Posts Tagged by long run

This is Your Brain on 20 Miles

Yesterday I ran my first 20-miler of this training cycle. No matter how many times I’ve covered the distance, 20 miles always feels really far. Seriously – what is it about the 20 mile distance that makes it feel so much longer than a run of say, 18 miles? I ran 18 a few weeks ago and felt great. Ran 20 yesterday and was wiped out for the rest of the day. Exhausted, sick (well that may have been more to do with my choice of fuel than anything else…more on that in a minute), and unmotivated to do much else but lie on the couch. Funny how 2 measly little miles can make a world of difference.

Anyway…anyone who has ever run 20 miles knows that you don’t just go out and do it. Well, most of us non-elite recreational runners don’t. There’s the build up, the preparation, and then (typically) the roller coaster of emotions to keep you company for the 3ish hours of running. Running 20 miles is a process, a journey.

So, for your enjoyment here’s a glimpse inside the mind of someone who approaches these super long runs with a bit of trepidation.

Reader Warning: Proceed with caution. The following litany of crazy is real. Yes, all these things were really going through my mind yesterday. And yes, I talk to myself during runs. Doesn’t everyone?

Scene: Sunday morning. 7 am. Up, making coffee and toast, obsessively checking the weather.

Why is it only 26 degrees out there? What happened to the beautiful spring weather we had at the end of the week?

Ugh that wind sounds awful. And it’s raining. I think I have a stomachache. Oh no…I’m feeling sick. How am I going to get through 3 hours of running feeling like this? My legs are too tired. And it’s cold. And windy. Maybe I should wait until Monday…

IMG 1024My slight mental exaggeration of the conditions outside as I procrastinated the start of my 20 mile run

3 hours later… (10:00ish am). FINALLY ready to go. Head out in a direction I rarely run to mix it up a little bit.

Yikes! It’s colder out here than I thought. Cold rain, cold wind…maybe shorts wasn’t the best option?

Okay, calm down and shut up. Just run one mile at a time. You can loop back by the house to change in a few miles if you have to.

Woohooo! Never mind. This whole “start downhill” thing is awesome. I’m flying! I love running! Why don’t I run this way more often??

One minute later, a truck comes careening around the corner forcing me to jump into a ditch. Oh yeah, that’s why….

Mile 1: 7:48

Oops. So much for the whole start slow strategy. But this just feels sooo good!

Miles 2 – 4 all clock in under 8:00/mile.

Oh! I’m already at the bridge (my planned turnaround point)! Those 4 miles flew by! I love running so much! Okay – let’s keep going. Just run to the center of the next town and then you can turn around.

Miles 5 – 7. Still holding a sub-8 pace without much effort.

Yikes that wind is really bad. At least I’ll have a tailwind coming back, right? Maybe all the wind will blow some of these clouds away. It’ll be nice to see the sun…

Oh a hill! Where did that come from? Wow…look at this view. I don’t care about the traffic, this run is amazing!  I should’ve just planned to run out this way the whole time. Is it too late to call Evan and ask him to pick me up 20 miles from home? I don’t think I want to turn around.

550I’M SO HAPPY!! RUNNING IS MY FAVORITE!

(Source - side note: you should probably click that link. Gold mine of happy cat and dog pictures)

Get to the center of town, resign myself to heading back in the other direction. Pace immediately drops.

Ummm…did I really run down all these hills? No wonder I was feeling so good on the way out. I swear the road was flat just a few minutes ago…

WTH is up with this wind?! Why isn’t it at my back? I guess I should take some sort of fuel, maybe that’ll help me feel better.

Pull out the Margarita flavored Clif Shot Bloks that I stuffed in my pack that morning after a frantic search for Gu came up short (note to self: be better prepared next time!).

