How to Avoid a Half Marathon Meltdown – The Long Run Struggle

The Long Run

The long-run is the most important run during your half marathon training. If you neglect your scheduled long runs your body will not be properly conditioned to finish a first time half marathon. I know this may sound obvious but the whole reason why you train for 10 weeks plus is to allow your body to store glycogen to be used to propel you to the finish line. By incrementally adding on 1 mile per week, you should be close to a 12-mile long run by the end of your training schedule. Three key things you must do so that your long runs are working to your advantage on race day are: Fuel, Finish, and Recover.


There have been recent trends and studies suggesting that Ketogenic Dieting is a better alternative to use when training for long-distance running. The studies actually have been showing that towards the end of each of their running sessions, the ketogenic dieting had a slight decrease in performance while the carb dieting had a slightly better performance. Ketogenic dieting is training your body to burn a higher percentage of fat stores (which our bodies have plenty of) versus using your glycogen stores (carbs) for energy. You can read the article here.

Regardless if your fueling with carbs or fats, you need to use your long runs as mini race training sessions. Initiate the same routines on every long run. Here is a mini checklist of things to consider for your long run training session:

  • Layout your clothes the night before, shoes, mp3 players, glasses, headbands, whatever you need on your run
  • Wake up and practice eating your pre-race meal ( this could be anywhere from 400 to 800 calories and might include cinnamon bread, bagel with peanut butter, a few eggs, hashbrowns )
  • Consider how long your run is for. Bring the appropriate number of gel packs that you need for that particular run (anything less than 60 minutes/6 miles I don’t fuel beyond my pre-race meal, this is a matter of personal preference)
  • Post-run – eat a light snack and replace your fluid loss during the run

In my post, I discuss fueling in more detail, How much, and when to fuel for a half marathon or marathon.

How To Aviod A Half Marathon Meltdown - Long Runs

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Unless you become injured to the point were sharp pains are stabbing you in your legs or obviously something more serious, always try to finish your long runs. This means that if you have a 9-mile run and at mile 7.5 you want to throw in the towel and stop – don’t quit. Instead revert back to a walk-run strategy, for example, walk 2 minutes, run 3minutes, etc. If you can’t physically run anymore then walk out the remaining miles. Your body needs to cool down anyway, so finishing your last couple of miles by walking is occasionally ok, just don’t make a habit out of it.


Both before and after your long run you need to rest and recover. The day before your long run needs to be kept to a non-impact cardio day. This will help to allow your muscles to rebuild for 24 hours prior to you depleting all of your glycogen stores during your long run. After your long run, you need to have a recovery day to help rebuild your body. Your legs need to rebuild your muscles that you broke down during your run. Also, you need to eat nutritious meals to help rebuild your glycogen stores.

CLICK HERE TO READ Part 7 – Runner’s Mindset

CLICK HERE TO READ Part 9 – You vs. You

Coach Scott is a published author and RRCA certified running coach (Level 2). He has published over 20 books including, Beginner's Guide to Half Marathons: A Simple Step-By-Step Solution to Get You to the Finish Line in 12 Weeks! (Beginner To Finisher Book 3), which has become an Amazon International #1 bestseller. Scott specializes in helping new runners become injury-free race finishers. He recently completed his 14th half marathon race. 

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