How To Decide If You Can Skip A Long Run

Susan Donnelly on a long run.

It’s like a dirty secret. 

You're supposed to love it...or at least tough it out...but inevitably there's a week where you simply do NOT want to do that long run.

Even though you know long runs are the bread and butter of an ultrarunner's training. 

And every human on social media is posting photos from their glorious long run through one kind of running paradise after another.

And it feels small and weak to think about blowing it off for nothing more than...lack of motivation.

Should you or shouldn’t you?

It's tough to make the decision without beating yourself up. So, since I just went through this myself, I'm going to share how I made my call with three questions you can use to make a solid decision when you need to. 

Here’s the background: last weekend, I postponed my long run to Sunday but woke up looking for excuses. I felt drained enough to suspect pre-burnout but couldn’t tell for sure.

At the same time, I knew I could push through a run. I’ve done it and almost always felt better for it.

So I asked these three questions to separate smart reasons from lame excuses.

1. Why do I want to skip it? Not excited about the course? Managed my time badly? Nervous about the run?

I have a day job but I didn’t realize until I looked back that I had a colonoscopy on Monday but due to a unique event at said day job, I'd still worked the past 7 days for a total of 70+ hours.

And these were stressful hours spent either in repeating 4-hour team meetings, or in guiding the team effort for success. 

No wonder I was worn out!

2. When was my last race and when is my next? Is this part of recovery or tapering? Can I skip this and still be fit for my next race? When was my last race and when is my next? Is this part of recovery or tapering? Can I skip this and still be fit for my next race?

My last 100-miler was two weekends ago, too long for me to call this recovery. I was considering another 100-miler two weekends ahead and if I did it, I could still squeeze in a decent long run in on the one weekend between and call pre-race week a steep taper. Done that before.

3. How recently have I either skipped a long run or run short instead? Is this a pattern or an isolated incident?

I'd run two short long runs in a row but it had been months since I'd outright blown one off. I could miss this one, but it would be better if I ponied up next weekend for longer mileage or more hills.

Based on my three answers, I skipped the run, finished some postponed yard work, and prepped to make another tough work week with the same team a little easier. It felt good.


And - THIS IS IMPORTANT - once I made the decision, I committed to it 100%. No feeling guilt, or worrying that I was blowing my training, which would have only ruined the good I got from it.

So there you have it.

I hope you get all your long runs in, no problem, but…just in case…keep these questions handy.

The next time you're not feeling up for a long run, you’ll be better able to decide - without guilt - what’s an excuse and what’s an investment in self care.

Susan Donnelly’s signature

PS - Take advantage of the popular Pick My Brain sessions! These single, one-hour, 1:1 sessions are super easy to schedule before a race, easy on the budget, and flexible. Answers, how-to’s, help with a decision, trouble-shooting a problem, or injection of confidence before a race.

Get yours today!