The Long Run: Finding Myself Again

One of my biggest issues this past summer was focusing too much on pace for my long runs. I was comparing my current times with last fall and either pushing too hard too soon in the run (and then totally bonking), quitting because I wasn’t hitting paces I was last fall or just stressing out entirely too much for a training run.

The long run has been this cloud over my head. I used to love the long run – it was always my favorite run of the week. It used to be two to three hours of getting to zone out and just run while enjoying my surroundings and being alone with my thoughts. It has turned into a run where all I do is stare at my garmin and worry about pace while counting down the miles and minutes until it is over.

Truth -> Training for a marathon is really tough and not enjoyable when you don’t look forward to the staple workout of the training plan. The last couple of months made me question my desire and ability to run marathons.

So I decided to take some time off from following a rigid training plan. Run hard when I wanted. Run some miles with the double stroller. Take a few extra rest days. Not force any long runs. Just destress and reset. And maybe when it was all said and done, I wouldn’t race a marathon this fall – and I was okay with that.

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Loving stroller runs lately!

My body felt recharged and my desire to train was restored and so I started back up again last week. Transitioning back to tempos and intervals didn’t worry me because of some of the unstructured speedwork I had done but I hadn’t run more than 10 miles in weeks (maybe 3 or 4?) so I was still worrying about the long run.

I know the focus for long runs should be on simply getting the miles in – irrelevant of pace – and so for the last two weekends, I’ve tried something new. Instead of seeing all the data possible – current pace, distance, total time, lap pace, etc, I’ve set the display to view just the total time and distance.

I had NO concept of what pace I was running except at the mile splits. Instead of worrying about pace, I focused on how I felt, how I was breathing and my overall effort.

Last weekend I ran 15 miles (7:57 pace) on one of the most humid, stickiest days of the year. It was 76 degrees with 75 dew point and 96% humidity. It was freeing to just run and not look at my garmin repeatedly to check pace. I was surprised to see how consistent my splits were – despite not seeing how fast I was running.

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New shoes (Saucony Guide 7), new outlook

This past weekend, I had 17-18 on the calendar. After very little sleep the night prior (my husband and I were up late cleaning and prepping for our little guy’s birthday party), I was up at 430am to get the miles in before the party started at 12pm.

The first few miles felt sluggish and I fought to keep the doubt out of my mind. I repeatedly told myself to focus on the mile I was in – that’s the only thing I could control at that moment and to stop thinking about how many miles I had left.

For the first time in months, I felt stronger with each mile I ran. It was almost like the miles were giving me more energy, rather than taking it away.

The first nine miles were a perfect progression – unintentional and unplanned. I let myself warm up and the pace began dropping., Each time the mile split beeped, I was surprised and pleased to see the pace get faster and faster.

Miles 1-9: 8:14, 7:55, 7:52, 7:50, 7:49, 7:41, 7:38, 7:37, 7:31

I had a runner’s high the last nine miles. I felt strong, fast and happy – and felt like I could keep running.

I found a part of me that’s been missing during those miles – the part of me that believes in myself and that wants to challenge and push myself.

And I fell back in love with the long run.

Miles 10-18: 7:38, 7:33, 7:24, 7:25, 7:32, 7:27, 7:18, 7:10, 6:58

18 miles: 2:16:34 – 7:35 pace

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My family finished up the weekend with a wonderful 2nd birthday party (Monsters Inc themed) for our little guy!!

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Do you run by pace or effort for the long run?

What is your favorite run of the week? Tempo, easy, long?

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I don’t post here every day, but I post all of my workouts (and other happenings) on Instagram on a daily basis {NYCRunningMama}.

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    10 thoughts on “The Long Run: Finding Myself Again

    1. So happy that you are falling back in love with the long run. Ever since getting a GPS watch (only a year or two ago), I have been way too focused on pace. Prior to having a watch, I ran by feel which is something that I need to go back to rather than fixating on a number. And how is R 2 years old??! That’s crazy how fast time flies. Love the cake and happy birthday!!
      Christine @ Love, Life, Surf recently posted..We Reached the Beach!My Profile

    2. For the long run I try not to focus on pace, but consistency. For me just running a longer length of time is an accomplishment! I’ve done 3 half marathons so far but plan to do more so for now I’m just trying to get comfortable with running the longer distances and then maybe I will focus more on the pace.

      This was a great blog post and I’m so glad that you had successful runs! Oh, and your kids are just the absolute cutest!!

    3. I usually try to run by effort more than pace. I do like to keep it around a certain time, but if I’m not feeling it, I try not to focus on that too much (though that is hard). I can tell when I am feeling burnout because I don’t look forward to my long runs as much. When that happens, I just have to take some time off and do what feels good. Sometimes that means I run, sometimes it’s ellipticals or yoga or going for walks. It’s nice to not feel that ‘pressure’ from training on occasion!
      Sarah @ KS Runner recently posted..LazinessMy Profile

    4. My past marathons I feel I have left my race back in my training. This cycle my long run strategy is to run slow and then a bit slower. I’ve been attempting to go 30 – 90 seconds slower per mile pace (but at the same time not really caring what pace is on my Garmin). Overall, whatever feels easy – and the goal is to finish faster each time aka how I would hope to finally run a marathon – as a nice progression.
      I tend to like harder runs like tempo’s or intervals because I have to focus but on the flip side – when I have had a tough day and want to zone out, some times it is nice to just get out there and RUN.
      Gianna @ Run, Lift, Repeat recently posted..Chicago Marathon Training – Week 14My Profile

    5. I can totally relate to this post. I’ve done marathons in the past and been way too pace-focused. And bonked and disappointed. This year I’m training for my first 50K trail and I’m not tracking my pace at all. I’m just running easy and feeling good. And running should be fun, right? Good luck to you!
      Tammy C recently posted..Ultra wrongMy Profile

    6. This is so great. I find that I can pay too much attention to pace as well, and get totally wrapped up it in. It’s so much easier to let it flow and see what happens – because great things happen!! Keep up the good work and love the little guy and his cake!!!!
      Allie recently posted..Help With Hating on ParentsMy Profile

    7. I can relate to this feeling during marathon training – when the excitement of starting a new training cycle wears off and you’re left with self doubt that can spiral into obsessing over details and ultimately not enjoying any of it! I don’t wear my garmin anymore for easy runs so I can just relax and enjoy, I only look at the garmin for tempo runs and for the long runs I hide it in a pocket. I’m just not happy running when I’m thinking too much about pace. Happy to hear you’re back in a great frame of mind and feeling strong!
      Michele @ paleorunningmomma recently posted..Should Running Vampires Ever See the Sun?My Profile

    8. All my runs are of the slow type since I’m recovering from 2 injuries that caused major laziness (and thus weight gain also). It all depends on the day for me but there are times when I look too often at my pace (and I’m lamenting at how slow I am!). I like the idea of changing your Garmin screen. I might have to do the same! Since there are no splits or speed work going on over here! :)
      ~Ang
      Angela recently posted..The Beast ReturnsMy Profile

    9. Congrats on a strong long run! I like running by feel on long runs, but still monitor my pace. I usually have a pace range that I try to stay in.
      My favorite runs are ones with friends. I’ve even learned to love the track because I have an awesome group!
      PS…super cute birthday cake!!
      Jennifer recently posted..Pillowy Pumpkin Spice & Honey CookiesMy Profile