Margarita shot blocks

Nastiness in chewable form

Ugh. These things are the worst! How do people chew and run at the same time?! My teeth. Everything is stuck together. OMG I might gag. This flavor. Why did I think I’d like the taste of margaritas while running?!?!  Oh this is so so gross. Okay, fine, I’ll choke down one more and then these things are going away. (I am clearly not overdramatic or anything…)

Seriously, why do these things exist? They need to invent some sort of fuel that just dissolves on your tongue. Like a breath strip! Oh I’m totally going to invent that! I’m going to be the hero of runners everywhere. And will surely make millions. Enough with this chewing while running crap. It takes too much energy.

Hmmm…I guess that’s sort of why they invented Gatorade. No chewing, gives you calories and electrolytes. But Gatorade is nasty. Who wants to run with that crap? Nope, I’m getting to work on this Fuel Strip idea as soon as I get home!

Oh I love this song! Florida Georgia Line + Nelly should be so wrong, but it’s ohso right.

Finally back at the bridge. 10 miles in 1:18…I’ve slowed down, but still keeping a decent pace, all things considered.

Oh my gosh, the sun! I can’t believe it. Rain jacket off, arm warmers pushed down. This is the best and most wonderful day for running. Look at that river. And those mountains! Oh I just love Vermont.

DSC 0029Not really my view from Saturday. But a perfect representation of why I #lovermont

2 miles later…

I’m hungry. Shouldn’t I be back at the house by now? Maybe I should choke down another one of those awful Shot Bloks. Ugh. Or maybe I should just practice without the extra fuel. You know, to run with depleted glycogen stores or something…

NO. That’s stupid. I’m hungry and I’m tired and this wind is pissing me off. Why hasn’t it been at my back this whole time? Am I going crazy??

IMG 1084It was around this time that I started fantasizing about having lunch at my favorite local cafe

Choke down another Shot Blok.

Ugh. I never want to eat these things again. Barf.

Oh but what should I have for lunch when I get back? Crap, I’m hungry. I guess that’s what I get for starting the run around 10:00. How many miles do I have left to run?? {mild panic attack} Ahhh don’t think about that. Just make it back to the house. Focus on one section of this run at a time.

Finally! Back in town! Why did the way back feel soooo much longer than the way out? Oh but I love this view coming into town. It’s so beautiful here. I’m really going to miss it.

{Cue dramatic, emotional mental montage of all the good times we’ve had in this town. Complete with sappy music, of course.}

Hello house! Why did I think running by home during a 20 mile run was a good idea again?!

Throw windbreaker (should also throw arm warmers that have been pushed down to my wrists but feeling way too lazy to get them off).

Miles 15 – 17. Down a familiar stretch for the final miles.

WTH is up with this wind?! It’s getting worse! How have I only run 14 miles at this point? I feel like I’ve been running forever. All that stupid uphill. Now I remember why I don’t run that way…

Okay – focus. Just 3 miles. Past the farm that you wish you could buy and around the corner. You’ve done this run 1 million times. You can do it again. Don’t think about how far. Just think about getting through this next mile. And then you only have 2 more…until you turn around.

AHSLKDFHDSLKHF this wind! Doesn’t it ever stop gusting?? Why did I decide to run in this direction? Am I even moving forward? I want to cry. Or punch someone. I’m gonna punch Wind in its stupid face. Or maybe I’ll just lie down here on the side of the road. That would be nice… I wonder how long it would take for someone to find me.

I’m still hungry. Those stupid nasty Shot Bloks did nothing. I wonder if Evan is waiting for me to eat lunch. Just a few more miles until I can eat all the food! Gah I can’t wait to eat! And foam roll. My feet sure are hurting. So much pounding.

Finally – the turnaround point!! I see it. Maybe I could just turn around a little early. I mean, does 0.2 miles REALLY make that much of a difference?

I swear if I turn around and don’t feel the wind at my back I’m going to scream. I seriously want to murder somebody right now.

hurricane against the windThis is basically what I felt like. Obviously not an exaggeration at all.

Miles 18 – 20. Tailwind. FINALLY!

This is amazing!!! Downhill. Wind at my back. Oh! Macklemore. Can’t [nobody] Hold ME! Put this on repeat. It’s bringing me home.

