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The 20-Mile Long Run

Tuesday, May 13th, 2008 · 1 Comment

On one of my Team in Training runs over the winter, I ran briefly with a woman who was preparing to run her 50th marathon — yes, her 50th. She couldn’t have been older than late 40s or early 50s, which means she’s easily been running more than one marathon per year for a number of years (I didn’t get the details). Regardless, she gave me some advice about my upcoming marathon, and two points have stuck with me:

  • Respect the mileage. This is true for any run, no matter the length, and is about the psychology of the run — don’t get ahead of yourself and try not to think “only 3 more miles” or “only 10 more miles,” whatever the distance. Just take one mile at a time.
  • A marathon is nothing like a half-marathon. This may sound obvious, but after running 20 miles on Saturday, I can say that there’s a big difference between running 13.1 and running even 20.

I can now proudly say that I’m a half-marathoner. After Saturday’s Team in Training run, I can also say that I’ve run 20 miles — the longest training distance I’ll run leading up to the June 1 marathon. And you know what? My 50-time marathon running companion knew what she was talking: Running 20 miles — not even the full 26.2 of the marathon — is nothing like running a half-marathon.

In other words, running 20 miles is a really, really long way to run. And it felt like it.

But I’m proud to say that I did it. And with a pretty decent pace, too. Alex and I ran together the whole time — thanks, man, for sticking with me and giving me those pep talks! — and averaged about 8:05 per mile over the full 20 miles (2:41:59 by my timing). We went by Alex’s GPS watch and not my iPod since it’s a bit more accurate. Although the good news is that my iPod is actually calibrated now to have me go farther than I actually have — a good thing for training — so even though we did clock in a full 20 by Alex’s GPS watch, my iPod showed 19.51 (note the gradually decreasing line, which represents our slowing down toward the end):

As for the run itself, the first 10 miles felt really strong. We took a short refueling break after 10, then proceeded down an uncharted direction on the Niskayuna bike trail. We ran out of trail after 4 miles and found ourselves running some hills and through neighborhoods with crappy roads and no shoulders. Miles 16 through 20 were probably the toughest for me. I resisted the urge to stop for another breather, and kept going with Alex’s occasional pep talks — “we’re just prolonging the pain!” was the one that motivated me the most to pick up the pace and power through the end of the run.

I find solace in that the San Diego marathon course is mostly flat — the only real incline is leading up to mile 10:

sd_elev_05.gif

That, combined with the race-day adrenaline, and I plan on kicking the ass of not only the first 20 miles of the marathon, but the final 6.2, too! San Diego here I come!

Oh yeah, the final tid-bit here: Did I have any pain on Sunday? Was I sore the day after running 20 miles? Nope, not at all! The secret: A 20-minute ice bath Saturday afternoon (with a glass of vodka tonic). It worked some magic. Only the top of my right foot was sore, but that’s more from breaking in my new shoes than anything else. I clocked in another 5-mile run yesterday.

In other, non-running news, a big congrats to Jen for finishing her spring semester of library school! You rock! I’m looking forward to celebrating her graduation this weekend.

Tags: running

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Alex // May 13, 2008 at 10:28 pm

    It’s good to know my big mouth can be used for good too.

    🙂

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