Finding out what twenty miles can do to a person with Laura Romeo
Poppy Sports Blogger Laura Romeo takes on 20 miles and gains many more miles of confidence
Arguably, the most important training run for a marathoner comes in the form of 20 miles. While the shorter runs are equally important to work on speed or to improve your strength on hills, a 20 mile run covers most of the distance of a marathon and its value is hard to substitute. Not only does running 20 miles prepare you physically, it prepares you mentally.
I had my first 20 mile run of the season on August 27th. I was nervous because it had been close to two years since I ran that far. My day started early at 4:20 a.m., well before sunrise. I met up with a few other runners who were equally driven to start early, and my 20 miler began promptly at 5:00 a.m. with a flashlight for the dark and sunglasses on my head for when the sun rose. I carried 20 ounces of water on my waist and a pack of Clif Shots for fuel. I ate one shot before the run for some simple carbs.
The first eight miles flew by. I ate another Clif shot after that eight and stopped to walk and chew on them periodically if my stomach panged with hunger. What a difference that made in my energy! I felt great all the way through mile 16. After that, I started to feel tired, but not so fatigued that I couldn’t finish strong. I finished this monumental run in 3:40:03. (To put this time in perspective, my 20 mile run two years ago for my first marathon was just over 4 hours.) I was euphoric and it was a real confidence boost. I believe now that I will finish this second marathon in about 5 hours, if I’m careful. This will shave 45 minutes from my first marathon finishing time, which is an enormous accomplishment. This isn’t a fast pace, but that’s not what I’m after. I’m looking for improvement from my first race and I know now I’ll be able to do it. The race isn’t until the end of October, so I still have plenty of time for at least two more 20 mile runs – or more. (I’m thinking 22…)
I attribute my success to several factors. First, I didn’t usually eat anything for long runs the first time I did this whole marathon thing. Consequently, I felt tired early into a run, likely depleting any stores of glycogen my body might have had left. The long runs felt especially long. So, eating those little shots while on the move helped tremendously. Second, I ran with two other ladies and conversation makes the miles seem a little less strenuous. Third, my personal trainer has helped improve my strength, and stronger muscles means a stronger runner.
While I have completed a marathon before, I never felt like I earned the title “marathoner” because it took me so long to finish. I learned my lessons the hard way with a particularly difficult first marathon. I worked through some staggering motivational issues. With all the running I did (I did nothing else at the time; not even cross-training), I didn’t want to run at all. I was tired of it. I felt like I wasn’t worthy to train for a marathon, let alone finish one. A 14 mile run back then was agonizing and I hated every mile. You could say I ran into a month-long “wall.” So, I took some time off after my first marathon. I didn’t run for a while, and when I could no longer ignore the calling, I took it easy. Running and I had to re-build our relationship, and that break was well worth it.
Now? I’m registered to run one of the most popular marathons in the country, at sea level no less, and I can’t wait.