Tackling Long Runs

I love doing long runs.  Last spring when I was in New York I wasn’t training for anything yet, but the weather started to change for the better and I just couldn’t get enough of the weekend long runs.  It isn’t strange for me to head out the door and somehow come home 17-20 miles later.  There is just something about that long mileage that makes this run nerd happy.

But that wasn’t always the case.  When I first started running, 3 miles was a real pain for me.  I dreaded a lot of them and counted down until my next day off.  I still remember the first day I went out and managed five miles.  I felt like a running badass.  I felt like I had conquered the world.  From there I was slowly able to increase my mileage and not too long after that I managed my first ten miler.  At the time though there were a lot of water breaks and I took fuel on “long” runs that now are what I would consider manageable without.

The long run is just as much a mental feat as it is a physical one.  Technically a long run is considered anything over an hour and a half but personally I believe that for new runners a long run is anything over five miles.  Let’s face it, those first five are tough and anything over that seems like a marathon as you begin.  As you become more seasoned it is best to stick to the rule that runs under 45 minutes are short, runs between 45 minutes and 90 minutes are moderate and anything over 90 minutes is long.  It also depends on what you are training for.  Marathon training long runs look a lot different than half marathon long runs but that doesn’t necessarily make them any easier, especially for beginners.

On the physical end of training it is important to remember that if you are using a well thought out training program, your body should slowly become accustomed to these longer runs.  As the program progresses your body will be better able to manage longer mileage.  Therefore if you use a training plan you should continue to find each longer run just as or even more manageable than the last.  I’m not saying it will be easy but your body should begin to handle each run more efficiently as you become a stronger runner.  This is why it is important to stick to your plan and trust that training.  It is basically running science.  This stuff works for a reason!

The mental side of training can be a tough one.  We can be our best friends or our biggest downfalls.  For some reason I would have Taylor Swift come in here and start singing, “Doubters gonna doubt, doubt, doubt.”  And once you do that, its almost game over before you get going.  The best thing you can do is distract the heck out of yourself and be annoyingly positive.  You know those yoga teachers that tell you to smile during planks?  Yeah , you basically need to do that.

Forget the mileage:
The best thing you can do for yourself is stop counting the miles.  Hide your GPS and don’t look at it.  Have a landmark to aim for and just go for it.  If you are constantly checking to see how far you have gone, it is going to be a long and painful run.
Pull up the tunes:
One of the best motivators and distractors is music.  If you heard my playlist it is a crazy mix of just about everything.  All sorts of music can spice up a run.  Pick tunes with fast beats and use that to keep your pace.  I find the miles fly by when I listen to something.  Just make sure to keep the volume to a low level so that you can still be aware of your surroundings and run safely.
Play games:
I do this a lot.  In fact, yesterday I was out for a run and to pass the miles I started counting garages.  I noticed that in Florida most houses don’t have garages and those that do have monster garages.  So I picked a mile and counted how many houses had a garage attached to them.  Sometimes I count signs or if I am really needing some help I do watch the miles and figure out at each half how far I would have gone if I turned around and doubled it back to the start.  For some reason I find it motivating to see each half increase as I continue.
Whisper sweet nothings:
You can be your best friend or worst enemy on a long run.  When you start to question if you will make it, things are likely going to go downhill soon.  This is when you have to dig deep and help yourself out.
Last year at mile 18 of the Chicago Marathon I ran into one of my runners.  She told me that she had hit a wall and she needed my help.  I jogged with her for a bit and told her I could stick with her for a mile but then she needed to finish this herself.  I suggested that she needed to be her own coach and say exactly what I would say to her.  I told her to keep pushing and congratulating herself as she went.
Remind yourself how far you have gone.  Tell yourself how proud you are of getting to that point and that you know you can do just a little bit more.  Slap a smile on that sweaty face and you will be amazed how things change.
The long run can be an incredible challenge.  Slow your pace down and be patient with yourself.  And most importantly have fun!
What kind of tricks do you use to manage your long runs?

40 thoughts on “Tackling Long Runs

  1. I LOVE the long runs!!! I remember, too, when I started and how excited I was to reach each additional milestone. So much fun to look back and see how far you’ve come!

    • Isn’t it incredible? And I think it is helpful for new runners to know that? They used to seem so big and so hard and now they are just fun and you reach a point where you want to see where you can take it next…….I’m considering an ultra (post pregnancy of course).

