18 Tips For Running 18 Miles For The First Time In A Long Run
Yesterday afternoon I went out and ran 18 miles in 3:09. It was my first proper long run for the London 2 Brighton Challenge 2014 and it was beautiful in every way.
I’ve come a long way in 2 years. I used to despise the long runs as something would always go wrong.
Fortunately they’ve got easier with practice and I now love them.
Anyway, If you’re worried about your upcoming 18 mile long run in marathon training then this post is for you!
Here are some tips to make the most of your first 18 mile long run.
- Take fuel with you – I try to bring a large bottle of Powerade and at least 3 gels with me in my race belt. In the past I’d have just brought the Powerade and be confused as to why I’d continually break down at the 13 mile mark…
- Make good use of that fuel – The temptation might be to start ingesting all of your gels from the start, but this will be a waste of your muscles are already loaded with carbohydrates. Wait until at least 90 minutes before taking your first gel and then take another one every 30 minutes. Whatever you do, don’t start drinking your gels just because you’re thirsty.
- Go to the bathroom before you run – Make the strongest coffee you possibly can and down a few cups as least 2 hours before your run that way you won’t be forced into running a 5-minute-mile to stop yourself from shitting your shorts at the end.
- Try to remain positive – Letting the sheer distance phase used to trigger mild panic attacks in me. Now I try not to let the enormity of the distance break my mind. I come back to asking one simple question “Am I still moving forward?” “Yes!” Good!”
- Keep to a ‘singing’ pace – Ask yourself “could I sing my favourite ever song right now, without losing my breath?”. Prove the concept by bursting into song if you’re running along trails, deserted country roads, or if you’re in town and it’s only 5am. I’m not joking! Singing can improve your morale (even if it kills the morale of others).
- Make preparations for your recovery before hand – It was really difficult getting down the stairs to the door to collect my pizza last night. If was even worse trying to get myself some water later on. I could have made my recovery much easier by leaving these things upstairs for when I got back from the run.
- Don’t eat too much before the run – Today I had a small packet of Honey Roasted peanuts before the run and they were just enough. On previous long runs I’ve eaten an entire tray of Fifteen’s and barely been able to move.
- Bring a friend or run with a club if you need the encouragement – It can be really lonely out there and you’ll be running for a few hours. Chatting with someone can break up the sheer monotony of the long run.
- Don’t be afraid to stop for a break or a walk – Whilst I was training for my first marathon I refused to stop to walk. I wouldn’t even stop for cars. I considered it a sign of weakness and failure. How ridiculous is that? Fortunately I’ve moved past that phase. Yesterday I had a break at mile 11 to remove a stone from my shoe. Even up to this time last year I’d have refused to do this.
- Try to keep as still as you can mentally – I have the tendency to repeatedly think “…only 17.2 miles to go….only 17.1 miles to go” and it’s very distracting. If I calm my mind and just focus on listening to my heartbeat then the miles begin to disappear.
- If you have the energy to go further than 18 miles, then go for it – Even if it’s just 18.1 or 18.2 miles. Many runners show the 18 mile mark too much respect, so it can be useful to go past that mark if you’re feeling fine. Next time you try 18 miles it won’t seem so difficult. It’s a small track that can make a big difference to your confidence.
- If you don’t succeed at covering the 18 miles in your first attempt, then try again – Don’t give up. You can do this. No challenge is too big if you just put your mind to it. Learn the lessons you need to learn and move forward with them. I failed 4 times before I recorded an 18 miler (I stopped at 3 miles, 14 miles and 16 twice!).
- Don’t worry about how long it takes you the first time – This is especially true if you haven’t ran much further than half marathon distance in the past. Go slow, go easy, have fun. Don’t let your GPS watch be the boss of you!
- Apply Vaseline, Bodyglide or Sudocreme to your chaff prone areas beforehand – There’s nothing worse than getting home only to discover that you are bleeding from more than one area. This was the case in my last ever long run before Vegas. I ran an excellent 20 miles and was delighted with myself until I gazed down at the inside of my legs when I got upstairs. I’m still exhibiting some symptoms of PTSD thanks to that day.
- Run somewhere fun – I used to run the 18 miles to my favourite ever pub and have dinner there. It made me question my sanity less. Plus if you’re running 18 miles you’re burning a lot of calories (typically 2,000+) which need to be replaced.
- Take some cash with you – Sometimes you’ll need to stop off to buy a bottle of water or energy drink especially in the summer months.
- Plan your route out before you head out – There’s nothing worse than following an out and back route only to discover that the route you thought was 9 miles is only 7. You don’t want to start lapping blocks!
- Make the long slow run as fun as possible – If you learn to dread it like I did in 2012, then you’ll never want to go long. Turn your long run into a ritual that you love that brings you both mental and physical benefits and you’ll keep coming back!