THE [ l o n g ] run
Love it or hate it. Bane or bliss. Impossible or possible. Dread it or embrace it.
It doesn’t matter what your “long run” distance is – the long run is a whirlwind of emotion. You have the lead up – it’s scheduled, you know it’s coming [cue: a minor freak out or two]. Then you have the day of the run, the run itself, and after the run. Because, yes, you are going to complete the long run, no matter how many times the two words that should never EVER be used come out of your mouth [“I can’t..”].
[My first long run of the week comes on Wednesday – the second and third, come on Saturday and Sunday. Yes, the life of an ultra runner. But, let me tell you something friends, the long run distance doesn’t really matter – let’s be real, we all, at one point or another experience the same things. We all feel the same long run anxieties. We all feel the same long run bliss. We all feel the same long run challenges. We all tackle a long run in our training routine. And, while the long run may be a little bit different in the world of crazy [otherwise titled as, ultra running] if you are a marathon runner, half marathon runner or just a runner – I bet you will value some of these things too. ]
10 Things I’ve Learned About THE [ l o n g ] run
[read with caution –the scattered thoughts, accumulated from many, many long runs]
1. Anxieties. They subside. Believe me they do. But, I won’t tell you that they go away. Sometimes you are giddy with excitement, other times you are, simply put, stressed by the thought of the miles. Sometimes the anxieties appear the day before the long run, sometimes it’s merely a couple hours before the long run. Either way, tell these anxieties to back off – you’ve got this. Whatever the scheduled distance is, you put one foot in front of the other and, do it. Use the fear, the anxiety, and the what if’s as motivation to go out and conquer. Think warrior [princess].
2. Get It Over With. Commit to run at an early time, if you can fit this in your schedule of course. But, the earlier you get it over with, the better. At some point in your running career, you have to tackle the long run. And, the only way to tackle it, is to get out there and do it. Stop procrastinating. It’s an amazing experience [for all the good and the bad].
3. Overestimating Distance. Why do we do this…? It’s like watching the treadmill mileage creep. We’ve only gone 3 miles…? I thought we were half way done by now. 5 miles SOMETIMES feels like 10 miles. And, when you have only run 20 minutes and you realize you still have 3+ hours to go, well, that can be mentally exhausting. It happens. The long run, is LONG. This is when it’s time to sync your running legs, heart and mind and just get in that running groove. Truth: watching time and distance creep by won’t make the long run go by any faster.
4. Small Goals. Small check points. Make these your best friend. Remember this – you only have to make it until the next tree or telephone pole or whatever landmark you choose. Two more miles and you are already halfway there. You just have one more mile to the turn around point. These small goals, break up the long run – it suddenly becomes a lot easier to tackle. Because we can all run 1 mile or 2 miles, or heck, I’ve even broke it down to 50 feet at a time (it all adds up to – long). WHATEVER. IT. TAKES.
5. Forget the Pace. I said it, stop with the constant, eyes to wrist contact. The pace should be relaxed. That may mean walking/power hiking the uphill, that may mean a walk/run pattern or that may mean breaking for a very short period if needed. Especially in the ultra world, your body needs to adjust to the long, slow[er] run. Time on feet friends, time on feet.
6. Play Your Own Mind Games. The good kind. The long run is mental. It’s almost more mental than physical. And, I can’t tell you how to get through it. (If that is what you were hoping for, I sincerely apologize). Different techniques work for everyone, but I will tell you, you must have techniques. And, you must practice them. When your mind wants to quit, how do you tell it to keep going? Rally motivation, do crazy things – once, I spent race hours and miles through the woods counting to 1000. I told you, ultra runners, are a little bit crazy.
7. Conserve Your Energy. Shorten your stride. Use a walk/run method. Stay conversational. This is about learning. Learn what works for you. That means where you can push, where you should conserve, and where you may struggle to just move forward. It’s a time to prepare – test your gear, test the fuel you need for energy – soak it up, take it all in. It’s better to start to figure it out on a long run, than on race day.
8. Create Entertainment. Find a playlist that motivates you. Find a podcast that you haven’t had time for…yet. Find friends to join in on the crazy. Enjoy the scenery. Be happy to be out and running. How you can distract yourself from the task at hand sometimes makes all of the difference. [I find my hardest long runs, to be the ones I tackle alone – hence, why I count down the days to my weekend long runs with Jesse, and sometimes dread Wednesday].
9. Plan the Route. Run out and back. Run loops. Park you car at a good halfway point. When you run loops, out and back, or have a set mapped plan – you can trick your mind into shorter distances than looking at the big picture. [And, no one wants to feel lost on long run day.]
10. Celebrate. Celebrate the little victories. I mean it, celebrate the long run. You made it. Not everyone can say they went on a long run today. You should be proud of what you just accomplished. Your confidence builds with each long run completed. Now, go refuel. Your body needs it. [And, remember to congratulate your friends on their long run achievements too – positive energy goes a long way].
side note — 10 isn’t really enough (I generate a lot of thoughts over the course of a long run), but I will stop at 10 for today and pick this up again at another point. I bet you can relate to a lot of these things. Stop and think about what the long run means to you.
For me? The long run is arguably the most important part of my training routine as I prep for a REALLY long run in March, it is an important training component for any runner. It is mental training as much as it is physical – and, friends, this is extremely important. You can do hard things.
You have to learn to keep a positive mind when the going gets tough – in running and life.
If you can find one way to enjoy the long run, well, you’ve accomplished something pretty amazing. Think about this – you will probably spend a lot more time practicing the long run then you will ever spend racing, so you may as well embrace it with a smile on your face. Remember, you will make it to the end, you always do.