Whether you’re covering 8 or 18 miles for your half- or full marathon training runs, here’s how to add some fun.
-Have a companion (or two or three). If you don’t have a partner training for the same race, have a pal join you for part of your training excursion. Michelle, a mother runner who ran Boston this year, will often run 7 or 8 miles solo, then finish up 12 or 13 with friends. Or break your 20-miler into four 5-mile loops, recruiting different friends to join you for each 5-miler.
-Plan a ride-along. Your children, partner, or friends can bike alongside you for all or part of your journey. JoAnn and her Twin Cities posse often bike beside friends, acting as a Sherpa, carrying iced nuun, bananas, or GU Chomps.
-Forego human companionship, and bring your dog along for part of the run, then drop him off at home partway through the run. Or flip that: Alison, a half-marathoner in Utah, has used her dog to haul her through the last few miles when she’s flagging.
-Start and/or end someplace fun. On a hot day this summer, two pals and I pushed through 14 miles. Moving us along was the thought of taking a cooling dip at the lake we’d started from. A post-run swim isn’t always feasible this time of year, but consider finishing up at a waffle house or brew pub. (Carbs, right?)
-“Save” a playlist for long runs only. Or make like Alison, who listens to a Pandora station on her phone instead of tunes she’s purchased. (I do this with Spotify.)
-Get engrossed in audio books. One mother runner told us she got carried away by The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series this summer. (To download one free title from Audible.com, click here for special offer for mother runners.)
-Listen to a podcast. (Gee, we've got one we think you'd really like!)
-Make it a mission to high five at least 10 strangers on your run, suggested lululemon via Twitter. "You'll make someone's day and take your mind off your miles."
-Exercise your brain. Training for the 2011 Twin Cities Marathon, JoAnn listened to the same song over and over again, trying to decipher lyrics. She tried to unravel “Empire State of Mind” by Jay-Z, but we’d now dig into any Macklemore song. On Twitter, Healthy Way Mag suggested picking a category each mile—Countries; Girl Names Beginning with “M,” or Taylor Swift Songs—and mentally listing all the options you can think of.
-Let your mind run as free as your feet. As JoAnn said to us, “Sometimes having a blank slate of time in front of you is a good thing: It’s amazing the places your mind can wander to when you let it.”
-Take a picture. Michelle, the Boston qualifier, whips out her phone to snap shots along her route. “I’m fortunate to run in some really beautiful spots, and it’s easy to take that for granted when you’re out there slogging along for 3+ hours,” writes the Rhode Island resident. “But stopping for a minute to appreciate your surroundings is a nice way to take a breather and remind yourself that you really truly are lucky that you get to be out there doing this.”
-Change up your speed. Start slow for 3 miles, then run closer to race pace for 6 miles (or 2 or 3), then drop back down again.
-Ask someone if she (or he) wants company. Bethany told us her Garmin battery died during a recent tempo run. She was on a well-traveled trail, so she caught up with a high school boys’ track team and asked them if they could pace her for an 8:15 mile. (Resourceful mother runner, that Bethany!) Then, during her cooldown, she asked a skirt-clad runner if she could run with her, “because it felt weird to run three feet to her left and play the passing game. She was lovely,” says Bethany.
-Change your environs. Almost every runner we asked said longer distances are so much easier to tackle when you get to check out new scenery. Last weekend, Phoebe in New Hampshire, “did 14 on a long-drooled-over country road,” while her oldest son was at a birthday party in the area. She did an hour out and an hour back to avoid getting lost, “but it was great to see different houses and scenery along the way.”
-Make a plan to do a family outing a certain number of minutes (or hours) after you leave home, suggests creative Phoebe. “You run in the direction your family will be heading and they will ‘catch’ you in the car on the way to the destination. I like the mystery of imagining how far I’ll get before my ride comes along.” Two helpful hints she relayed to us: have your family bring along a bag of non-stinky clothes (and maybe some wet wipes); and don’t have the final destination be a wedding or fancy restaurant!
Now, you tell us: How do you make a long run entertaining?