Ten Tips for Running Long (26.2M+), with 4-5 Hrs of Running Time a Week

How to Be an Endurance Athlete for Life. Without Overtraining!

Summary (tldr)

  • Gently sweating exercise, 30–60 mins a day, makes your brain work much better and your body live longer. But that longevity dividend stops and then reverses past 60 mins/day. So on average you don’t need more.

Here are ten good strategies and a bonus tip to help you achieve that goal.
In brief, they are:

1. Minimalist shoes, and Barefoot + Pose running style. Strong legs!
2. Proper training. One long run, one interval, cross-train, and stretch.
3. Run/Walk/Run during the event, and variable rewards throughout.
4. Aerobic max training. MAF training gives speed & endurance in life!
5. Hoka Mafates for the event. Go a half size too big. Save your toenails!
6. Injinji toe socks and double-layered Wright socks. No blisters, honest!
7. Great shade hat and a mesh shirt with ice pockets. Add ice as needed.
8. Mini hydration backpack. Get a sip of icy water every 5 mins. Amazing!
9. Intermittent fasting. Lose weight and become a ketoadapted beast!
10. Primal life, dietary ketosis. Plants, good fat, low meat, lower carbs.

Bonus Tip: You’ll have to scroll down for that one. It’s the best, I promise.

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Why to Occasionally Run Long

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Our bodies are optimized for running, occasionally for long distances, and for sweating efficiently while we run. Listen to Chris McDougall’s Born to Run, for a great, but a bit overstated, story on that.

For most folks, near-daily running, done with good form and without overtraining, is the easiest and best quality cardio we can get. There are many metabolic benefits to getting daily cardio. Our mood, focus, energy, and motivation all greatly improve, with just 20 minutes of sweating exercise. Many of our enzymes get upregulated for about two to three hours after 20+ minutes of sweating exercise.

Some people split their cardio into two or three episodes each day, in order to get that mood/energy/focus boost more than once. I recommend getting your cardio at the lowest energy point in every day, when you can. For me, that tends to be around 2 pm. I also recommend getting 20+ mins of cardio as a reward, after completing anything that was particularly difficult.

But as Dr. Ralf Paffenbarger’s Harvard Alumni Study discovered in 1986, there’s an ideal range for our cardio, like most things in life. He found that longevity benefits peaked at about 3500 calories of cardio a week. Exercising beyond that has no longevity benefit, and it may even kill us faster. Lifspan shortening from too much exercise was proven in first in mice by Dr. Roy Walford in the 1990s. We now know that happens primarily via cardiovascular damage, and we know it’s true for people as well.

As 15-year study of 52,000 people, published by the cardiologist Chip Lavie in 2015 has shown, a 25–30% reduction in mortality comes from running between 5 and 25 miles a week, at a 7 minute or slower pace per mile, and just two to five days a week, with some recovery days. But running longer or more intensely than this increasingly takes away those mortality reduction benefits. Cardiologists have long known that the more intensely and long we run, the more our hearts get damaged (cardiomyopathy, atrial fibrillation), our arteries harden, and our risk of heart attack and stroke increases.

So as cardiologist James O’Keefe says in his TEDx video, Run for Your Life, At a Comfortable Pace, and Not Too Far (2012), there is a sweet spot for weekly running, and it’s a lot shorter and less intense, on average, than the training routines of most of the good folks in the ultrarunning community.

45 Mins/Day for 45% Mortality Reduction: Longevity Training Rule

An epic twelve year study of over 415,000 individuals in Taiwan, published by Wen et al. in The Lancet in 2011, gives some of the best evidence yet for just how much vigorous exercise we want to get a maximum longevity benefit. As the graph below shows, our longevity benefit from vigorous, sweating exercise (the kind with the best daily and lifelong mental benefits) tops out at a 45% mortality reduction, with around 45 minutes a day. We can remember this as the 45/45 Longevity Training Rule:

45 minutes of sweating exercise each day gives us a 45 percent lifelong mortality reduction. Training beyond 45-50 minutes, we aren’t getting more benefits, and after a certain point (70 minutes a day? 80?) were are actually reducing our longevity, not increasing it. Sweating for 45 minutes a day is about five hours and fifteen minutes a week.

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Fortunately, if you are not overweight and out of shape (see tips 9 and 10 below for that) you don’t need more training time than than this, for the ten weeks prior to any marathon or short ultra. You just need to make sure most of that training comes in the form of one long run, and one interval run, every week, for those ten weeks.

