Running is a funny old thing isn’t it?! Sometimes you can’t get enough of it and then there are periods where you just can’t seem to motivate yourself to even get out of the door. I’m particularly prone to this see-sawing when it comes to long runs. I started lockdown only doing short runs but I’m doing lots of long ones now and really enjoying them. I began thinking and analysing (as I’m prone to do!) what it is at the moment that means I’m already planning my next long run even though my legs are still sore from yesterday’s one.
For me personally, a long run is anything over 10k (around 6 miles). I think the distance is irrelevant because in the past, my long one would have been anything over 5k. It just depends where you are in your running journey. Any run where the focus is on pushing distance rather than pace or speed counts as your long run in my mind.
Here’s what I’ve come up with as the factors that are helping me feel so enthusiastic about the long runs currently:
In the past I’ve only ever really pushed myself to go longer when I’ve been training for a marathon, I’ve always needed that focus to motivate and encourage me to spend the best part of half a day (and more for recovery!) sweating it out on the road. Strangely now, I’m two long runs away from being marathon ready and there’s no marathon booked or even on the horizon. This means I’m purely doing them because I want to. The pressure has gone. It doesn’t matter if I don’t quite do the distance I’d planned and I’m less worried about getting injured when I decide to take a different route and add on a few miles. Running for running’s sake is liberating. There’s so many reasons to run other than training for races.
I’ve also not been bothered about the pace I’m running at. I’ve worn my Garmin to record the run but not looked at it during the runs. I’ve been running purely on feel, in fact I’m trying to run slower on these runs and not sneak into my higher heart rate zones. I think the fact that I have been doing one or two dedicated, short speed sessions with my youngest son at other times during the week has helped me to separate the long run out in my mind. This is not about performance. This is different and the aim is to enjoy it; I struggle to enjoy the speed work! I can run and not worry that I should be doing some fartleks or intervals or even be trying to reduce my miles/minute over the longer distance. There’s an awful lot of elevation in the long runs round here so speed is hard to come by. This might sound pretty basic but I think it’s actually doing the speed sessions rather than just be ‘meaning to do’ them that has allowed me to relax on these long runs.
There’s nothing like a new piece of kit to make you want to run! I got a hydration vest for my birthday and it is awesome. I’ve mentioned it in a blog before but I absolutely LOVE it. It’s made by Ultimate Direction and the fit is incredible, I don’t even know I’m wearing it. Currently I’m just using the water bottle that comes with it but I’m going to buy a proper water bladder for it. I only really drink on the run when I’m going over ten miles (unless it’s super hot in which case it’s over 10k) so I’ve wanted to run long to justify me using it. I can’t wait to pull it on.
Similar to the new kit, I’ve been using a different fuel. I was originally gifted a trial pack of 33 Fuel – Better Fuel Energy Drink and discovered it was exactly what I needed so I bought a stock. Liquid hydration suits me best these days and with this I can run long and maintain my energy levels really well, there’s no sugar roller coaster and I’ve honestly felt great. I’m sure it’s played a large role in me finding the long runs more enjoyable. It’s a great partner for my hydration vest.
Wow, there’s been so much to think about recently hasn’t there? Running has always been my chance to digest, ponder and problem solve. I’ve needed it more than ever with all that is going on in the world. The long runs during lockdown have been the perfect opportunity to check in with my own mental health and now they have been a chance to reflect on my pledge to educate myself more about race and diversity. Working with 261 Fearless means every day I’m striving to help all women feel included in our activities but I know there’s more I can do to inform myself. I’ve appreciated this quiet time and the fresh perspective that running long gives me.
Going that bit further means you see that much more and I’ve loved finding new routes and add-ons to the ones I know. Running in a different area with a friend recently was a joy. When you have no idea of the route then somehow you don’t dread the miles ahead and can just enjoy the current mile. There’s no fear of the big long hill coming up or the sharp elevation right in the final half mile. The bird song has been so loud, the lambs so sweet and the roads being quieter than usual due to lockdown has been a bonus. Small things but enough to make the long runs even better.
An unexpected bonus and one that has made such a difference is the opportunity to spend time with my eldest son. Sixteen can be a hard age to maintain shared interests. He’s a good runner but he prefers his bike. Many of our miles have been in companionable silence and I love this. Just being together, enjoying the nature around us, being separate in our thoughts yet together too. He speeds up and slows down and loops back for me and while I don’t feel particularly vulnerable on the routes that I do, it has certainly made me feel more secure. It’s nice that he’s been keen to get up early on a Sunday morning to join me, it means a lot to me and shows me that he’s enjoying it too.
So I think it’s a combination of things that have improved my long run experience, helped me to get out the door and and made me want to run further as well as enjoy the miles more. I plan to do an ultra one day. For now though I’m happy around 15 miles and ready to step up to my next marathon if and when the opportunity arises.
How is your running going? Have you found yourself running further recently? I know many people are the opposite to me and haven’t been running as much. I’d love to hear your experiences.