Monday, 27 June 2011

Psychology of a Long Run

There’s something incredibly satisfying about running really, really long distances. This is going to sound stupid, but I think the reason is that once you’ve run a really long distance, you only have to run a really short distance to make your really long distance even longer. This is the kind of madness that descends after more than two hours' non-stop running.

Stupid, I know.

I noticed the phenomenon when I was out on my long run at the weekend. The psychology of the long run is a fascinating thing, it goes something like this:

  • 1st mile – I’m just warming up! Still warming up and already a mile’s in the bag! I never have to do that mile again! This will be easy!
  • 3rd mile – settling in now. Golly, three miles isn’t far at all. 5k runners are such wimps.
  • 6th mile – feeling the strain a little. And I’m only a third of the way there. [inconsolable misery]
  • 8th mile – [miscount the mileage, think you’re at 9 miles, realise mistake and descend into deep, irretrievable depression.]
  • 9th mile – WOOAAH we’re halfway THE-ERE! WOOAOOAAH livin’ on a PRA-AYER!!
  • 10th mile – time for an energy gel. Rely on mysterious magic goo. Buoyed by caffeine and glycogen/possible placebo effect.
  • 12th mile – two-thirds of the way there. Less than an hour to go. Yes yes yes.
  • 13th mile – OMG I have to do this *twice*!?
  • 14th mile – only one more mile and I’ll have run FIFTEEN MILES. That’s totally far.
  • 15th mile – am I too young for a double hip replacement?
  • 16th mile – just another 16 minutes and I’ll be home not drinking a cold frosty beer. Emotional rollercoaster.
  • 17th mile – ZOMG only one more mile and I’ll have run 18 miles!
  • 18th mile – wait, is that the wall? SOFA TIME!

This is the magic of reeling in the miles – the miles you’ve covered are yours and no-one can take them away. Once you’re over halfway, the next few miles are piled on top of your conquered miles, making each single mile conquered somehow worth more than itself. So when you reach mile 16, you may only have covered one additional mile, but in so doing  you turned a 15 mile run into a 16 mile run. That last mile is more or less worth 16! Magic!

By this infallible logic I reckon a marathon is actually more or less the same as conquering 351 miles. Which is a really long way.

In more grounded news, I covered the aforementioned 18(.17) miles on Saturday morning in a rather hasty 2:28, averaging 8:10 m/m, which projects a slightly terrifying 3:33 marathon finish. Check out the RunKeeper record. I then tested out my new theory that muscle pain the day after long runs are due to me seizing up in the afternoons rather than the impact of the run itself, so I went out for a bike ride in the early evening  and covered six slow miles in the pouring rain. I'm delighted to report that this appears to have worked and I’ve got very little residual muscle ache – either that or I’m actually fit and able to recover much quicker than I used to...

Megan's ridiculously strong finish.
On Sunday I was privileged to witness *the* Megan Crawford PB at the Dunfermline half marathon, finishing in an amazing 1:20 as 3rd Scot and 5th woman. Ridiculously proud and basking in reflected glory. On top of that I had a genuinely excellent time supporting the race rather than running it, which bodes well for the day my knees finally do give in... Here are my tweets from my ‘live coverage’ of the event.
And finally, to round it all off, a leisurely 2.5 mile jog around Inverleith park in the Vibrams to rack up 20.75 miles of running and 5.95 of cycling over the weekend.  Good times.

4 weeks, 6 days to the San Francisco Marathon.

Happy running


P.S. If donating online's not your thing, you can now contribute to my Barefoot Great North Run adventure by text! Why not text DAVE86 £5 to 70070 to donate £5 to the Alzheimer's Society? Or more? Or less? Go ooon...

2011 to date - miles: 648.34, parkruns: 6, races: 3, miles biked: 53.38, metres swum: 925

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