Given this data, I would advise you not to do more than a few marathons or ultras in any year, so they don’t hurt your longevity (if you are walking them, not sweating, that’s a different story. Do as many as you like). If you do ten weeks of training prior to each marathon, and then take a week or two off to cross train or rest after each, that means four a year, or one per season, is the most you’d typically do. Folks who are fit, and continually training with low mileage, might do six a year, or one every two months. Any more that than, in my view, would be excessive.

At the same time, don’t let this cardiovascular info scare you. Marathons and ultras offer so many Big Mental Benefits, I think that everyone should consider doing one a year. You feel like a superhuman afterward, even if just for a short while. Think of it as your annual mental and physical checkup. Do you have the mental fortitude to finish? Are you healthy enough? Just go as far as you can, without too much pain, and then stop. But do one every year. As I’ve said, everything else you do will feel easy for at least a couple of months afterwards. But don’t take my word for it. Try it and see for yourself.

In the future, I expect many endurance athletes will run with sensors that tell them when cardiac troponins and other inflammatory biomarkers appear in our bloodstream, telling us it’s time to stop. Surely the better and smarter we train and run, the longer we can go before these events happen. In the meantime, moderation, but not avoidance, are the best rules to follow.

Again, the ideal longevity training formula currently seems to be around five hours of gently sweating exercise a week, in which we stay mostly aerobic, at a heart rate at 60 to 80% of maximum, and don’t go to far into anerobic “oxygen debt” (more on that later), with lactic acidosis and muscle soreness the next day. A good rule of thumb to find your aerobic max is to able to hold a conversation or sing while you run, without ever being “out of breath.” The one exception to staying mostly aerobic, by design, is our interval exercise day (or days), which we’ll discuss.

If you take a day off from exercise each week, which many of us do, then your average daily sweating time should be a bit longer (52 mins x 6 days a week) to make up for your rest day. If you cross-train, which is a great idea to reduce the chance of injury, your average daily running time can go down. If you like to sweat weekly in other ways than running (maybe two 60 min non-running cardio sessions per week), then your average weekday runs might be as little as 30 minutes a day, five days a week, plus one 2–3 hour weekend run, for ten weeks prior to the event.

If you don’t think you can run a marathon or ultra on that kind of training time, read on. I’ve done it for years and I know many others who have too, folks with every body type. Just run your marathon at a relaxed pace, using the ten strategies below, and see how far you can go. You will be surprised at how strong your mind can be, and how much energy you can have. A well-trained endurance athlete will recover their energy after a brief rest, at multiple points in a long run, and be ready to go again, all day long.

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Ultrarunner Dr. Ralf Paffenbarger (“Paff”)

As I hear it, Dr. Paffenbarger himself didn’t train hard. He knew where the running longevity benefit ended (3500 calories/week), and the damage to the body of overtraining. He started running at 45, lived to 84, and ran over 150 marathons or ultras in those 39 glorious years. That’s an average of 4 a year, or one per season, for you math types. He even outlived two of his six children (yup, the ones who didn’t run :). Read Paff’s inspiring obituary if you’d like some running motivation.

As a distance runner for 40+ years now, and someone who as long been wary of overtraining, I’ve collected a few strategies to help with endurance running. I challenge you to try any or all of them before and on your next long run. That might be a formal run, or a run you do on your own, with a friend, or a local club one weekend. Don’t get sucked in by the competitiveness of formal runs. For most runners, formal runs are just runs we’ve paid for in advance, and will run with others, giving us extra motivation to train for and do them. Any good running club will give that to you much cheaper as well.

Running Long (26.2M+), with Minimal Training and Max Enjoyment

Below are my ten best tips for running marathons and ultras with minimal training, and a big smile on your face, your whole life long :) Do you have other tips or feedback? Please share in the comments, thanks!

1. Minimalist shoes, and Barefoot + Pose running style. Strong legs!

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I recommend doing as many of your training runs as you can with the lightest and least-supportive shoes you can handle without injury. Training in Minimalist shoes, and using a Barefoot running style, where you take off and land from your forefoot, with your heel only lightly touching the ground, is how we ran long distances for millions of years, when we were barefoot. Your minimalist shoes, which are basically only there to protect you from sharp stones and glass, and a barefoot running style, work together to strengthen your feet, ankles, calves, legs, and entire skeletal system, as you run. Run with conventional shoes, and your feet will stay weak. You lose your opportunity to create strong legs during training. One ultrarunner who really gets the value of this approach to training running is Fellrnr. He offers amazing depth of advice on his website, and he reviews new shoes as well. Check him out.

