Saturday, August 2, 2014

The Things I'm Learning About Running Long Distances

Sometimes experiences throughout your life connect in strange ways.

When I was very young, three or four years old, my parents took me to the doctor and I got a series of shots that were probably just vaccinations important for a young child to get. I was as happy about this series of shots as any young child would be, but soon enough I was back home, and I went to bed that night happy, the incident forgotten.

When I woke up the next morning, my legs no longer worked.

As I threw my torso out of bed, landing in a tangled thump on the floor, I did so with a stoic resolve that surprises me even to this day. Well, I remember thinking calmly as I army-crawled to my bedroom doorway and then across the carpeted upstairs hallway, I guess I'm not a walker any more.

Maybe you have to be a child, new to the world and its experiences, to let go of something like walking so easily. Maybe part of me suspected the shots would wear off in a day or so. Or, maybe I'm just a weirdo. But as I threw myself down the stairs, landing in a crumpled heap at their base and interrupting my parents as they ate their breakfast, I could not have known that this incident would not be the last of its kind I would experience. 

I should have known that just calling for help was a better option.

I could not have known that the temporary loss of my legs would become a regular occurrence in my mid-20's, where luckily my bedroom is no longer on the upper floor of a house.

I could not have known, in short, that I would become a distance runner.

Each Saturday is my day for a long run, and each Saturday teaches me new lessons about what it is to run upwards of 10 and 15 miles at a time, starting with the fact that the rest of my day will be spent firmly on my ass. But aside from that one, I have a couple of other lessons I've learned the hard way about distance running. Starting with...

Bring Water

Sure, my other runs left me thirsty, but these really long runs don't just leave you thirsty--they leave you dry about three quarters of the way through. And its easy to tell when you're body is out of moisture: your heart beats faster, your muscles hurt more, and you begin to SERIOUSLY overheat. Your chest will start to feel like a furnace.

So obviously, bringing water is a must. Carry it, get a water belt, bring a bag; do something to ensure that you will have ready access to water throughout the run.

Now, starting out these long runs, I thought I had accounted for water. After all, there were a handful of water fountains along my route! Surely it will just tire me faster to carry a bottle, so I'll just grab some as I pass a fountain.

But I should not have counted on water fountains. As you run and get thirstier, an upcoming water fountain begins to look like a shimmering mirage in a harsh desert. You feel as if you've been saving up all your restraint until that moment, and you just might overdo it when you reach the fountain.

I might have overdone it.

Being able to sip when the mood strikes me is wonderful, and I highly recommend it. That, or you could look like you just insulted the dead parents of your magical nephew.

Apply Lubricant

So the other thing about distance running: it reveals all the parts of yourself that rub together when you run. If you didn't notice those parts before, you will after 12 miles when the skin on your inner thighs is red and chafing.

Sometimes it's even worse than that.
Waistband of your shorts too tight? Armband for your iPod shift as you run? Do your arms lightly brush your sides as they swing? All these features of your run and more will be revealed to you after you finish a long run and these sharp pains poke all over.

But the good news? Once you know, you can prepare. Get an anti-chafe deodorant stick thing, get Vaseline, get KY Jelly if that's all you have on hand, just get something to deal with it. 

So I have no doubt I'll learn more fun lessons as my runs get longer and longer, and I'll make sure to get back to you as I do.


  1. I totally do the same thing at water fountains. There's nothing like having to deal with a sloshy stomach until your body deals with the water you've just consumed. :) Have a great weekend!

  2. I am just now starting to add some serious mileage to my runs, as I prepare for my first half-marathon (in only two weeks, didn't have much notice, whoops), so it's great to have some solid tips about what to expect. I'm a little nervous, and completely unprepared, but I can certainly *pretend* like I know what I'm doing! Thanks for the post!