There is something altogether amazing about the long run, allow me to explain. I am not a fast runner by any stretch of the imagination, but I am not really that slow either. I am kind of right there, in the middle. Of course this doesn't mean that I'm not out there trying to improve with each step that I take. I have ran many distances. Short, quick, one mile out and back taking up roughly 15 minutes of my time all the way to just shy of an 18 mile loop, which I did at an average of 9:24min/mile pace a month or so ago. (My next goal is a 20 miler) It is said that a mile is a mile no matter how fast you run it. Truth. There is no negating this.
I used to be content with stacking up 3-4 miles a day 4-5 days a week. I would have a sense of accomplishment. In fact, if I could get my 5k time a little faster each time out I would mentally reward myself for a run well done. Then on those off days, yes, we runners have off days, I would get so angry with myself that the next day I would just run farther. I got stuck in this rut for a few months until a friend of mine asked me to run a half-marathon with her. A half marathon! Game on! What runner doesn't love a new challenge? That is when I learned a few things. You don't run 13.1 miles the same way you run 3.1. Nope, it is true. Unless you are a Kenyan. Then you just go and win. Ha!
So in this training I kept at my comfort level, distance wise, for a while and every so often I would eek up to 5-6 miles at a time. But I was exhausting myself early. My problem? I was running twice the distance with the mentality of running half of it. I'd get angry when I couldn't get a particular end result. Then I read in my running magazine, yes I subscribe to 1 or 2, oh, alright 3 different ones...sheesh...that distance isn't about speed it is about maintaining the pace. Well, come on. Pfeph...I knew that! I mean, didn't YOU know that? Everyone knows that. OK...so I didn't know that. Well, not exactly really.
Then I went for my first really long run (up to that point). 10 miles. My friend A had a goal of 11:00min/mile. Me, being a short distance runner wanted to belt out straight away at my > 8:00min/mile pace. Uh Uh! See she has ran a full. (Brave girl + good runner = rock star in my book). She maintained we go S...L...O...W. In the end, we compromised...I slowed down and she sped up. And on that day, was born a distance runner. I fell in love with the long run.
Since then I feel almost cheated when I can't get in more than 5-6 miles on the short days. My real love is the 10-14 mile range. I will be running a full next year with my aunt to celebrate her birthday. Yes, that is 26.6 miles of yummy goodness. Yeah, I know, sweat is neither yummy nor good, but hey, it's my story :) I've shaved almost :45 off/mile for the average time at my current half pace. I'm much pleased with this, but am working towards a more aggressive goal. However, it is getting colder out and the days are getting shorter and my longer runs are getting pushed to the weekends. Thankfully I still have the treadmill at the rec center just down the way from my work, where I can pop in and run a quick 5k at my lunch time. (I'm desperately hoping my parents get me a treadmill for Christmas - they'd be super cool in my book if they did...hint, hint mom!)
It is in the long run where I have time to zone out. I can lose myself for miles. I do not listen to music. I enjoy the feel of the road under my Mizunos. I enjoy the rush of the air through my hair. I find peace with my mind and wholeness with myself. It is during the long run that I am no longer filling the multitude of roles that I hold during my day/week. I am a woman out there taking one well practiced and perfectly choreographed step after another towards a destination that is often planned by the feel of my legs. I let my shoes lead me while my Garmin Forerunner tracks it. I am free. I am in a place that only I define myself. I am there for myself. I am competing against myself. I am learning about myself. I am finding out just who I really am. All in a place where I am simply a runner.