Oh – look at that cyclist heading toward me. He’s clearly struggling against this wind. At least I know it wasn’t all in my head. This wind is no joke! Sucks to be you right now, buddy.

Look at that pace! You’re flying! Oh I love this tailwind. And this sun! And Vermont! Let’s see how fast you can finish this thing.

Okay – push up the final hill. Don’t let the pace drop now. You’re almost there. Just hang on….

7:11 final mile baby!! BOOFREAKINGYA! I love running!

And then I proceeded to sit on the back deck for a very very long time, until my hunger finally motivated me to get up and shower.

Long run conquered.

Unfortunately my post-run high was short-lived. I spent the rest of the day battling some major, not blog-worthy digestion issues. I’m blaming the margarita shot blocks (consider yourself warned!!). I’ll stick to Gu from here on out, thanks. Or, you know, the yet-to-be-invented Fuel Strip. It’s the wave of the future, I’m telling you.

Fuel strips promo

Getting My Head Straight

Lately I’ve been doing most of my long runs on the same out and back section of road. Every weekend it’s the same. Head out along the road that I’ve come to know like the back of my hand, get to the turning point, and then head back the way I came.

IMG 0885Not the road…and clearly not a recent photo

I’ll be honest with you – it can get pretty monotonous. I know every stretch, every turn, exactly how far I have to go before I can head back toward home. The scenery is always the same and the hills are never changing. Sometimes the way out seems to drag on forever and I spend the entire run counting down the minutes until I can finally turn around.

I really make it sound so appealing, don’t I? I know what you’re all thinking — if I find it so monotonous, why the heck do I keep submitting myself to this form of torture?

Because the truth is that running along the same road week after week provides consistency. And for most of this training cycle, that consistency has been the only thing that gave me the confidence I needed to make it through long runs.

I don’t really know why, but confidence is something that I have really struggled with this time around. Whereas in the past, I sometimes failed to give certain runs the respect they deserved [“Oh, it’s ‘only’ 15 miles. I don’t need to worry about silly things like getting enough sleep, fueling, carrying water, or really think about the fact that I have to run for 2 hours without stopping!”], I now find myself with the complete opposite problem. Every single long run just seems so intimidating. I sit there in the morning stressing about the distance. Psyching myself out before I even take one step.

This all culminated before my recent 18-miler. I was so freaked out about the run that I kept putting it off…and almost backed out of doing it altogether. This was not your typical pre-long run anxiety — you know that mix of excitement and nerves that comes from not quite knowing how your body is going to feel that day. A feeling that boosts your adrenaline and can actually help propel you through the long run, because ultimately you’re just excited about the challenge and can’t wait to see how it’ll go.

I’m embarrassed to admit that this fear was quite literally crippling. That one run seemed like such an insurmountable challenge that I was ready to give up on VCM right then and there. Forget spring marathons…forget marathon training at all. I would focus on shorter races. Or maybe I would just retire from racing. Clearly I’m not cut out for it.

Believe me, I realize how silly and over-dramatic this all sounds. Typing it out now only makes it seem more ridiculous. But in the moment, I just couldn’t get out of my own head. I somehow forgot about one very important detail: this whole running thing is not my career. It’s not even a side job. It’s merely a hobby that I enjoy…and one at which I sometimes pretend to be mildly talented.

So after a few days (no, seriously…days) of freaking out about this run — a run that no one was forcing me to do or even cared if I completed — I finally was able to talk myself down from the ledge. By telling myself of two things:

1.) All you need to do is run ONE MILE at a time. That’s it. Get out the door. Put one foot in front of the other and run. If you only make it 5 or 10 or 15 miles, who cares. Just run one mile. And when you complete that one, run another. You don’t know how you’re going to do until you try.

2.) You finished a run along this same road last week. You did it before and you can do it again. All you have to do is run one more mile out…and then you can turn around. What’s one mile? Nothing.

