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The 'long run' and why it matters beyond the miles

Posted by Ty Velde  March 22, 2013 07:41 AM

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Long distance running

For many of us, this weekend is a critical point in our training.

We’ve been training for months, building up our mileage and it’s now time for “the long run.” For most, this is the apex of the training experience, as the results of this particular run will determine how “ready” we feel we are for race day.

100ty_velde.jpg Ty Velde is a regular contributor to Boston.com's Marathon blog.

With this being said, why is it that we as marathoners put so much stock in one single run? After all, we’ve been training for months. We’re likely in some of the best shape of our lives. Yet, despite these factors when comes to evaluating our readiness for race day, instead of a taking a long term view of all that we have done over the course of our training to prepare, we often tend to judge it within the context of how we feel about “the long run.”

So, what is it about this single run that makes it such a defining moment? Yes, it’s a very important training and preparation milestone, but what are some of the factors that contribute to making it such an important part of the marathon experience, beyond simply the miles that are covered?

It’s a date that “looms” on the training calendar
While we all keep to certain training schedules and regiments, the date of “the long run” is often fixed. You don’t want to do it too early and definitely not too late. Therefore, for most of us there is a defined window as to when this training “event” will occur. As a result when it comes to training, it’s something that is constantly only your mind as it’s an event that you’ve been building up to and working towards.

It’s the training benchmark
How you feel after the long run very often can determine how effective you feel your training has been. While it may sound a bit silly to evaluate your entire training experience around a single run, as the long run is often the culmination of your training efforts, it’s very impactful. Simply stated, if you have a great long run, you’ll feel that you’re “ready” for race day and that you have trained effectively. Conversely, if you have poor long run, it may cause you to rethink how effective your training has been and question your true sense of “readiness.”

In short, while completing the long run often means you’ll still cover the distance and cross the finish line, many have goals that extend beyond this. Therefore, the long run can be very telling as to whether or not you feel you’re in condition to achieve them.

Everyone seems to ask about it

As we train, two of the most common questions any marathoner gets asked, especially by the non-initiated are… “Are you ready?” and “How do you feel?”. While we have all been training for months, I always find that when you reference the long run, either before or after, the awareness and curiosity factor of those around you about the marathon is suddenly heightened and starts to increase.

Up to this point, many people may not have even realized that you’re getting ready to run the Boston marathon, but there is now heightened sense of social awareness and interest in what you are about do. This factor also translates into a heightened sense of self-awareness about yourself and the marathon. Specifically, when viewed in the context of yourself, as well as within the acknowledgement of others, one thing that cannot be denied about the long run, is that it makes race day a reality. It is no longer a dream or a distant goal. Ultimately, with the long run you come you realize that you have now reached the point of no return.

You’re not going any further

This is it. It’s the dress rehearsal before the big dance. Simply stated the only time you’ll be running further is on race day. Therefore, this is the time you want to make sure that everything feels right and that you’ve worked out all the kinks. How you manage the long run tends to showcase how ready you are not just physically, but psychologically as well.

Ultimately while the long run is a very important and defining moment within the context of the marathon experience, it’s always a run that I look forward to. It’s about challenging yourself and putting to the test all that you have worked towards. It’s about validation, and knowing that the only reason you are doing the long run is because of all the effort and desire you’ve put forth to get to this point. It’s about testing your mettle and knowing that you’re prepared both physically and mentally.

Above all, the long run is more than just a run, it’s about demonstrating to yourself and to others, that come race day, you’ll be ready.

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Look for updates, news, analysis and commentary from the following.
  • Steve Silva, Boston.com senior producer, two-time Boston Marathon sub-four hour runner.
  • Ty Velde is a 16-time Boston qualifier who's completed 12 consecutive Boston Marathons and 25 marathons overall. Ty is now training for his 13th Boston run and will provide training tips for those who train solo and outside, no matter what temperature it is.
  • Rich 'Shifter' Horgan is a 19-time Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge team member who runs in honor of his father, who died of colon cancer. He will provide updates on local running events with a focus on the charitable organizations that provide Boston Marathon entries for their organization's fund raising purposes

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