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The anatomy of a Long Run

So I was thinking on my last long run before the LA Marathon this past weekend, how do I break down these training runs? I thought it might be interesting to some (maybe none?) to let you inside how I get through the long run and what I’m thinking about during the miles. I think that it’s simply imperative for me to break up the run into smaller increments and get through each part of the run like that, and not focus on the run as a whole. When I start out I think about the first three miles and how I run that all the time. It’s a 5k. Once you get those down, I subtract 3 from 20 and then think about the number 17 instead of 20. I think it’s much less daunting and much more manageable.

Then from 4-10, I think of that as a 10k. It’s six miles, and you can break that down to be two sets of 3 miles, or just 6 miles. I try my hardest to tell myself to relax and to let my arms drop every now and then or else my back will get too tight by the end of my run. I focus on breathing and just relaxing. I tell myself a lot to just let it go and keep moving forward. This is the hardest part of the run for me because most of my long runs are out and backs and this is the part where you just keep running further and further out. Once I hit 5-8, I am usually in the zone and moving right along without much thought. I make sure to release my shoulders every now and then and also focus on relaxing. If I don’t relax, things get ugly.

Then I hit mile 10. This is where things usually start to look up a little bit because I’m finally turning around and can re-trace my steps back home. Once I know I’ve made it “out” and I just have to make it back, things become a little bit easier. It’s almost a game to see the same things I saw on the way out. I think a lot about the fact that I’ve already made it ten miles and I just have to make it back home and then I’m done. Usually around miles 12-14 my feet start to hurt a little bit since I’ve been on my feet for around two hours at this point. I keep breaking it down and keep moving forward. Once mile 15 comes around I know I have 5 left and that is a relief, because I KNOW I can run that far and I also am getting closer and closer to my house.

Mile 16-18 are usually where I start getting a little tired and weird. My mind starts to wander to weird things, for example what I’m going to eat later, if I’ll take a nap and how I’ll feel the next day. I start to switch up my running form just a little bit at this point to keep my feet a little fresher and try to make me feel better. This is where I struggle, because once I hit about 18.5 or 19, I know I’m basically done. I have one mile to go and then I’m home. I know how far a lot of different landmarks are from my house and when I hit those it’s like I have new energy, in a weird, hobbly, awkward energy kind of way.

During a long run I really focus on breaking it down and running it for myself not for time. If I stop to walk at all, I will make sure I only walk for a minute and then run again. I do have a lot of stop lights that I run through so that sometimes gives me a little unexpected break too. I know that breaking down the long run makes it much more attainable for me and I really am glad I found a way that works for me.

Breaking down a marathon for me goes like this. Get to the 3 mile mark, you have 10 miles to go before the half marathon point. 6 miles is going to get you to the 10k mark, which means you are almost half way to the half marathon mark. 10 miles means you have a 5k to the half marathon mark. Half Marathon mark, you only have to run what you’ve just run to complete the race. 3 more miles after the half marathon mark and you’ve only got 10 miles left in the race. 4 miles and your at the 20 mile marker. 20 mile marker, you have 6.2 miles to go, which is a 10k or 2 5ks. Get three miles done and you have 3 more to go till the end. Then it’s just counting down those miles to the finish. I just think each step is a step closer to the finish, the faster I go the faster it’s over with at that point.

Does that even make sense?


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