These two tiny assurances completely turned the run around for me. As I mentioned in my last post, that 18 miles ended up being the best run I’ve had in a long time. And by far the best long run of this current training cycle. It’s amazing what happens when you stop being a crazy mental-case runner and start cutting yourself a little slack. Who would’ve thought…

I can’t say that the self-doubt has completely gone away. It’s still work to get my head straight — to keep my confidence up. But now, when I feel myself getting nervous about a run or a workout, I try to take a step back and remind myself that it’s just running. All I can do is go out and give it my best shot. And instead of focusing on what I can’t do or paces that I’m not hitting, I repeat two simple lines over and over again to get me through a particularly difficult or intimidating stretch.

i am strong i am able running mantra

I AM STRONG.

I AM ABLE.

Six words of reassurance. Six words that silence the doubt. Six words that are helping me keep my head straight…most of the time, anyway.

A Matter of HEART

This past week, I finally had the opportunity to travel to South Florida to meet my little niece who was born during Hood to Coast weekend.

LBsquared helloLB + {little}LB. I really was this excited.

For the past 7 weeks, I’ve been listening my sister tell tales about how Leah is the best baby in the entire world. I figured she had to have been exageratting…or at least way too biased to be able to say. One look at this little girl, however, and I knew that the claims were true. She was even more beautiful in person than in photos and had such a sweet personality that I wanted to kidnap her and bring her back to VT with me (minus that whole felony thing). It’s safe to say that this little peanut stole my heart.

…even though she wasn’t exactly thrilled with the hand-knit watermelon hat her Uncle Evan and I picked out for her.

LBsquared hatLeah isn’t so sure she wants to be a part of #teamwatermelon

little peanutHer torso is about the length of my hand. So tiny!

The downside to being in Florida over the weekend was that it meant I’d have to do my last super long run of marathon training away from home. When I first tried to get myself pumped up for this run, I told myself I was in for a treat. I figured that after months of running up and down mountains, my legs would love the pancake-flat terrain.

Only…October in Florida is hot. And super humid. Plus, I somehow managed to forget many of my long run essentials at home – including any sort of water carrying device and all but one gel that just happened to have still been in my backpack from #VTcheeseparty a few weeks ago.

As if I wasn’t already thrown off enough, I woke up before the sun on Sunday morning to 77 degrees and 85% humidity. I debated putting the run off, only to experience a brief moment of panic when I checked the forecast for the next couple of days and saw more of the same. My second thought was to push the run back until I got home on Thursday (today), but with NYC less than 3 weeks away, I knew that wasn’t the best plan. I needed to just suck it up and get this thing done.

So as the sun started rising over my sister’s quiet neighborhood, I set out for what I knew was going to be a very (very) long run.

The second I stepped outside, a wall of humidity hit me in the face. I ran one 5.5 loop around the neighborhood without water before stopping back at the house to pick up the waterbottle that I’d need to carry in my hand for the next 15 miles. 40 minutes into the run and I was already completely drenched.

My plan was to run down to the water (about 5 miles away), run along the ocean-side bike path for a few miles, and turn around and head home. It was flat, I had the beautiful ocean as motivation and some new songs on my iPod to keep me pumped up. I told myself that 15 miles was nothing…and 7.5 miles out before the turn-around point would fly by. I could do that any day of the week.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that this run would test every single ounce of willpower I had. I debated stopping a million times in the first hour. The only thing that kept me going was the thought of having to attempt it all over again. The thought of starting the long run from scratch the next day was worse than continuing to power through.

My original goal was to run 22 miles. I covered 20.4…and barely even made it that far.

But I got it done.

I didn’t complete this under-fueled, over-heated long run out of sheer enjoyment, or because I just love running so very much.

Not because I wanted the bragging rights, or the “carb-feasting” rights, or the “sit on my butt and do nothing for the rest of the day” rights.

Not because I felt as though I was being so “OMG-inspirational” for finishing a run under tough conditions.

I didn’t run those miles for the glory, or because I find some sort of strange pleasure in pain.

I didn’t even run all those miles because I believed that running over 20 miles vs. just 18 or 19 was going to make some huge physical difference on race day.

