Yesterday I tackled 18 miles (30 kilometers) before heading to work for the day. Some people call me crazy when they hear this. Other people ask why. Yesterday, while pushing through the most difficult long run I’ve had in years, I also questioned my rationale behind this decision. But, last night when Emily and I were able to enjoy this view with a bottle of rose I remembered why I choose to do my long runs on Friday mornings.
So, while I’d love to spend more time talking about our delicious pizza dinner and evening along the lake, I think it would be more beneficial to talk about pushing through a long run. Especially since, you know, at least half of my readers have some form of fall race whether a 5k or marathon , coming up in the next few months.
1) Plan in advance. This starts before the long run begins but is crucial to helping your confidence level while you’re running. Make sure you have everything at home for your dinner the night before and breakfast the morning of your run. There is nothing worse than coming home only to realize you are out of bananas, coffee, or anything else that is integral to your routine. Double check that you have your fuel ready to go and your Garmin or any other electronics are charged. Lay out your clothes and do your best to get enough sleep.
2) Split the run into segments that are more manageable. Yesterday I split the 18 miles into the following segments to make it seem like a number of shorter runs and keep the motonotny from setting in too early. My favorite running distance is actually 4 miles so I tend to split my long runs up in this form. Yesterday it was 4 miles alone, 4 miles talking with Emily, 8 miles with music, then finally 2 miles talking as we made the final push towards home.
3) Focus on your surroundings. All too easily I find myself looking down at the path during a run versus out in front of me. Not only does this improve my running form but it also helps me appreciate the run regardless of how difficult it is mentally or physically. When I ran the streets of New York City I would focus on window shopping while I ran in the city and looking out across the Hudson when running along the river. Yesterday Emily and I both took time to point out different sights to each other whether people, animals, statues, or the mountains.
4) Keep fueling and hydrating throughout the run. Figuring out a fueling strategy in advance of a race is crucial! I have found that I have the most success when I treat a long run just like race day. Always carry enough fuel with you for the distance, remembering that it is recommended to ingest fuel at least every hour. But, each person is different so make sure to take an inventory of your body during the run. Do you feel parched? Are you drinking enough? Is your stomach uneasy? Do you feel like you’re lagging on energy? I have found that sipping water every mile and taking fuel every 6 miles works for my long runs.
5) Focus on the reward. Yesterday around mile 14 the run became physically and mentally tough for me. My ankles were uncomfortably tight, my legs were heavy, I was bored, and I was just ready to be done. Part of me was ready to say that running 14 miles is better than nothing and would still qualify as a strong training run. But then, Emily reminded me that we were so close and I could push through anything for 40 minutes. We started focusing on what we’d do as a reward versus our run. We decided that we wanted to meet for a drink on the lake after work. Emily was looking forward to a bagel and lox breakfast sandwich. We both knew we’d be so proud of ourselves when we could high five at the top of our last hill. These mini mantras are what pushed us through each of those last miles and works EVERY time!
So next time you’re having a tough run take a step back and remember just how strong you are. Think of how far you’ve come or just the fact that you took the first step. Break it down, make it simple, take time to enjoy, and focus on the end reward.
How about you? How do you push through the hard workouts?