Ok, I will try to give some tips that work for me. My disclaimer is I am not a certified coach, or personal trainer, and any information I give is strictly based on personal experience.
The two hardest parts of training for a race for most people are consistency and the long run. Consistency is important because the day in, day out runs build long term endurance. They end up being your insurance policy when a long run falls through, or even a little injury layoff happens. With consistent miles on your legs, you can probably still do your event just fine even if you miss some training. Many runners struggle with getting out the door each day. I will say I am really good at not missing my runs. Here is what works for me:
I plan an off day each week, based on what else is going on in my life. I pick the day at the start of the week. Most weeks, my off day is dictated by a really early meeting at work, and it’s just easier to not run that day. So if my week starts, and I know Thursday will be my day off running, when Monday hits and I do not want to get out of bed, I talk myself out of turning off that alarm, knowing I have a rest day in just a few days. If I am really lucky, I don’t have a meeting at work, and I will usually take Friday off and sleep as late as Jasper and my schedule allow…which is about 2 more hours than normal. Knowing this is on the horizon, pushes me all week to get up when I just don’t feel like it. I also try to preplan what I am running the night before. So when I get up, I know I am doing my hill run, or an easy run, or whatever. Somehow having a plan makes getting going less painful. I also give myself some time to wake up. Sometimes all it takes is a few minutes to go from wanting to go back to bed to being ready to head out and run. When you give yourself an out if you are sleepy and say “I’ll run tomorrow”, then you can find yourself taking more off days then you planned. Pick a rest day (or more based on your training plan), and stick to it. Of course there are days you are sick, or truly exhausted. Of course take a break if you need it. But, do you really think are you truly exhausted, or just sleepy? You can always adjust the intensity of the run if you are sleepy. I do this all the time….but I try to never let sleepiness keep me from a run. Chances are you will still be sleepy even if you skip the run, so you might as well do it and enjoy the burst of energy you’ll get immediately following.
The long run is another huge mental challenge. The very best way to knock one of these out is get a partner. This may not always be possible. So then try to get a partner for a chunk of the long run, and run on your own, before, or after. If I can’t get anyone, or if you only have someone for a very small part, of a very long run, I like to run loops. I don’t necessarily run the same loop multiple times. I usually string together a bunch of shorter routes I do to equal the distance I am wanting to get done. This way I think “3 loops” and not “20 miles”. Plus, I usually plan loops with bathroom access and places to refill water. Another long run tip I have is the half GU/ gel. I always carry more gels than I think I will use. If I am really having a hard time finishing up a long run, and even though I may only have a few miles left, I will take half a gel, just to get me over the hump. The other thing I sometimes do is not worry if I do cut it a couple of miles short. If it truly is a miserable day, sometimes this is just the way it goes. Long runs are really just about the mental benefit. I feel more confident going into something if I know I completed some hard runs. But, chances are most likely if I cut a couple of miles here and there, I will still finish….remember that consistency thing? If I am all alone for my run, I try to alternate my mind between dissociating and focusing. Sometimes focusing on staying on a pace, or keeping form helps pass the time. Sometimes just letting the mind wander to another part of my life helps miles pass. I generally do not listen to music. Sometimes I do in a race, but since I usually run on the roads, predawn, I do not feel it is safe to have ear buds in.
So I hope I had some helpful advice. Anyone is always welcome to email me if they are getting into running and want help. I am happy to offer my perspective.
In other news, I think it is really cute that Jasper uses the baby sign for “chicken” when he wants something. No, it’s not the right word but I find myself now saying “What is it Jasper, chicken? Ok, you want more food”