I covered 20.4 slow and painful miles for one reason — because on November 4th, I am going to need every single ounce of mental strength I have to make it to the finish.

(…the thought of this waiting for me as soon as I was done helped too.)

cb poolAll long runs should end in a pool

It’s no secret that my training for NYCM has been less than ideal. Starting from a base of 0 miles is not the best way to work up to a PR marathon, nor is it really all that advisable. Over the last 3.5 months of training, I’ve had many ups and downs; losses and gains.

But I’ve run marathons before. Physically, I know my body can cover the distance. Even if I run slow (or walk part of the way), I know that I will make it to the finish. IF I can find a way to believe, that is.

“Keep your head up. Keep your heart strong” (via Ben Howard). That’s been my motto for this training cycle. When runs have felt slower, harder, and more impossible than they have before, I find myself listening to that song over and over again. Hanging onto that phrase like a lifeline.

That motto has pushed me through tempo runs, up long hills, and most recently, through 20 miles in scorching heat and oppressive humidity.  Every run that I complete is a run that trains my body and my heart. It gives me the strength to keep pushing when the going gets tough and never give up, even when my body starts breaking down.

Mentally tough, physically strong.

words to run by

On marathon day, I may not run the fastest or best race of my life. But I will run with heart. And considering the circumstances, that’s about all I can ask for.

When 7 Miles Feel Like 20

As so often happens after big race weekends, I came back from Hood to Coast with high hopes. The relay gave my running confidence a huge boost, and spending a weekend surrounded by runners usually leads to one thing — the desire to run more.

HTC_vanessa_lauren_caroline.jpg{Picture via Caroline}

Unfortunately my big plans about upping the mileage and diving head first back into training didn’t exactly play out. Because Hood to Coast knocked me out in the worst way, and it seems to be taking me weeks to recover.

I guess that’s what happens when you fly to another coast and run a race on zero sleep that you really aren’t in ideal shape for, faster than you have any business running. But that hasn’t exactly lessened my frustration over the fact that my body doesn’t seem to be bouncing back as quickly as I would like.

I tried to be patient at first. The day after I got home from HTC, I came down with a severe respiratory infection. That, combined with high levels of exhaustion, forced me to take off more days than I actually ran. I told myself to relax and just embrace the recovery, figuring that I would re-structured my plan to get back into it after a few days.

htc finish line party.JPGI guess my body needs extra time to recover from this level of excitement… (Thanks Robyn!)

I’m sure you can guess where this is going…

Last week started off well enough. I had a few great runs early in the week and was excited to attempt some speed. So last Thursday I set off for a 7 mile tempo run, eager to get my legs moving again. Sadly, however, my legs weren’t feeling that same excitement.

I felt like my legs were filled with lead right from the start, and my slow warm up did nothing to loosen them up. In the end, my planned tempo run basically became two fast miles sandwiched in between {what felt like} a death march. I tried to pick up my pace twice, both times with the same result. I would start off feeling okay, like I might be able to hold a quick pace for a few miles. But by a half mile in I was overcome with the sensation that every ounce of my energy was literally seeping out of my legs. It was as though I had holes in my skin. With every step that I took, all my speed and strength were just pouring out onto the pavement. It was an unsettling feeling that quickly left me doubting that I’d even make it home. Somehow I convinced myself to hang on for the remainder of that first fast mile before I gave myself permission to slow down again. I jogged the next mile, stubbornly decided to give the speed one more effort, and promptly failed…yet again.

At this point in the run my new plan became to just finish the dang thing without walking. My 7 mile run (which, at this point in training, shouldn’t be that hard) may as well have been 20. As I shuffled along during those last couple of miles, I lost touch with all rational thought. I told myself that I’d probably never be able to run fast again. It didn’t matter that I’d just raced HTC…my prime was most certainly over and I may as well just accept it now.

