Respect the Long Run – No Matter the Distance

(source: Pinterest)

(source: Pinterest)

A few months ago, before I began training for Big Sur, I was talking with my Dad about running. My Dad is a 16-time marathon veteran, a nine-time Boston Marathoner, repping a 3:09 PR. He started running during the first running boom, which he describes as the “hippie days” of running, and while he doesn’t run very often anymore, he is still a vault of knowledge when it comes to anything having to do with running.

At the time of our conversation, I was getting ready to run my first half-marathon and in the midst of dealing with a pretty bad IT Band flare-up. He told me, “Hannah, running is like riding a rollercoaster- it can get you so high to the point of feeling invincible and send you crashing down in a second.” But, he reminded me, at some point the ride levels out.

I remembered this conversation while I was running my 12-mile long run last Saturday. It was a cutback week for me and I thought to myself, “12 miles, that’s a piece of cake!” Maybe I was overzealous coming off of successful back-to-back 16, 18, and 15-mile long runs. I was climbing the roller coaster and didn’t realize I was in for a long downwind decent. All I know is that 12-miler was one of my worst long runs in a long time.

But, you know what? It wasn’t just me who had a bad long run last weekend. In fact, many of my friends training for spring races had bad weekend runs. One person, who was also on a cutback week, said it perfectly – “I didn’t respect the long run.”

I know I didn’t respect the long run last weekend and the long run knew it too. Did I have to stay up until 12:30 the night before? Was it a great idea to try to squeeze in my run before a hair appointment in the late morning? I allotted myself 45 minutes of prep time before heading out the door, was that enough to digest my cereal and coffee? The answer to all of these is probably not.

I think it’s common in marathon training, at least in my experience, to assume the shorter long runs are going to be easy. But it’s that kind of thinking that leads to being less prepared for these shorter long runs. I tend to put the 16, 18, and 20 (which I have yet to do) milers on a pedestal. But in earnest, all long runs should be put on that same pedestal.

So why was the 12-miler such a bad run? It wasn’t that I was hurting and it wasn’t that I wanted to stop, I just felt like my heart wasn’t in it. My stomach felt terrible for some reason and all I could focus on was getting back to my apartment, showering and making it to my appointment on time. But looking back on this run, maybe I was not as prepared for it as I am for longer long runs, but I will take that as a lesson learned.

A blogger friend of mine, Michele Gonzales, had a less-than-fantastic long run last weekend as well. In her blog post about it, she said, as much as she enjoys a successful long run, there’s a lot to learn from the bad ones too. Whether a run is good or bad, short or long, goal pace or easy, there’s something to learn from every run. While these ups and downs can be strenuous, they are what levels us out in the end, so we can make it to the starting line, knowing what works.

8 thoughts on “Respect the Long Run – No Matter the Distance

  1. I think we (as runners) put way too much stock in how the long run is supposed to feel. I know there are different approaches out there to the long run, but I think I’ve put too much emphasis on a “good” or “bad” long run on my pace. Most of my “good” ones are faster than I was expecting. This winter I’ve tried to shift my focus on slowing down and redefining what “easy” means to me. Easy for me is putting myself in a position that I can’t really call a long run “bad” anymore. If I do feel bad, I seek out what’s comfortable, not worrying about my watch, and that makes me feel better about my run. Sorry for the long-winded post. :)

    • I love this! Thanks for sharing your thought David. I completely agree with you though. I also feel like runners definitely put way too much pressure on ourselves to make every long run perfect but when you take that pressure off, that’s when the really good running happens.

  2. Thank you so much for this! I did an 11 on Friday and went into yesterday’s 8 thinking “psh, this is nothing”. Well- nothing turned into 6 very painful (mental and physical) miles. In the end, I didn’t fuel my body right. Lesson learned (again!)

  3. I love this. A long run is different for everyone. For me, 6 miles was long just a year ago. Now, 14 miles is my longest run. It’s not about the distance, it’s about what you personally can handle and I think it becomes difficult not to compare yourself when there are people out there running crazy miles. It isn’t helping anyone to obsess over it though. Great post :)

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