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What is Distance Running?

Deanna Baranyi
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Most people consider the term distance running to mean running any distance equivalent to a marathon, which is 26.2 miles (42.2 km), or longer. Ultrarunning, a form of distance running, where runners run distances, such as 50 or 100 miles (80.5 or 160.9 km), has become increasingly popular as well. Regardless of whether a distance runner is covering the distance of a marathon or more, she must train, eat nutritious foods, and wear the appropriate gear.

While most runners must train for running even short distances, distance running requires consistent training for months. While there are often set training schedules that can be found to train for a marathon, it may be more difficult to set up a training schedule to train for a 100 mile (160.9 km) run. To train for long distance running, it is essential to run a long run at least once a week, with shorter runs a few days in between. Long distance runners may cross-train by biking or swimming on the days they are not running. Cross-training and running intervals or hills may help a distance runner increase her aerobic capacity, especially when running in areas with higher altitudes.

There are several factors to consider when training for a long distance running event. For example, some people live in lower elevations and they may run hills to train for a run in higher elevation areas. Some people live in cooler climates, they may need to train in a hot room a few days a month to simulate running in hotter climates, if the running event is scheduled in a warm weather location. Many runners may attempt to train by running the full race course prior to the race itself. Some long distance runners may attempt to run more than 100 miles (160.9 km) each week while training, but others may only run 50 miles (80.5 km) each week and still complete the long distance running race.

Long distance running gear is fairly straight-forward. Marathon runners typically need running shoes with a spacious toe box, a water hydration pack, and clothes that do not rub or chafe the body. People who are running longer distances than a marathon may need a backpack, a change of shoes and socks, a flashlight or headlamp, food, a larger hydration pack, and possibly a pacer. The pacer may carry the runner’s gear. The flashlight or headlamp may be necessary because long distances runners may need to run through the night, often for 24 hours straight.

Long distance runners should eat foods that are nutritious. They may be less concerned about calories because of the energy they exert during their training and race day runs. For example, pastas and other high carbohydrate foods are quite popular among distance runners. The main thing is that they should never try any new foods before a long run, for fear of how the stomach may handle the food after running for 40 or 50 miles (64.4 or 80.5 km).

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Deanna Baranyi
By Deanna Baranyi
Deanna Baranyi, a freelance writer and editor with a passion for the written word, brings a diverse skill set to her work. With degrees in relevant fields and a keen ability to understand and connect with target audiences, she crafts compelling copy, articles, and content that inform and engage readers.
Discussion Comments
By KoiwiGal — On Jul 12, 2014

@irontoenail - A friend of mine recently stubbed her toe while she was training for a marathon, and it turned out to be broken. She was absolutely devastated at first, but then she negotiated with her trainer and the doctor. She realized that she would still be able to train in the swimming pool and in the gym without hurting her toe.

It's not perfect, but she should still be able to compete in the marathon. So, depending on the injury, there might be a way around it.

By irontoenail — On Jul 11, 2014

@pleonasm - Any kind of distance running program is going to need quite careful medical advice, on things like nutrition. People don't think about the fact that the race itself is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the exercise they need to do. They will often be running the equivalent of two or three races every week during their training.

And nutrition is only part of it. They also have to be extra careful with any injury. If they end up with a stress fracture or something like that, it could destroy everything they worked for.

By pleonasm — On Jul 10, 2014

They aren't kidding about needing to eat properly. My sister does a lot of races, including some that qualify as distance running and she used to have a horrible diet. She would just snack on junk food because she was hungry and was always getting sick.

We finally convinced her to go and see a nutritionist, and it turned out that she wasn't really eating enough calories, or nutrients for the amount of exercise she was doing every day. She said it was a little bit strange to have a doctor essentially tell her that she had to eat a minimum of three big meals every day, as well as snacks.

But she's been a lot healthier looking now that she pays attention to her meals and makes sure she gets enough protein and fresh vegetables.

Deanna Baranyi
Deanna Baranyi
Deanna Baranyi, a freelance writer and editor with a passion for the written word, brings a diverse skill set to her...
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