Long runs can be tough.
Starting out might be the easiest part – you’re fresh and enthusiastic and (hopefully) feeling healthy and fit, but if you’re really going long – whatever that is for you, on any given day – there’s probably also some apprehension about all that time/distance ahead of you. Or downright dread maybe.
The middle part, is definitely tough, when it seems you’ve been running forever and still have forever to go. Calorie reserves dwindling, pressure points announcing themselves, any lingering weak points of the physiology becoming more and more prominent, this is where runners build character, whether we want it or not.
But then there’s the last portion, when you can smell the barn and see the light… Despite fatigue, aches and pains, this may just be the best part of a long run – cruising to the finish. Unless…
Unless you’re ramping-up to some long goal or event, following one of those training plans where every week or two (or three for those of us who need a lot of recovery time) you make that weekly long run a little bit longer (10% more than the last one is the oft-spoken rule, so that’s what we’ll refer to). Adding distance means that just as you are getting to what last time around was the payoff, you have to “go the extra mile,” and that is no small deal, since by definition the lead-up you’re now staggering to complete is 100% of the max you’ve run before in this training cycle. Aching, sticky with sweat or frozen with cold, stomach grumbling (at best), bowels raising the alarm (definitely not the best scenario) the prospect of going even farther can be pretty daunting, especially if the earlier miles haven’t gone particularly well. Some thoughts that have helped this follower-dog “keep on keepin’ on”:
One: A lagging pace in that final extra distance doesn’t affect your average pace nearly as much as it might seem. The reason is basic math – proportions. Let’s say your pace in the added 10% drops by one minute per mile. Since you’ve already run 10 times as far, the impact on average pace will be 60 seconds divided by 11, or less than 6 seconds – a rounding error for those of us in the middle of the pack. Even if the pace lags more than that, if you’ve given it your best for the bulk of the distance, that added 10% is all about the doing, you don’t need to ace it.
Two: When temptation rears its ugly head, suggesting you call it a day and do that long-run-plus in a couple of days, or next week, (or any other time but right now, which is what I’m really thinking, right about then), it may help to remind yourself what it took to get to where you even have the choice whether or not to do that 10%. If you bag it today, you’ll have to run the whole 100% again, just to be where you can make this decision. That’s right folks, you can end the pain and suffering here and now, but then you’ll have to go through it all again just to get back where you are today.
And Three: if you can just make it through that extra 10%, what a sense of satisfaction you’ll have! Whereas,if not, you’ll have done somewhere up to 90.9% of the work (that’s 100% out of 110%) for none of the payoff. Talk about a rip-off!
Biscuits-and-gravy comes to mind – that 100% you’ve already run is like the biscuits – hearty and nutritious, but by themselves more than a little dry and grainy. The added 10% is the gravy, the part your mouth has been watering for, and that will make all the rest go down smooth and easy. If you’ve gotten anywhere near it, push on through and make the miles.
In most areas of life, “giving it 110%” is a cliché – and worse, one that flies in the face of logic and mathematics. In running though, it can be very real, and all the literature seems to agree it has big benefits. So make a training plan and ratchet up the distance, and when you find yourself on the cusp of calling it off, remember: that extra 10% is what makes the meal worth savoring.
Long runs? Yummie!
(Easy enough to say when I’m sitting at this keyboard…)