Journey to the long run

I’m really excited to introduce my first guest blogger!

michelle chaplin i run with itMeet Michelle from I Run With It. This is even more fun because we’re done a blog swap, so be sure to swing by her blog for my post. Also, follow Michelle on Twitter.

Michelle is running her first marathon this weekend, and when we talked about post topics, I asked her about how she started distance running. In many way I still feel like a newbie runner, so I asked her for tips on increasing mileage.

She did not disappoint; these are some great tips! Enjoy!

On December 31, 2010, I decided to change my life.

Champagne bubbles prevented me from realizing the scale of my decision until a few months later, but at the time, it seemed like no big deal to make it my New Year’s Resolution to run a marathon.

Two things you should know about me:

1) I never make New Year’s Resolutions.

2) At the time, I had never run more than a mile, not even on a treadmill. Oh, and that mile? I haven’t run it since high school. (And if memory serves correctly, I think I walked about half of it.)

Nevertheless, on January 1, 2011, I registered for the lottery for the NYC Marathon. Then I sort of forgot about it.

Sometime in March, it occurred to me that I had signed up to run 26.2 miles, and had yet to run a single step (unless you count running to catch the subway), so I started a couch-to-5k program, and before I knew it, I was running for 30 minutes at a time multiple times a week.

I didn’t get selected in the marathon lottery, but I found out that I could get guaranteed entry for 2012 if I ran nine races and volunteered at one. So I started signing up for races. Most of them were four miles, one was a 10k.

Then I signed up for a half-marathon.

In San Francisco.

Let me repeat that: Having barely run more than five miles, I registered for the hilliest half-marathon (13.1 miles) I could find.

Are you sensing a pattern here?

I started training, and was surprised to find that not only could I run, I could keep running. That is the fundamental difference between short and long runs. A long run is just a short run, but then you keep running.

Most of my long runs were with a group, so I passed the time having conversations with my fellow runners as the road rolled out before us. But a few weeks before the race, I came to my longest run – 12 miles – and a scheduling conflict meant I’d be running alone.

I was nervous as I set out for my run. I left my headphones at home, since I wouldn’t be wearing them in the race, and set out to conquer the longest run of my life in lonely silence. It actually turned out to be one of my better runs, and not just because at the end I could boast about running 12 miles. Here’s what worked for me:

  • Break it up. Don’t think of your long run as 10 miles or 12 miles. Think of it as five miles that you run twice or four miles that you run three times. Having those little goals along the run gave me a sense of accomplishment that helped keep me going.
  • Eat and drink. If you’re out running for a long time, you’re definitely gonna need water, and you’ll probably need some sort of fuel as well. Fuel can range from completely disgusting to utterly delicious; from all natural to 100% artificial. Try different things out, find out what works for you.
  • Run someplace nice. I was lucky enough to live by Central Park when my running journey started, which made pounding out 12 miles that much more enjoyable. Just as people and music are helpful distractions, nature can be a distraction to. It’s a long run, so stop and smell the roses (well, run and smell the roses).
  • Prepare for the pain. If you’re running a longer distance than you’ve ever run before, at some point, your body is probably going to want to stop. The best way to battle this is to practice positive thinking and arm yourself with mantras before you start so they’re at the ready when the “suck” part of the run comes around.
  • Celebrate. It is a big accomplishment to run a long distance, so plan to celebrate. Whether it’s treating yourself to a nice massage or tweeting your feat to all your followers, give yourself credit. Because credit is due.

In training for the marathon, I had 15, 17 and 19-mile long runs, and the same strategy still applies. So go out and enjoy your long run!


One thought on “Journey to the long run

  1. Pingback: running the mental game of running | i run with it

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