I´m training for my first half-marathon and had an awful long run last weekend. I only have six weeks left to train and I'm starting to worry I won't be prepared. Do you have any tips to get my mind back on track? Thanks. -SusanHi, Susan. You may be surprised to read that there are many benefits to a having a long run so brutally hard that it makes you question your sanity for signing up for the half-marathon to begin with. Here are three that come to mind:
- Opportunity for Growth. We can learn much more from the runs that humble us than the ones that go so well we hardly take notice. Bad runs inspire us to evaluate what went wrong. How many long runs have you had this season after which you sat back and thought about what went right? A brutally hard long run is an opportunity to refine your training process to avoid making any mistakes that might have led you to the tough run last weekend. Many times, when you reflect on all the variables, you can isolate a few things that may have caused a less-than-pleasant long training run. Some possibilities include: lack of sleep, stress, poor nutrition quality or quantity, weather, pacing, training too hard earlier in the week, travel, different terrain, not enough recovery in your training season, slacking on training, illness, and vacation. Evaluate, track, and modify as you go. A training plan is never set in stone and is always a work in progress.
- Keeps you from dancing on the tables. If running a half-marathon were easy, everyone would do it, and the value of the bragging rights you're earning would decline dramatically at the office. Seriously, though, I always say it ain't a half or full marathon training season until you've had a long run that knocks you off your socks and demands your attention. The tough runs keep you focused on your goal and they're a great reminder of the challenge ahead.
- Mind over matter. That which does not kill us, makes us stronger. – Nietzsche When you run a long distance race, you ebb and flow through a lifetime of emotions. The strong training runs prepare you for the highs, but it is the not-so-strong runs that inevitably simulate and prepare you to run through the lows. Running through it builds a solid foundation of mental strength that prepares you to tackle the greatest of challenges come race day. Bad runs can also be teaching moments in knowing your limits and learning when to call it quits by cutting your run short. Sometimes you gain more from a shorter version of the long run than if you went the whole way. If you listen, these not-so-pleasant long runs will be a guiding force in your training telling you when to push through and when to stop and call it a day. It may not feel like it now, but the run(s) that bring you to your knees are an important piece of the journey to the finish line.
Jenny Hadfield Co-Author, Marathoning for Mortals and Running for Mortals