For many of us who grew up running in super-supportive shoes, the lightest and most flexible shoe they feel comfortable with, at least for the first year of minimalist running, is something like the Nike Free. Others can go even lighter faster without hurting their feet on runs. Try a few out and see how light you can go. Any model under seven ounces per (size 11) shoe, good flexibility, a just a little padding and tread under foot, and virtually no “heel-to-toe drop” (no chunkiness under your heel) will particularly promote forefoot (barefoot) running, and keep your feet free to be strong. The lighter your shoes get, the more they feel like comfortable socks. Such ultralight shoes are also fun to wear during the day.

In your training runs with these shoes, stay focused on landing on your forefoot and midfoot only, with each stride. Never heel strike. If your mind wanders, and you get lazy, you will heel strike, and feel the pain the next day. Running on your forefeet is meditative. It takes mental energy for a few weeks, even months, before it becomes unconscious. You can think of barefoot running as “bird running”, running as lightly, and as much on the front of your feet, as a bird across the ground. Again, this kind of running strengthens your entire musculoskeletal system, and saves your ankles, knees, and hips from stress. As your legs and joints get stronger with this kind of training, you will find it gets harder and harder to injure yourself. You will also feel a lot less pain in your legs after a marathon or any other long run.

Limit your pavement runs to a mile or so at a time for the first few months, while you’re learning how to run with minimalist shoes. Your feet, calves, and brain need time to learn this new way of running. Consider just running on grass for three months first, before you graduate to pavement runs.

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Another key technique you want to learn is Pose Running. In pose, you don’t push off with your back foot, which pushes you up into the air and makes your foot strike more jarring. Instead, you fall forward and pull your back foot quickly forward after. This style takes far less energy and makes your running more effortless, more like gliding, rather than bobbing up and down.

Here’s a 3 min. video on the basics of the Pose running style. Again, running like this takes less energy than any other style. Each little energy savings adds up to big gains over a long run. Staying in the right poses all the way through any run will minimize injury and effort, and as a hidden benefit, it improves your concentration and posture after the run.

Want to go faster in pose? Lean further and pull your feet up quicker after landing (faster cadence). Footfalls are light, light, light while being quick, quick, quick, and strong, strong, strong. You fall and glide forward, with minimal stress. Breathe deep, relax, and focus on lowering your heart rate. In pose, what running legend Mo Farah calls easy speed will start to come.

2. Proper training. One long run, one interval, cross-train, and stretch.

Good training is about knowing your priorities and completing the basics, whether or not you get to build on them. To finish marathons and ultras with maximum enjoyment, your two main priorities, for ten weeks prior, are one weekly long run of 2+ hours, also called “Long, Slow Distance” (LSD), and one weekly interval session, at a speed that feels good to you. Beyond that, do whatever additional training that gives you joy, and you can find time to fit in. That’s as simple as I think it gets.

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George Beinhorn’s The Joyful Athlete, and his website, JoyfulAthlete, describe the value of LSD, the kind of endurance running most of us will do. He teaches you how to listen to your body, going slow some days, and faster only when it feels right.

Just prior to writing this, I finished the lovely American River 50 for my fifth time, training for just ten weeks at 4–5 hours a week. I’ve “DNF’d” (“did not finish”) the AR50 twice so far. Once I stopped at 30 miles, and once at 36. In both cases it was still a truly great experience. Going to any 50, my mental goal is just to get into “ultra” (26.2+ mile) territory, and then see how far I can get, without getting so beat up that I can’t run the week after. I could force myself to finish every ultra, but I’d pay for some of those finishes later. Paff would likely not approve.

I also recommend picking races that are on trails, making them particularly beautiful and meditative. You can find many great trail marathons and ultras at places like Ultrasignup.com. If you register through them, they will record your results and compare you to others, which is fun. Also check out Skyrunning, a community of lovely folks who like to run races at altitude, for particularly beautiful and challenging runs.

Start with shorter distances (10Ks, half marathons, marathons) and go longer as you can. A 50K is a great next step up from a marathon. A 50 miler is my longest desired distance at present,with this minimal training schedule, and I currently like to do only one of those a year. Running all day, sunup to sunset, is like an annual checkup on your endurance and technique. There are many stunning trail 50Ks and 50 milers that are very doable with this training schedule, while much longer runs, like 100 milers, are probably not.

I’m in my 50s now, and 10:25 is my best 50 mile time for this decade of my life so far. 3:40 is my best marathon. 1:35 is my best half-marathon. I’m sure I could beat each of these times if I trained more, and smarter. I’d like to do that, but I’m also happy with where I am. I’ll have a slower set of goals in my 60s, I’m sure. You may be faster or slower, younger or older, it doesn’t matter. What matters is being consistent and having fun.

