Ok, here’s what makes marathoning different from just going out and running. It’s all about doing distances you never thought you could do. It’s about runs of 20 or more miles. It’s about doing distances that seem far even if you are driving.
Don’t freak out! There are ways to get through the long run. Here are some things that work for me:
1. Live like an athlete but not too much. The day before my long run, I focus on my body. I eat well, I keep a water bottle handy all day, I don’t make plans that mean being up late. I spend a mellow night at home with a movie, and save the night plans for the next day. I try to eat a good dinner. BUT, I don’t try to overdo it. I might still eat out, just not late. If have a glass of wine after work sounds good, I’ll have a small glass. I just try not to get too worked up that I have 20 to run the next morning, and I don’t do something silly like get in bed a 1am, but I don’t get in bed at 800 just to stare at the clock for hours.
2. Break it down. This is by far my favorite way to run long, especially if I am solo, or only getting a buddy for a couple of miles. I love, love, love to run loops. I don’t repeat a small loop over and over, but rather pick about 3 routes and do each one. Last weekend I had to do 20, and I ran a 7 mile loop, an 8 mile loop and then a 5 mile loop. There was a little overlap on some of the loops, but not much. It’s the old “eating an elephant” analogy. The whole thing is overwhelming, so break it into smaller chunks. 3 loops seems much more doable than a huge 20 mile loop. After one, I’ll think “2 more” and then after that second one I think “almost done”, not “5 more miles”. Plus, I take a micro break after each to hit the bathroom if needed, fill up water etc. I swear to you …this is the easiest way to run long!!!!
3. FUEL, FUEL, FUEL. I have a couple of friends who can do 20 miles on a couple sips of water, but not me. I eat breakfast before I go, and I always bring more gels or gummies than I think I will need. I don’t get trying to run on fumes. If you keep your blood sugar up, I guarantee the run will feel better. If you feel “blah” or a little down at one point, it may just be a dip in blood sugar, so to eat something. My favorite tip for fueling is take extra and even if you hit just 3 miles to go and you feel bonk-y, just take half a gel, or one little gummy. It may give you that jolt you need to finish strong, which equals finishing confident for your race. There is no point in bonking! It is avoidable.
4. The art of distraction. I’m not the hugest fan of listening to music while I run, but I’ve used it before when I just can’t handle the negative thoughts of “this sucks!” in my head. I prefer to listen to an album rather than playlists, and really try to take it all in as one creation. Example: Listen to the Beatles White Album in one stretch. Totally different experience than throwing a song on a playlist. I also love, love, love podcasts. By now most of the two of you who read this know that. I love listening to interviews with runners who inspire me. I also love to pick an old episode of This American Life where they only have one story. If you are a fan of the show, I promise you will become completely sucked into in within the hour it’s on, and then depending on your pace, you’ll be done with a pretty good chunk of your run.
5. Finally, guilt yourself into it. You set aside the time, you have your family on board, you are planning to enjoy a delicious IPA and pub fries later (if you’re like me), so don’t be a loser and back out. Plus, remember that running is a gift. You get a way to tap into mind, body and spirit that not everyone can or is able to do. We’re lucky folks…those of us who have a life that lets us do this stuff. And that IPA will taste sooooo much better after you can check the 20 mile box.
And to get totally inspirational poster BS crazy on you….here’s one of my favorite ultra running quotes (not sure who first said it, but a lot of people quote it) “You’re better than you think you are, and you can do more than you think you can.”
.Now go out and run! (but bring an extra gel and a really good podcast with you)