Saturday was our longest run to date, and the longest run we will do before the marathon (which is now a little less than 3 weeks away –eek!). The Long Run is arguably the most important run for any one training for a marathon. Surprisingly, it’s not the physical test of endurance that is important, it’s the mental benefit that is more significant. Once you have run an unfathomable distance (21 miles) for an incomprehensible time (about 3 hours and 45 minutes including 4 water stops, a bathroom break and MANY stoplights), you realize that you really CAN run 26.2 miles.
The Longest Run of my Life
We were given the option as the “intermediate” group to run 20-22 miles this week. As our longest previous run was only 18 and it’s not recommended to increase the long run mileage by more than 10-15%, we opted for 21, which is just about a 16% increase from 18. Our rationalization was that if we only ran 20, we’d still have a 10K left to complete on race day, which is even longer than our mid-week easy runs (6 miles). So, if we ran 21, we’d have about 5 miles left to go on race day, which seems much easier. I told you it’s all mental at this point!
Since I gave quite the narrative on our scenic 18 mile run last week, I’ll spare you the details of our route. Here are some facts:
- Course Overview: Begin Crown Point, run through Point Loma (up Hill Street), run down the harbor past the airport, run through Old Town, run past the shopping center at the bottom of the hill where the University of San Diego sits (my alma mater), run up to Clairemont Blvd, run through De Anza Cove back to Grand and back to Crown Point (course map is here)
- Departure time: 7:15 a.m. (early for our group since we usually meet at 7:30 and run between 7:45-7:50)
- Time on the course: 3 hours and 45 minutes
- Most painful mile: 5.5-6.5 (Hill Street -3.6% grade )
- Most enjoyable mile: 9 (ran along San Diego harbor after 2nd water station and a bathroom break)
- Pace according to Garmin watch (stopped at aid stations and some stoplights but not all): 9:39 min/mile
- Fastest mile on the course: 9:10 pace (mile 20)
- Pre-long run dinner (Friday night): Italian bread basket with garlic/olive oil/vinegar (from an amazing restaurant in La Jolla), lasagna, and gelato for dessert
- Pre-long run breakfast: 1 slice of multi-grain toast with peanut butter and 1/3 banana (usually I eat 2 slices but I was still full from dinner when I woke up!)
- Mid-run fuel: 4 Vanilla Bean Gus, 1 cup of sports drink per aid station, and plenty of water
- Most painful body part while running: Glutes (starting around mile 18)
- Post-Run Celebration: Runner’s pot-luck with our running group including mimosas, bagels, banana bread, chocolate milk and fruit (YUM!)
There are four of us girls that run together – me, my coworker Allison, a good college friend Asia, and my friend Jen that I met when I joined the VAVI Runing Club originally back in October while training for Carlsbad Half Marathon (there used be 5 but Miranda ran the Big Sur marathon a couple weeks ago – we miss her!). We’re lucky to all be at about the same level of fitness and we run the same pace (Jen, Asia and I finished within 2 minutes of one another at the La Jolla Half Marathon – Allison didn’t race). By the end, we all agreed that we felt good and that we are ready for 26.2. None of us have hit the ‘wall’ during a training run, and we all felt that if we had to, we could have continued another 5 miles to the finish. We were actually quite surprised at how quickly the time passed on the run and that we weren’t more tired and sore by the end. We are confident that will the coming taper, the rest leading up to the race and the carbo-loading, we will feel ever better on race day. I can’t even believe that the race is coming up so quickly! It’ll be June 5th before we know it!
Long Run Advice
Leading up to this run, our running coach sent out an email with some links to articles on the topic of the long run. Here are some of the tips I found most helpful from the articles (most of these things I already knew but I like to read it over and over again to reassure myself that I’m doing it right!):
- Don’t work your legs the day prior to the long run.
- Make your longest run at least 3 hours in length, but not much more (I didn’t really understand this one since our coach told us to run 20-22 which clearly takes more than 3 hours!).
- Pick a rolling course (i.e. there are ups and downs and it’s not all flat).
- Run your long run as close to the same time of day as the race start as possible.
- Practice drinking water at each mile split (carry water so you can do this) as this is how often you will see aid stations during the race.
- Don’t run your long run at marathon goal pace (run 45-60 seconds/mile slower).
- After your long run, lie down and put your legs up for one minute for every 15 minutes you ran.
- Practice all of your race nutrition during this run (pre-race dinner, pre-race breakfast, during race nutrition).
- Carbo-load and hydrate like you would for your race at least one day before the long run.
- Don’t run 26.2 miles before the race, no matter what!!!
We Ran The Farthest We’re Going to Run – Now What?
During half marathon training the longest run before the race is typically run 1-2 weeks prior. However, with marathon training, the long run is usually run 3-4 weeks before the race. Now we begin our pre-race taper. Although the next 2 weeks won’t change dramatically in terms of mid-week mileage (I’ll still run one 6 mile easy, one 6 mile interval/speed work, and one mid-week long run of 8-9 miles), the long weekend run mileage will significantly decrease. This weekend we will run 16 miles and the Saturday that falls 8 days before the race we will only run 12 miles. The week before the race we’ll eliminate mid-week long runs and any speed work.
It’s all downhill from here!!