How To Get Through A Long Run


Contributed By Michele Gonzalez, Author of NYC Running Mama
The tweets, facebook updates, and blog posts have begun – all discussing fall marathons and the initial couple of weeks of training for these races. That means weekly long runs are starting – by mid-summer, there’ll be plenty of 20+ mile runs being completed in preparation for the upcoming races.
One question I’ve been asked repeatedly is how I get through long runs – week in and week out – without getting burned out.  When I was training for the NYC Marathon and the Knickerbocker 60k (concurrently), I had successful training runs up to 30 miles.
Long runs during marathon training are just as much based on mental strength as they are on physical strength (if not more).  So how do you mentally survive running 14+ miles every weekend for a few months??  Here are some things I do to get me through my long runs:
  • Break up the run.  Once the run begins, I try not to think about the total distance I have left to run until it’s well under half.  Being at mile 2 of a 22 mile run is a bit intimidating and can easily throw off your concentration.  When I ran 30 miles on my 30th birthday, I broke the run up into 6 – 5 mile increments.  I focused on 5 miles at a time (which coincided with a 5 mile loop that I was running on). Each time I finished five miles, I told myself that I only had to make it through the next 5 miles.  5 miles is totally manageable.
  • Concentrate on one mile at a time.  Focusing on just one mile and the pace I want to hit makes my goal pace seem more manageable. I tell myself that I have to run the next mile at x:xx pace – as soon as the mile clicks on my Garmin, I start working on the next mile.
  • DON’T be a slave to your Garmin.  Constantly looking at your pace and distance will make the miles drag on. One of my recent tricks is to keep my Garmin on the main display so all I see is the current time.  I get a vibrating notification when I finish a mile – that’s the only time I see my pace.  This may not work if you are trying to hit very specific times during your long run, but since I am running based on how I feel rather than pace, it doesn’t hinder my run.
  • Pick a new route.  I always enjoy runs where I am exploring or covering new terrain, so I often try to leave certain routes or areas alone during the week and save them for the weekend long run.  Just this past weekend, I ran a point-to-point route that I had yet to run – the miles FLEW by because I was enjoying my new surroundings.
  • Let your mind wander. Think about the rest of your day,  what you are going to eat/drink when the run is over, maybe an upcoming vacation or trip – whatever will keep your mind distracted.   When I was training for my first ultra, I had about 5 miles left of a 28 mile trail run – I was tired – and starting to get hungry (for real food – not just gels).  My husband was my roving support on his bike and told me that he would get me one of my favorite indulgent foods when we got back – KFC!!  That was all I needed to hear.  I spent the last few miles thinking about fried chicken, potato wedges, and biscuits.
  • Listen to Music. As I’ve discussed previously, I am a huge fan of having music on my runs.  It keeps my mind occupied and makes me happy.  For me, there is nothing better than when one of my favorite songs come on my IPOD and I get pumped up and pick up the pace during mile 20 of that long run.
  • Envision success.  Picture yourself running the last few miles of the marathon you are training for.  When I was training for the NYC Marathon, I did a few runs in Central Park to get used to the hills.  I ran the same route that the last few miles of NYC Marathon follows.  I envisioned myself coming into the park,  I saw and heard the crowds, I actually could feel the adrenaline of race day!  And would immediately get a boost of energy and excitement.
  • Allow time in your plan for rest/recovery/low mileage days. I follow the hard, hard, hard, easy rule for long runs.  For example, I’ll run 16, 18, 20 miles three weeks in a row followed by an easy or off week where I’ll run 10-12 miles.  The following week I’ll run 20, 22, 24 miles.  Knowing that I get that easy long run day helps me push myself through the current run.  Going back to my previous high mileage also gives me a buffer week in case I am sick, scheduling conflicts arise, or just need a week off from the long run.
In the end, do the things that you enjoy – if you prefer music over running “naked”, bring your IPOD; if you enjoy running alone vs with a group, then make it a solo run.  Make the run as enjoyable as possible for yourself !!
Do you do anything on long runs to help get you through the miles? 

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