The Most Fun You Can Have While Running, Even When Lost

So one of the guys in my triathlon group posts that he’s doing his 20 mile run on Monday if anyone would like to join him. He’s running a 3 mile loop…7 times. My first thought is, “that would drive me insane.” I can’t run loops over and over. I can’t get my head around having to do something over and over again. That’s why I never did well on the track.

But for some people, running this way works. It’s actually a variation of my method of breaking a long run into smaller parts. 3 miles is very manageable, keeps him close to home for bathroom/refueling breaks, and enables him to keep an eye on pace.

But it would still drive me crazy. Another thing I cannot do is run far on the W&OD. I know plenty of people who do their long runs on this “trail” and for the life of me I cannot understand why. It’s endless. In summer it’s unshaded and hot as hell. In winter the snow and ice stick to it like glue. It goes on and on forever. To me, it’s the outdoor equivalent of a treadmill. For several years I ran with Reston Runners. They always knew that if a run involved the W&OD, I wouldn’t show. My relationship with it was that bad. I could be having a great run, but the minute I stepped on that trail, all the life would be sucked out of me. I would count the minutes/miles/steps until I could get off. As soon as we left the “trail,” I’d be fine again. These days I can run on it more than I used to, but the thought of it still makes me want to run off into the comfort of the woods…

Don’t even get me started on long treadmill runs….you guys (you know who you are) who do long runs on the dreadmill must have had a prefrontal lobotomy or something. I have no idea how you do it. I would rather have my knees boiled in their own sweat than run double digits on that evil machine.

So what does she like? Before this begins to sound like a whinefest and has you contemplating why I even run in the first place, let me explain what I do love. I love running in new places. I love running past interesting sights. I love running in big cities. I love looking at nature. I particularly enjoy getting off the road and hitting a real trail, i.e., one that’s not paved.

For my long run last weekend I ran on the Bull Run trail. I ran the first 8 miles with friends on a hilly section. Some of the hills are “walkers.” You do not attempt to run these unless you are an idiot or a mountain goat. Or maybe Dean Karnazes. This is great training for my 50K as everyone knows that ultra-running actually involves a good deal of walking, fast, uphill.

After I bid my “normal” running friends adieu, I headed off to the other section of the trail, which is flat. This enabled me to pick up a bit of speed which was good because I was running out of time to get in 16 miles before my team relay where I’d run my final 4 for a nice, round 20. Unfortunately, while I love the trails, I have a disastrous sense of direction and so of course I got lost. On an out and back trail. Really. All I had to do was follow the blue blazes but somehow I managed to make the one wrong turn possible. I had to stop a guy and ask for directions, and even then I kept coming up on the turn and actually missing it. This isn’t the first time I’ve gotten lost. Usually it’s worse because I’m “leading” a group so I get other people lost. I did it in college when I got an entire group of Freshmen lost in the hills of Sheffield. (Sheffield is the hilliest city in Britain. Some of the sidewalks have steps on them. No kidding.) I did it again a year or so ago when I followed the wrong markers when leading my friend Stefan and his visiting-from-out-of-town-sister, turning a 5-mile run into a 12-miler, during which we ran out of water. Oh and did I mention it was summer? And I did it at Manassas Battlefield with my friend Kirsty, who thankfully had looked at a map of the Battlefield before we headed out…

Anyway, the good news is twofold, because when I did finally locate the correct trail, I had run an extra 2 miles and so didn’t need to tack extra miles on once I got back to the car, as had been the original plan. So it all worked out in the end!

So I guess what I’m trying to say is that, for the long run, you have to find out what works for you. Be it loops, a long straight trail with markers such as the W&OD, the treadmill, or, if you’re like me, a scenic route through the woods, perhaps with a map next time, find what works for you.

And, of course, never follow me. 😉

Comments

  1. Hi Alison, I ran 12 milles yesterday , even if you told me 10 (I just felt good) my legs are kind of sore this morning, (exterior part of my knee and achilles tendon) .The pain in my Achilles tendon is like from 1 to 10 , maybe a 4 , dont’n go away but it don’t get worse. I still gonna follow your advice to run 3 milles and track this week. But ,because the weather is getting nice I want to ride and swim. How much did you recomend me to do each before the race?

  2. I would say ride and swim are fine, just don’t do anything that’s going to leave you sore the next day. And you’re going to have to look after that Achilles. Feeling good doesn’t mean you have to keep running!

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