The long run: getting it done

The long run. It’s an essential part of every training plan (you won’t survive a marathon without it), but it can also be one of the most daunting workouts of the week. Even experienced runners stress out about completing this weekend ritual. And me? After many years of running, I still get anxious about my ability to complete the 18-20 milers required for marathon training. However, I’ve come up with a few tips that make it just a little easier to tackle the long run beast. Read on for the details!

  1. Make it managable: Lately I’ve been running the 3 miles or so from my apartment to a meeting spot in Central Park. By the time I’ve met my friends, I’ve shaken off the rust and have knocked a few miles off the daily total. Usually we’ll run 10-12 miles together and then I’ll head back home (another 3 miles). I end up completing my mileage, but since it’s broken up into chunks, it doesn’t seem as daunting!
  2. Hop into a race: One of the great things about living in New York City is the abundance of races going on every weekend. While training for my first marathon, I signed up for a bunch of fall 1/2 marathons in the area (they only cost $15!) and incorporated them into my long runs. For example, I’ll warm up for 2 miles, run the half-marathon  (13.1 miles) at a moderate pace, and then add on some more miles at the end. I did this a few weeks ago during the Bronx 1/2 marathon and it really made the miles fly by. If there aren’t any 1/2 marathons near you, you can do the same thing with a shorter race. Is there a 5k being held in the next town over? Run the 10 miles there, complete the 5k, and have your family meet you at the finish line for brunch. Be creative! It’s makes running more fun.
  3. Break it up: Although not ideal, I’ve had to do a few long runs on the treadmill. Once I survived an indoor 15-miler by switching treadmills every 5 miles. At the end of each 5 mile segment I grabbed a sip of water and started watching a new program on the gym’s TV.
  4. “Run” an errand: Using running as a form of transportation gives my long run a purpose. For example, if you’re on vacation with the family, wake up a little early, and head out for your run. Have them meet you XX miles away at a pre-determined pancake spot or beach locale. Knowing you won’t be able to stop until you reach your destination is a nice motivator 🙂
  5. Listen to a fun book on tape: I haven’t tried this yet, but I’m keeping it in mind in case I get really desperate.

Yesterday’s run was an easy 4.5 miler down the East side to an appointment (see tip #4 – using running as a form of transportation!). When I got back home I whipped up a dinner that I’ve probably made dozens of times, but there’s a reason for that. It’s cheap, easy, quick, and healthy. Win, win, win.

Noodles with vegetables and peanut sauce (serves 3)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 box whole wheat linguine (or soba noodles)
  • Tbs olive oil
  • 1 small head of cabbage, sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced into 1″ peices
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 2 Tbs rice wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbs soy sauce
  • 1 Tbs sriracha
  • splash of lime juice
  • crushed cashews

Directions:

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil and prepare pasta according to directions on box. Drain pasta and set aside.
  • Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large pan. Stirfry cabbage and pepper for about 5-7 minutes or until softenend. Remove from heat and add tomatoes. Allow to cool for a few minutes.
  • In the bottom of large bowl, whisk together peanut butter, rice vinegar, soy sauce, lime juice, and sriracha.
  • Add noodles and veggies to bowl and toss with sauce to combine.
  • Garnish with crushed cashews and more sriracha.
  • Note: This would also be great with shrimp or tofu, but I didn’t have any on hand.

Nutritional stats per serving: 450 calories, 62 g carbohydrates, 17 g fat, 16 g protein, 11 g fiber. Plus a good amount of vitamin C and iron.

I love that this dish can be made with pantry ingredients that I have on hand and the opportunities for variation are almost endless!

What’s your go-to dish for a busy weeknight?

  • Great tips! I am training for a marathon now and get very overwhelmed by the huge #’s I see on the weekend. I am also considering a book on tape, will let you know if I do it 🙂

  • That is intensely delicious looking and sounding! I think some of these tips are actually just great general motivators for running. I get daunted just by the idea of going out in the heat these days. I LOVE your suggestion of literally running errands. So clever!
    Also, I love listening to podcasts on long runs – it literally makes the time fly by.

  • Thanks for the tips! I’m fairly new to running and currently training for my first half marathon. I’m running my first 8-miler this weekend and I’m a little nerved up!

