What Is Distance Running?

Running shoes.
Long-distance runners pay attention to their heart rate while they exercise.
Distance running requires months of training.
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  • Written By: Dee S.
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 16 March 2014
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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).


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