Learning To Go Long-Tackling Your Long Runs

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!

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Carrying balloons so I could be spotted on the sidelines!

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.

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Before our first marathon

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!

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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?

Why Races Aren’t About Being Competitive (and Why They Are)

Years ago when I got back into running, I signed up for a local 15k.  I “trained” for it and had an absolute blast on race day.  There was no pressure, because I had no idea what to expect.  I was just excited to be out on the course with other runners and to see what the experience would be like.  I got hooked.

I was dating my, now husband, at the time and suggested that we sign up to do a spring race together.  Having been a high school and collegiate athlete, he had no desire to go back to those competitive days.  He just wanted to enjoy his running.

I absolutely understood this sentiment, but tried to explain that races aren’t necessarily about the “racing.”  It took some convincing, but he signed up for his first two races, a 15k road race and a 10k mountain trail run.  Not the best choices to ease him into the sport, but after his first race, he told me to start finding more.

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Our first race together!

My First Race!

Why Racing Isn’t About Being Competitive

It wasn’t the “race” that hooked us.  It was the experience, the opportunity to find that inner athlete we had tucked away after our competitive days in sports.  Being among other runners, pushing ourselves to see what was our very best, and having strangers cheer for us on the side of the road, only made the experience better.

While I have had some varied success in my running, I’m almost always behind many runners who are far faster than me.  More often than not, I am not there trying to win the race, but instead to run for myself.

Part of what makes races exciting is the process.  From choosing which race and event you will be doing, to finding the right plan, it is the total package before the race even starts that makes it so fun.

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When I was competing in track and field, my dad was my coach.  One thing I will never forget was him telling me that I wouldn’t remember most of my races.  Instead, what I would remember most was the training.  He was 100% right and that still holds true today.

The process of preparing for your event, the excitement of the process, and the experience of the race itself is what makes “racing” fun.  People will be cheering you on, and they certainly don’t care what place you finish.  In fact, most people will be far more inspired by the person who finishes last than the speedster that came in first.

Why Running Is About Being Competitive

I’m not talking about coming in first.  The competition is rarely between you and the person who will win.  Instead, it is about setting goals and seeing what you can do.  Maybe you want to simply finish the 5k, or perhaps your goal is to finish without taking walking breaks.   You might have a time goal that you are working for.

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The great thing about races is that you can always set a goal, whether it is something really lofty or a smaller goal to get you through an event.  These goals can be for any distance.  The possibilities are endless, and this is what can help you to find a little competitiveness in your running at any level without taking the fun out of the sport.

Having an event or a goal to look forward to can be an extra motivation for your running.  It’s not always about getting faster.  It can simply be to make your experience better.

Why do you like to race?

Are you hesitant to try a race?  If so, I’d love to hear what holds you back.