    • Group runs are a great way to get those long runs in. That is why I encourage my newer runners to join the group. The social aspect really helps. And I think that regardless of how much you love a long run, there is always a point where you have to break them down.

  2. I know runners who go out for time and not miles. 45 minutes out and 45 minutes back.
    I do my long runs with my club so we have water stops and lots of company. A club or group of friends the best way to do a long run. A little company and a lot of support will get you through the longest of runs.

    • Excellent point. I was just telling Susie that I completely agree with the group run. I wish more of my newer runners would take advantage of our group runs. They really do make it easier and I think they help ensure that you get it in on the weekend when you might sleep in and tell yourself you will do it later.

  3. Love your tricks!! You’re very wise and these tricks do work!! When a long run is feeling particularly loooong, I ignore my GPS and just run…I don’t keep checking it. I also take in the scenery and sometimes imagine myself giving some sort of inspiring speech!! Hehe!! It keeps me inspired!! XOXO 🙂

    • Those are great ideas! I definitely have worked on a speech a few times during long runs. It gives you plenty of time to perfect it. Thanks for sharing. I think you are so right about ignoring the GPS!

  4. good tips! i’m all about the music, always…and sometimes i like to envision myself either 1) singing karaoke on stage (aka i always think i’m getting discovered, b/c i’m crazy like that), or 2) dancing (esp if it’s bachata or something dance-worthy) for people…this helps me fulfill my dreams of being on Broadway/The Voice/any talent show where people see how much of a raging pop star i should be, and gets me through the runs. 🙂 i need to buck up for some long runs soon!

  5. Get out on a flat wooded trail. It is so much more interesting then running on the sidewalk and I can go so much farther because I am enjoying myself. Finding someone to run with also helps pass the time much quicker; I also find I can run farther as I don’t want to let the other runner down by walking too much!

  6. I imagine crazy first person role-play scenarios in my head (ranging from sport-themed to espionage thrillers and everything in between) to distract myself. Once I get lost in “my world” I can run and run! 🙂

  7. Good stuff as always! I do like the long runs too. I find it helps me to run them with other people. Conversations make the miles fly by. Much more so then when I’m by myself and in my own head – ha, nobody wants to be there!

  8. Yes, music makes all the difference for me. And I do play mental games. I tried recently to count all the St. Louis Cardinals references I passed in my neighborhood – bumper stickers, porch flags, etc. LOTS. We’re a baseball town. And as for being annoyingly pleasant, I make a point of smiling and waving or saying hello to just about every person I pass coming or going. It makes it more pleasant for me, might cheer someone up if they’re feeling down, and may even make someone think, “Hey, running looks kind of fun. Maybe I’ll try it and see if I get that happy!”

  9. I listen to standup comedy, good music and sing along. And sometimes dance. I have no shame.
    I will have to tap into a couple of these tricks this weekend though! I have my longest run since last May on Sunday and I’m so nervous for it! I hope there will be things for me to count out there. 🙂

  10. I like long(er) runs too! Saturdays are my club’s long runs and I always say I ain’t waking up for anything less than 6 miles (which isn’t “long” for me anymore). My distance of choice lately has been 10. It’s so crazy to type that and read it out loud LOL!

    • Isn’t that funny? 10 is my preferred long run too. I just think it is a nice even number. Over the years my running has definitely increased and somehow 7-8 is my daily average. Never would have guessed that a few years ago!

  11. I try to have a partner. It makes the time and mileage much more bearable. If I have no one to run with I definitely have a good playlist and somewhere newish to run or I run my usual route a different way. Great post!!

  12. I definitely agree that running with others gets you through the long runs! I find that time passes so quickly. I also like a change of scenery. I am injured at the moment so I am constantly out in my car trying to discover new and exciting off road routes for when I return to running. Many of these, I never knew existed!

  13. I remember the first time I ever ran 12 miles. This was a major feat for me – I’m still not sure why this was the ultimate magic number but it was one of the greatest feelings I’ve experienced in my running career. I utilize out and back courses so then I know at the 1/2 way mark I’m “almost done” because I just have to do that over again.

    • That is a great idea. I have a friend who is a very successful runner and she loves out and backs for that very reason. She prefers them in marathons where I sometimes find it mentally difficult.

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