There and Back Again…5 Ways an Out-and-Back Course Can Help You Nail Your Long Run

Five Ways an Out-and-Back Course Can Help you Nail Your Long Run

Out-and-back: A course that entails running out to a turnaround spot, then running back to the starting point. – Runner’s World


The first time I was brave enough to run outside, I simply ran down the street until my c25k app told me “you are halfway there!”, then I turned around and ran back.  I kept to this same “out-and-back” style of running for quite some time, and it worked well for me.  It wasn’t until later that I started venturing out on other routes, but for my long runs? It’s still my go-to way of running them, and here’s why:

  1. If you go out…you have to come back.  As my runs get longer, I usually end up driving to a nearby pedestrian trail to run them.  It actually used to be a railway system, so it just goes for miles and miles.  Perfect for a long run.  So this means if I run 5 miles from my car…I have to run 5 miles back.  This could backfire if you get injured or something, but if you are just wanting to give up?  It does the trick.  There have been several long runs where I’ve wanted to call it quits, toss in the towel, but since I had to get back to my car I was able to push through those last couple of miles.
  2. You won’t easily get lost.  Because let’s face it…some of us are navigationally challenged.  There’s been a time or two where I’ve deviated from my normal route and spend the whole time thinking about where I was and hoping I’d be able to make it home without adding too much extra onto my run.  With and out-and-back you won’t have to wonder where you are or how to get back because to get back you just turn around!
  3. You don’t have to think about your route.  When training for my last half marathon, I ran a couple of my long runs on the course so I could get familiar with it.  It wasn’t an area I was really familiar with, so I wrote directions down on a note card to carry with me.  I had to pull that thing out constantly to check to see if I was on the right street!  If you run and out-and-back you don’t have to worry about missing your turn or what street to turn on.  It makes it easier to focus on your run.
  4. It makes a longer run seem shorter.  As runners, we are always looking for ways to “trick” our brains so that our runs seem easier.  Well, I am at least 😉 When I’m out on a 10 mile run, I tend to get stuck on the 10 mile aspect of it.  “I’ve gone 2 miles, that means I still have to run 8 more! How will I survive?!”  But if it’s an out-and-back I can break it up into two 5 mile runs and it it doesn’t seem quite as daunting. “I’ve gone 2 miles, that means just 3 more and I can turn around!” “Ok, I’ve turned around and am heading home.  That means I’m almost done!” Whatever works, right?
  5. It can help with pacing.  If you pay attention to things as you run out, it’ll help you on your way back.  When you’re running that first half, you can get a good sense on where your hit the mile marks and how long it took you.  Then on your way back you can keep that in mind and scale your pace accordingly.

What do you think?  Are you a fan of “out-and-back” running?

8 thoughts on “There and Back Again…5 Ways an Out-and-Back Course Can Help You Nail Your Long Run

  1. Yes! I like out-and-back routes too. Mostly because of your last reason…they seem shorter! I’m not a fan of actual races that are entirely on out-and-back courses, but I like races with one short out-and-back section. It helps me to see that I’m not the last person.

    1. Races with an out-and-back section can definitely be nice! It’s always fun to wave and encourage the other runners on the course =)

    1. I didn’t even think about it being good for group runs! That’s the way my MRRT group runs always are too, it’s definitely nice for those of us who who are in the back =)

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