Training plans for races are often full of complicated sessions – pyramid intervals, ladder intervals, hill training, fartleks… – but at the core of the plan is a weekly long run that gradually increases. Whilst the speed sessions help to increase your stamina and the hill sessions improve your strength, the weekly long run is necessary to improve your endurance. It’s also a really good psychological session as you start to prove to yourself that you really can run long, long distances.
The long runs shouldn’t increase by more than 10% each week, otherwise you could end up getting injured. This 10% can be an increase in time or in mileage, depending on how you are training. As this is my first long distance race I am increasing by time, as my pace is still a little uneven sometimes. However, more experienced runners tend to increase in miles.
My long runs over the last weeks have become a bit tedious. No matter how good the playlist I made was or how well rested I was I just couldn’t get into it. My legs have been aching, my feet have been sore and there are muscles twinging in my bottom that I never knew existed! I’m not the only one that feels like this. Running magazines and forums are currently full of advice for people whose long runs are becoming more like chores than fun. As my longest run so far has only been 9.5 miles and with 3 weeks until my race I decided that it was time to overhaul my long run and take on as much advice as possible!
I put my mp3 player on shuffle for a change, instead of listening to one of my playlists. I hadn’t listened to a lot of the albums on there for a while and so I had a really nice time listening to old favourites. Such a nice time in fact that I almost didn’t realise how far I was running!
I also took a completely different running route. I decided to make the most of the spring sunshine and check out the Regent Canal. I followed it all the way from Marylebone to Camden before running through central London and back home. It was a gorgeous day and seeing parts of the city from a new angle was really exciting. I smiled most of the way, especially when I saw the flamingoes at the back of London zoo!
I set out at a much slower pace – at least it felt much slower. The start of my usual route is slightly downhill (but uphill on the way back!) and so it is easy to get carried away, but I concentrated on a slow and even pace and kept it up for the whole route. I checked my pace when I got home and I had kept a very steady 9 – 9.5 min/mile. At the time it hadn’t felt nearly that fast, so I’m now hopeful to push it to 8.5 – 9 on race day.
I decided to stop chastising myself for not being fast enough/strong enough/improving more. Sometimes it’s hard not to compare yourself with other runners that you see along the way who are decidedly less sweaty and a heck of a lot faster than you, but when I see a slower, sweatier jogger who is quite obviously a beginner I am always so pleased for them for starting and trying and give them a nod and a smile. So perhaps the lycra-clad marathoners are nodding and smiling at me as they overtake – they’re just too fast for me to notice!
All together these really small changes made for one of the most enjoyable runs I have been on for weeks. It was also the most successful – 11.5 miles in 1hr 47 mins! It’s amazing how little things can change your attitude and how a change in attitude can change your physical performance. I am now really looking forward to the big day, confident that I will finish the race running, not walking. The question is now just how long will it take me?…