Long Distance Running

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What is Long Distance Running?

If you want a simple crude definition of long-distance running, then Long-distance running, also known as endurance running, is a type of running over a distance of at least 3 kilometers (1.9 mi). It is primarily aerobic in nature and needs stamina as well as mental strength. But in modern times, Most runners consider +5k distance long-distance running.

Humans, particularly primates, are well equipped for long-distance running among mammals. According to the endurance running theory, Homo sapiens developed running endurance due to traveling over broad regions, which enhanced scavenging possibilities and permitted persistent hunting. Migratory primates and a small number of terrestrial carnivores, such as bears, dogs, wolves, and hyenas, can run for long periods.

Long-distance running serves various goals in modern human society: it might be done for physical fitness, enjoyment, travel, economic reasons, or cultural reasons. Long-distance running can help you enhance your cardiovascular health as well. Running increases aerobic fitness by stimulating the muscles and heart to operate more effectively by boosting the activity of enzymes and hormones. Endurance running is and has always been an important part of physical military preparation.

Although in pre-industrial times, foot couriers would run to relay information to far regions, professional running is most typically encountered in the realm of sports. Long-distance running is practiced by the Hopi and Tarahumara peoples, among others, as a sort of ritual or ceremonial. Distance running has also been linked to nation-building and maybe a bonding exercise for family, friends, and work. Distance running’s social aspect has been related to enhanced performance.

Track running, road running, and cross country running are the three most prevalent types, all of which are defined by their topography — all-weather tracks, roads, and natural terrain, respectively. Long-distance track races typically vary from 3000 meters (1.87 miles) to 10,000 meters (6.2 miles), whereas cross-country events often cover 5 to 12 kilometers (3 to 7.5 miles). In contrast, road races might be much longer, exceeding 100 kilometers (62 miles).

The 3000-meter steeplechase (which also includes leaping over obstacles and water), 5000 meters, 10,000 meters, and marathon are the four long-distance running events in the Summer Olympics (42.195 kilometers, or 26 miles and 385 yards). Kenyans, Moroccans, and Ethiopians have dominated major international long-distance races since the late 1980s. The high altitude of these nations has been shown to aid in the success of these runners. When mountain air is paired with endurance exercise, red blood cells grow, allowing more oxygen to be delivered through the arteries. Most of these successful East African runners are found from the Great Rift Valley’s three mountain areas.

History of Long Distance Running

Prehistoric Running


Ancient Hunters | Prehistoric Running

Long-distance running as a traditional way of hunting among the San of the Kalahari, American Indians, and Australian Aborigines has been documented via anthropological investigations of current hunter-gatherer tribes. The hunter would run at a slow, comfortable, and steady pace for one hour to many days in an area where the animal had no hiding places.

The animal, which is running in spurts, must pause to pant to cool off. Still, as the chase progresses, it will not have enough time to cool down before having to resume running. It will eventually collapse after getting exhausted due to running in a hot atmosphere. The physical structure of a 12-year-old Nariokatome kid has been proposed to illustrate that early humans ate more meat and less vegetation 1.5 million years ago and hunted by running down animals.

Ancient history

Long-distance running began to be used for purposes other than hunting as agriculture and society progressed: religious rites, conveying messages for military and political objectives, and sport.


Running Messengers | Pheidippides

Long-distance Running messengers have always been reported in history as soldiers and king’s officials who circulated information around the realm by running. While running messengers were trained from childhood to become one, there were running messengers in every part of the world, whose names were erased as time passed. But one particular running messenger’s story became a legend and passed from one generation to the other until modern times. This fascinating story became the foundation of modern professional long-distance running (Marathon).

The ancient Greeks were well-known for their running messengers, known as hemerodromoi, or “day runners.” Pheidippides, one of the most famous running messengers, is said to have sprinted from Marathon to Athens to deliver the news of the Greek victory over the Persians at the Battle of Marathon in 490 B.C. As he gave the news “we won,” he fell and died. While there are disagreements about the historical accuracy of this legend, such as whether Pheidippides actually ran from Marathon to Athens or between other cities, how far he ran, and if he was the one who delivered the victory message, the marathon running event of 26.2 miles / 42.195 km is based on it.

Modern Long Distance Running Sports

The most well-known long-distance running sports are grouped together under the umbrella of athletics, a sport in which runners compete on well-defined routes and the quickest runner to finish the distance wins. Long-distance track running, road running, and cross-country running is the most common. Track and road races are normally timed, but cross country events are not necessarily timed, and placement is usually the most important factor. Other less common variations, such as fall running, trail running, mountain running, and tower running, combine the difficulty of distance with a large incline or change in height.

