Yesterday after a long day at work, I went home to do the dreaded “long run.” I find I have to mentally prepare myself for any long run, but doing one on a work day by myself requires even more mental preparation. Plus, it was my longest “long run” this year (20 miles) and half of it was at marathon pace or better. A run of that nature is typically less daunting when you have someone to run with. For whatever reason, the pain and suffering experienced when we are running at lactate threshold pace is much easier when we know there are others experiencing similar pain and discomfort – hence the title “misery loves company.” Ordinarily long runs in my schedule are reserved for the weekend, but the schedule I’m following has as long run every 4-5 days (for the 3 weeks leading up to taper), so unfortunately some have to be done during the week. I’m hoping that doing some of them while I’m not fully rested will help to make marathon pace on race day feel more comfortable (in the early stages anyway).
In addition to doing long runs more frequently, another aspect of my training that has changed this time around are the tempo runs I’ve been doing twice per week. In the past, with only 3-4 weeks to go until the marathon, I was thinking more about tapering and did not run any miles at faster than half marathon pace. These tempo runs consist of 5 times 6 minutes at a pace 30-40 seconds quicker than marathon pace (5:40-5:50 per mile). These are tough workouts, but manageable, and are intended to build power in my legs, improve cadence, and ultimately make marathon pace feel much easier on the body. I figured it was time to try something new seeing as I have come within a few minutes of breaking my goal marathon time six times – obviously something needed to change.
To get back on track – I guess the moral of this story is, for those runners who have never tackled a marathon before, or for those that want to run another, it’s much better to do your long runs with a friend, or even better, a group. From my experience, the other runs each week can be done alone, but the long run can be tough to do, week in week out, alone.