And then I began having flashes of myself lying helpless on the side of the road for hours before a random passerby came to rescue me…

Like I said, just a tad bit dramatic. And although I did feel better after my run (and made it home alive and unscathed), the rest of the week didn’t improve. A few awful recovery miles on Friday left me feeling wiped out. By the time the weekend rolled around, I was congested, nauseous and exhausted. My little family went for a short hike on Saturday morning and I found my heart rate soaring with the tiniest incline. I was out of breath and having a hard time keeping up.

This was about when my spirit broke. I came home and spent a long time lying on the couch feeling sorry for myself. Sunday morning, instead of waking up early to try my long run, I slept through both Evan and my alarms and woke up after 10 am feeling discombobulated. I skipped the run again, and instead spent the day perfecting my recipe for homemade Italian bread (so at least I accomplished something, right??)

homemade rustic italian bread

I wish I could say that I woke up this morning feeling like a brand new woman. But despite the promise of a new week that brought with it the perfect running weather, I did not. I knew that it was important for me to just get out there and run whatever I could manage, even if that meant I couldn’t run long. So I made a plan – I’d do a couple out and back routes, and see how far my legs would take me.

I ended up covering 12 miles. It wasn’t fast, and it certainly wasn’t quite the same as the 17 that I had scheduled (though it took enough out of me to have been!). But it was something. 

I spent this morning’s run doing a lot of reflecting…trying to figure out what the heck is going on with me lately and (more importantly) how I can make it better. I know I need to give myself a bit of a break. Sometimes you don’t bounce back from things as quickly as you would like. As much as I wish I was feeling stronger at this point in my marathon training, I have to remember that I’m only working off of two months of running — after almost 4 months of essentially doing nothing but sit on my butt. It feels like I’m making excuses for myself, but oh well…

At the very least, these past couple of weeks have served as good reminders. First, that my speed is still there. It may be tucked away most of the time, but when I need it (like for relay weekends), it’s hiding in reserves ready to come out. Second, my strength is not. Which brings me back to my initial goal all over again. The main point of this training cycle is to build up endurance. To become a stronger runner. I am not going to get to the starting line of NYCM in the best shape of my life, but that is okay. I need to focus on building up the miles and getting myself as ready as can I can be in the time that I have.

I also clearly need to start taking better care of myself. By getting more rest, eating better, taking vitamins, and letting go of some of the stress I’ve been internalizing over the past month. If nothing else, these crappy runs have been a wake up call that I can’t just float my way through training this time around.

This weekend I’ll try running long again. That’s all I can do, day after day. Just keep on keeping on. And really, when it comes down to it, this important truth (which I tweeted last week after my disastrous tempo run) is why I keep on running day after day, week after week, year after year:

Even if the run sucks or workouts don’t go as planned, I always feel better on days that I run than days that I don’t.

Always. always. always. AMEN.

A Super Scientific Look at the Difficulty of Long Runs

Yes, I know. That title is amazing. I am currently for hire as a “blog title writer.” Gotta make extra money for that wedding, you know.

Fact #1: Long runs are tough.

Fact #2: The difficulty of long runs does not increase at the same rate as their length. With each mile that you add, the difficulty of that run increases exponentially.

Fact #3: This is why, even after 6 complete cycles of marathon training, runs over 16 miles still freak me out. No matter how many times I tell myself, “No big deal. You’ve done this before,” those runs are just plain tough. And they take a certain amount of psyching myself up to get through.

In order to illustrate the above phenomena, I have created the following scientifically accurate and completely to scale graph. Based on my extensive marathon experience and research, of course.

Level of difficulty of long runs by long run distance on a scale between Sleeping and Death.

Long Run Difficulty Graph.png

No, I haven’t actually come close to dying on a long run. But since those distances make me feel like death, it seemed to be an appropriate scale.

Let’s talk about the long run for a little bit. That critical part of marathon training that can make us feel so amazing (“I can’t believe I ran so far!!”) and so awful at the same time.

I am not the type of runner who can just go out and run for several hours like it’s nothing. But at this point in my running life, I have a decent enough base that runs of an hour or so don’t even make me blink. An hour and half makes me think a little harder about my nutrition and how rested I feel going in. Two hours of running can be tough, but still enjoyable. But longer than that? I start to panic just a little bit.

