How to Optimize Your Long Distance Running:

Running a half or full marathon has become the latest trend, everyone and their grandma has tried it or wants to try it. Due to the increased interest in the event, it is important that people take the necessary precautions in order to ensure that they do not injure themselves and get through this milestone as efficiently and as pain-free as possible. Here are some ways to make the arduous training a little easier:

Keep a steady pace

The reason that a steady pace is optimal is due to the way that your energy system works. You have 2 means of energy production: anaerobic respiration and aerobic respiration. One method uses glucose for fuel (anaerobic) and the other primarily uses Free Fatty Acids (aerobic). The first energy source is primarily active for the first 5 min of exercise and slowly shifts towards aerobic respiration as time progresses. However, even after an hour of exercise, the first energy pathway is still contributing up to 20% of our total energy expenditure. That translates to 20% of your performance and by sprinting early on and during intervals you are diminishing your available glycogen stores that would have been valuable for later use. So, making sure to maintain a steady pace could make the effort you put in more consistent and thus improve your overall performance.

Supplement with a carb fuel source during the race

Another way to ensure a constant supply of glucose is to supply it externally via the ingestion of a high-carb snack during the race. Therefore, if they offer a sports drink or Coca-Cola, it is best advised to opt for that instead of water to keep your blood glucose levels high during the race to have an easy store of energy readily available. Your body will always take glucose from the bloodstream before accessing muscle/liver glycogen, thus making sure you still have decent muscle glycogen levels at the end stages of the race. If they do not provide carb-related drinks, bring your own energy syrup sachets.

Train high-intensity sprints the week before the race

This may sound counter-intuitive but depleting your muscle glycogen stores completely a week before your race can be one of the most beneficial things you can do. This is because low glycogen stores signal your body to upregulate the enzymes that help produce muscle glycogen. Thus, leading to a surplus of muscle glycogen way above baseline levels if done right. This is done by doing exercise that is well below 5 min (at a time) at very high intensity to make sure you use up as much muscle glycogen as possible. This procedure should be stopped 3 days before the race.

Increase Carb Intake 3 days before the race

After training for 4 days with a high-intensity protocol, your enzymes that turn glucose into muscle glycogen will be highly upregulated. This lends the perfect opportunity to restore that glycogen with maximum effect. You should eat much more carbs than usual to ensure full muscle + liver glycogen saturation. By the 3rd day, glycogen storage levels should be way above baseline. Leading to a greater reserve tank of fuel on race day.

Sprint at the end of the race (last 1km)

This will also sound wacky but just try it out and see that it works. By the end of the race, you no longer must worry about keeping muscle/liver glycogen levels in reserve. Thus, you may as well use them to their full effect and the best way to do that is to go for a full out sprint to the finish. Of course, this advice should only be utilized, if possible, if by the end of the race you have severely depleted glycogen levels (you’ll know) then this won’t even be an option.


Many people think that running long distances is straight forward but there is much more that must go into your preparation and training if you want optimal performance on race day. I hope that some of these tips have helped you and that you will try them out to assess their effectiveness.

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