The ideal thing, in my book, is to not only run regular marathons and ultras, but run them in a way that surprises you with how easy and good it feels to keep running, the next week. If you have to take more than seven days off after any marathon or ultra, you ran too poorly, too fast, or too far. DNF if that will keep you running within seven days after the event. Promise yourself you’ll keep training as you DNF, appreciate what you did, and you’ll feel great.

Consider doing your long runs on the same day as the coming marathon or ultra, to make it a mental and physical habit. You might put them on a wall chart or calendar, and any other details of your training, to improve your motivation to get them done. Go as slow as you want on your long training run, and feel free to bring snacks, or even run while fasting (see tip #9) and to run/walk as well (see tip #3). Your goal is to just put in the time.

The easiest way to get your weekly long run done is to start right from your home, or on a beautiful trail as close to home as you can find, run out for half the time, then turn around and run back. Think of your long run as a time to let yourself do moving meditation, being present in the moment, taking time for reflection on some topic, or bringing your smartphone in a running belt or armband and streaming music, or doing some learning, via podcasts, audiobooks or audio downloads. Whatever works for you.

Consider starting early. If you start at six, you can finish a three hour morning run, shower, and be ready for the day by 9:30. You may also enjoy using bluetooth headphones. Presently (2019) I like the RHA brand. If you like to scribble ideas/to-dos as they come, as I do, consider bringing a slim chunk of 3x5 post-its and a plastic mini pen. Some of my best ideas and plans have happened on my daily training runs, short or long.

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If you’d like some mental motivation to do your long runs, read Peter Nabokov’s little-known classic, Indian Running, 1981. It may inspire you. American Indians were once masters of long, slow distance, running barefoot or with thin sandals, for tens to hundreds of miles. They used to win ultrarunning competitions over hundreds of miles in the 19th and early 20th century. They ran for their tribes and for pleasure, their whole lives. My fave story in this book is a 90 year old who dies from a fall from height while on his daily 10 mile trail run. A great way to go. Imagine the fun that guy had, running his entire life.

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Two other very special books that may change your views on what we are capable of, when we decide to do something and stick with it, are Charles B. Kastner’s books on the Bunion Derbies, the first two, of eleven so far, Trans-American footraces (competitive runs) East-West or West-East across the United States. None of the subsequent TransAm footraces have been anywhere as big as the first two yet, but I hope one day they will. The TransAm is celebration of what’s possible, for any of us. The first two TransAms had plenty of ordinary, working class people competing, as there were substantial cash prizes. The first prize was $25,000, the equivalent of ten years of average annual wages at the time, and there were smaller cash prizes for the next fourteen finishers. Several folks ran this race for the promise of a better life. A pretty good motivation to do something exceptional, if you ask me.

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The first book, Bunion Derby: The 1928 Footrace Across America, 2007 is inspiring. The second book, The 1929 Bunion Derby: Johnny Salo and the Great Footrace Across America, 2014, is phenomenal. It chronicles The Greatest Footrace in American History to date, in my view. Check it out and see if you agree. Both books have been optioned to make into movies. I hope that happens, but keep in mind that it often doesn’t.Read the books and make your own movie in your mind, as you read them.

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A second training priority is to run a day a week of intervals, either with others in a training group, on a track or elsewhere, or on your own. Bring a watch so you can time yourself, and write your times down somewhere, so you can try to beat or match them over time.

I recommend doing intervals in three places. First, with a weekly evening training group. They’ll show you a number of great routines. Second, do a few yourself on an open track somewhere. Tracks are quite motivating for intervals. Third, set up your own track, right in front of your house, buy a measuring wheel, and mark off your favorite sprint distances (at least 200m, 400m, 800m, and 1600m). Having set distances so close to you will motivate you to run them often.

For each interval session, do 20–60 minutes of sprints of any distance, running most sprints at 80% or more of your maximum speed, and taking at least 30 seconds of rest between each. Alternatively, use a heart rate monitor and rest until your heart rate comes down below some number that feels at least “half recovered”. If you finish each sprint a bit out of breath, sweat, and feel a buzz for a half hour or so after, you’ve done them well. Some days, especially if your first set was short, you may be motivated to do a second set later that day or evening, right in front of your house.

Intervals improve your strength, peak power, speed, VO2 max, and even your immune system function. Like long runs, they take more willpower than ordinary exercise, so they make you mentally tougher. A good running coach will have you do interval sessions at least twice a week, to build your power and speed. To maintain your current power and speed as you age, you should commit to doing them at least once a week, especially for the ten weeks prior to your events. Picking certain days for them can motivate you to being consistent with them.

