For many people running is all about speed — the sprint. While this is a big part of running, if you plan on doing a marathon, especially a long one, these are all about endurance, not speed.
It’s all about being able to maintain a moderate or somewhat fast pace for a prolonged period of time, potentially for hours.
You may find that you are in no shape to run any sort of marathon past a certain distance. Of course, it is quite easy to build your running endurance and stamina, as long as you follow the right methods and tips. Let’s go over some of the best tips on how to build running endurance.
Start Slow and Go From There
One of the easiest ways to increase your running endurance is to keep building from the current level you are at. If you only have the endurance to run 1 km, try to run 1.1 km, then 1.2 the next day, and so forth.
This is for true beginners, but if you already have some experience with running, you can always take this to the next level. If you feel comfortable running 5k, then spend a week running 6k, then 7k the next week, etc.
The point is to just slowly and steadily increase the distance you run. Your muscles and your cardiovascular system will both grow in strength and stamina over time. Start at the point where you start to feel like you can’t go anymore, and then build from there.
Remember, just like the marathon you are looking to run, this sort of training is all about the long, not the short term. Trying to increase the distance you run too much from one day to the next will likely have the opposite effect of reaching your goal.
Tempo runs are not only good for increasing running speed, but also for increasing endurance. With tempo runs, start by running for a certain period of time, maybe 10 minutes, at a fast pace. You don’t want to run at full pelt here, but fast enough so you won’t be holding any conversations.
Pick a fast tempo and run, then spend an equal amount of time in between jogging or running lightly. This works to get you into that cardiovascular fat burning state, which is also great for training your cardiovascular system to absorb more oxygen from your lungs and to supply your muscles with more of that same oxygen. The more oxygen your muscles get, the longer you will be able to run.
Chances are that during a marathon, you won’t be running as fast as you do during your tempo runs, but the whole point is that if you can run at a very fast pace for say 30 minutes, then running for that same 30 minutes, but at a slower marathon pace, is going to seem like a walk in the park. If you are used to extreme speed running for prolonged periods, then the slower pace becomes child’s play.
Go as Far as You Can
Something else you can do to increase your running endurance, related to our first point, is to run for as long as you can, and no less. The point is to push yourself past your limit, past what you think is possible.
If you only run as long as you feel comfortable doing, your endurance won’t build, or at least it won’t build quickly. If you feel comfortable running 10k, and feel like you are nearly dead after that 10k, then do your best to push for another click, maybe even just a couple hundred meters.
Remember that this is not about speed, but about distance. Run at a slow or moderate pace and make it as far as possible each time. Before long, you will notice that you can run much further distances without getting fatigued.
Strength and Plyometric Training
If you plan on increasing your running endurance, you will also need to focus on muscle strength. After all, it’s your legs doing all of the work, so they need to be up to the task. A combination of plyometric leg training and basic weight training will help improve muscle strength and endurance.
This means performing a mix of box jumps, stair runs, skipping drills and jumping rope, squats, lunges, leg presses and more. Literally any kind of exercise to increase muscle strength will be beneficial for building endurance.
Plyometric drills that can help decrease the time your feet spend on the ground in relation to the time your legs spend in the air will also help to increase your stride length, and the longer your strides are, the less energy you will need to run the same distance with shorter strides.
Simply put, the stronger your muscles are, the longer you will be able to run. Moreover, the stronger and leaner your muscles are, the more glycogen they will be able to hold, which is the energy they need to function.
Also, having strong and well-trained muscles will help stave off the buildup of lactic acid, which creates that horrible burning sensation. The longer you can keep the lactic acid at bay, the longer you will be able to run.
A fast way to build muscle strength and endurance is to do hill climbs. Hill climbs are great for increasing not only running speed, but also endurance. If you are looking to build as much endurance as possible, you may want to consider running very big hills or even mountains. Once you can run 10k uphill, running that same distance on flat ground will seem like a piece of cake.
Runners who want to build endurance often adhere to the Yasso method, which has you running 800-meter lengths on a track — your time in minutes and seconds for a workout of 10 times 800 meters (two laps of the track) with equal recovery time (jogging slowly) is the same as the hours and minutes of your marathon time. It’s another way to build endurance and thousands of runners use this method. It’s worth checking out.
Another method to help increase running endurance is to do weighted runs. You can wear ankle and leg weights, and you can also wear a weighted vest on your torso. If you can run 10k with an extra 50 pounds on your body, running that marathon without that added weight will seem much easier.
There are a variety of methods to help increase your running endurance. One recommendation is not to focus too much on any one method, but use a combination of all the above.
Remember that your body will grow accustomed to any routine which you repeat too many times. If you want to keep increasing strength and endurance, it’s crucial that you changing things up.