If you have ever followed a training plan for a race, then it will always have the long run in it. This will be at least one time in the week where essentially you aim to go out slower but farther than the rest of your weekly runs. Apparently, they’re very good for you. I have found out this science bit:
These runs produce more mitochondria and capillaries in your muscle cells, increase your aerobic capacity, improve your cardiovascular system’s efficiency, increase your muscles’ and liver’s ability to store glycogen, strengthen your musculoskeletal system, give you a greater ability to work through muscular fatigue and increase your body’s ability to use fat as fuel.https://www.runnersworld.com/uk/training/a774616/essential-guide-to-long-runs/
Well that’s absolutely marvellous and I wish I had read this when I’d been training for all those half marathons (and the two marathons) I’ve done in the past, because it sounds to me that if I’d committed to them properly I could have turned into Wonder Woman!
I used to do training plans the way many people do diets, like a yo-yo. I would get a week or two of sticking to it and then miss a crucial couple of days and then it would be binned, before I started another, and another, until I was down to the final ‘Complete the Half Marathon without dying’ training plan, about two weeks before the day. The Long Run was nearly always the spanner in the works.
It has always previously filled me with a bit of a dread, especially when the miles got into the late teens. Wondering whether I had enough gels (slightly sickly carbohydrate gloop in sachets), or water; whether I’d need the loo on the way; whether I would get too tired to finish it. All of the above have floored me at least once (it’s traumatic trying to find a bush sometimes) and that’s when they get into the mind and start whispering to you before you even get out the door.
That sounds slightly dramatic I know, but running is as much a psychological game as well as a physical one. Research has shown that your body can go way further than your mind thinks it can. Your angels and your demons have more space to tussle when you’re monotonously slogging away and it can get schizophrenic.
Monotony is a big problem but there are ways to challenge that. You can run with someone, or if you’re on your own, listen to a podcast or audio book. I find that better than music because you have to concentrate on it more which means you’re thinking less about your legs. I’ve also been known to map out the super long runs to make sure I include cafes/petrol stations etc. en route for a quick wee. And don’t think you can keep this need at bay by not drinking liquids. As I found out during the London Marathon, that way leg cramps lie.
The absence of races in this last year and a bit has meant my running has been sporadic. But the January kick start has given me a nice foundation to get going again. My long run now is up to 7.5 miles and although that takes me as long as it used to take me to run 10 miles (which I try NOT to dwell on), it’s okay. It’s the furthest I’ve run in one run since the middle of last year.
The plan is (loosely, kind of, in a non-committal manner) to get to about 12 miles or so, and try and maintain that stamina until the races start again. It would be nice to get to a fitness level again where I could rock up to a Half and know I can finish it without too much pain but in the meantime I will just keep repeating the mantra ‘more mitochondria’ and visualise that gold tiara on my head.