I ran my second 20 miler of this training cycle yesterday.
I am not sure what is so funny, but maybe I was just giddy, relieved, delirious to be done.
We all know long runs are tough physically. But, sometimes we make the whole thing even harder on ourselves because we psych ourselves out mentally. Here is how I make a really long run easier (at least mentally). Note I did not say “easy,” just a bit “easier.”
1. Plan a Route You Can Get Excited About. I like to use Map My Run to get creative. There’s nothing like starting a 20 mile run already bored to tears with where you are going. I’d rather drive a bit to start somewhere that inspires me versus following some old worn out route that puts me to sleep. And, if you’re lucky a porta potty will appear out of nowhere – a gift from the turd gods (this one showed up on some back road in Boulder County yesterday).
Joie was happy to step inside the blue box
2. Drag Someone Along. Distraction is a wonderful tool. Bring a friend and talk about every mundane thing you can think of like the high cost of peanut butter or how long it takes corn to move through your system (this is very easy to figure out. Just keep a diary of when you had corn chowder and when it showed up later). A good friend will also share supplies with you like toilet paper, an extra gel, a tampon or condom (now that really would make your long run more fun).
3. Bring Happy Fuel. If you hate the taste of Clif Shots, but you eat them because you are “supposed to” or they were on sale, that’s no fun. Bring along your most favorite candy or gel flavor. Or, do what I do and bring Clif Shot Bloks that are flavored like alcoholic drinks (margarita) and pretend it is happy hour already. Maybe companies should market cocktail themed gummy treats for runners (jam packed with electrolytes and carbs of course) like Rum Runner (get it?), Sex on the Beach (for the wild crowd), Bloody Mary (for those running in the morning or during Sunday brunch time) and Mint Julep (for the Southerners).
4. Tell People Even If They Don’t Care. I like to let a few friends know if I’ve got a really long run (say 18-20 miles) because in my head I think they are cheering me on and that they really care if I finish or not. Somehow it holds me accountable, and it’s nice to finish up and a have a few texts checking in to see if I’m still alive.
5. Break the Mileage Up. Do not start the run and think “Yay! only 19.82 miles to go!” Think “Okay, only 5 miles until I can have my Rum Runner”, then “Only 5 miles until half way” etc. I find that 5 miles feels manageable in my head, but use what increments work for you (three 10Ks plus a bit more, two 10 milers – you decide).
6. Get Lost in Your Head. If running alone, let your mind wander. Meditate as you listen to your breathing and the sound of your feet. Focus on the sights and sounds around you. Visualize yourself crossing the finish line of the race you are training for and how it will feel to meet your goal. If you like listening to music, set up a special playlist just for your long run. There are some good song suggestions in the comment section of this post.
7. Try Not To Stare At or Be Consumed By Your Garmin. Watching your Garmin and waiting for the miles to tick by is a bit like watching a pot of water until it boils. It feels like forever. Just let it go. Tell yourself you’ll check in every 30 minutes, every 3rd song on your iPod, whatever. But, don’t constantly check it or you will feel like you ran 40 miles, not just 20.
Does any of this really help? Personally, the little things give me a mental boost and then sometimes my physical body follows. My long runs for this training cycle are DONE and taper has officially commenced. Overall for the past few weeks my long runs (12+ miles) have been:
One 14 mile run
Three 16 mile runs
One 18 mile run
Two 20 mile runs.
Let’s hope it was enough…damn, it felt like enough.
What’s your best tip about how to make long runs easier?
What’s your favorite fuel for a long run?