Yesterday I ran the longest training run I have ever done—22 miles. And although I spent much of the preceding day dreading my 5 a.m. wake-up call, the run itself was spectacular.
I ran 22 miles in 2:59. If you are counting, that is an 8:08 pace. And, of course, training runs are (supposed to be) run much slower than race pace (even though my goal race pace is 8:23). In other words, I am in pretty good shape. If I run just what I ran in this training run, that will allow me to drop down to 9:30 minute miles and still qualify for the final four miles. And while I am thrilled with this time, I am not counting my chickens just yet.
In re-reading my marathon post from last October, I realized that this was roughly the pace I was keeping until Mile 22 of the race itself. What happened afterwards was just ugly. I think my pace dropped to nearly 12-minute miles, which is really more of a fast-ish walk than an actual run.
But I will not dwell on that. Instead, as I head into my taper, I will focus on the lessons I have learned from this second major training session:
1.) If possible, pad training by a week or two
This was an accident, but as it turned out, the extra week to scale back a little was just what I needed. I am not sure I could have run my 22-miler so well had I not cut my 20-miler in half last week. Am I little nervous that I only have one super long training run? A little. But with a 17-miler, an 18-miler and a 19-miler under my belt, I am hopeful this last 22-miler will suffice. What I liked about the extra week was that it allowed me to either ramp up my training and have two super long runs or to scale back before the longest run of training, depending on what I needed. I will definitely do this again next time.
2.) Listen to my body
I have not always been the best at this since my motto seems to always be, “Push! Push Harder! Push Hardest!” Still I did manage to allow myself to scale back last week despite setting out to run a 20-miler.
3.) Try to let the bad runs work for me instead of against me
Bad runs suck. There really is no other way to put it. When I know I am capable of 8-minute miles, but I am running 9-minute ones, it is disheartening to say the least. However, in this particular case, I was able to channel the bad energy and annoyance from the bad run into future running success by analyzing what went wrong and using that to improve.
4.) Diversify my route
There is a beautiful, 18-mile long bike trail that runs basically from my house all the way into the Massachusetts countryside (remember, I am a city girl. When I say country, I probably just mean burbs). But I digress.
The trail is flat, paved and shaded. In short, it is a runner/biker/blader’s dream. 95 percent of my long runs for my training this time around have been on this path. Still, the four runs I did elsewhere—two 14-milers around a local reservoir and two 19/20-milers at the lake house—were invaluable to my training. This is not because they were easier. Quite the opposite, in fact. Both courses were much hillier (And, at the time, icier, too), less shaded and generally more difficult. But running different terrain (painful as it is) is an important part of training. Our bodies can become complacent when we only run the same route.
One of the problems that has plagued me most during this training session is a general sense of burnout. It took me a long time to shake the “been there, done that,” feeling and really embrace this training session. I am not entirely sure I have. But I am here now and I have stuck t the schedule, battling boredom and resentment every step of the way.
I have no idea what May 2 will hold. I feel more confident because of my good run, but it is also, just like before, possible I will run a 3:42.
If that happens, I will ramp up training again for a good, flat fall marathon that is famous for producing the most number of Boston qualifiers. But, if I somehow pull this off, I am taking the fall off. I need to shake this burnout and I need to find some reminder of why I loved running so much to begin with.
Taper, taper, here I come.
Sasha Brown-Worsham is a writer, a mother and an unabashed, unashamed runaholic. Check her progress each week as she trains to qualify for the Boston Marathon.