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!

ChicagoMarathon

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.

MRD_2425

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!

RiceKrispie

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?

Set Aside Your Worries About Being Passed

Part of my job with training marathoners is running with them during the week or on their long weekend runs.  During this time we talk about everything but one of the main running concerns I hear about is getting passed.  Is it okay to get passed?  Do you as a coach ever get passed?  Will I ever end up passing someone?

The first advice I try to give is to stop focusing so much on people passing you.  Everyone, and I mean everyone gets passed.  Even the most elite of runners can’t always be in the lead and if this isn’t the case, it is extremely rare.  Sure it can be discouraging, but you need to remember that there are so many reasons why people are moving ahead of you.  And, the person passing you is most likely so wrapped up in their own little running world that they are paying no mind to the fact that they squeezing by.

PassingLane6

First, let’s focus on why you might be getting passed.

Weather:  When it is hot and humid, your pace is going to slow significantly.  If you are following a training plan and have certain mileage you are required to get in, that should be your first priority, not your pace.  That means you can’t focus on how fast you are going or how fast others around you are going.  Your only goal is to finish that darn run.

Mileage:  Have you ever considered that perhaps the people going by you are doing much shorter runs?  While you are conserving energy to do a 7 miler, that person running by you might be out doing their daily three.

PassingLane3

LSD:  Hopefully this means you are doing a long slow distant run and not that drugs are affecting you on the path.  But if you are doing a long slow run on the weekends you are supposed to be moving at a slower pace.  You want people who are out doing their morning three miler passing you as you do twenty.  That means you are doing something correctly.

Maybe they aren’t training for anything:  And that means they can throw caution to the wind and just go for it.  That is the perk of not training and also the perk of being in training.  When you don’t train you can do whatever the heck you want.  And while on a plan, you can blame it on the plan.

Some people are just plain faster:  And that is okay.  We can’t all be Ryan Hall or Meb.  Then races wouldn’t be very fun.  That’s why races have different pace groups.  Sadly, my legs will never be as long and lean as Shalane Flanagan’s.  There isn’t much I can do about that.  But I do know that for my age group and pace group I do a pretty darn good job.  I have to set realistic goals within my own capabilities.

PassingLane4

Maybe you look so great from behind that it is distracting:  This is the one I would always fall back on.  Running does give you great legs and a nice firm tush.  When in doubt, assume that your running body is making it hard to focus and this person had to get around you just to continue doing what they were supposed to.

PassingLane2

Truth be told, we all will get passed.  And if you stick with running long enough you will pull ahead of someone.  My highlight this summer was at 30 weeks pregnant I passed a cyclist.  Personally I found it ridiculous that I was passing someone who was cycling slower than I was running, but in the end it felt great that I might just still have it!

Running is a personal journey.  We all have our own goals and aspirations.  It is important that you keep the focus on you.  Be selfish.  Focus on getting through the darn run.  And if people pass you, give them a wave.  But remember that you are awesome for being out there and everyone eventually sees someone faster than them.  Oh yeah, and you look great from behind!

PassingLane1

Happy Ho-Ho-Holidays!

Greetings from Northern Michigan!  We arrived here Saturday night with Louie in tow.  It was an adventurous drive and one we have been dreading because little Louie has a tendency to get car sick.  But we made it here with a clean car and dog!

JingleRun6

There is just a “dusting” of snow here for this time of year, about 2-3 inches, and the temperatures are relatively moderate.  This is perfect because last night we went to Traverse City to join in on an evening Jingle Run put on by the Traverse City Track Club.  We were really looking forward to this race.  Typically, as many of you know, I despise 5K’s.  Regardless of how much I intend to just go and have a fun run, my Type A personality takes over and I end up pushing myself like it is a 3.1 mile sprint.  It always ends ugly.

But this race was a fun run, as in not chip timed.  For a $15 race fee you received a jingle bell for your shoe and a great race hat.  I don’t wear my race shirts for actual races but in keeping with the vibe I threw on the hat and it was surprisingly warm and festive!  Participants were also asked to bring a canned good to put towards a local pantry.  I love the holiday season and any excuse to share the holiday love with those who might need some extra help.  How perfect is a race that gives back?!

JingleRun8

Oh did I mention that there was a post race pizza buffet?  And we all hung out in a warm ballroom until the start of the race when we simply just herded down the streets of beautiful downtown Traverse City.  If you have never visited, it is a truly picturesque place.  Personally I think summer is the time to be here when the crystal clear beaches are paradise and rail trails span for miles and miles for your running pleasure.  But in the winter there are plenty of places to downhill ski, snowboard, cross country ski, and snowshoe.  Plus Traverse City has lots of great little shops and boutiques to visit as well as many incredible restaurants.  It is a foodie’s dream come true!

Even better my friends Jerry, Brandy, and Patrick (who all happen to also be MDA Team Momentum members) joined in on the fun.  While Jerry’s costume may have been just slightly sacrilegious he did take home the top prize for best costume, a free night’s stay at the Park Place Hotel.

JingleRun4

There is something really special about doing a race not for the medal or PR but instead to join the running community and give back.  There were no commemorative shirts to be had or top prizes for age groups.  But I did get to run with some special friends and catch up with them over a few miles along the streets as we enjoyed the holiday lights.  In many ways isn’t that what running is about?  We are a giving community and so many of us use our running as a way to be involved in various charities.  Often times it is the charity that brings us to running in the first place.

I love this time of year.  I love buying gifts for others and seeing the smiles on children’s faces.  In fact when I got out of the car yesterday to pick up our packets I ran into Santa on the sidewalk.  He waved to me and watched me look at the parking meter.  He kindly told me that we didn’t have to pay on Sundays.  I thanked him and wished him a Merry Christmas and he wished me the same.  I felt like a little girl all giddy to be chatting with Santa.

We spend so much time discussing the stress of holiday shopping or travel.  We worry about making it to every holiday party or how to pay the bills with all of our extra shopping.  This time of year should be a special time full of family, friends and charitable giving.  A simple fun run was such a wonderful way for us to relax and enjoy this time of year, be with our friends, and have the opportunity to give to those who could use some help.

JingleRun2

Happy holidays friends!

What is your favorite holiday tradition or way to get in the spirit?