By Rob Andro, Gazelle Sports Grand Rapids Training Program Coordinator
Every training program in existence has its challenges. Some are harder than others, and much of that difficulty lies in the runner. But “the long run” is a specter that haunts all marathoners, no matter their ability. The long run tests your physical fitness and your mental fortitude. You are running a distance so close to your goal distance, but without the pomp, or the crowd, or the support, or the finish line celebration. But it is a valuable practice test for all runners, and your job is to make it as worthwhile as possible. There are a number of things that can go wrong on race day, and long run day is your chance to shorten that list.
“Nothing new on race day” is a common saying among runners. It is a lesson learned the hard way. Often. By even the most experienced runners. But here are three things to focus on:
- First, what you are wearing is of critical importance. No matter the length of your race, chafing can and will happen. How do you minimize the risk? Start by avoiding cotton. As a fabric, cotton retains moisture, stretches when wet, and becomes abrasive. Wearing wool or synthetic shirts, shorts and socks will minimize any chafing, and keep your sweat from weighing you down. There is nothing worse than finishing a run and feeling like your clothes are ten pounds heavier than when you started!
- Second, only eat foods you know your body likes! Again, this is something you will need to test (probably more than once) on runs leading up to your race day. In fact, you should be pretty confident with your fueling strategy by long run day. Starting this testing process on long run often leads to issues that can cut the run short. The long run is your final test, not your first practice. Especially when it comes to what you are putting in your stomach!
- Lastly, do everything you can to make the long run as pleasant as possible. If you aren’t running a route that mimics your race, find a route that is familiar and easy. Try to arrange to have friends join in (even your non-running friends can ride along on their bike!). The run will be tough enough, so don’t make it any harder than it needs to be. Unless you want it to be.
Bottom line – you want to finish your long run feeling strong and confident that you are ready for your race. The mental hurdle is just as big as the physical one. So do everything you can to set yourself up for success, and let the boost of confidence carry you to your start line!