Leaning In to Long Runs: What I’ve Re-Learned Going Long Again

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In the past month, I’ve noticed that my mileage started creeping up on long runs. Part of that was where I was—the trails in Whistler beg to be run—and part was circumstance—Peter was racing and I wanted to do a workout that would trump his two hours on the bike.

So, I started running long distance on the weekends. And I freaking love it. In August, I did runs longer than I’ve ever done in training with the exception of once or twice while prepping for Ironman. Easy? Nope. But man, do I love that challenge! In a lot of ways, it’s easier than long rides because it involves less stuff, and for some reason (I apologize for saying this since I am a cyclist) it seems more badass than going on longer rides. A three hour ride is a sane undertaking. A three hour run is kind of nuts.

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So, I’ve been hitting the roads and trails. And I’ve sort of come up with a few things that have made my runs both easier and more fun, and I thought I’d share.

It’s a long run, so take time to smell the roses. I don’t mean you need to putz around, but there’s nothing wrong with stopping to take a picture every once in a while.

It’s a long run, so don’t go out too hard. I had a tough time with this on my biggest run: it was six miles of road to get to the trails, and I so badly wanted to get to the trail that I took the road at a pretty aggressive pace. Which worked out fine, but it was definitely not tiring! Especially since the trail started at the base of a ski hill so it was a lot of climbing.

Seriously, ease into it. I’ve realized this is a huge thing for me. I don’t just mean physically (though I did successfully start one long trail run by hiking the ski hill instead of trying to run it). I mean mentally. It’s going to be a long day, but don’t dwell on that, or even think about it for the first hour or so. Just focus on enjoying the moment and the trail before you turn your focus to time.

Bring water. You don’t need a ton (or, at least, I don’t), but you want to have enough to wet your mouth along the way. For the 18 mile trail run I did, I actually ran the first 9 miles of it holding a cheap-o 16 ounce bottle from the grocery store in addition to my tiny 6 ounce handheld. Not comfortable, but it was well worth it to have that extra water on trails with no water access. And when I was done, I was able to cram it into my tiny back pocket of my shorts. A Camlebak may work for you, but make sure you’ve done short runs with it: I find a lot of them really uncomfortable for my stomach and breathing, so I tend to avoid them when possible.

You don’t need as much clothing as you think. I tend to underdress on runs, but that’s almost always been a good thing for me. But a lot of people—especially cyclists—tend to dress like they would if they were going on a ride: you don’t need that much, I promise. (If you’re really worried about being cold, wear a windbreaker that packs down and can be crammed in a pocket.)

If you start tripping on stuff, slow down. When I start slipping on rocks or catching my toes on roots, that’s when I know it’s time to slow down and take a breath. Don’t be a hero and try to speed up. That’s when ankles get twisted and you end up hobbling out of the woods.

Download podcasts or audiobooks if you’re a headphone person. I love listening to music, but I find that for long runs, I’m better off if I can listen to a podcast or two to start and then switch to pump-up-the-jams music for the final few miles. Does wonders for my mood, and the podcasts are usually distracting enough to make me forget that I’m tired in the beginning.

Don’t try anything new on these runs. New shorts? Forget it, they might chafe. New run snack? Absolutely not, unless you’re willing to be cramped up on the trailside. New shoes? What are you, insane? Stick to what you know works for these runs and save the experimenting for another day. (This one has been tough as my shoes have been on their last legs but I haven’t broken in a new pair just yet.)

Enjoy it. You’re out on a run, and it’s awesome. If things aren’t going great, just think: you could be home working or cleaning or running errands. So how bad is this mile, really?

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Follow me on Strava for what will most likely be more ridiculousness.

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