Distance Running Tips
Talk about the blind leading the blind here! My distance running cred
is barely above that of a rank newbie and here I am giving advice! What
cheek! On the other hand, I've trained with some of the best in the
world and have picked up a thing or two over the years.
- Run with friends. No matter how much you crank up the
iPod, it's a lot harder to stay motivated by yourself than it is
running with a training partner. When I was starting, a five mile solo
run was pure hell, but a five mile run with Chris and Peter was a nice
night out with the boys. Heck, run with your dog if you have to. Or
come borrow my dog.
- Run interesting routes. There is nothing more
motivation-destroying than running on a track (well, a treadmill maybe,
but that doesn't count). Running on a rough and challenging trail is
more difficult and hazardous than running streets, but I find that it's
more interesting and thus easier to keep motivated. Plus, if you're
five miles from your car, you have certain built-in motivation to keep
going. Plus, running is a great way to get somewhere and see the sights
along the way. The more sights there are to see, the better the run.
Track workouts may have their place, but it's hard to get motivated for
that Nth lap when the last N-1 have been exactly the same... which
brings me to my next point.
- If it's not fun, don't do it. Or as Peter Bakwin says, "Consider why you're doing this."
There are some who will disagree (strongly), but there's no point in
doing something you hate. Sure, track work, 5am runs, interval
training, and tempo runs would probably make me a better runner. But
I'm never going to win anything. Ever. Sure, it would be nice to trim a
few minutes off the old PR, but I run for enjoyment and that's it.
Getting too serious about training makes it feel too much like a job
and that's a sure way to suck all the enjoyment out of it. On the other
- Even then, it's not always fun. Sure, there
will be periods of type-II fun. That freezing cold night run, that
sudden rain storm, the long route that's up hill and up wind both
directions. As long as it's fun after the fact, keep up with the
suffering now (but see the tip above).
- The "Runner's High" is not a myth. You'll know it when it happens.
All the comments above apply. In addition:
- Time is more important than distance. (via Stephanie
Ehret and others). A three hour run covering 16 miles is more useful
than two one hour runs each covering 8 miles.
- Sign up for a race and watch your motivation soar.
Races cost a lot of money and the idea of having wasted hard-earned
cash can be quite motivating. More generally, goals are important and
having some concrete, near-term goal to work towards really helps get
you out the door. Even if it's not a race, getting in a certain number
of miles per month or something arbitrary will work. Like New Year's
Resolutions, announcing your goals publicly helps you stick to them. On
the flip side, nothing destroys your training regimen quite like having
"nothing particular coming up."
- Train with friends. It's much more fun to train with friends, particularly those who are training for the same thing as you.
I find the excitement of a race always makes me run harder and faster
than I do in training. The competitive atmosphere, the spectators, the
fame and fortune... well, at least the first two apply in my case.
- Light is fast. (via Tony Krupicka and others) Resist the urge to carry a backpack with a lot of things that might
be useful. Pare your system down to the bare minimum (though not
necessarily as minimal as Tony runs). Accordingly, don't bring loads of
extra layers. Start cold, running will warm you up. In spring and fall,
I prefer shorts, short-sleave shirt, light gloves and a hat. Maybe
carry a light-weight windbreaker if it gets breezy.
- Pay close attention to hydration, electrolytes, and calories.
(via Charles Corfield and others) It's easy enough to run a 10k with no
food or water, but things change when you're out for four hours. I try
to take in some calories and electrolytes every 40 minutes or so during
a multi-hour run, race or not.
- Start slow. Really slow. Like walking-slow.
(via Peter Bakwin) If you walk the first mile of a long race, you'll
ease your body into fat-burning mode, warm your muscles up gradually,
and get the psychological boost of passing the 90% of the other racers
who went out way too fast and blow up at the end. It's hard not to go
hard right out of the gate, so I usually run the first bit, then very
concientiously walk some predetermined stretch early on.
- Finish fast. (via Eric Lee) You've got one
mile to go and your legs feel like wood. Push it hard. Finish with
absolutely nothing left. Pick someone up ahead to catch before the end.
No, you're not going to win, but you're going to beat that guy there
(and maybe the guy in front of him).
- Don't underestimate the power of spectators.
There's nothing more motivating than people cheering you on. Cheer
back; spectators love it when runners acknowledge them. And when you're
done racing, walk (hobble?) back along the course and yell yourself
hoarse. Karma is as karma does.
Last modified: Mon Mar 3 15:25:42 MST 2008