Yesterday, I got to flex my kickassimus. I discovered that I actually have that muscle on a Saucony ad that I saw the other day while in all places– a running store. Who knew?? It’s not every day that you find out that you have a new muscle–and especially one this cool! 😉
Seriously, though….yesterday was Saturday, and that is the day that nearly all runners hold sacred for the Long Run. It’s the day we push our limits by nearly doubling our weekly mileage in one morning. I used to fear the long run. I’d spend many-a-Friday-night anxiously tossing and turning, dreading the extra-early alarm on Saturday morning, and the seemingly daunting number of miles I would have to be running. Back then I was running 6, 7, 8 miles….yesterday morning I had 12 on my schedule, and I didn’t even blink as I typed that.
Part of becoming a runner is being able to embrace the Long Run rather than dread it. That takes time, for sure. The body needs to build up a tolerance for increasing mileage, of course. But once you do, there is something about hitting that “sweet spot”. There is not other feeling like getting to the point where you feel as if your body is working like a finely tuned machine and you could run forever. It’s that and the rush of endorphins that keeps you just coming back for more..and more….and more.
One of the benefits of the Long Run is that you get to run the majority of them SLOWLY. “Long and slow is the way to go” is the mantra we often use when it comes to putting in the serious miles. Slow runs can actually be relaxing. Yes, I really did just write that. It’s also time that you can choose to either spend time alone in your head, or do with a group. A benefit of running slow is that you can actually talk, and talking makes the miles go by oh-so-much faster if you’ve got some buddies out with you. We did our 12 in 2 loops of six yesterday, and with all the chatting, the second 6 were over before I knew it…now that was awesome.
My favorite distance is really about 10 miles, though up to 14 or fifteen when I’m in good condition is not so bad that I am navigating stairs backwards the next day. Of course during marathon training, when mileage is climbing on a weekly basis both during the week the long run it starts to become a little more mentally challenging, but it doesn’t scare me anymore like it used to. I actually anticipate it now that I know I can trust that my body will rise to the occasion.
I’ve had several friends try running in the past few years, and while some have stuck with it, many have not. I’ve often thought that if everyone could just get to that “sweet spot”–that point at which you feel like you could run forever–EVERYONE would run. For me, that is somewhere between miles 4 and 5. I think the problem is, everyone trains for that first 5K, and once they run it, they quit because at 3 miles they are still feeling pretty much like crap. Their bodies have never had a chance to get past the initial warm up and into the active phase of running.
I think it’s because of this that it is hard to coax people past that 5K mark. It’s 100% mental for most people, because in their (and a lot of other people’s minds) 3 miles is a LONG way to run–and for a newbie it truly is. Breaking through that physical discomfort and pressing forward when you want to stop (at 3 miles) is not about getting your body to keep moving forward, it’s about convincing your mind that you actually can. Believe me, I get it–I was once there myself not so long ago. But if they (they being YOU, if you are not yet a runner…) could just go for a little bit longer…get a little bit stronger….finding that kickassimus is right there, ready for the taking. Find that muscle and it will take you farther than you ever thought possible. Maybe even to 26.2.