Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Long Run

The long run.  It’s a staple of any distance runner’s weekly running regimen.  The distance on any given runner’s long run varies from runner to runner.  Someone who runs marathons or ultra marathons, their long run will always be in the double digits.  Someone who runs half marathons or less, not so much (if at all) in the double digits.  No matter what you consider to be a long run, that is exactly what it is, a long run.  Don’t let anyone laugh at you for saying that 6 miles is your version of a long run.  To you, 6 miles IS long.  And to be honest, 6 miles IS a long way to go on foot.  It’s just that some people (me included) are so used to running 10+ miles, not only in long runs, but in weekday runs that we could do 6 miles in our sleep.  But that doesn’t mean that running 6 miles isn’t an accomplishment.
Some people love the long run and some people dread it.  I am one of those people that LOVE it!  I love being out there running, be it on the sidewalk around town or on a trail through the park.  I just love it.  The longer I get to run, the more I love it.  However, the longer the distance, the more anxiety I have pre-run.  Seriously.  I am so nervous the day of and the day before, what I call, a “super long run.”  Basically, anything over 15 miles is what I call a “super long run.”  I’ll be out there for closer to 3 hours so I really have to make sure I’m fully prepared.  I mean, I have to be fully prepared for ANY run, but with my super long runs, so much more could potentially go wrong.  Hence my anxiety.
In the past, I’ve said that I would do all of my long runs that were 10 miles or more at the Ladybird Lake hike & bike trail near downtown Austin.  I didn’t stick to it, though.  However, this time, I think I mean it.  I went and ran a 10 mile loop of the entire trail (from the Mopac pedestrian bridge to S. Pleasant Valley Dr) and I loved it!  It’s a great change of pace and scenery, which is really great to do with your long run.  You should really enjoy your surroundings when you’re doing your long run because you’ll be out there for longer than your other runs.  Duh, right?  Also, it helps alleviate my anxiety because no matter how far I run, I’m no more than 5 miles away from my car and there are hundreds and thousands of other people out there on the trail as well that can help me if something happens.  There are also police officers that patrol the trail on bicycle.
There are different ways you can make the long run more enjoyable and less anxiety-inducing.  One is to change the scenery from your usual running routes.  Make your weekly long run a bit of a visual “treat.”  If you usually run on the sidewalk or the street, go to a park or a hike & bike trail.  Another thing you can do is join a running group.  These don’t always have to be the running groups that you pay for membership in through your local running stores.  Running with others really changes the game.  Suddenly you’ve got others around and it just plain more fun.  It’s like running a race!  It’s exciting!  And then there’s the post-run meet ups at a coffee shop that these groups sometimes do.  I have not personally participated in any group runs, but I have done a couple runs with just one other person and let me tell you, it made the miles fly by.  I never thought I could be one of those people that could carry on a conversation while running, but I totally am!
Another thing you can do to help make your long run less “ugh” is to break it up.  For instance, run a 5K race in the morning, then go later on and run a 10K or more on your own.  I’ll be doing that this weekend.  I’m running a 5K at 9am, then going home, changing, grabbing a bagel and then heading to the hike & bike trail for another 10-13 miles!  This will be the first time I will break up a long run.  But I know so many people who do it all the time. 
So, whatever your definition of a long run is, just know that including it in your weekly running routine is important.  Why?  Because it helps build endurance and stamina.  That’s why when you’re training for a half marathon or longer distance, you increase the distance of your weekly long run by about 10% each week.  You’re increasing your ability to run longer and longer distances, building up to your target distance (whatever your race distance is).
What’s your idea of a long run? 
How do you make your long run less daunting/more fun?

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