Modern Long Distance Running Sports

Running competitions

1.     Track running

Long-distance track running events have a history linked to the track and field stadiums where they are staged. Athletes can travel vast distances in a small space by using oval circuits. Early tracks were frequently made on the leveled ground or in grassy regions. During the twentieth century, the oval running track was standardized to 400 meters in length. Cinder tracks were gradually replaced with synthetic all-weather running tracks made of asphalt and rubber, beginning in the mid-1960s. The conventional long-distance track events of 5000 meters and 10,000 meters were not established until the 1912 Stockholm Olympics.

2.     Road running

Long-distance road running contests are mostly held on paved or asphalt roads, while large races are sometimes held on a stadium track. Aside from being a popular leisure activity, athletics’ top-level – notably marathon events – is one of the most popular running sport. Road races can be any distance, but the marathon, half marathon, and 10 km run are the most popular and well-known.

3.     Cross country running

Cross country running is the most realistic kind of long-distance running in athletics, with events held on open-air courses on grass, woodland paths, soil, or mountains. Cross country races typically include obstacles such as muddy portions, logs, and earth mounds, in contrast to the comparatively level courses of track and road events. The weather may play a significant effect in racing conditions as a result of several factors. Cross country is both an individual and a team sport since individuals are assessed individually, and teams are scored using a points system. Competitions are often 4 km (2.5 mi) or longer events staged in the autumn and winter. The most accomplished cross-country athletes also compete in long-distance track and road competitions.

How Far do I have to run to be a Long Distance Runner?

The phrase “long-distance running” may appear to be a little arbitrary. If you spend enough time in runner circles, you’ll encounter everyone from committed 5k runners to marathoners and ultra-marathoners. They’ll all declare themselves to be “long-distance runners.” So, just what does this word imply?

Let’s start with a technical definition. Distance running is defined as anything above 1500 meters in track and field competition. Sprints are defined as distances of up to 400 meters, with the 800m straddling the two categories. It’s not short enough to be a sprint, yet not long enough to be distance. There are also more meanings available. According to Wikipedia, long-distance running is defined as any continuous run of 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) or more. However, some runners consider a distance of 5 miles or more to be lengthy.

Runtastic sidesteps the subject by defining what a “long-run” is. A long run is 1.5-2 times longer than your normal weekly run, according to them. That isn’t to suggest that the other distances you run aren’t long. To put it another way, long-distance running varies from runner to runner. It also specifies that a “long-run” must last at least an hour.


Long-distance runners compete in events ranging from 5k to 10k (or 3.1 miles to 6.2 miles), while the 5k, in particular, might theoretically be classified as medium distance events when contrasted to sprints. Most of the runners I’ve spoken with regarding 8 miles or more to be long-distance running. Long-distance running, in my opinion, is around 10 miles or more. A 15k, or 9.3 miles, is a long-distance run, in my opinion.

I reason that runners preparing for medium distance races may perform seven or 8-mile runs to prepare if they go slightly over the 10k mark, but they will not do 10 miles. To do so, you must be competing in a long-distance race. When ultra-marathoners talk about going for a long run, they may imply 30 miles or more.

Everyone can agree that runners who run half marathons or longer are long-distance runners; the only difference is how low you set the first number for long-distance running. Long-distance running is ultimately dependent on the runner and their talent level. I thought five miles was a significant distance when I first started running, but now that I’ve covered more distances, I’d have a higher beginning number.

Am I a Short Distance, Middle Distance or Long Distance Runner?

Am I a Short Distance, Middle Distance, or Long Distance Runner?

The most certain method to run your personal best is to train in a way that strengthens your deficiencies and compete at a distance that determines your strengths. Knowing whether you’re a short, middle, or long-distance runner may help you avoid injury, get the most out of your training, and have fun running! The marathon is regarded as the pinnacle of running in the United States. Beginners can use the 5K and 10K as stepping stones to increase their endurance and prepare for the marathon. Even if it takes you 5, 6, or 7 hours to complete the race and you don’t have any toenails left, the marathon is the only race distance you should focus on.

I’m not disregarding the marathon (I love the challenge of marathon running and preparing for one); rather, the marathon isn’t the best race for everyone. It’s not that certain runners can’t run a marathon; on the contrary, you can run 26.2 miles and beyond with the correct preparation and devotion. I wish to inspire all runners to achieve their objectives, whatever they may be. Various runners have different physiological and mental strengths and limitations; some can run a strong and fast marathon, while others are better at shorter and quicker events like the 5K and 10K.

