A matter of perspective…the long run.

runningJust how long is a “long” run?

Marathon training has a way of warping your perspective on this one.  My 16 week marathon training plan started out with a long run of 13 miles.  Thank goodness I had run two half marathons in the five months preceding the onset of marathon training, so this was OK by me.  I also was still highly motivated after being sidelined for months with stress fractures and recovery from foot surgery.  Run?  A lot?  Yes, please!  Distance was added, pace was quickened, and endurance was built over 14 weeks until I hit the point where I stand today.  I remember this point during the taper of my last marathon too.  The part where I flippantly used “only” and “13 miles” in the same sentence.  The part where people look at me like I’m crazy when I speak that sentence.  Marathon training has a way of making you crazy, in more ways than one.

Just so we’re clear – 13 miles is a LONG way to run!  However, when the previous weekend had seen my feet cover 23.5 miles, 13 felt like a short little jaunt through the park.  It’s all a matter of perspective.  Right now, at this point of my training, with 26.2 miles staring me in the face in two short weeks, I’m darn close to marathon-ready condition.  Thirteen miles?  Crazy as it may sound – it doesn’t feel like a long run to me.  But, that’s crazy me, coming into the home stretch from the peak of marathon training, right now.

Ask a “normal” runner what constitutes a long run, and you’ll get anything from 3 miles to 20 miles for an answer.  I clearly remember when I started running.  I hated running.  Three miles was pure torture.  It was LONG, and I also vividly remember saying I’d never run farther than that. Sometimes I don’t mind eating my words.  Then, when I trained for my first half marathon…5 miles was long, then it got longer until I worked my way up to 13.1.  Marathon training?!  That’s crazy talk.  But something magical happened.  Somewhere along the line, I discovered that I love the long run.

marathon training the long run

I’ve thought long and hard about what kind of runner I am.  I like to be fast (who doesn’t?!), and I can hold my own while pushing the pace for interval runs, but I still dream of a 5k with a sub-8 minute pace.  Running fast hurts my lungs and it hurts my head – I have more trouble with the mental games when I push pace than when I push distance.  Running long?  As I don’t really hit my sweet spot and happy pace until about 3 miles in…this is more my style.  Funny thing is…I never would have pegged myself as a marathoner.  If you’d asked me 5 years ago, before I’d even laced up running shoes, you would have gotten a hearty laugh out of me!  Fortunately, I love a challenge and I love an adventure (but I’m not too fond of surprises, go figure), so discovering that I am a distance runner with a hunger for endurance has been a fun journey of sprint triathlons, half marathons, Ragnar Relay, and marathons.

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I don’t mind a 20+ mile run.  Yes, I know that’s a ludicrous statement.  I love a 13 mile run.  AND…I discovered today that when my body is used to high mileage weekends (long runs the last few weeks have been 23.5, 17.2, 16, 21.5…), a 13 mile run is not enough.  I felt great yesterday, and then today I was crabby and restless…like I hadn’t been completely fulfilled and I hadn’t run out quite all the stress-induced demons in those 13 miles yesterday.  Here’s hoping a 13 mile bike ride exorcised the last of this week’s worries that I need to let go of before starting anew – with a speed workout at the butt crack o’dawn on Monday!

I am a distance runner.  I love the long run.  Perhaps it’s because of the paradox of pushing myself until I’m weak so that I feel strong.  Perhaps it’s because marathon training is such a great metaphor for life in general, and not to mention a great way to deal with my life in particular.  Two weeks to Twin Cities Marathon.  I’ll be ready!

441008233_640AND — that means there are 14 short days to get your donation into the Alzheimer’s Association for my ALZ Stars charity team – CLICK HERE to contribute – every dollar counts and you have no idea how much it means to me when I get notification of each donation…to a charity that is as near and dear to my heart as one possibly could be, to make a lasting difference in honor of my Dad – and thereby also making an investment in ME that provides the support and encouragement I’ll  need to make it through the toughest miles of the marathon.  I’m getting closer and closer to my goal – both fundraising and toeing that marathon starting line.  Thank you for coming along for the journey!

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