I reached a significant personal milestone last weekend when I finished my 200th long run. When I started out running, I built up quickly to the half and full marathon distances. During my first marathon training plan, I decided to define 20 miles as a long run. I had heard that you typically bonk at 16-18 miles so I wanted to get good at pushing past that point. And I’ve been attracted to round numbers so 20 seemed like as good a number as any other.
Over the years, the long run has been my bread and butter training run. I don’t do speed workouts. I occasionally do hill workouts. Heck, I walk pretty much every time I head out the door for a “run”. While I’ve steadily gotten better at running long distances, I give most of the credit to my ability to consistently knock out long runs whether in training or during races.
If you look at the longest run each month, you’ll notice that many months over the last couple years max out at 20 miles. Many ultra coaches recommend only doing about 3 hour long runs in training as the time needed to recover from them offsets the adaptation benefits. I’ve partially bought into that, but for me it’s more a function of the amount of ultras I do each year. If I didn’t do six ultras a year, I would probably target more 25-30 mile runs in training. Since I get those miles in my races, I don’t feel the need to go above 20 in between them. Also, it’s partially the fact that I define 20 miles as a long run. You had better believe that if I defined it as 23 miles, then there’s be a lot more (23)s in the chart above.
My run last weekend also pushed my streak of months with a long run to 30. This didn’t used to be a thing for me. I used to love the several month off-seasons that I built into my calendar. As I’ve progressed and built up my endurance base though, I’ve found that less necessary. The interesting thing is that I haven’t had to force runs into a given month to keep this going. It’s really been organic as I’ve gone along. Listen, I’m all about taking taking breaks when your body and mind tell you it’s needed. I literally just wrote a post about it. Those breaks have gotten shorter and shorter as I’ve conditioned my body and mind to run long distances. Twenty miles used to require an afternoon on the couch to recover from. Now? Not so much.
As a final note, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that I tripped and fell 5 miles into the run. Sigh. I’m thinking if I haven’t learned to stay on my feet by now, then that’s probably not a skill I’m ever going to master. Time to start back up my core work.