Short Distance Running

The 100-meter dash, 400-meter dash, and 800-meter dash are sprint distances commonly competed on a track and are considered short-distance runs. Short-distance events are primarily the domain of high school, college, and professional track and field. Therefore most recreational runners do not compete in them.

Middle Distance Running

The 5K and 10K are both considered intermediate distance events since they both demand some stamina. In cross-country and track and field competitions, the middle distance theoretically only extends up to 5 kilometers.

Long Distance Running

Most road runners consider the 5K and 10K short distances, whereas the half marathon and full marathon are considered long-distance runs. Many road runners set a limit on how long it takes them to complete a race, whether it is an hour or fewer.

My Take on Distance Running

I’m a long-distance runner myself. Long runs are one of my favorite workouts, and tempo runs are my particular favorite. I don’t have a lot of raw speed, but I can run for long periods of time.

Whether you’re a short distance runner, a middle-distance runner (5K/10K), or a long-distance runner (half and full marathon), muscle types, individual physiology, and personal preference all play a part. Are you a runner who prefers to run short or long distances? Consider the following inherent abilities and preferences:

You’re A 5k/10k Runner If

  • You enjoy accelerating your pace as much as possible.
  • Daily runs of more than an hour boring and exhaust you.
  • You think 12 x 400 metres at a faster than 5K pace is a nice time.
  • You prefer to race on a regular basis.
  • You dislike long runs of more than 10 miles.
  • Plyometrics and heavy weightlifting are two exercises that you like including into your workout.
  • You don’t have a lot of time to practice throughout the week, so you choose quality over quantity.
  • Injury occurs when a person runs a large number of miles in a week.

You’re A Half And Full Marathon Runner If

  • Your adversary is the track.
  • Any run that lasts less than an hour is considered short.
  • Your weekly tempo run is something you look forward to.
  • You appreciate being able to relax and enjoy yourself when jogging great distances.
  • Yoga, for example, is a milder form of strength exercise that you enjoy.
  • You run for several hours every week and/or want to.
  • Your injuries are frequently caused by speedwork.
  • You prefer to train long and hard for a limited number of races each year.
  • Warming up and getting into a rhythm during a run takes roughly 5 kilometres.

Psychology of Long Distance Running

Humans are among the finest long-distance runners of all running species; game animals are quicker over shorter distances but have less stamina than humans. Unlike other primates, whose bodies are designed to walk on four legs or climb trees, the human body developed roughly 2-3 million years ago to allow for upright walking and sprinting. The human body is capable of long-distance running due to the following characteristics:

  • Bone and muscle structure: in contrast to quadruped animals, which have their center of mass in front of the hind legs or limbs, biped animals, including humans, have their center of mass directly above the legs. This places distinct demands on the bones and muscles, particularly in the legs and pelvis.
  • Dissipation of metabolic heat: Sweating via the body surface has numerous benefits versus panting via the mouth or nose in terms of cooling the body. These include a greater evaporation surface and respiratory cycle independence.

Role of Muscle Fibers in Long Distance Running

Our muscles are made up of fibers, and there are three types of muscle fibers: slow-twitch (type I), fast-twitch (type IIa, and Type IIb). To summarize in a nutshell, long-distance runners have more slow-twitch muscles, whereas short and middle-distance runners have more fast-twitch fibers. Slow-twitch muscle fibers are employed in easy and endurance runs because they effectively utilize fuel and are more fatigue resistant. These fibers are aerobic, which means they use oxygen to generate energy. Fast-twitch muscle fibers of type IIa and type IIb are anaerobic, meaning they create energy without oxygen. Because fast-twitch muscles are employed for forceful, rapid motions, they quickly tire.

While various workouts can improve slow-twitch and fast-twitch muscles, genetics greatly impact how your muscle fibers are distributed. Some people are just born with more slow-twitch fibers, which explains why they excel in marathons, while others have a natural proclivity for speed due to fast-twitch fibers.


Running is a mixture of speed and distance. Whatever definition you use for “long-distance running,” the miles covered are what counts. Because most social running clubs allow “all paces, all faces,” your speed should never prevent you from considering yourself a distance runner. Get those miles in, and welcome to the distance runner’s club!

Still not sure if you can call yourself a runner because of your speed? Consider this woman who just set a world record for the heaviest female marathon finisher. I’d categorize her as a long-distance runner, and you should as well.

Let me show you a chart that provides the total time it takes to finish a distance run at a certain pace, starting from a standard pace of 5:00mins/mile. So no matter what pace you ran, your distance runs, you finished your race! That’s what matters.

