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How to Survive Long Runs While Marathon Training

 

I’ve been running pretty consistently for the last seven months or so, but I’ve generally kept my runs to three or four miles. It’s a comfortable distance, long enough to work up a sweat and feel like I did something, but also short enough to fit in before work or into a busy weekend.

So when, this last weekend, I saw that my training plan called for a five-mile run, I kind of panicked. And then I thought about 13.1 miles in a few months and panicked some more. So I did the most logical thing I could think of, and procrastinated going for my run all day, making myself busy with other things. Finally, around five p.m., I decided I had to just go for it. I put my running shoes on and told myself (out loud!) to just focus on finishing—that I could go slowly if I needed to or take walking breaks. I took a deep breath, cued up a killer playlist, and started running towards Central Park. (Try one of these Audiobooks to Power Your Next Long Run.)

On the way, I realized that the best part of running longer would be that I’d actually get to run in the park! I live just under two miles from the entrance, so I’d usually run there, dip inside, and run home. The majority of my workout usually took place on the city streets, rather than park paths.

Once I got to the park, surrounded by trees, everything felt easier (though there were still plenty of tourists to weave around!). But I had so much fun figuring out where to go that I barely realized when my Nike app hit three miles. And then all I had to do was run home!

Around mile four, I did get tired—after all, that’s when I’m used to stopping. (We've got Expert Tips for Surviving Long Runs if you need 'em.) But I pushed through, and by four and a half miles, I felt like I was flying. I ran the last half mile fast, finishing exhausted but smiling.

Breaking that five-mile barrier may not seem like a huge deal, especially since I have much longer training runs ahead of me. (The longest the Hal Higdon Novice 1 Plan I'm following will have me do pre-race is 10 miles.) But to me, it marked a turning point. I had never run five miles before, and now I know I can. When I face six miles (and seven, and eight, and so on), I’ll remember how I felt before and after this five-mile run, and know that I’m capable of more than I might realize. And pushing my limits is what this journey is all about.

Marnie Soman Schwartz is the nutrition editor at Shape. She lives and runs in New York City. Follow her training here, and on Instagram and Twitter @marnwrites.

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