Unfortunately, intervals will also increase your injury rates, so be very careful with them. As Beinhorn would say, listen to your body. If things feel tight or wrong, don’t push it. Run them slower those days instead, or do them another day. For the emerging art and science of interval training, read Loehr and Schwartz’s great The Power of Full Engagement. It will convince you that you want intervals in your training, and in your life.

As a pro tip, whenever you plan to run run twice a day, say a regular run and one set of intervals, or two regular runs or interval sessions, and want to save time, try taking a shower with your shoes on after your first run. It sounds crazy, but it isn’t. Just sit on floor of your standup shower or tub, with your feet outside, first placing the soap within reach, and a towel by your feet. You’ll find it just as refreshing as a regular shower (even more relaxing, as you are sitting down), and you can dry and dress quickly after, if you wear minimalist shoes and pants that slip easily over them. Quick showering like this makes it easier to get in that second run any day you want.

Finally, try to do a day two every week of some kind of cross-training, either doing strength training (as a first priority), yoga, biking, swimming, stretching, tennis, trampoline, roller blading, parkour, or anything else that seems interesting and fun. Overdoing any of these can also cause injury, so be careful with them as well. Listen to what your body and brain craves most on your cross-training days. Joining leagues can be super fun, but don’t let your cross activities knock out of your weekly training runs and intervals. Those are the basic discipline of being a good endurance athlete.

3. Run/Walk/Run during the event, and variable rewards throughout.

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Jeff Galloway is a genius. He found that once your body starts to get stressed, taking brief walking breaks, for 15 seconds to a couple of minutes, every few minutes will greatly reduce your injuries on long runs. Realize that on every walk break you take you are giving yourself a big endorphin hit, for a length of your own choosing. Think of how you feel right after you stop any run — great! Every time you start running again after a brief walk you also build your resolve to keep going until the next break. It’s a great combination.

This Run/Walk/Run strategy will increase your control over and enjoyment of any long run. On races, you’ll meet others using this strategy, and you can synch some of your walk breaks with them, making new friends on the run. When you walk, you also get to truly enjoy the views around you. Your memories of your marathons and ultras, and your motivation to do more of them, will be richer as well.

On my marathons, I presently shoot for 20–60 seconds of walking (usually on the shorter end of that range) after every 5 minutes of exercise. I start taking these every-five-minute breaks as soon as I feel tightness or tiredness in my legs. That might not happen until an hour or so into a long run. This style of running brings self-pacing and self-motivation benefits to your daily life as well. See Galloway’s The Run Walk Run Method for details.

It’s also good to take variable rewards on each break. Most times I take just 20 seconds to relax and enjoy the endorphins, but sometimes I take few minutes. It’s my choice, and I don’t make it until I get there. Sometimes I do a quick muscle massage if a muscle is getting sore, sometimes I’ll stop and stretch against a tree or pole. On long runs, I take an occasional jackpot reward, like an icewater sponge to the head and back at an aid station. Psychologists and casinos know that schedules of both consistent and variable rewards, with a few big “jackpots”, are key to motivating us to do anything.

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When I can, I even take a ten minute wade or swim in a lake or stream, removing my shoes and socks first, to totally refresh my body and legs for at least an hour and a half afterward. Taking a wade or a swim is a great 15 min jackpot reward, perfect for the middle of a marathon or ultra. I’m surprised I don’t see others doing it more often on long runs near lakes and rivers. Use frequent self-administered rewards (walk/eat breaks) and variable and jackpot rewards in your runs, and you will find it is easy to use them to motivate you in your work and life as well.

4. Aerobic max training. MAF training gives speed & endurance in life!

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Another good strategy, for at least one of your training run days, is to run at a speed that keeps your heart rate between 60 and 85 percent of its maximum aerobic rate. This is called Maximum Aerobic Function (MAF) training. To do it, you will have to start out slow, and go slower, especially up hills. Wearing a heart monitor on your chest (best) or wrist (OK) will help you do this, at least at first.

Maffetone’s 180 Formula, 180 minus your age with a few minor mods, is an evidence-based way to find your heart’s max aerobic rate. Running slow like this maximizes your fat burning, and prevent you from getting into oxygen debt (lactic acidosis), with all the microinjuries, muscle soreness, and reduced desire to run the next day that comes with it.

MAF training may seem like you are running too slow, but it isn’t. It’s teaching your heart and body how to get more fit and efficient while it burns fat. The real benefit of MAF training is that it teaches you how to run efficiently, and to relax. At first, your MAF runs will be very slow. But with a Pose running style, no jarring heel strikes, and a relaxed state of mind, you’ll find you can complete your MAF runs faster and faster every month. Make it a game, and try using it on some of your weekly long runs.

