Dear Dumb Runner,
Sometimes I cannot fit an entire long run into the day, so, for example, I will run 5 miles in the morning, then 3 after school, and another 3 in the evening. Does this still "count" as a long run in terms of the benefits of distance training?—Emily, Mendham, NJ
Here's how I initially answered your question:
Ideally, it's best to do your long run all at once—e.g., if you have 15 miles on the schedule, go out and run 15 miles. Certainly this is the best way to go about it if you're training for something, because that's how you race. (You don't break your race up into two or three segments and do it at different times of day.) Part of what we learn to do during long runs is to manage our energy wisely. Also to run, during the latter miles, when we're tired. That's all invaluable for race day.
If you aren't training for an event, per se, I think it's fine to break a long run into two or three shorter ones. And even if you are training for a race, doing this every once in a while is perfectly fine. It is not going to wreck the rest of your training.
Most important: If you realize you won't be able to fit your entire long run into your schedule on a given day, doing it in segments is ABSOLUTELY better than skipping it altogether. Life is messy sometimes. Things get in the way. That's OK. You do what you can and you move on.
Super-short answer: You'll be fine!
I stand by that answer.
You know what, though? The more I thought about this, the more I realized there's a much simpler answer. And that answer is this:
Meaning, who cares whether the scenario you describe technically constitutes a long run? You're diligent enough to run THREE TIMES in one day? Just to ensure you get your mileage in? Who else does that, but a badass?
And you're conscientious enough to even think about this, much less to ask someone about it?
Emily, you are more than fine. You are golden.
Good luck with your training.