Running long distances is hard. Not the most original thought I know, but a contributing factor for why ultras are such a niche sport. Not many people have the ability or inclination to run/walk/crawl for 10+ hours at a time. It’s the difficulty that initially drew me in and it’s what has kept me going for the past six years.
Ever since I started training, I have always thought that the best way to get good at running long distances was to . . . wait for it. . . run long distances. There are plenty of ways to get better at running including speed and hill work, strength training, high mileage weeks, stretching and mobility work, and the ubiquitous long run. And if I wanted to maximize my potential, I would do all of those things. Twice a week. But that’s always seemed like a lot of work and my fear has been that if I try and do everything then I’ll just end up burning myself out.
So I focus on just one thing: running long.
I’m still not sure why I picked 20 as my definition of a long run. I think it was because it’s past the proverbial wall you hit in running and it’s a nice round number. When I plan out my training leading up to my races, the long runs are typically the only ones I put on my schedule any more. I was just working on this for Olde 96er in April (5 such runs scheduled as lead up) and decided to update my favorite chart.
I was amazed to discover the total over the past 7 years is now up to 146 runs. I’ve been consistent at +/- 20 runs each year so my increasing longevity in the sport is starting to really add to my totals. Especially, last year where I set a new personal record with 27 such runs. This isn’t a number I was necessarily targeting, it just shook out that way as the last 2 months of the year were much higher that normal as I was training up for LH100.
The one change I’ve made over the years is to cut down on the length of my long training runs. Back in the day (pre-2019), I would do quite a few in the 25-31 mile range. Now I’ll just do mostly 20 mile runs with maybe one 25 miler leading up to a 100 mile race. I tossed in a couple back-to-back 20 milers in my last training cycle (just because), however I’ll probably hold off on that for the rest of the year. I’ve gotten enough experience at the ultra distance at this point that I don’t feel the need to knock out 30 miles on a random Saturday morning anymore. Especially considering I’m already racing 7 ultras per year.
I have a couple more weeks off before it’s time for my next long run. Here’s hoping I have another 146 left in me going forward.