Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Art of the Long Run

I've written about it a little bit before, but it's a topic I like to revisit when I am struggling in my distance runs. The fact is, there is no ease in the long run. There is no magic button, no magic pill. There is a fine, complicated art to the long run.

Those who can complete a distance run would agree with this: Running is more mental than it is physical. If your mind is not in the game, it doesn't matter how much your body is. As in all arts, your mind controls the long run. Or rather, if your long run is beautiful or mind over matter.

"Mind is everything: muscle - pieces of rubber. All that I am, I am because of my mind."
- Paavo Nurmi

Anybody can step out and run 2 or 3 miles. To complete a 5K is a feat that can be done with ease. To complete a 10, 20, 30, 50 K is an entirely different game. Not only does this take a commitment to put in run after run, day after day, week after week. It requires sacrifice and dedication, but more importantly it requires focus.

Focus. The hardest thing for most of us to do. On a typical day I have about 132 ideas floating in my head that don't relate to running. Some days I am so overwhelmed with these ideas that going out for a nice hard run (speed work) helps. It calms the noise down. This, ironically, does not work, at all, for the long run.

When your mind is spinning spinning spinning during a long run, your legs just can't keep running running running.

"The body does not want you to do this. As you run, it tells you to stop but the mind must be strong. You always go too far for your body. You must handle the pain with strategy...It is not age; it is not diet. It is the will to succeed."
- Jacqueline Gareau, 1980 Boston Marathon champ

If I can't nail down my thoughts to one "area" during a long run, I'm screwed. I must will myself to focus on one simple idea. I've come up with some fabulous ideas on a long run...PTA agendas, problem solutions, baby names. If you can will yourself to focus, will your mind to hone in on one channel, you will succeed.

"I have met my hero, and he is me." - George Sheehan

And once you succeed at your first half or first full...when you do something that most people in this country can't, you do, indeed get to meet your own hero. And it is YOU.