As they speed thru the finish the flags go down.
The fans get up, and get out of town.
The arena is empty except for one man,
Still driving and striving as fast as he can
The sun has gone down and the moon has come up,
And long ago somebody left with the cup,
But he's driving and striving and hugging the turns,
And thinking of someone for whom he still burns.
He's going the distance.
He's going for speed.
On a long run, you're out there all alone, with no trophy to run towards, no fans cheering you on. How do you keep going? The key is in your head. Here are my tips for going the distance in your mind.
1. Break it up. If you step out the door thinking, "Okay, only 20 miles to go," you will lose your mind and want to quit. My friend Sandy was advised to think of her 20 mile run not as a 20 mile run, but rather as four 5 mile runs. I like to break up my run into several different loops. I'll run four out and back, stop at home and get some water, do another four out and back, stop at home again, and then do two out and back. That allows me to focus just on the miles I'm running in that loop, not the total.
2. Mix it up. Those loops that I run are not all the same. If I did 20 miles worth of passing the same scenery over and over again, I'd get bored. So, the first loop might take me through a neighborhood, the next by the river, and the final a tried and true quick loop.
3. Listen. My iPod is an excellent companion on long runs. I usually buy a couple of new songs before a long run, sort of as a pre-reward. And I still love listening to "This American Life" - and thanks to all of you who told me where to get the podcasts for free. I get so caught up on those stories that an hour has passed before I know it.
4. Distract yourself. As much as I love the iPod, sometimes it helps to think about something else. Last fall, I performed the wedding ceremony for my good friends Dan and Liana. During long runs, I'd go through the ceremony and what I wanted to say. I probably wrote 95% of it in my head while running. I also like to think about upcoming vacations, books and movies, what I want to make for dinner - fun stuff like that.
5. Use your imagination. When I take gel, water, gummy bears, or whatever, I like to pretend that I am "powering up" like a character in a video game. I picture the power running through me, filling me with light and making me stronger.
6. Break it up. Yeah, I know - I said this one already. But when the going gets tough, you need to really break it up. Get yourself from one tree to the next. Push yourself to the next parked car. Keep going, step by step, until you're done.
7. Plan a reward. Running a long run is not easy, and it helps a lot to have something to look forward to when you're done. I buy myself little presents (running outfits, of course, or new music), or plan the all-important food reward. I finished my 18 mile run last year dreaming of a Snickers bar for pretty much the entire last 5 miles. And laws, did that thing taste good.
By the time you get to the point in your training that you're supposed to run a long distance, your body is ready. Get your mind ready, and before long, you'll be going the distance.