When someone begins training for their first half or full marathon, the long run is always that thing that is looming and they are afraid to conquer. It is something that you know that you have to do but you just don't know how you are going to do it. You think that you might actually die. You get butterflies before you go out the door. I will never forget my first 16 mile run. It was quite literally horrible. It was through Manhattan so I think back and how I would give just about anything to be able to run those beautiful streets again, but at the time I was taking that for granted and it was the most painful experience of my life.
I thought that there was no way in hedes that I was going to be able to add 10 miles to that for a full marathon. I just couldn't. At mile 11, I hit a wall and I just forced myself to continue. The will to take one step and put it in front of the other was intense for that run thankfully, so I did finish when I was hurting and didn't want to. The truth is though: that was just a fluke. I was just having a bad day. I did an 18 miler after that and I was fine.
1. THE FIRST FEW LONG RUNS WILL SUCK
So, the first piece of advice that I have is that every long run is not going to be good. In fact, the first couple that you do might be bad because you haven't figured out your pacing, nutrition, and just your general groove yet. So, be patient and give yourself time to get used to it.
2. PUT ONE FOOT IN FRONT OF THE OTHER
Know that your body WILL get you through it if your mind is there. If you continue to put one foot in front of the other, you are GOING to finish. There is no doubt in my mind and there is no doubt in the way this whole running thing works that if you put one foot in front of the other, you'll get to the other side and you'll finish. The butterflies that you feel are natural, but they shouldn't be in fear of finishing.
3. THINK ABOUT PEOPLE DOING MORE EXTREME THINGS
When I first started and was needing to convince myself to go the extra mile, I used to look for the ultra runner hashtag so that I could find some people that were more extreme than me that I could think about on my long runs. "If so and so can go this far, then I can at least do this much." I have had tons of people email me and say that they have done this tactic for things that I am doing, so heck, use me even when I'm using others. I'm doing a 16 miler tomorrow at 6am. Maybe that will help you to feel like yours isn't as intense, and I'll look to the people that I know are doing 50K races in the snow.
4. STOP THINKING ABOUT IT
This is the same tactic that I use for race days. I know that a certain amount of nerves is a good thing but I don't like feeling nervous. It's not a good feeling so I make myself not think about it. I just push it out of my mind. I busy myself with other things similarly the way that I did (unsuccessfully) when I've been through heartbreak. haha! Sometimes we can't control our emotions, but sometimes we really can. I talk about this a lot because it genuinely works.
5. PLAN FOR IT
While not thinking about it, you also have to plan for it. If you don't plan for it, it actually might not happen and you may end up bailing on that run. Don't go out partying the night before. Actually, for the first ones, don't even have a glass of wine the night before. Have a great hearty dinner, and then go to bed early so that you are feeling good and refreshed. Block out more time than just the time that it takes to do the run because you do NOT want to feel rushed. If you had it planned for a Saturday but have more time on a Sunday afternoon then change the run to that time. If you have a coach that has it planned for a day that doesn't work for you then let them know as that is important. Have some water and gus ready. The last thing that you want to do is to get out there and run out of gas or to feel super dehydrated. The long runs are hard enough without having to deal with those parameters so you want to have planned for those. I plan my long runs around places that I know I can stop to go to the bathroom as well. I know which businesses have public restrooms just in case of emergency.
6. MAKE A PLAYLIST / LOOK UP PODCAST / BUY AUDIO BOOK
You should never be going out for your first long runs with nothing to do. I can do that now that I've done enough of them that it doesn't bother me and I know how to mentally prepare myself for it, but you need to have something that you are going to listen to while you are running to take your mind off of it. I like to listen to murder podcasts because the stories keep me really intrigued. hahaha! Call me crazy buttttt, I love it. I didn't realize I wasn't the only person that loved murder stories until I found the podcast "My Favorite Murder" and it's respectable humor about murder stories. You have to listen to understand.
I'm not one to make a playlist just because like who has time for that? My husband is a playlist kind of guy though and is always Mr. Organized with everything even down to his phone and his specific playlists. If playlists are your thing, then a long run playlist is an awesome idea. It can be all the epic music that gets you pumped up.
7. ENJOY IT
You are doing this marathon as a thing for enjoyment I'm sure. It might be something that you are testing your limits or running for someone you love or lost, but at the end of the day, this is a life changing experience. It should be something that you adore, and something that you love, and so make sure to look at the scenery around you. I always try to take a second during my long runs to think about what I'm thankful for. It always is so apparent in those moments and long runs become like a spiritual experience because you realize that you really are so lucky to be able to get out there and have the health to be able to complete something so awesome. I cried at the end of that first 16 miler, and it's something that I will never forget. It was a beautiful and painful experience.
I hope this helps you and inspires you to get out there and get those long runs done this weekend! :)