What I’m Learning About Long Runs

Happy Marathon Monday!


I am SO excited to watch the Boston Marathon today! I loosely followed it last year (I was in class at the time, and also not as into running) so it is going to be such a different experience to actually watch it live and be so invested in the running community. 🙂

I’m so proud of all the runners this year for overcoming 2013 and running #bostonstrong. So in honour of all those last year and this year running the rediculously long run of 26.2 miles, I’m going to be talking about my own! (slightly less long)

I totally channelled Shalene Flanagan on my run yesterday. I just kept imagining her running 5:20 minute miles 2 hours into a marathon and thought “if she can keep going, so can I!”

Still, my run yesterday was a bit of a doozy.

Hal had set out a 5K race for me this weekend. I was not registered in a 5K race this weekend. So I was faced with the dilemma of either doing my own short and fast run or repeating my 8 mile long run from last week to get more comfortable with the distance.

Even while waiting for the elevator I STILL hadn’t decided what I was doing! This does NOT work for me. If I am going to do something way outside of my comfort zone (ie run more than ~6 miles or faster than ~8:00), I need to DECIDE and then EXECUTE. That is the only way I can accomplish it.

Anyway, I did NOT prepare for a long run in the slightest. I woke up still full from the night before, started my morning with greek yogurt, apple and almond butter (delicious but definitely not pre-running fuel) and didn’t mentally set myself up to run for over an hour.

yogurtRunning out of muesli = even less carbs for Emma. 😦 

I should have known from the first mile that a long run that day was not happening! I started off at an 8:15 pace which is not obscenely fast for me but definitely quicker than my happy long run pace of 8:30! The second mile was 8:19.

I don’t really know what happened next but miles 3-5 were 7:51, 7:53 and 7:58! I think that these were the Shalene miles because I didn’t feel like I was running a lot faster than before.

When I saw 5.99 on my watch I mentally wanted to keep going, but I just so happened to be starting up the stairs of death. My last mile was 8:26 and I did not feel like I was slowing down. Had I been approaching a hill of death like last week, and had I not sprinted like a banshee for the last ~25 minutes maybe I could have. Alas and alac, my watch clicked over to 6.0 miles and I walked up the remainder of the stairs and ~15 minutes home.

As soon as I finished I was so mad at myself! I considered running home but for some reason a 2 minute break in between a 6 mile run and a 2 mile run was pointless and would come nowhere near to equating an 8 mile run. And then I realized how ridiculous I was being!


I accomplished an AMAZING tempo run, effortlessly! I had two moderately paced warmup miles, three at a tempo pace and then a cooldown mile! I also know the importance of cutback weeks and a second eight mile run probably would have fatigued me more than it was worth.

Going into my nine mile run (!!) this weekend, I want to focus on a few things that I have learned over my past few long (for me) runs and hopefully they will help you as well. 🙂

1. Mentally Prepare. Whether you are running 5 or 20 miles, if the run seems long for you, it’s important to get in the right headspace. Convince yourself that you can and will accomplish your goal, and prepare yourself. Realize that it may be a little bit uncomfortable for a while but that the feeling after  CANNOT be beat!

2. Decide + Execute. There is none of this “Oh maybe I will run three miles but if I feel amazing I will knock out fifteen.” Maybe that is you and if so then CONGRATULATIONS, you are a superwoman/man. That certainly does not work for me. I know I am capable of anything I set my mind to but the setting part is crucial for me. Once I decide that it’s happening, it’s happening. No ifs, ands, or buts.

3. Fuel Accordingly. I ran the most amazing eight mile run after a deliciously carbalicious lunch. Sometimes it’s hard for me to add more carbs but WOW am I realizing the amazing difference they make! Runners, carbs are your friend. I haven’t gotten into fueling mid-run yet but that is extremely important as well.


4. Break it Up. Somewhere along the way I got into the habit of breaking my run up into sets of three songs and it hasn’t failed me yet. I tell myself that 3 songs = 1 mile when in reality it is a mile and a bit. This translates into, for example, me preparing to listen to three sets of three songs for a 5K and then it often ends up being only two. I also did this for my seven mile run – three sets of three one way, three sets of three the other way, and all of a sudden I am DONE and could go longer! I know that some runners think of their runs in sets of miles as well, depending on how far they are going, or do an out-and-back loop to focus on the halfway point. There are so many options, but focussing on the fact that you are at mile 2 of a 8 mile run can be really discouraging.

5. Think About the After. No, I’m not saying dream about the second you are done because you are so miserable while running. If that is the case then I sincerely hope you stop running immediately and find an activity you enjoy. Instead, just think about how amazing that glass of chocolate milk/smoothie/etc is going to be or how you are going to take a three-hour long shower. 😉


6. RECOVER. Everybody knows this but it’s getting tacked on because it’s that important. For the last 6 weeks of training I have foam rolled and stretched after EVERY run. Okay….while I was in Toronto I bread rolled but it’s the same thing. I used to get knee pain every time I run and I have had a grand total of ZERO flare-ups this training cycle running far more mileage than I ever used to. It works, people!

What are your tricks for long runs? 

Or, if you don’t run, what are your favourite motivational tips? 



3 thoughts on “What I’m Learning About Long Runs

  1. I play mental games with myself on long runs. I ran in Boston on Monday and when I had 8 miles left I was thinking “Okay, it’s just my neighborhood loop plus the park”… then 5 miles left I said “Okay now it’s just the neighborhood loop”… When there were 3 miles left I said “okay I will have that medal around my neck and be drinking water in less than a 1/2 hour”… Those last 6 miles of a marathon are sooooo mental!

  2. Pingback: Halfway There - Half Marathon Training Week 6 -

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