10k, I already felt like I was taking too much family time away from the day.

    • I focused on it and was determined to get it done. It wasn’t as hard as I was expecting it to be. That being said, I definitely couldn’t do 2 a days every week. Too much trouble!

  7. I always wondered about this because when I thought about marathon training with having this many kids (and being a stay-at-home mom) I wasn’t sure it was doable. I am still not sure it is, but getting the milage in is better than NOT getting it in! I still think it would be hard to get the motivation twice a day to get a run in…. but that’s just me. πŸ˜‰
    Melanie @ Nutritious Eats recently posted..Hawaii Vacation Food RecapMy Profile

    • I definitely can’t see myself doing this often. Once my run is done, I’m good. Thinking about it all day definitely put me in the mindset of “get it done!”

  8. I haven’t split a really long run, but have split a few medium runs (12-14 milers). I remember the second run being a lot tougher than the first one! Honestly, I think we have to go with what life brings us on any given day, even if it’s a long run day.
    Janet recently posted..Walk This WayMy Profile

  9. I guess the beauty of not really training for races or following training plans means that I don’t ever have to worry about this – I just make my run fit the day.
    And, I’m thinking that field trip counted as at least 10 miles!!!
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  10. I cannot split workouts! I have to do it ALL AT ONCE or else I will only do part 1 and part 2 will NOT HAPPEN! I get really tired by day’s end, so I lose all motivation to work out! Ha Ha… So mornings it is!
    GiGi Eats recently posted..Sharing The SamePlateMy Profile

  11. I did a whole marathon training cycle splitting long runs and I did fine.. I finished under 4 hours (my goal). I do think, as you state, that doing it consecutively can be better for you mentally. I also think that you need a long run to practice a fueling and hydration plan.. that is not something you can do when you spilt it up.
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  12. some timely as I have been contemplating how I am going to get my 10 mile week day runs in when my kids go back to school. Both kids have to be at school by 7:30 ( two different schools) so it creates a challenge. I was just thinking I will have to likely do 5-7 miler and then finish up during lunch. Not ideal but gets in the miles

  13. yes – def done this! perhaps more than once. i cannot remember. i think i just called it a “double”. you pretty much nailed all the pros and cons. my biggest issue is having the second run hanging over my head all day. I’m pretty much a morning runner and like to get on with my day once my run is done. i’d also stress over fueling issues. but you seem to have rocked it! well done.

    btw, TWELVE 3-4 year olds!?! i have enough trouble with just the one at the beach. that deserves its own congrats πŸ™‚
    runner26 recently posted..Beach Run 2014 & Menu Planning – July 27My Profile

  14. I’ve done this before, and with less time in-between. Did a 6.5 mile stiller run in the afternoon and then another 6.5 miles solo once my husband got home from work. If that’s the only way the long is gonna happen, then so be it. I think doing a continuous long run is important but the occasional splitting of it doesn’t hurt.

  15. Thanks so much for writing this post–I’ve actually been thinking a lot about whether I can split my long runs due to my works schedule. The closest I’ve come to splitting a long run is running 7 miles really early in the morning and then running a half marathon within an hour or two so I could get in 20 total, which worked out nicely. I’m just too paranoid to split on a regular basis because I’m worried I won’t get as much out of it; like you said, the mental aspect of running all of those miles in a row is huge.
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