I used to DREAD the long runs. Living in Cayman, it is hot, humid and boring running (we don’t have great views of the beach when we run). On top of that, it can be dangerous because of crazy drivers and roads that are not runner friendly. But when training for a race – even a 5K – a long run is critical to your success on race day! It builds endurance and helps your mental training on how to push through fatigue when you don’t think you can go another step. Long distance runs also build strength, which is so important to ensure a strong finish of your chosen distance. You also have the best opportunity to try out new things: gear, fueling, strategy, etc on your long runs so race day is not an experiment. And those long runs also build confidence in your ability to go the distance, which is so important for someone training for a half marathon or full marathon. Since the long run is something a runner has to do, why not find a way to, at the very least, come to terms with it; if at all possible, why not find a way to actually enjoy it?
While it took me a while (about a year or so), I finally started ENJOYING and LOOKING FORWARD TO my long runs. I found a space in my life where the 16, 18 and even 20 mile run was a gift to me to enjoy, and I headed out with
FIND A BUDDY Most of my runs are NOT with a buddy. I’m very happy as a solo runner. However, my husband has been an amazing support in my running adventure. Every week without fail, he meets me for the last 3-4 miles of my long run. Without fail, those final miles (of everything from a 12 mi to a 20 mi run), seem much, much shorter because we are chatting, catching up on our day, our sports teams, local news and more. Meeting someone for a long run also makes you more accountable for the planned distance – not only to start your long run but also to finish it. During the run, having a friend to run with really does make a difference because you are not just focusing on the running. If your friend or significant other isn’t keen to run with you, ask them to ride next to you on a bicycle. The benefit to you is the same!
If you can’t find anyone who wants to run with you in person, find some ‘virtual’ run buddies and text/message each other during your runs. Knowing that someone else is out there counting on you to be with them in spirit is actually a tremendous motivator. And it makes you feel like you are not just running your run, but also helping someone else run theirs!
HAVE A MANTRA When you feel yourself fading or need a quick reminder of why you are pounding the pavement for hours that day, repeat a phrase, inspirational quote or funny line that helps you to overcome negative chatter in your head. My personal mantra for running is ‘be the water’ which I found on my friend’s Facebook post when I was having a challenging time with the heat last summer. When the going gets tough, I repeat this to myself to remind me that in the end, it is persistence that will get me to my finish line that day.
BREAK IT UP When viewed as a total distance, those long runs seem, well, LONG! Breaking up your route or the distance into smaller manageable pieces gives you a mental edge in completing the total distance. If you run a loop route, knowing that you have three loops to run is the easiest way to break it down and make it more manageable in your head. Then you focus just on one loop distance at a time. For me, I have mental segments of my route that I work to conquer on my long runs. I only focus on the segment I am in, switching to the next ‘distance’ when I reach that point. I typically will have a 4-segment plan, and that makes all my runs so much easier to get through – and the overall distance more attainable.
LOSE YOURSELF One of my favourite things to do is to lose myself in an audio book on my long runs. Focusing on the words being spoken and the story line not only give me a relaxing pace to run to, but it also helps me to tune out the time and miles and simply enjoy the run because I am actually lost in the book! I am usually quite sad when it is time to switch the book off at the end of my run. An audio book may not work for you; perhaps you enjoy listening to a podcast (about running, of course!) or have a killer workout music playlist. Find the tool to help you get lost in the moment, and the miles will go by faster than you realize. And if you want science to back it all up, Costas Karageorghis, Ph.D., a leading authority on music and exercise, has done research showing that music can reduce perception of exertion and increase endurance by 10 to 15 percent!
POST YOUR SUCCESS Whether you tell the world about your accomplishment on social media or only write the number on your calendar to log your completed miles, seeing the numbers in front of you helps to chart your progress and offer visual encouragement of how far you’ve come in your training! Depending on your motivation, this may be the reward you need to get you through those difficult moments. I know how much I love telling my buddy K-Man about my long runs! It helps make it fun for me to go further on those runs and be able to tell him how I pushed to/past the original goal for the day.
How do you feel about long runs? Do you have any more ways to help enjoy the long runs? What is your mantra? I’d love to hear about where you are with your relationship to the long training runs.