For non-runners, this sounds like a really dumb blog post. After all, you can run 20 miles in three steps:
1. Get dressed.
3. Start running.
Oh, if only it was that easy, right? No matter how many times I’ve run 20 miles, it has always been a little nervewracking to knock the first one off my schedule for the week. I feel like it’s an indicator of where I stand in training and if I can’t make it a successful one, sometimes it makes me a lot nervous for race day, even if it is 10 weeks away.
I feel like the biggest thing about running 20 miles, is getting your mind geared up and ready to support it. I don’t know how many times I’ve started off running 20 miles, only to get past the first mile and think to myself, oh my god, I have 19 more miles to go… this is going to be TERRIBLE.
Thoughts like that set yourself up for failure… it gets you to the point where you can’t stop looking at your GPS to see how far you’ve gone and you can’t help but think how miserable you are.
To successfully run 20 miles, you need to be physically and mentally prepared. Here is what helps me through this distance during training:
>>>Preparing the night before. There are a lot of things that go into preparing for a long run. Making sure you eat the right dinner, so you have the right fuel in your system. This is often a way to “test” what you should eat before a marathon so I try to eat the foods that I will eat before race day to make sure that it’s right for my body. I always lay out my clothes the night before and my AM fuel as well, as it makes the morning that much easier.
>>>Fueling up right. Never ever run 20 miles without some fuel in your system first! I will often skip gels on training runs going up to 17 miles, but never on a 20 miler. Make sure you have at least one gel with you and a sports drink (I love Nuun). I usually have a piece of toast with butter + one serving of chews like the PROBAR Bolt before my run for some fuel, along with about 10 ounces of water. I eat this about 30-45 minutes before my run.
>>>Keeping my mind entertained. This is the biggest thing for me. I will get bored if I go into a run and have no idea what I’m concentrating on our thinking about. Most of the time, I try to think about our finances and how we can save to be millionaires. I will also think about stuff related to work (that usually burns a lot of miles) and what my future novel’s plot will look like.
I don’t listen to music so having thoughts running through my mind is really important! I don’t necessarily spend my run thinking about all of this stuff, when I get into the zone I really think about nothing, which is my favorite! 🙂
>>>Celebrating the small wins. One of the ways I also keep my mind entertained is by thinking about my run and celebrating the great accomplishments I make along the way. One of the things I have done for years is break my run up into smaller chunks. Instead of counting down the miles, I think about it in terms of parts and celebrate (silently, to myself)… so for instance, when I ran in NYC, I would start in Brooklyn, run across the Brooklyn Bridge, and down the West Side Highway.
- Brooklyn = part 1
- Brooklyn Bridge = part 2
- West Side Highway = part 3
My mind liked breaking it down that way and “checking” it off the to do list… I especially liked it in Brooklyn because I would half finish part one and part two, so finishing them was really fast towards the end! I do the same thing here in Austin and as silly as it sounds, it really helps me find the distance manageable in my head.
>>>Finding something to love about the run. It’s so easy to go to the negative. I feel like our society wants people to be negative about everything, rather than find a way to be positive about what’s in front of them. As soon as I finish, I try to find one or three things that I absolutely loved about the previous three hours! Even if it’s something as small as seeing a pretty flower along the way, it transforms the way that I think and gives me some excitement for the next 20 mile run.
What do you do to stay entertained on 20 miles? Any other mental tricks or games to share?
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