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Breaking Long Runs Into Sections, Nantucket Half Marathon Recap

Posted Oct 08 2012 12:45pm

This past weekend I ran my 21 mile training run for the New York City marathon and boy did I enjoy it (insert sarcasm here).  My schedule called for 18 miles and 21 next weekend, but since I was in Nantucket for the long weekend and there was a half marathon on Sunday I decided that why not go out for an 8 miler that leads me straight to the starting line of a half.

I’ve done this once before, run to a half so that I could get in more miles.  It was during my first marathon training and I ran 7 miles to the Grete Gallop half in Central Park.  It was the first time that I had run a distance that had a “2″ in front of the mileage and I remember how intimidating it was staring at me on my training schedule.  What was nice about running a shorter distance then the half the first time around was that I was able to mentally accept both distances- a 7 mile run then a half marathon with other runners in a competitive environment didn’t seem so daunting after thinking about it.

My marathon training schedule the following year  didn’t have the 7 + half opportunity so I decided that for the first 20+ miler that I would run 10 in the morning and 11 in the afternoon. I had done quite a bit of reading about it before I felt comfortable that the effort would be similar and worth the breaking up.  By doing this I was able to compartmentalize the run and give a strong even effort for both parts.  I was a fan of it and thought that it was just as good as running the full distance in one shot.

This year the Nantucket Half presenting itself, little did I know that the entire thing was basically a gradual uphill run and for 5+ miles you were on packed to loose sand, sometimes single file trail running style.  It was more challenging than I thought.  My morning started off with waking up and discovering that my Garmin would not turn on, even thought it had been charging for 24 hours.  Thankfully the first part of my morning run was on a course that I knew was 6 miles out and back.

When I returned home on the first six my awesome wife had a drink, gels and a fixed watch that she reset for me.  I pinned my bib on, took the stuff I needed and headed about 2.5 miles to the start of the half marathon.  I was a little late getting out the door so I had to run at a pretty quick pace to get to the start on time, after busting a 7:45 pace to the start I realized I had missed it as the lead pack was running towards me.  I picked up my pace, stayed to the side and circled around the start line to catch up with the pack.

I felt good over the first half of the course, after getting through the different types of sand we made our way back to the streets for what seemed like nothing but long stretches of gradual uphills- similar to what you runners see on 1st Ave in Manhattan.  My pace started to suffer around mile 9 of the race, which for me was about mile 17.  After walking to regain some feeling in my legs, I got to the finish and was completely happy with my total effort and 21 miles.

I absolutely recommend for your longer runs to add it to a half marathon or split the miles up.  By having a consistent effort and mentally approaching the distance in compartments it makes it much more manageable and helps to keep your sanity.  Regardless of how you do your 20+miles you will feel tired, sore and thoroughly spent when you are finished.

Do you do anything unique to approach your 20+ mile run? Have you ever split up the 20+ mile run? Did you ever run a half as part of your long run? What other ideas do you have for helping to stay sane leading up to your long runs?

- Scott

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