I remember when I use to dread the long run, I was a middle distance runner so what was the use. In high school, my teammate (also now maid of honor) and I started to log longer and longer runs in the summer usually laughing and joking the whole time. I fell head over heals for the long run (or head over hills considering the type of terrain I like). The awesome part about the long run, it makes the shorter ones seem easier.
I like to do my long runs a little different than most people, I take whatever is the slowest pace that I want to go and calculate the total time then I go get lost on trails. By lost, I mean I go out for say 40 minutes and then turn around to find my way back. So on good days, I might cover more mileage than what I record and on bad days, I still get the mileage I need in. The best days, I get to have quite the adventure.
I’ll share a couple adventures I’ve had on the long run (or as Shalane Flanagan calls it “the church of the long run) . It was the day after Halloween, I had been out the night before at the parties but not super late and I had made sure to drink 2 bottles of Gatorade (FYI NUUN works better). The next day, I woke up surprisingly early and feeling OK. I tiptoed through our house, my other roommates still asleep, and slipped out to Panther creek. Panther creek was the perfect place to train for cross country and beautiful in the fall. I don’t know what moved me to do it, but I decided to explore a new trail. Two miles into the run, it started to climb. I crunched the leaves with every step and slowly my mind started to realize what I had gotten myself into. After deciding not to turn around, I reached the top of the summit and I was able to see the whole park. My muscles ached and I felt dehydrated but the view was worth it. I began my descent and well got a bit lost. I ended up doing 13 miles. Suddenly, the 5k cross country races did not feel as bad.
The next long run that stands out in my mind is one of the first I did in Austin on town lake loop (or Lady Bird lake for non locals). I was training for the Chicago marathon, I needed to get 20 miles in. Luckily, town lake is 10 miles long, so 2 loops and I should be done. I had also not ran the complete loop before but rather would go out for a certain time and turn around. I was adjusting to running life in Austin by getting up early to beat heat and crowds. I also had my first official date that day with a guy I had met and it was brunch date. While doing my 20 mile run, I had met a friend for a few of the interloping miles and got completely turned around and lost (notice a theme) by the time I left her. While looking at a map, I heard my name being called. Lucky for me, it was my future date who then directed me back towards my apartment. We had a great date and now we are getting married in 100 some odd days.