On your marathon or ultra, start with a MAF pace for the first half of your event, and you’ll have plenty of mental and physical energy for the second half. You’ll minimize that awful slowdown runners often feel around Mile 20 or so (“the Wall”) in any marathon. Because you started slowly, and ran efficiently, you’ll be able to finish strong.

If you are either overweight or obese, the combination of IF (intermittent fasting, see tip #9) and MAF Training (“IFMAFT”) will rapidly bring your weight down and your fitness up, over just a few months, keeping you injury free the whole time. You’ll feel so good doing both that you’ll want to continue them for life as well. Someone is going to make millions introducing an IFMAFT weight loss program in the US, you watch. For more on MAF, see Phil’s classic, The Maffetone Method: The Holistic, Low-Stress, No-Pain Way to Exceptional Fitness.

5. Hoka Mafates for the event. Go a half size too big. Save your toenails!

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For the event, I recommend Hoka Mafates (aka “clown shoes”), a super thick-soled yet ultra-lightweight shoe. Hokas of all stripes are ideal for your long runs, to keep your feet from getting beat up. The basic rule is you want minimalist shoes to make your feet strong, for daily shorter runs, and clown shoes (with thick padding) for your long runs, to save your feet and legs.

Get your Hoka Mafates a half-size to a full size (my preference) too big, because your feet will swell in a marathon or ultra. You will enjoy being able to wiggle your toes even four to ten hours into a very long run (30–50 miles), even when our feet have swelled up, and oversizing them will keep your toenails from blackening and falling out (be sure to trim your toenails before any marathon or ultra as well).

Again, you don’t want to run in shoes like these for most training runs, as they would make your feet weaker over time. But they are a great distance and recovery shoe. You also want to be careful about rolling your ankles in them at first. If you start to roll, your brain should immediately and automatically tell you to lighten that foot. I rolled an ankle a few times the first year I used them, but my ankles got stronger and my brain smarter. You learn to adapt.

With these magic shoes, a Barefoot + Pose running style, walk breaks, and MAF speed in first half, you can get back to regular runs just a few days after a marathon or ultra (feel free to stay in your clown shoes during the first week of recovery running as well), when many folks will stop running for two weeks or more after their marathons. Remember your consistency of running, along with your weekly long runs and intervals, will all maximize running’s benefits in your life.

6. Injinji toe socks and double-layered Wright socks. No blisters, honest!

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Kudos to Fellrnr for figuring out the ideal antiblister sock combo, Injinji lightweight toe socks, underneath Wrightsock double-layer socks. That two-sock combo will isolate your toes, and give you three thin layers of socks inside your Hokas. I can report no blisters, even on ultras of 50 miles, with only four to five hours a week of training. Thanks!

7. Great shade hat and a mesh shirt with ice pockets. Add ice as needed.

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If there is any chance that it might get hot, either on your long runs or at your event, bring a light, stuffable, shade hat, like Columbia’s Coolhead Catchalot, to keep the sun off your neck and to wick sweat from your temples. You can fold the neck cover under your hat when it isn’t hot.

If it gets hot, be sure to stop at the aid stations and put a cup of ice (ten to fifteen small cubes) under your hat, so it can melt as you run. With this trick, you’ve just made your own portable swamp cooler. It is a lovely feeling! If your head gets too cold, take off your hat and run with it in your hand for a few minutes, while chewing ice. More loveliness!

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For hot days, I also recommend a light-colored, long-sleeve (UV-barrier) wicking mesh shirt, like the Heat Gear T-Shirt by Under Armour. When it gets hot, take off and wet down your shirt in any ice bucket at the aid stations. It helps a lot!

If it gets really hot, you may want to take your shirt off and run with nothing for an hour or two, so bring a small tube of sunscreen too. Mesh tops like the triathlete Craft Kona Body Control top are great for regulating body temp in races.

The Kona even has an ice pocket sewn into it at the neck. If you run in heat a lot, or expect a really hot marathon or ultra, take your mesh shirt and cap to your tailor and get a few ice pockets sewn in at your neck and shoulders, and under your cap, for aid station stops. Line the pockets with a very thin sponge, so that as the ice melts, it cools the sponge, and cold water trickles down your shirt and head. Trust me, it will feel incredible!