Pace5K10K15K10M20KHalf15M30K20M Marathon
Pace Chart

Tips if you want to increase your distance

If you’ve been running 3-5 miles every running session and want to improve your distance to become a long-distance runner, I will advise you to follow these steps:

Increase Your Distance Slowly

The essential thing to remember is that you don’t want to go from two 5-mile runs per week (equivalent to a weekly mileage of 10 miles) to five 8-mile runs per week (equivalent to a weekly mileage of 40 miles). That’s quite a leap! Allow your body to acclimate to greater distances by giving it time. To avoid injuring yourself, increasing distance by 10% every week with one rest week is usually suggested. In this case, you’d want to boost your mileage by 10% by adding an extra mile to your previous mileage. You will gain confidence in your ability to run long distances in a while, steadily increase the mileage while taking break weeks to avoid overtraining your body and work your way up to the 40-mile weekly mileage.

Run At A Slower To Medium Pace

You won’t be able to run 9 miles at a 9-minute-mile pace straight away if you’re exhausted after running a 5k at a 9-minute-mile pace. You’re going to be a little more sluggish. Don’t be concerned. This is how the pacing system works! On your lengthy runs, just run whatever seems comfortable to you. You’ll steadily improve your speed. When increasing distance, don’t expect to run at your usual speed; you’ll be badly disappointed.

Set Distance Goals

I couldn’t even run a mile without stopping when I started. But I decided to go ahead and do it. I allowed myself five months to train and gradually increased my distance to 13.1 miles. I began by running one mile three times a week, with rest days in between. Then I added two-mile runs to the mix. Then I progressed to 3 miles, and so forth. I was running 30-40 miles each week toward the conclusion of my training before the taper, compared to 3 miles per week when I started.

My training plan had been set together by one of my runner pals. I enjoyed it because I was “leveling up” to a new distance every couple of weeks, which gave me something to strive for and achieve. However, because it was spaced out over such a long period of time, I had plenty of opportunities to acclimate and build up to longer distances. When I could say, “This is the first time I’ve run x number of miles,” it was always motivating.

Be Mindful

Although running is primarily a physical activity, the mental side of the sport may be challenging at times. To overcome mental barriers, it’s critical to employ motivational techniques. This is especially true for long-distance runs when you’ll be on your feet for more than an hour. Just be mindful and feel happy about yourself. Thinking about all the things I’m grateful for and smiling helps me feel calmer and happier in general, so that’s my go-to motivating method. I consider it a pleasure to be able to run because not everyone can.

“That’s fine,” I tell myself if I don’t feel like running any longer. Just go to that telephone pole or home a short distance ahead.” I’m usually eager to keep pushing by the time I reach the home or telephone pole. If not, it’s a sign that my body needs to rest. Finally, running with others is usually more enjoyable. If you’re running with someone who runs at a similar pace to you, the miles will fly by. If you want to improve your speed, run alongside someone who is a fast runner than you but will slow down if necessary.

Cross Training and Recovery days

Last year, it was the rest days that got me through my training schedule. I knew I could push through the runs since there would soon be a rest day where I wouldn’t have to run at all. Cross-training days provide the same purpose. They add some variation to your life. Choose an activity that you’d want to attempt and that would be enjoyable for you to do on days when you’re not running. I enjoy assisted weights, for example, so that’s a terrific cross-training choice for me.

You can also enroll in classes that interest you, such as Zumba or kickboxing. Alternatively, use it as an excuse to visit the pool. Swimming is an excellent low-impact cross-training exercise. But, in the end, you should do something you enjoy and look forward to. Cross-training and rest days should not be overlooked. They’re crucial for increasing general strength and fitness while also allowing your body to relax and heal.

A word from Long Distance Running

While the definition of long-distance running is a little hazy, it’s apparent that if you’ve never run long distances before, you’ll have to work your way up to it. As you begin to run longer distances, you may find that what you formerly considered a long run has become a small run! Remember: if you don’t enjoy as a long-distance runner, that’s ok. Some individuals prefer shorter races, which is also OK! Do what you’re passionate about.

If you want to challenge yourself, don’t like running for more than an hour, and prefer speedwork, 5k/10k races may be a better fit for you than lengthier events. If you want to push yourself to the limits of human endurance, a 100-miler could be in your future. While I’ve liked running 5k/10k events, I prefer long-distance events. So far, my favorite race has been a 10-mile university run on pandemic days when the university was closed for classes, and running in solitude became a source of remarkable happiness. It hurt my calves, but I liked it. Figure out what you enjoy, and if it happens to be long-distance running, that’s fantastic! If not, strive to be the best 5k/10k runner you can be!

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