My brother-in-law runs multiple half marathons and shorter races throughout each year. Living in the Las Vegas desert, where temperatures exceed 100°F (38°C) through most of the year, long runs are impractical.
You can’t run outside in such extreme heat for more than half an hour, not even in the morning (as temperatures don’t drop below 80°F many days, and that’s already rather hot for running). And running 10+ miles on a treadmill, if the gym will even allow it, isn’t psychologically feasible for most.
So how does he train for half marathons? He runs halfs at around 1:40, so he clearly gets in excellent shape for them. But he attests he certainly doesn’t do long runs.
So what does my brother in law do?
Here’s how he outlined it for me (and I’m describing this some in my words rather than his):
On a long run day, he’ll run 12 miles. But, he obviously doesn’t do long runs.
First, he runs a 4 miler early in the morning, at a comfortably hard pace. This would be a typical quality tempo run for many experienced runners. This might even be (and probably is) his race pace for the half marathon.
In the early afternoon, maybe around lunch or so, he goes on another 4 mile run. This however is just a regular run, what a runner may do on a fun run with a group. It may be a feisty moderate pace, or a bit easier, depending on his mood. He’s not necessarily going hard, but it’s not a slacking effort.
Later, towards the evening, he takes a final 4 mile run. This is as easy and comfortable as he wants to run, like a recovery run or an interval jog between hard reps. He’s just looking to get miles in at this point, as comfortably as he can.
By the end of the day, he’s run 12 miles, even though he didn’t do it all in an uninterrupted run. Though he runs regularly as most do throughout the rest of the week… many would argue he’s not properly, aerobically preparing himself for the distance.
His consistent, high quality results in half marathons and other shorter race distances say otherwise.
This may be the perfect template for longer distance training (10Ks and longer) in locales with routine extreme weather, whether extreme heat or extreme cold.
Since it may not be reasonable to do the needed long runs in one go, your best bet becomes to break the needed mileage into shorter chunks that are completed throughout the day.
This can come in handy not just for runners in hot conditions, but for Chicago runners and others who deal with extreme winter conditions. Many can comfortably handle a 10+ mile run in extreme cold, but others find that too daunting.
Not only could it be easier to break a long run in extreme cold into shorter 3-6 mile runs throughout the day, but ironically all that repeated exercise in the cold could help warm you up. Repeated exercise will boost your circulation, as well as better acclimate you to the conditions, helping keep you warmer once you’re under shelter.
The obvious caveat is that doing this takes discipline. You need to be willing to go outside and run multiple times per day. It needs to be easy and do-able for you logistically.
If getting yourself out the door to run is in itself a chore, then you have much bigger challenges to address than getting your mileage in.