8. Mini hydration backpack. Take a sip of icy water every 5 mins. Amazing!

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Get a nice, lightweight, 1.5 or 2 L hydration pack. I like Osprey’s Hydration Packs, as they have a magnetic stay for the bite valve, keeping it easily accessible and yet not flapping around. On your walk breaks, or whenever you feel like you need it, take a few sips, or quite a few, as you prefer. Load up your hydration bladder with water and some ice whenever you need more. Drinking regularly throughout the long run, and taking one or two electrolyte caps every hour or so, will keep you hydrated and peeing well throughout your run.

9. Intermittent fasting. Lose weight and become a ketoadapted beast!

Now we get to two more challenging, but particularly beneficial endurance strategies. I’ve been practicing intermittent fasting (IF) for nine years now, and it’s the single best health decision I’ve made so far in my life.

There are scores of brain, body, and longevity benefits to IF, whether you do it just three days a week (the minimum recommended), or every day (my choice for the last seven years). IF gives you many of the brain and body benefits of exercise, including incredible clarity and focus for the first eight waking hours of your fasts, without taking the time to exercise. You can think of fasting as good stress, or metabolic exercise, for your brain and body.

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Fasting also regenerates your brain and body as well, via ketosis, autophagy, mitochondrial regeneration, a major increase in growth hormone and BDNF (growth hormone for the brain), sex hormones, chaperones, DNA repair, and about twenty other beneficial things. Mike Vandershelden’s The Scientific Approach to Intermittent Fasting is the best book I know summarizing all the benefits of IF.

If you are more than twenty pounds overweight, I’d recommend starting with Julian Whitaker’s Mini-Fast IF Diet, five or more days a week for a year. Basically, just skip breakfast, eat your lunch an hour later than your normal time, and feel free to keep eating whatever you want (at first). You will lose weight and start feeling better every week, as soon as you do that.

After a few months this mini-fasting, you’ll find it easy to do a 19 hour fast (“Fast-5”), with a five hour eating window, if you want even more of fasting’s benefits to your body and brain. My current IF routine is 19 hours a day, seven days a week, the Fast-5 style. I also do occasional 44 hour fasts, for their many proven benefits to brain and body. See Bert Herring’s The Fast-5 Diet and Lifestyle and his Fast-5 support community on Facebook for more.

IF will teach your body how to burn its fat stores, converting them to ketones, any time you are low energy. Ketones are an optimal energy source for your brain, but being fat-adapted also means you can burn your own fat, anytime you are low energy. We all store about two weeks worth of fat energy, at all times, but only a few hours worth of glycogen.

If you have any chronic health issues, like hypertension, high blood sugar, inflammation, angina, pre-Alzheimers, or cancer, consider doing a medically supervised multi-day fast (three days to three weeks) once a year at a clinic like True North. See The Science of Fasting (2016) for more on this truly miraculous therapy. After a year of 15 or 19 hour fasts, you may be ready to try an occasional 44 hour (2 day) fast, a 36 hour fast (Wefa.st’s “Monk fast”), or even 60 hours. The latter is proven to reboot your immune system and make new brain cells in your hippocampus, and will improve your short-term memory for weeks afterward.

I expect more people will start doing IF in coming years, as medicine will very likely not progress anywhere near as fast as we’d like it to. The body is just too complex for us to understand how to manipulate it to reverse most of the complex problems that arise from our lifestyle choice, genes, and aging.

Once you are doing IF weekly, you will become more ketoadapted. Long runs, especially MAF runs, start to become very easy. So do long endurance sessions of any type, whenever you need them, in any other facet of your work and life.

10. Primal lifestyle, dietary ketosis. Plants, good fat, low meat, lower carbs.

Mark Sisson’s The Primal Blueprint was a big advance when it came out in 2009. It gives great guidance for eating, exercising, and living in a way our ancestors likely did for millions of years. It also makes clear that a high-good-fat, moderate protein, low-carb lifestyle is what we want, for both vitality and longevity.

Carbs are the poorest and most dangerous energy source we can use. The excess blood sugars they produce quickly age us and degrade us, and once we get in our 40’s, all the glycation, oxidation, insulin insensitivity, and IGF-1 upregulation, and inflammation that sugars produce really starts hurting our bodies and brains.

Meat and protein are the second most dangerous nutrient. Eat too much protein and your body converts it to sugar as well, via gluconeogenesis.

Good fats (unsaturated PUFAs and MUFAs, not trans fats) are the only nutrient type we can eat with abandon. When we are ketoadapted, they produce ketones, not glucose, as an energy source. Over 70% of our brain, by dry weight, is made up of fats, which is one reason why those daily fish oil supplements are so good for you. The Primal Blueprint will get you down to about 150 grams of carbs a day, and shift you to a diet rich in good fats. Living primal is a great step forward.

