It has been a while since I have participated in the Runner's Lounge TIART. This week's topic is Slaying the Long Run Dragon.
I don't think I have slayed all my running dragons, but the thought of a long run no longer brings me dread. In my book, that is a success. In fact, I have progressed to a point where I often look forward to my long runs. Even when I am not training for anything in particular, I try to run at least eight miles on the weekend. It is amazing, actually. Just two years ago, I was completing my first 10K. Now, that is an easy run for me. There are a few things that make my long runs pleasant.
My iPod is a key component to my transition to a lover of long runs. I know that there are plenty of running purists out there who eschew music while running. They state that you can't focus on your breathing, can't hear traffic, don't get in touch with your inner Chi... yada, yada, yada. I rarely want to hear my breathing and when I do, I pull my earphones off or turn it down or just pay attention. I never have it loud enough not to hear the environment around me. And sometimes, I like to just escape and not think about anything... especially my Chi or lack thereof.
I have recently been just hitting shuffle on my iPod and getting surprised at the songs that come on. I save my playlists for races or specific workouts. The only problem with the shuffle method is that I often have to fast forward through a kids' song (there is nothing very motivating about "Zippedy Do Dah" during a long run) or a chapter of a book on tape that I have from the library.* For the most part, however, I enjoy hearing a song I haven't heard in a while.
I also use my iPod to listen to books on tape. I only listen to these during long slow runs or recovery runs, for the most part. I don't listen to books often, but they are nice for a day when I really want to take it easy. I find it very difficult to pick up the pace or focus on laps if I am listening to a book. I listened to Confessions of a Shopaholic and was very annoyed by the end of it. I think if I were reading it, I could have skimmed through the annoying parts and enjoyed the book more. Stephanie Meyer's The Host, on the other hand, was an incredibly enjoyable read. It is hit and miss, but I do like having choices to keep me company on those long runs.
Speaking of company, the best long runs are with other people. I ran several of my marathon long runs with my friend Laura. It is nice to chat with someone and it keeps us going at a nice easy pace. Even when we are wanting to run at different paces, it is nice to know that there is someone waiting for you around the next bend or at the car. Recently, I have put together some group runs. I never knew how much fun these runs could be. My friends call me a little rabbit, bouncing from one mini-group to the next, touching base with everyone. I think these group runs are fun for them, as well. We have had two and it seems like everyone has fallen into an easy pace group with one or more people. Running in a group like this not only makes it fun, but it keeps you going when it gets tough. I think you are more likely to quit or take the shortcut back to the car if you are by yourself without anyone (but yourself) to hold you accountable.
Finally, what has really helped me slay my long run dragon is my sanity. If someone is looking for motivation to go out on a two-hour run, he/she should go out and get a couple of small children, unemployment, and a shrinking bank account. Sometimes my long runs are my only time to myself and the time when I forget about my stress and just run. I often feel guilty taking time to myself. Most things that I would want to do (a massage, a pedicure, shopping) take money we don't have right now, but even taking a bath or watching a movie makes me feel guilty. But I never feel guilty going for my run. The longer the better sometimes, so I can clear my head and be a better mother, wife etc. My husband and kids encourage me to go out on my runs.
Nothing I do to slay that dragon is new. It works for me. What works for you?
*Books on tape that come on CD and are not in MP3 format don't go into the Audiobook portion of my iPod (at least I haven't figured out how to do it). I have to put them into their own "playlist."