The runs are getting longer and the days are getting shorter. After this week we’ll have one hour less of daylight in the evenings as well. These are the times when a run is not just something you throw into your schedule in the afternoon, the upcoming weekends will revolve around a run.
For my pace, I’m running more than 2 hours on my training runs over 13 miles. Two or three hours may not seem like a long time in the length of day let alone a weekend, but long runs require a different level of preparation, span longer times of day and thus temperatures and weather, and have a greater affect on your energy and recovery time afterward.
Saturday had a 15 mile run scheduled. Normally we runners try and run early in the morning to avoid the midday heat. The longer the run, the earlier you start. With the unseasonably warm temperatures in Denver right now and Daylight Saving Time ending next weekend, this could mean some really early Saturday mornings, which, in turn, means some really early Friday nights. Running without enough sleep or without getting the proper nutrition the night before can be painful and frustrating. Now add in time to wake up, eat something, try to digest it, travel to your starting location, and warm up. Your total run time just got a little longer.
Runs that span a couple of hours also need to take into account the weather. Starting early can help to avoid the heat, as long as it doesn’t heat up too quickly. Personally, I really dislike longs runs in the morning, one of the reasons being how early you have to start to avoid finishing in the heat. Saturday I did not sleep well and when the alarm went off at 6:15am, I was not ready to venture out into the darkness. I decided to get more rest and try the next day. I slept a few more hours while Laura went to join up with a local running club. After waking and eating breakfast I felt really good. Really energized. I looked at the weather and the clock and realized that if I started a run within the next few hours, I could finish before the sun set while it started cooling off instead of when it was warming up. So I did. I much prefer this method, though a few key pieces need to fall into alignment to make this work. First, the daytime heat can’t be too hot to start a run. Second, and this one is often difficult in Denver, the weather must hold out through the afternoon. One little afternoon storm can throw everything off. And third, you’ve got to make sure you’ve timed things right so you don’t get stuck in the dark.
Shifting a run from the morning to the afternoon means that your run has now consumed more of your day. (Although honestly, I tend to shower and pass out for a few hours after early morning runs anyway, so let’s call it a wash.) The run isn’t over, however, after you hit your distance and you stop your GPS tracker. A good cool down walk is in order to allow your legs to return to standard operating procedure. Some light stretching and rolling is also a good idea. Longer runs also burn more calories, so my next priority is usually food. There also needs to be a shower in there somewhere, not really for my sake, but for anyone who happens to be down wind. All said and done, add another hour or two to the run.
With that routine in the books, the run is complete, right? Maybe, but maybe not. Those runs really deplete my energy, and hydration level. A night on the town is not the easiest thing to handle immediately after a long run (there’s a vote for getting it done in the morning), but I can do it. My recovery times have gotten shorter due to a better diet and post-run routine, but these distances are still longer than I’m used to, and my legs are not 100% for the next few days. I’m much more inclined to relax with my feet up and some water than to go out after that much exertion. The following days can be tough, too, while my legs are recovering.
Scheduling these long runs is much more than just carving out 2, 3, or 4 hours on a Saturday. They take a toll on your body, which means ample planning is needed to mitigate the risks and still maintain some sort of relaxation over the weekend to recharge before heading back to work on Monday.
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