Years ago, I traveled from NYC to Chicago to cheer on a friend in the marathon. I had been getting back into running and everything about that day and the event had me so inspired. My husband and I later discussed how it gave us all of the feels, but that we would never be so crazy as to run a full marathon. You either had to be insane to endure 26.2 miles, a super athlete, or both!
I tracked their training over the summer. My husband rode his bike on a 20 mile run, handing over water bottles and making an emergency run for Vaseline (side note: who wants to voluntarily chafe?!).
Let’s be honest, while the 26.2 miles seems daunting, the entire concept of marathon training and those long training runs sounds downright frightening. So how is it that I went from scared of the distance to becoming a marathon coach and Boston Qualifier myself? The answer: I learned to get inside my head.
It started slowly. Seriously. I started out running 3 mile several days a week one summer. As I got more comfortable, I started testing the waters with 5 miles. Then one day that turned into 7, and then 10 miles. One day I set out to do 10 miles, but at some point I started to wonder if I could complete a half marathon. And so it began.
As my mileage started to increase, I began noticing a few things:
You’ve must be incredibly kind to yourself. In order to complete long training runs, you have to be your best friend. Long runs are hard. If you start the negative self-talk, your mind is going to give up way before your body does. On the flip-side, if you coach yourself and begin saying all of the incredible things you see yourself doing, you will notice an amazing change. You are going to see these changes, and you are going to like yourself….a lot. When things get tough, it’s essential that you guide yourself through those difficult times.
You need to know that every mile is different. Long runs are a rollercoaster of feelings and emotions. There are ups and downs. Some miles will feel fantastic, while others are going to be very difficult. It is during those difficult miles that you must remind yourself that if you keep going, the good miles are yet to come. Just as in life, when times get hard, you can’t give up. You have to find a way to move forward.
You need to slow it all down. Long runs are not about pace. They are not a dress rehearsal for race day. Your splits are not indicative of race day performance. Long runs are about time on your feet, preparing your body for a long event. It is about learning to fuel properly and mentally endure hours of running. When you slow down and stop worrying about pace, it is much easier to complete these longer runs.
Find motivation in a variety of places. Never underestimate the power of a good playlist. Look everywhere for musical inspiration. My playlist is a plethora of random songs that have a great beat.
The power of thirst and hunger are also excellent motivators. Near the end of a long run, my husband starts dreaming up what feast he will enjoy for dinner. We once even planned a 22 mile run to finish at a brewery, because a nice IPA is a great way to quench your thirst!
Mix it up. When we lived in NYC, we tried doing long runs all over Manhattan. Although you will find millions of people on that busy island, you will also notice that it really isn’t that large. Routes were quickly getting boring and we were tired of weaving in and out of crowds. We researched rail trails in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. We then spent an awesome spring trying out different trails and finding new places we grew to love. I will never forget a sweaty run along the Saddle Brook River in New Jersey where we saw fly fishing, camping, and the worst allergy attack I’ve ever had. It was a blast!
The long run can be mentally challenging, but it can also be a wonderful time exploring and learning how strong you are. Slow it down, mix it up, and always be kind to yourself. When you learn to incorporate these techniques, you will find that it might possibly be the most enjoyable portion of your training!
How do you survive long distances?