Just Running, long?

With a few long runs under your belt you’re probably wondering just what the long runs are for. Yes a key part of your weekly training routine, working towards being on your feet for two hours plus, getting the distance into those leg, yes all that.

But what is it really all about?

Well it’s about running, well, long? Giving you that chance on return to regale those who will listen that you’ve run x far today, been round to such and such and back again, got over those hills, through randomly emerging pedestrians from shops, avoided phone-focussed totterers, rounded scooting, skating, riding random toddlers, sidestepped woofy mutts, and challenged ranty motorists.

Isn’t it?

Isn’t it just running longer than you’ve run before, or have run for a while. All in preparation for the target race, to make sure you finish the target (long) distance?

Well yes it is, but the long run is far, far more useful than just getting through the distance. It’s an opportunity, a test bed, an experiment, a plain old running exam that used correctly can give you that extra edge come race day.

So what then, should you use the longer distance for?

Well simply, testing everything around race day.

So test that breakfast routine, its timing, its content, the fluid intake. How much you eat prior to running and what you’ll be able to stomach come race day when adrenaline kicks in and the stomach starts its own running race well before you’ve even started?

Check out different kit options for different weathers. What keeps you comfortable, too hot, too cold, too sweaty? Where is your race number going to go, front, back, somewhere else?

Is it just shorts, shorts and running tights, just running tights, will the mankini really work? Where’s the timing chip going to go, on your shoe, left or right, or is it in the race number? Is there even a timing chip? And what about the kit options, post-race, what to change into, and how are you going to get that to the race and most importantly the finish? How big a kit bag are you allowed and what will fit in the damn thing?

Critically, test your anti-chafing routine. In wet weather, or very hot weather damp, moist, soaking kit becomes that much heavier. Heavy kit takes on new exfoliant properties, even dry kit, or seams on kit adopt the same properties.

Properties which go far beyond the smoothing effects featured in those TV ads.

Well beyond.

We’re talking, well…………..

RED F*$K***, Blood Seeping, Raw!  Fire and flames.

Not always, but best avoided if you ask me.

Ouch. And the bloody stained shirt fronts are not this year’s must have. We’ll stay up top, but never forget the undercarriage either. Invest in Vaseline and plasters, use it well, remember the 1, 2, 3, smear to cheer, and lubricate your running success.

Test gels, bloks, preferably the same ones your race organiser is providing, or if making your own check those out too. There’s no disgrace in interrupting a training run for an impromptu toilet stop because something ‘didn’t work out’, or rather because something was about to work out. Use this as an opportunity to see how you benefit from gels and bloks. Whether it benefits how you feel, perform, particularly as the distance gets really long. Do this alongside your hydration routine. Will you take your hydration pack with you on race day, or use the cups/bottles race organisers will provide on the day? If it also involves sports drinks then test those out in your training runs so your body is used to those as well. I found some give me truly terrible indigestion and this is not great when trying to push yourself.

Pay attention to the head stuff as the distance gets long. I’ve written plenty about this in previous blogs. But there’s plenty that your inner dialogue (yep everyone has it) will challenge you, particularly in the tough bits. The long run test gives you the opportunity to hear this stuff, respond internally, and practise routines to get you through the negative stuff when it comes up. If you’ve challenged it before in training you can do it again in the race, and get through it. There’s plenty to learn from it, about you and your running, and your response to challenge. Revel in this in training and your race will be so much better.

What we also lose the sense of, is something a little bit deeper, no I’m not back on the chafing again, it’s something that has come up in a book on running I’ve been reading – Running with the Pack by Mark Rowlands. It highlights how we struggle to appreciate our running as anything other than a means to an end. As the book identifies:

Certainly, that is the way the activity of running is typically justified, both to oneself and others. One runs, so one says, to stay healthy, to stay thin, to relax, to stay alive. The implicit assumption in these answers is that if running is a legitimate way of spending one’s time, then it must be ‘good for something’: that is, it must be useful in some way” (p.xii).

I fully appreciate everything above falls exactly into this trap, because the things above are things that the long run is useful for.

But, I want to end encouraging you to think of the long run as something that is important in itself, it is an experience to revel in, and enjoy, just for the sake of the experience of it. However that experience might be for you, whatever happens during or after it.

It’s just that you’re running long and:

for a time at least, one does not chase value, one is immersed in it” (p.xiii).


About Simon Tanner

Nine time marathon runner, having run Brighton x6, London x2, and Manchester x1, finally got a London ballot place after 7 consecutive attempts. I try to write about things I'm going through / have gone through in training to help others attain their running goals, whatever the distance.
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