Learning To Love The Long Run

This past Saturday I was having a bit of a rough day.  I wasn’t feeling like myself.  I am not the type of person to have a good scream or a cry, or to even let myself just have a bad day.  I don’t deal well with emotions and don’t keep things in.  I am not even one to just feel sad or down for a day.  So feeling like I was in a funk I did the only thing I knew would fix it…..


I figured a few extra miles would just help pile on the endorphins.  If anything some time on the pavement with just me and my thoughts was sure to clear my head.  It just so happens that our time with Flat Stanley is coming to an end and I wanted to take him up to the George Washington Bridge to take a picture of the Little Red Lighthouse underneath the bridge.  Did you even know there was a lighthouse down there?


I think I knew this was going to turn into an epic run because I made sure to leave with the appropriate equipment: my phone (which I texted my husband first to let him know where I was headed), my Spi-belt, a packet of Pockefuel for mid run fueling, my Simple Hydration bottle, and Flat Stanley.  It took me 7 miles to reach the lighthouse.  We took some pics and then I decided to head back down the west side of New York.  I decided to continue south down to Chelsea Piers and then wove my way back north and east.  I finished at exactly 20 miles in front of a grocery store that carries my favorite sparkling water.  Hydrated and worn out, I was effectively back to my old self.


Oh yeah…and sometimes this happens after a long run.  My husband wanted to know if I was going to paint over the missing nail.

I didn’t always love doing long runs, but with some proper preparation and a few lessons I have found that they can be really quite fun and you can learn an awful lot about yourself during these runs.  I wanted to share a few things that I have found to be most helpful to get started and make it through your epic runs.

First, plan ahead.  Make sure you are plenty hydrated before you head out.  It is preferable to start hydrating the day or even days before.  You will be amazed at how much easier it is to keep going when you have enough water inside you.  Make sure you also eat a proper breakfast.  You want something that consists of a bit of carbs, fat, and protein.  For that reason both peanut butter and cream cheese are excellent additions to your breakfast.  You will have to find the right combo for you.  I am one of the lucky runners that can go for upwards of 15 miles without needing extra fuel or water on a run.  But on the flipside I do eat a bit more before I head out than many other runners.

Make sure you either take some additional fuel with you or know where you can get some along the way.  I added a Pocketfuel to my running pack but also knew that there were several running stores near my route if I needed something else.  Had I been running somewhere a bit more remote I would have added a second pack just in case.  Just because I haven’t yet hit that wall, I know it is out there and will get me someday.  I also always keep some cash with me for a extra bite to eat or a cab if I can’t make it home.

If you are doing long runs as part of your training try to find different routes to make it fun.  During our marathon training we got sick of running the same loops around Manhattan so we would find rail trails and bike paths in nearby towns to do our LSD runs.  This made each run a new adventure and kept it interesting.  The hardest part of long runs can be the mental aspect.  Keeping it exciting eliminates dealing with mental monotony.

Don’t count the miles.  If you start doing this, your long run is going to feel like a LONG run.  Let your mind wander.  Listen to some music.  Figure out something that has been weighing on your mind.  Every Friday Mark Remy posts a list on runnersworld.com.  The List contains short articles and facts about running from the week.  They are both interesting and comical.   Check them out over your morning coffee and you will have plenty to think about.

Have something to look forward to after your run.  For some reason I craved Diet Coke from a soda fountain after my long training runs.  This is weird because I don’t really drink soda and I craved it from the one place I NEVER set foot in….McDonald’s.  But for some reason I couldn’t get the thought of that bubbly soda out of my head for the last few miles and my husband knew that our first stop was McDonald’s when we got back in the car.  The other thing we always looked forward to was trying dinner out at a new place or at a favorite restaurant.  At that point, you have earned it!


Before a 20 mile training run last year we were hanging out in the parking lot of a new path we were going to try.  A gentleman stopped us and told us that there was a microbrewery in the back of the building across the street from the lot.  Apparently they were only open on Saturdays and gave free tastings.  My husband thought about those free beer samples for the last few miles and confidently claims it carried him through!  Hey, whatever works.


A special thanks to www.rushingduck.com for the ultimate end to a long run!

Running long can be both a struggle and an amazing experience.  With a little preparation you can turn it into a really great time.  And then you can go and eat a lot of food!  Can you tell where my mind always goes to first?


46 thoughts on “Learning To Love The Long Run

  1. When I lose a toenail, I hate to paint it because I’m proud of it! Silly, huh? Thank you for posting that piece today. I am about to start my marathon training and I need to know how to get through long runs, especially since many of them will be this summer. I’ll bookmark to read later, also. 🙂

    • I would say 5 miles is a great place to start rehydrating. The rule is generally every 3 or so after that. I am definitely on the strange end of needing less when I am out there.

