The run that I look forward to and get excited about the most is the long run. Without question.
Even though it has taken on different forms during my running career, it has been the one run that each week revolves around and that the other runs fit into. Whether “long” was 6 miles (which was long for me in college), 20-21 (like it is now for marathon training) or 30 (when I was training for my first ultra), it’s been the highlight of my week.
I fell in love with running during the long run—during my first couple years of running, I paid no attention to pace, time or distance. I just ran. The long run was my friend, my therapy and my relief from things I was facing in life. It was the 2-3 hour break I got to take once a week from all that was going in.
These days, long runs are most often early Saturday morning. There’s an excitement that starts building on Friday. From the moment I get up, I focus on hydration. Later that day, I check the weather and pick out my outfit. I plan out dinner—something plain with carbs and protein (often pasta with fish or chicken). I charge my iPod and GPS. And I try to get to bed early.
The excitement and nervousness is palpable as the day progresses and then it reaches its peak the next morning when I’m getting ready to start the run. It’s not that I question that I can run the distance. Having completed multiple marathons, an ultramarathon and an Ironman, I know that I can physically run 20 miles.
It’s more about shutting down the doubt in my mind as the miles progress and my body gets more and more tired. It’s about continuing to move when your legs are tired. It’s about remaining positive and pulling yourself out of the dark hole you are in during the 2-3+ hours you are running.
I do not train to run faster. I train to remove doubt from my body and from my mind.
The long run is the way to remove that doubt.
For more on the Saucony 26 Strong program, which pairs up 13 coaches with 13 marathon rookies, visit 26Strong.com.