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Chunking it Up: A Tip for Your First Long Distance Runs

Posted Oct 13 2009 10:00pm

My girlfriend is currently training for her first half marathon. She has not yet run past 8 miles – and only did this last weekend. She’s been asking for tips about long distance running, because as her miles increase she finds herself growing bored with the training.

I know that most people training for their first longer race face this same exact issue. If you are used to running 3 miles, then once you get up to 5 miles you may find you are growing bored with the training.

The funny thing is, once you get used to 5 and you are shooting for eight or ten, the next new  in-between milestones will seem boring.

Since training for two marathons, and now my third, I have learned some great trips that got me through those longer runs.

  1. Music. I don’t use music until I get halfway through my run, or even more, regardless of the length. If I go 7 or under I don’t use it at all. If I go ten, I may start it at 6 or so. If I go 12, I may start it at mile 8. I use music as a motivator. “If I get to mile X, then I can listen to music for a while.”  This gives me something to look forward to by diverting attention when the runs get a bit longer, and this distraction keeps me going. Also, by not using it for the entire run I never get used to relying on it.
  2. Food. Sorry, I’m not one of those runners who doesn’t eat on a longer run. If I’m going over 10 miles, then around mile 7 or so I begin chewing on something. I look forward to my bites of treats. I may not eat an entire Power Bar, but if I get in a few good bites here and there it fills up my stomach enough to keep me going and it gives me something to look forward to. During my first marathon training I ate goldfish; now I munch on powerbars. Any food will do!
  3. Take different courses. If you are burning out, map out different courses so there is always something new to see. Unfortunately for me, I now live in an area where this is not possible unless I drive somewhere – and that would add another hour on my already long Sunday morning training run. However I went on vacation this past week and ran around a different town during my eleven miler. It really kept me going.
  4. Run portions of your run with someone. If you are used to running solo, see if you can find someone with whom to run for a few miles. I prefer solo running, but on longer runs I generally hope to meet up with a few ladies in the neighborhood for at least several miles. Though they are slower runners and I have to adjust my pace, having conversation and a partner or two is worth it.

Much of long distance training is just simply getting used to the longer miles. When you become used to running a certain pace or certain mileage each run, then doing something different and new can seem impossible. By training your mind to get through this new phase, you’ll learn quickly to enjoy the longer time on your feet.

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