  • Thanks for the long run suggestions…usually getting over the mental hurdle is harder than the physical challenge!
    I love quick veggie stir-fries during the week and salads loaded with toppings.

  • i love your tips. especially the first one. getting those first few rusty miles out makes a world of a difference during a long run!

    and dont worry: i still get nervous before my long runs too! i like to think of it as we care a lot about them 🙂

  • Maren

    I have been wanting pasta for about a week. No more excuses. I’m making this tonight!

  • Awesome tips! I’m also training for a marathon with a group of other girls, and I think my hardest mental struggle for the long run is when one of the girls says something like “Just 20 more km to go!” Ugh, major mental war!

  • Good tips! How many 20+ milers do you plan to do during training? just curious. my training calls for 5 but many people I talk to only plan to run 2…

  • My lord that looks delicious! Peanut sauce makes everything better 🙂 My go-to meal usually involves rice, tomatoes and black beans. And sometimes, just a slice of cheese pizza with veggies. No judgment.

  • Good tips- I have recently started listening to podcasts on some of my runs- I was sceptical but I really enjoy it. Try searching for marathon talk, they are about an hour long each and its interviews and chat about running, but pretty interesting.
    🙂

  • I did a 12 miler on a treadmill once because it was raining pretty hard. I went down to my apartment’s workout room (i.e. a treadmill and elliptical in one of the apartments), stuck a DVD in my laptop, plugged in some speakers, and I was set. Not something I’d choose to do again, but it worked.

  • Wow. I can’t imagine getting to the point of running a long run like that. Right now my long runs are probably 3-4 miles, which feels really good for me.

    My go to meal? Homemade pizza on whatever bread we have on hand – bagels, tortillas, or lavash. I just use whatever veggies we have on hand, which leads to some interesting combinations, but it’s always fun to make.

  • Ada

    Thanks for the great tips! I’m currently training for my first full marathon (NYC) and appreciate all the advice. Please let me know if you ever need a long run buddy!!!

  • Thanks for the running tips! I just signed up for my first 5k and hope to work my way up to longer races in the future!

  • I love your tips – especially using a race as part of the run. I bet that adds a bit of excitement!

  • I love all of your tips, but especially agree with #1 and #4! Those first couple of miles before I meet up with people are my wake up / warm up time. And running errands in the literal sense is just awesome. I run-commute quite a bit. It ends up being the same time as taking the subway most of the time!

  • Mentally breaking up my long runs is really the only thing that gets me through!

  • I love running to books on ipod! Any of the Janet Evanovich’s, Carl Hiiason’s or Mary Janice-Davidson’s are easy, fun books to run to.

  • I love the tips! I love to do ‘errand runs’, and love the idea of running to a restaurant or something.

  • Mental games. It’s all about tricking yourself, and these are great ideas. I’ve done the 15-mile treadmill run as well, and would play a single song on my iPod three times in a row to make it feel like I had been running for a shorter time than I actually had. It sort of maybe a little bit worked.

    Unrelated, but have you ever tried green tea noodles? I got them at an Asian grocery store and they are incredible. Wispy, thin, and soooo delicious. That’s all.

  • I love these tips! I’ve been breaking up my long runs by starting in Central Park, then going to Riverside, and then back to Central. it totally works!

    My go-to weeknight dishes are cold quinoa or bean salads with tons of veggies that I can prepare ahead of time – makes life so much easier!

  • I can’t believe you ran 15 miles at the gym. I realized this morning that I can’t focus on a treadmill past 3 miles.

    I also wanted to say that I really appreciated your post the other day about how you got into running and encouraging others that if they train hard, they can achieve. That’s something I didn’t start believing until recently.

    It was your blog, actually, that got my brain into “performance gear.” Your times are FANTASTIC, and I finally asked myself, “Why not?” I’ve decided that someday, I too will be able to run 6-min miles… but I’ve got to start somewhere, and I’m starting where I am.

    Anyways, thanks for challenging me to get into a more rigorous routine. I’m loving my new speed workouts and am excited for the change. 🙂

    Rae

  • Great long run tips! I like to break my long run into chunks by running a few loops. I also try to get my running buddy to run some (or all) of it with me. It really makes it fly by!