Long runs. We sometimes love 'em and sometimes hate 'em. I used to really reallly dislike them. I would actually stress myself out over the fact that I had a long run to do this week, until I found a few ways to make the mileage seem less daunting. Surprisingly, I actually wake up EARLY on my long run days so excited to cover the distance.
- Break up the mileage into something more reasonable. For me, 2.5 miles seems really manageable. So I would do the same 2.5 mile stretch out-and-back several times. It could seem boring, but it was actually really nice to know that after 5 miles I would be back at my car and able to switch up my gear (if needed) or grab some fuel or reassess. Having a route that you're confident with and shorter makes it both safer and easier to concur.
- Tell yourself it's only 'x' amount of miles 'x' amount of times. I know that 5 miles for me seems like a piece of cake during marathon training or 3 miles during half marathon training is do-able. If I'm running 15 miles that day, I'll just keep repeating to myself that it's just 5 mile stretches repeated 3 times or if I have 9 miles on the schedule, it's just 3 mile stretches repeated 3 times. Use that marker after each stretch to reset your mind and just focus on that shorter mileage.
- Do your run both indoors and outdoors. I did this when I was training for my downhill run because I needed to alter my elevation profile to mimic the long downhill stretches of the race. I would begin my run outside for a few miles, hop on the treadmill inside, then finish it up outside for the final few miles. It gives your mind a break and something to look forward to on the various profile changes.
- Try a loop trail. Loops are a great way for longer runs to seem less monotonous. You'll get to see a lot of various scenary before you hit your starting spot and do it all again. I would do a 3 mile loop and see different things every time I went by (or see the same things/ people and use that as a reassurance).
- Vary your paces. Having a plan for your long run days are a must (at least for me)- you have a plan for race day, so why shouldn't you practice the same for long runs?! When I get really bored or tired (especially on the treadmill), I like to play with my paces. I'll run at a faster pace and try to hold it for several minutes then drop the pace back down. I may also throw in a faster finish (say, around goal pace), to make those miles fly by and also seem more challenging.
Enjoy those long runs! I know when I'm not training for something, I really crave a good long run (sometimes).
What techniques do you use to get through a long run?