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After you’ve been eating, exercising, and living primally for a few years, you may be ready try nutritional (dietary) ketosis, which I recommend, like ultras, for short periods of time. That will require cutting your carb calories to 50 grams a day or less, ideally for three weeks or more at a time. I particularly recommend it, like longer fasts, as a way to “get healthy” again if you’ve been feeling sick.

Dietary ketosis includes eating mainly foods that are high in good fats (avocado, olives, seeds, nuts, nut butters), and taking them on your endurance runs. Sisson and Kearn’s Primal Endurance is an excellent guide to that. Once you are ketoadapted with IF, you can burn mostly fat, your own and any good-fat foods you eat, the whole way through your endurance runs.

Brad Kearns Primal Endurance podcast covers the challenges and benefits of nutritional ketosis. He also makes clear that you want to eat between one and two grams of protein per kg of body weight a day, ideally staying at the lower end of this range. That is a lot less protein than the typical Paleo or Primal eater likes to eat.

It’s one level of challenge to shift away from most meat eating, to eating just a little fatty fish every few days. It’s another to get to 150 grams a day of carbs. It is yet another to get down to just 50 grams a day of carbs. But I recommend all three (the last for just a few weeks at a time). All of these regimes, when combined with IF, will teach your body to eat its own fat in an endurance activity, and give you amazing energy for incredible lengths of time.

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See Phinney and Volek’s The Art and Science of Low-Carbohydrate Performance for another great intro to this exciting and emerging new philosophy of exercise. You can eat carbs on your long runs as a “jackpot” reward at the end, but only eat them when you really start losing energy. If you are ketoadapted, and especially if you are in nutritional ketosis, that will take hours to happen, as you are a fat-burning machine.

Again, after you’ve been ketoadapted for a few months, you will find you can run for hours, at aerobic max, on just water alone, and feel amazing. Doing that is also really good for your body and brain as well, according to Maffetone, Sisson, Kearns, Volek, Phinney, and others in this space. It’s a sad that there’s very little good fat, or even protein, at the typical aid station on an endurance run. The general running community has been very slow to get this message so far, so you’ll just have to pack in your own good fats (see above) and good protein (like eggs, and tuna, smoked salmon, or salmon jerky, if you are pescetarian like me) for your races and training runs, and you’ll have yet another amazing set of rewards to give yourself, any time you choose.

Last Thoughts and Bonus Tip

If you want to get the benefits of running and doing endurance activities your whole life long, make your training, and your endurance runs, as consistent, injury-minimized, and enjoyable as you can. Lots of athletes, aiming for speed and improving their place in the pack, bust up and burn out their bodies and stop doing endurance sports in the second half of their lives.

Don’t be one of those people! Run for life, and use your running to live a long and healthy life! See the big picture, and choose a healthy, long, and high-endurance life. As Brad Kearns says, let your 90 year old athletic self be your mental coach most weeks of your life. That may be the single best sentence of advice I’ve heard yet on running.

Here is a great Lifespan Running Performance Curve from Alan Jones at RunScore.com. It charts Single-Age Bests for males from 7 to 90 for the 10K. A 10K is the maximum distance each of should typically run every day, to stick to the 45/45 Longevity Training Rule mentioned above.

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If you seek consistency with your training, and maximize your enjoyment and mental and physical benefits from it, and get speedy only when it’s easy for you, you will stay on this curve. At 50, you’ll still be beating everyone who isn’t a teenager in 10Ks. At 60, only ten year olds and above will get past you. At 70, your grandkids will have to get into third grade before they can expect to finish ahead of their poppa. Once again, forget about race times, just focus on consistency and enjoyment. Just putting in the effort, while having fun, is your real victory, every week of your amazing life!

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Finally, on the subject of choosing an amazing life, let me close this article with one last book, Tony Robbins’ Awaken the Giant (Within) (1991). Chapter 6 is the best brief read on personal empowerment I’ve yet found, in 40 years of reading such books. That’s the bonus tip.

If you like Chapter 6, consider reading the entire book. It is Tony’s most complex book, one of his first, and the perhaps the best book he’s written yet. Advice like this, if you hear it and follow it, will help you take your life to a whole new level of self-creation and self-discovery. You are the only person who can really be honest, motivating, and nice to yourself, moment by moment. You deserve it! Thanks for reading.

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John Smart is a global futurist, helping people thrive in a world of accelerating change. See his free online book, The Foresight Guide, at ForesightGuide.com.

Need a foresight speaker? Book me at JohnMSmart.com.

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CEO, Foresight University. Author, The Foresight Guide.

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