Why I Love the Long Run

But first…..

I hope that made you laugh as much as I did.

Now on to the title subject…..

I’m not a masochist, I swear. I’ve gotta preface with that because I’m about to tell you the reason I love the long run: I love it because it’s always hard.

But let me back up. What is this “long run”?

The long run is exactly what it sounds like – a weekly run that is longer than any of your other runs. It should generally be about 20-30% of your weekly mileage.

At a certain point of “running,” the long run isn’t really an option or even a help. For the person running 3 miles twice a week (and way to go if you are!!), suddenly doing 6 is going to shock your system and overload you with 50% of your mpw (miles per week). I don’t really recommend adding a long run into your running routine until you’re running 3-4 times a week.

Also, the long run is relative. Someone might run 8 miles daily… a distance which might be someone else’s long run (half marathon training anyone?). If you’re training for a marathon, your long runs are going to range from 12-22 miles. If I’m not training for anything, I still like to throw in a long run of between 12-16 miles. It’s long enough to feel long, but not too long to make me feel like I have to carve out some serious time for it.

It’s also done slowly. Which is not to say that all long runs are done slowly. When I say “the long run,” I mean that long run where you’re running anywhere from 1-2 minutes slower than your race pace. Of course there are times where you want to train your body to be fast for long distances. For instance, while training for a marathon, you’ll want to run miles at your goal race pace, and I don’t mean just one or two. But the long run, or more specifically, the long slow run, is meant for other things than pushing speed.

Why do the long run?

For starters, it makes you feel pretty awesome. When your usual run is 4 miles and suddenly you did 6, you feel on top of the world! There’s nothing that can stop you. You start thinking, maybe next week, I try 7!

Furthermore, it’s really helpful for your running. You train your body to use alternative fuel sources (aka – fat, after having used up your glycogen stores), and your body learns to recruit fast-twitch muscles to help out those slow-twitch muscles. Your VO2max (aerobic capacity) will get better, and you’ll strengthen your heart. Also, since the long run is supposed to be done slow, it gives your body a chance to shake out tired muscles. Doesn’t that sound great?

But my favorite part about the long run is not all those benefits, but the fact that it’s always hard in one way or another.

Sometimes it’s hard to get out the door. Other days it’s hard to run the whole time or to find the time to run. Sometimes I’m grooving along until I’ve got 4 miles left, and then suddenly I have to work for it. Sometimes it’s a blister or the heat or the rain or the emotional processing or the broken iPod or the GI issues.

At some point, there is some challenge to be overcome, whether that’s some external circumstance or my mind telling me I can’t. And that is the part I love. When I come back from a long run, I come back a conqueror.

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