How to grind out long training runs


Someone recently posed this question to me after I’d finished one of those grueling, long training runs before a marathon. I just completed my longest-ever training run – 22 miles – so I guess this is good time to respond. And if you were wondering, I definitely dread these workouts. They are never easy, and I know I’m going to be tired and soar for at least a day or two after I have completed them. That said, here are a few tips that help me go the distance.

Vary the routine. This was the single, best thing I did to help out on my 22-mile last week. I typically do my long runs at daybreak on Saturday. This time around, I altered my routine and ran on Friday morning. I was excited to have a half day “to myself” that I would normally spend working, so I didn’t dread the run as much. Not to mention, it was so awesome to sleep in on Saturday! Also, Mike Shuman, the running pro who designed my training schedule, recommended I start my long training runs at the same time my race starts (considering any time zone changes). The Nike Women’s Marathon starts at 7 PT so I started my training run close to this time.

Seek sunshine. After training through two rugged Boise winters for the Boston marathon, staving off hours of wind, snow, ice and cold, a beautiful training day is music to my ears! On Friday, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. High was 71 degrees. No humidity. You could not ASK for a better day for running. That gave me a huge mental boost. Too bad I missed Lee Corso, who was walking along the Boise River at the same time I was running, prior College Game Day in Boise. (YEAH BRONCOS!)

Enjoy the first 13-14 miles. After you log some serious miles, you’ll be amazed at how a 13-miler feels like a no-brainer! So for this segment of the run, enjoy! Soak in the sunshine, listen to music if you want and take in the scenery. The real mental battle begins during the last 6-8 miles, or hour to hour and half.

Try to run with others for the last part of the run. Morale support and conversation helps. But if you’re solo…

Vary the tunes. Switch tunes, or better yet, consider switching from music to an audiobook. Friday, I actually listened to a few Oprah podcasts. They do a nice job of taking the focus away from pain and onto the topic at hand.

Eat more Gu. It can’t hurt. Right? Your body can absorb 250 calories per hour, so don’t hesitate to fuel your body with food and/or sports drinks. For more information on what to eat or drink during a long run, click the respective links.

Walk during water breaks. My friends used to make fun of me for jogging in place when they stopped – I simply could not halt in fear of not being able to start back. But now I’ve seen the light. I actually feel better when I pick up the pace after a glug of water and bite of food, and slowing down the heart rate has proven to be a good thing for the long haul. (Hint: Try to mimic what you’ll do on race day).

Try not to think about your aches and pains. It’s inevitable. Things are GOING TO HURT by mile 15+ (unless you’re a lot younger than I am, and even still you might feel the legs screaming). Stretch. Walk for a bit. Do what you can to alleviate the aches, but more than anything, try to focus on something else. Anything else! Teri had a few aches on her long run, along with a few other self-proclaimed errors.

Save your very favorite songs for the end. I play my favorite songs during the last 1 1/2 miles and sing aloud (And I’m sure Luke, if he heard me, would say, “Mommy, please stop singing!”) I think about the lyrics, the melody and why I like the song so much (music always takes you somewhere). Focus on the beat, and not how tired you are.

Rejoice! When you are finished. Even if your body aches, you’ll be flying high from the accomplishment! Check out how elated Lindsay was to complete her 20-miler!

Don’t forget to have fun. Jen reminds us that you have to relax and enjoy the experience. Even when you’re back in the saddle after an injury. Tomorrow, I’ll offer up my pre-run strategy, which also helps promote a better long, training run.]]>

Melinda Hinson