Anatomy of a Long Run

pause my garmin

Ah the long run – the weekly pain session by which we judge if our other weekly pain sessions are having the desired effect (of allowing us to have pain sessions that last for longer distances).

Every week of training since I started this journey, first with my marathon and now for the IRONMAN, I have done a long run (or walk, in the case of marathon training)  They have ranged from 5 miles to 24 miles, but it seems that regardless of the distance they are always pretty much the same:

Before the Run

This is a time of promise, of optimism, of slathering myself with sunscreen and anti-chaffe cream (rule of thumb:  if a body part isn’t covered in one, it should probably be covered in the other.)  As I eat my pre-run food, fill my water bottle and don my special spandex clothes it seems as though anything is possible.

Mile One

Everything is terrible, every time.  I’ve since learned that it isn’t just me, that many people experience first mile suckage.  The key, at least for me, seems to be to acknowledge that it’s happening (again,) breathe through it, slow down (no need to be a hero on mile one) and try desperately to quell the thought “Sweet fluffy lord there is no way I can get through [however many miles]”

First Third

After the first mile things get better.  I start to feel pretty good, usually the cramping in my calves subsides and the miles start clicking by. Optimism returns.

During these miles I am a math genius, I calculate current pace, project mile finish times and  overall finish time under various scenarios etc. because I have nothing else to do, and I’m trying to take my mind off the fact that I’m running even though absolutely nothing is chasing me.

Middle Third

Things are still going ok, but I’m feeling the burn and looking a little more forward to each drink of water and chew (they’re like gummy bears with all the joy removed.)

My math skills become less sharp as my brain slowly shuts down (assuming, I guess, that things must be pretty bad if we’re still running, so it should start saving brain power for the hunting and foraging we’re going to have to do for food.)

The Final Third 

These are not my happiest times, fatigue is definitely setting in and my form is starting to break down.

My math skills are down to

Q: “If I have to run 10 miles and I’ve run 8, how many miles do I have left?”


The Final Mile

I see that I have one mile left. I immediately forget how long a mile is and celebrate that I’m practically finished.  This creates a second wind.

This second wind ends when I look down at my watch expecting to be at the end of my final mile, only to see that I have .91 miles left.

At the end

How I want to feel:

How I actually feel:

When I realize that I miscalculated the various loops and out and backs that I had to do to make the beautiful trail that I drove here to run work for the number of miles I need, and that my car is almost a mile away:

And then it’s over. Until the bike or swim later today.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff!

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About danceswithfat

Hi, I’m Ragen Chastain. Speaker, Writer, Dancer, Choreographer, Marathoner, Soon to be IRONMAN, Activist, Fat Person.
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12 Responses to Anatomy of a Long Run

  1. ncrisafulli says:

    Thank you for making me laugh out loud at my desk after a long day. I agree with everything (especially that first awful mile part), but you managed to make it funny and memorable. I’m bookmarking this post. :~)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Kiki says:

    That was a perfect description of any longform exercise! I’m tired just reading it! ^_^
    I especially feel you on the “Yay! Done! Wait. I have to get home??”, since I bike to my runs, and my ride home is uphill. Which I forget. Every. Single. Time.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. k8heron says:

    One of my fave blogs on this subject ever. I laughed out loud remembering with nostalgia (not fondness) those exact same emotions when I used to run!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Stacy says:

    hahah I laughed so hard! Thank you, I really needed that! 😀 I was feeling pretty down and this really lifted my spirits and made me laugh!

    I totally don’t know how you do it! THAT RUNNING THING is so hard to keep up for so long – I’m really impressed that a human being can keep that up for so long. After a mile I’d probably feel like I wanted to die. lol


  5. Toogz says:

    24 mile run!? Forget the ironman, lookout navy seals!


  6. KP says:

    I live on a hill, so my mile 1 is all sunshine and rainbows and butterflies… until I hit mile 2 (flat) and THEN everything hurts/cramps/feels weird and I can’t believe I still have miles to go before I turn around. I think my mile 2 is everyone else’s mile 1.

    Go Ragen!


  7. new2town says:

    True. Every last word of it. The math, the feelings, the lies that Garmin tells, and the extra walk back to the car. SRSLY GUISE dog is spot on.


  8. tehomet says:

    Wow, I’d rather be stuck in a lift with a politician.

    Go, Ragen!


  9. lsstrout says:

    You are so AWESOME!


  10. Stan Tyler says:

    Damn girl your ability to capture the training moments is ridiculously real and funny. Thanks for the inspiration that your perspective and willingness to step out gives me.


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