Generally, any race of more than 2000 meters is considered a long distance run.
Competitors do not use starting blocks. Stamina is the most important physical requirement. Like a race car with limited fuel, runners must conserve sufficient energy in order to continue running strongly toward the end of a long race.
What to look for:
Elite runners will often employ teammates as pace-setters. The pace-setter will run at a prearranged pace for as long as he/she can, while the teammate follows, allowing the elite runner to encounter less wind resistance. The pace-setter eventually drops back - unable to maintain the pace for the full race - leaving the elite runner to fend for him/herself for the remainder of the event.
Men's world records:
Best known as the runner who broke the eight-minute barrier in the two-mile (7:58.61), Daniel Komen of Kenya couldn’t qualify for his country’s Olympic team in 1996 – he was fourth in Kenya’s 5000-meter trials – but shortly after the Atlanta Games he shattered Noureddine Morceli's 3,000-meter world record by 4.4 seconds, with a time of 7:20.67, in Rieta, Italy on Sept. 1, 1996.
Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia took two seconds off the 5000-meter record with a time of 12:37.35 set in Hengelo, The Netherlands on May 31, 2004. Kenyan David Kiplak set the pace for about half the race, leaving Bekele to attack the record on his own thereafter. Bekele was more than one second behind the record pace entering the final lap, but finished the lap in 57.85 seconds to earn the prize.
Bekele added the 10,000-meter record to his resume the following year, running 26:17.53 on Aug. 26, in Brussels, Belgium. Bekele’s pace-setter was his brother Tariku, who helped Bekele stay five seconds ahead of the record pace through 5000 meters. Bekele remained ahead of the necessary pace and, as he did when breaking the 5000 record, Bekele finished strong, with a 57-second final lap.
Women's world records:
In a remarkable five-day span in 1993, China’s Wang Junxia set a pair of records that have stood for more than 14 years apiece. On Sept. 8, during the Chinese National Games, Wang slashed 42 seconds off the 10,000-meter record with a time of 29:31.78. On Sept. 13 Wang reduced the 3000-meter record by 16.5 seconds, winning the event in 8:06.11.
Ethiopian Meseret Defar improved her own world record in the 5000 during an IAAF event in Oslo, Norway on June 15, 2007, with a time of 14:16.63. Defar set the previous record one year earlier with help from a pacesetter for the first 3000 meters. At Oslo, however, the pacesetter dropped out after just more than 2000 meters, leaving Defar to run seven laps on her own. Later that year, on Sept. 14, Defar set the women’s two-mile record with an 8:58.58 clocking in Brussels, Belgium.