There’s just something about knowing that I will be out there running for over two hours that makes my heart start racing. Two hours is a really long time. And three? Why do people even do such a crazy thing?!

I’m not sure why I experience these anxiety attacks before my long runs. Even though I’ve done it all before, any run that is longer than 15 miles makes me feel as though I’m about to take on something big. A little bit of nervous energy can be a good thing. That extra adrenaline can help carry you through for a little while. But sometimes, the amount of anxiety I feel before a really long run can be almost crippling.

This past week, I was scheduled to run 18 miles. A distance that I’ve successfully completed many times…and that is still 8.2 miles shorter than an actual marathon. Despite all this, I couldn’t escape the thought that 18 miles was a really long way – especially compared to the 15 I had run a couple of weeks ago (increasing from 10 to 13 miles – not so bad. Increasing from 15 to 18 miles, on the other hand, feels huge). For whatever reason, I couldn’t seem to wrap my head around the distance.

So in situations like these, I do the simplest thing possible to take myself down from “Don’t Die! Don’t Die! Don’t Die!” to a much more manageable, “I Love Running” or “Hurts so Good” level. I split the run up

Sometimes the split is purely mental. I divide the run into loops, and concentrate on the mileage of one loop at a time. Because a loop of 10 miles and one of 8, or three loops of 6 miles sounds way better than one long run of 18.

Sometimes the split is physical. Whether you incorporate a race into your long run, or do some inside and some on the treadmill, sometimes looking at your long run as a set of distinct shorter runs strung together can make it seem a lot less intimidating.

On my 18-miler, I needed to give myself an actual physical split. I ran 8 miles outside to the gym, hopped on the treadmill for 5 miles, and then ran 5 miles back home. This not only helped me focus on one chunk at a time, but it also made the run feel shorter. I kept telling myself that the mindless 5 miles I would run on the treadmill were easy and would be over in no time at all. So all I needed to focus on was running to the gym and then running a short 5 miles back home. As you probably could’ve guessed, in reality those 5 miles on the treadmill didn’t exactly feel like nothing. They weren’t awful, but they also didn’t go by as quickly as the 8 miles before them. And by 4 miles in, I was dying to get off that thing. By mile 5, I was glad that I had limited the treadmill section of my run to just 40 minutes.

After that, my only focus was on running home. I stopped thinking about the miles I had already done and those I had yet to cover, and just thought about my end goal. The last few miles were tough, as I had expected they would be, but I made it. And more importantly – I cleared a huge mental hurdle by reminding myself that I can run 18 miles. And no, I won’t die in the process of trying.

As a side note, I feel like I need to mention that, obviously, splitting up your run into actual separate pieces does mean that you stop several times during your run. And if you’re planning on racing a marathon for a specific time goal, this is probably not something you should do every training run. But we’ll talk more about that later. Because sometimes, especially if it’s early on in your marathon training, just getting those miles in is enough.

Anyway, I suppose this post has no real point – well, besides sharing my super scientific graph that I am in the process of submitting to several reputable journals (I’ll let you know how that goes).

I know that this is not some groundbreaking strategy for surviving long runs. Anyone who has trained for a marathon knows that you often need to play mental games with yourself in order to take on a really long run. Whether that be focusing on how you will feel after it’s finished, running some (or all) of the miles with a friend, or splitting the run up into smaller pieces, we all have our strategies that help get us through.

JoeK10KDoing a long run in bright colors while wearing a veil would probably help too.

But beyond all that, I guess my main point is that if long runs freak you out, don’t feel bad. I know sometimes it can be easy to think that other runners take to long runs like breathing. With multiple tweets and posts going up on the weekend about how someone “just ran 20 miles before 9 am!!” it can sometimes seem like these runs feel effortless for everyone else besides you.

But don’t worry. Even experienced marathoners get nervous before long runs. Or at least I do.

Maybe someday, if/when I run an Ultra Marathon things will change. But until then, I stand by the above graph.

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