  2. Little Red Lighthouse! Love that hidden gem. So many people hate the long run, but I love it (obviously not when I am having issues)–I agree that it is one of those experiences that can be transcendent or make you want to punch yourself in the face. But when those cards fall perfectly, there are few things that are better.

  3. Aww, YAY, I’m so happy you’re feeling better and nice job on your run!! You’re awesome!! AND oh la la, I love your toenail polish!!! Beautiful!!! Hehe, I also think it’s so funny that your husband asked if you were going to paint over the missing nail!! LOVE IT! 😉 That’s SO something my husband would say! I have to say, too that the lemon/running saying is SO cool!! How fun and true! Also, peanut butter/cream cheese is great before a run and I do agree that anxiously counting miles is not the best idea!! Love your post!! You’re awesome! Have the best day!! XOXO!!

  4. It’s amazing the things a run can fix… I’m glad you’re feeling back to your old self 🙂 Great tips… I’m glad you’re allowing peanut butter for breakfast. Yum. Oh, that means I have to start running again though, doesn’t it? Does hiking with 15kg worth of toddler count too? I’m so bad at keeping hydrated… something I really need to work on. Thanks 🙂

  5. So many great tips!! I used to put way too much pressure on myself when I’d go out for my long run, but I’ve found that as long as I relax a little I actually really enjoy it! (Especially if I don’t have anything else to do that day. Then I can really take my time!)

    • That is a great point. For me doing it on a Saturday morning works perfectly. There is no pressure to do anything else. I can take care of the other stuff on Sunday. Remembering that it is not a time trial and taking your time makes it less stressful too!

  6. I am so glad the run took care of the funk you were in… I do the same thing! It is very therapeutic! I believe that is why most runners are happy- level headed people. You are amazing and really know how to help people out (from beginners to experienced runners). Thanks for the great tips and advice!

  7. Well today is long run day! I am with you I need little to none while I run. I did however just drive my 15.5 mile loop and placed two water bottles one at mile 6 and one at 13 since I am running out in no mans land. Fuel I need to go purchase some next time I am out so today looks like I’m have to use pop tart bites. (Not the sugar I want) but will work in a pinch. 36 and rainy and back roads here I come!!!

    • Hey you gotta use whatever fuel you can. Excellent idea with dropping water bottles along the way. Looking forward to hearing how your run goes today. Looks like you will be ready for me to write you a marathon plan soon 😉 I am relentless! Perhaps you would want one of our charity spots for the Chicago Marathon.

      • Got to say that was one of my best runworked. Nice easy 9:13s for 15.4 lots of awesome challenges with weather and roads here in northern Michigan. And ended up using raisins For fuel lol not my best idea but it worked. awesome post it Sarah love reading them… Thank you!! Oh and about the Marathon I’m just going to pretend I didn’t read that lol

  8. My missing toenails are my badges of honor! Which sounds weird, I know. I love the long run – it is hard, but it’s also time that is purely mine, and I crave it when I can’t run (like today)! Yesterday I was in a funk and ever five miles helped! Running is my stress reliever.

  9. my mum painted a toenail on when we went to a posh do last year – it was hilarious. Keep up the long runs – it is hard, I know I really need to start increasing mileage for marathon soon.

  10. For me long runs are usually terrible or amazing and often times both. I definitely agree about the not counting miles thing, this is the one time in life where getting distracted is 100% a good thing.

  11. good advice, and i agree with you on all of these. (and yes i’ve also lost some toenails…battle wounds make us stronger :)). most of my runs take place along the West Side…maybe we’ll pass each other. 🙂

  12. Great advice on the hydrating well in advance of the run! I’ve learned that increasing my water intake 1 or even 2 days before a long run makes a big difference. And I totally envy you because there is no way I can run for more than an hour without water (and it is sometimes such a pain to wear that belt…)

  13. Thanks for the tip to start hydrating a couple days before a long run! I will give that a try, I usually love my long runs, but lately they’ve been painful and ugly. I have 3 half marathons within 15 days starting this weekend, so I’m a bit anxious about them since I haven’t felt strong on my long runs of late. Gonna start hydrating now! Thanks!!

    • Absolutely. I have found that hydrating properly really helps with GI issues. Let me know how it works for you. Post training runs I might recommend throwing in an electrolyte supplement too to help keep it going since you have so much going on for the next few weeks. Can’t wait to hear how it all works out.

  14. Great post! I have a half marathon coming up on Sunday. Thanks for reminding me to start hydrating now! You’re definitely so right about finding new routes on long runs. That’s how I keep my routes fun and exciting for myself. I never take the same route twice and try to get myself lost and find my way back (though in my town its nearly impossible to get lost). But I find that never taking the same route twice makes it that much more fun, you never know where you’ll end up or what you’ll see!

    • Awesome. Good luck and have a great time. I have been meaning to do a post about the places we did our long training runs. It was awesome and nuts. Can’t wait to hear about your half.

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