Sunday, 31 January 2016

How I get through my long runs

This morning just after 9am, I said to Phil "okay, I'm off out for my run, I'll be back just before 12."
And off I went to run for 2 hours, 41 minutes.

Now for a lot of people, this is crazytown. Going out running for nearly 3 hours, voluntarily, on a cold, wet, Sunday morning. 

But if you're training for a big race, this is kind of part of the deal. If you're running anything beyond a 10K you have to run a long run, but it can be pretty daunting.

After over two years of these kind of long runs, dating back to training for my first half marathon back in late 2013, I've learned a lot and tried a lot of different things to get through that long run, and now I'm training for a marathon those long runs are getting longer and longer (and what was once a long run is now something I squeeze in before work!) and I'm finally figuring out what works for me during my training.

Not all of this will work for everyone, but these are the things that are working for me at the moment on my journey to 26.2...

1. Get the run out of the way early
If I have a 2 or 3 hour run I need to do, I need to get that out of the way early. Usually on a Sunday I'm up and out by 8am to ensure I have plenty of the day left to enjoy. I have a really difficult time feeling like I'm "wasting" my weekend, so the sooner I get out the sooner I get back!

2. But give yourself time to prepare
I like to set my alarm about an hour before my run to give me some time to eat something, have a cup of tea, get all my stuff together and get ready. For me, personally, I don't like to just get out and go.

3. Have a few good podcasts ready
I've talked before about my love of podcasts, and it's during my long runs that I listen to them most. I favour podcasts over an hour in length so I'm not constantly stopping to put a new one on. My favourites for long runs are the Bret Easton Ellis podcast and This American Life. I used to run to music, but now I only do that during races because I like to zone out to a podcast and I just can't do that with music.

4. Remember the first few miles always suck
I kind of thought this was just me, but it turns out that this is a common phenomenon among  runners which makes me feel so much better! I always hate the first couple of miles and always think "how am I going to keep going for ten, twelve, fourteen more miles?!" but I always get into the groove around mile 3.

5. Start out slowly and build up
I always start my run slowly to ensure I have enough energy preserved for the rest of my run. I usually find about half way I pull myself up to a decent pace and by the end I'm hitting my marathon pace, but I always remind myself that you are supposed to run your training runs 30-90 seconds slower than marathon pace so I try to focus on that.

6. Focus on the mile you're in
It's so easy to be three miles into a 15 mile run and think "oh my god, 12 miles still to go" but this is so overwhelming and can really get you down. I always always always focus on the mile I'm in and my next mile marker, and don't think about the future miles I have coming up. One miles at a time!

7. Run in a straight line if possible
Now this is totally a me thing, but I always always always run in a straight line, get half way and turn back, and psychologically this really works for me. Coming back never seems as hard, so in my head I feel like I'm only really running to that half way point. I used to run loops at home which used to psyche me out a bit, but this method totally works for me because coming back always seems easier. I know where all the "markers" are on the way home so I always think "only four miles to go from here!" or "just three miles from this point" and that really helps me break the run down.

8. Have something to look forward to
These days I start taking a sports drink at anything over nine miles, and sweets for anything over 13. I decided early on I didn't want to get involved in gels because a) they're expensive and b) I've heard digestion horror stories, so for me it's sports drink and sweets. And water, obviously. I don't always get around to eating my sweets, but I always crack open that sports drink after about 4 miles and always try to make it last as long as possible. It's silly, but knowing you can open your drink in another mile does give you something to get excited about!

9. Let your mind wander
There's a reason people think of running as mediation. On my long runs I write blog posts in my head, write lists in my mind and importantly, wonder what I'm going to have to eat when I get home. Sometimes I turn my podcast off for a little while so I can focus on my thoughts.

10. Plan your day accordingly
Ever since I started running over 12 miles on a Sunday I've been finding I'm a bit of a hot mess on Sunday afternoons. I'm just utterly exhausted. So I've had to stop planning much on a Sunday except for housework and the occasional cinema trip. Of course, I go crazy when I get bored, but I think my body needs that time to recover from the trauma! This also applies to the night before - I try to avoid staying out late on Saturday nights now because I know I'll be exhausted for my run, or I'll have to catch up on sleep which means my run will eat into more of my day. Sure it's not great for your social life, but most people are pretty understanding!

Speaking of being a mess on a Sunday, it's time for my to curl up on the sofa and relax for a few hours!

Have a lovely Sunday!

Charlotte x

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