When I was in high school, I did most of my training on my own with no one but my coach there to push me to hit my 400-meter repeat splits. Those solo workouts made me mentally tough and self-sufficient when I was out running, but there were (far too many) days when I’d make up an excuse to skip practice. I needed and depended on my parents to keep me focused so I could stay on track with my training. Back then, I loved running, but hated having to put in the work day in and day out.
College was a baffling but exciting shock to my system – I remember what a strange feeling it was to instantly have 20 committed, motivated girls to train with, and I grew to love having my best friends beside me on nearly every run. I cherished those silly long run conversations about God knows what, and, even though it took some serious time to adjust, I learned how to work with a pack during workouts. I hardly ever ran alone.
Starting my job at RW meant replacing my lovely ladies with the endlessly goofy guys on staff. Not only are they super knowledgeable about all things running, but they became my support system throughout my first marathon build-up last fall. Having them beside me on every single early-morning long run and blazing hot lunch run played an immeasurable role in the success of that first 26.2. I know I’m already a smarter runner because of them.
Long story short, I’ve come to rely on my built-in training partners.
But, for loads of random reasons, I have to train for Boston alone. Thankfully, I’ve still got the guys for some of my weekday runs, but for those long marathon training runs on the weekends? Just me, myself, and I. I’m not at that point in life where I need the time alone. I’m also a marathon newbie, so I’m still getting used to being out on the roads for forever. (Sidenote: I have the upmost respect for those runners who train for marathons completely alone.)
For most of the past three months, I’ve spent one weekend morning mulling around the house, trying to build up the motivation to get out the door for my long run. Let’s face it, it’s tempting to stay in where it’s warm and there’s a steamy mug of coffee close at hand. It sure beats trudging through slush for two-plus hours, right? This past Saturday was no different. I’d planned on doing my long run on Sunday, but as always, my Twitter feed was bursting with relieved tweets about successfully completed runs. It’s amazing how much a few 140-character posts from strangers can be just the kick in the butt I need. Plus, the beautiful blue skies and fresh snow were calling!
I knocked out 16 miles. Heck. Yes.
Now, I’m learning to love my lonely long runs. I’m starting to find a rhythm when I’m out there, and a 15+ miler (sort of) feels like an eight-miler. It’s becoming less of a mental battle to get out and get ‘er done. I’ve also realized that you really can’t cut corners when training for a marathon (or any distance for that matter!) NO EXCUSES! Here’s what’s helped me lace up and conquer those long runs:
- Plan ahead: If it’s actually written down in your calendar, you’re more likely to do it. That way you’ll make time for your run and you won’t be inclined to skip it for other things.
- Get it done early: Long runs are traditionally meant for Sundays, but there’s something to be said for crossing it off your to-do list on Saturday if possible. Lift that weight off your back early so it’s not looming over your head all weekend.
- Get online: You might not have a running buddy waiting for you outside, but creating a virtual support system can become a HUGE motivator. If you tweet that you’re going out for a 12 miler, you don’t want to let your followers down, right? Then go ahead and #runbrag a little afterward to celebrate. Your post-run tweet just might inspire someone else to head out for their run, too!
- Get your gear on: Lay out your outfit the night before, and don’t hesitate to put it on in the morning. You’ll feel silly sitting in your house in your running clothes, so hit the roads where those kicks really belong!
- Pick a killer playlist: I don’t depend on music for my long runs, but there’s something to be said for those times when one of your favorite tunes comes on and nudges you to pick up the pace a bit. To be safe, I only use one earbud with the volume just loud enough to hear it. That way, I can’t always hear it if there is a lot of traffic, and it becomes a treat to listen to on the quieter parts of my run.
- Focus on the half-way point: The first half of a long run is the hardest part for me mentally because I feel like I’m heading away from home. Even if I still have a ways to go, I get excited when I finish half of my run because it really feels like every step I take is a step toward home. Breaking up my run into parts makes it more manageable and less daunting.
- Be creative with your route: I try not to run the same roads twice, so my route maps zig-zag all over the place. Constantly changing up the scenery can help beat the boredom.
- Remember that it’s worth it in the end: It feels pretty darn sweet finishing a long run. I’ve found that it feels even sweeter when you’ve done it alone. Savor it.
- And that steamy mug of coffee? It’ll taste even better after your run!
Figure out what works for you and go with it. What inspires you? What holds you accountable? What breaks up the monotony? I took to Twitter to see how y’all tackle those long runs. Here’s what you had to say:
— Christopher Sanford (@theirishrunner) February 11, 2013
— Kaitlin Gregg (@runnerKG) February 10, 2013
@megrunnergirl Long runs are my fave solo running activity. Miles are a personal achievement & I don’t need convo or some1 else’s pace.
— Mark V (@Blkjkrabbit66) February 10, 2013
— Marathoner (@marathoner) February 10, 2013
@megrunnergirl Podcasts. Getting an hour or two to myself. That’s more valuable to me than you, though.
— Jim Warrenfeltz (@jimwarrenfeltz) February 10, 2013
— Jeff Dengate (@RWGearGuy) February 10, 2013
@megrunnergirl I think it is like meditation, your brain sorts everything out and you really don’t think about your body.
— Dale Sandley (@dsandley) February 10, 2013
@megrunnergirl I usually listen to music on long runs, that helps motivate me and keep me going. I also try to spice up my routes.
— Jessica (@azureacademia) February 10, 2013
— Gerard Pescatore (@GPescatore) February 10, 2013
— Lonnie St John (@bigdaddy4838) February 10, 2013
— Janet Green (@janetcetera) February 10, 2013
@megrunnergirl the thrill of saying I did it…when it gets tough I crank the best part of my playlist!
— Connie Kosberg (@conniekos) February 10, 2013
— Laura Schwecherl (@lschwech) February 10, 2013
QUOTE OF THE POST: “Life is short… running makes it seem longer.” – Baron Hansen