Thursday, April 26, 2012

Random Thoughts about Running 20 Miles

In honor of my first ever 20-miler, I find it necessary to create a blog post.  I hope reading this post is less taxing than the 20-mile run.

The overall experience was good.  In fact, I only kind of wanted to get run over by a car at mile 18.  Usually by mile 14 I’m seeking out city buses to jump in front of or to get in.  The long run also gave me some ideas on how to qualify for the Boston Marathon.  They include:
  • Run the last 10 kilometers in under 12 minutes.
  • Ride the last 10 kilometers on a motorcycle.
  • Ride the entire 26.2 miles on a bicycle.
I’d like to pass along some suggestions for others attempting to run 20 miles.  I’ve done it once, so that makes me an expert.
  • Don’t be a time hero.  During the previous week-and-a-half, I’d run 11 miles at an 8:15 pace and felt good about my ability to traverse semi-long distances at a pace that would give me a sub 3:40 marathon.  There’s a big difference between 20 and 11 (9 for those not good at math) and I decided to run at a relaxed pace.  You’ll never guess what happened.  I actually enjoyed myself and was able to run the last couple miles at a much faster pace than anticipated.
  • Don’t be a slug either.  I had no time goals other than not to run a single mile in over 9:45, with the exception of refueling miles for which I allowed myself an additional 14 seconds. I succeeded, running a 9:47 and a 9:49 on refueling miles and only exceeding 9:30 a couple times on the rest.  Most were under 9 minutes.
  • Consume liquids and liquidy solids.  The high temperature for the day was 98 so I headed out before it got too warm.  I also heard that dehydration was bad so I hid water in strategic locations along the way and put three packets of that gooey gel stuff, which, by the way, is intolerable if you have no water to drink afterwards.
Part of my route took place on a mile-and-a-half loop at Sunset Park where a race was taking place.  I was running in the opposite direction of the racers, which I’m sure proved irritating to many but fun for me.  If you’ve never experienced a race in this manner I highly recommend it.  It allowed me to shout words of encouragement and jokes at the participants, who despite my fun banter still looked irritated.  

I ran the last quarter-mile on the loop in the same direction as the racers but ran around the finishing gate for fear race directors would handcuff me and drag me off to jail.  Nobody seemed to care that I had already run 16 miles but were overjoyed when anyone finished their little 3.1-mile trot and were irritated by my mere presence even though I’d arrived much earlier than they.

Other random thoughts:
  • The only thing better than finding a five-dollar bill in your running shorts is looking at your Garmin and realizing you’ve gone seven miles and not six.
  • I was happy to see my wife and four of my kids (Trenton slept in) at mile 11 to cheer me on.
  • My three pair of running shows cost me approximately $235.  Of course, I wore the ones that cost $15.  They're the best shoes I've ever had.  Too bad they're discontinued.
  • There’s nothing like the post long run buzz the next day.  I was a little tired, a little stiff, a little sore, and a little buzzed with confidence and accomplishment.
  • My current strategy for the actual marathon is to run the first 20 in about 2:50 and hold on for dear life in hopes of breaking 3:45.  The course is downhill most of the way.
  • I have at least one more 20-plus miler planned.  I’m looking to go 23, 3-4 weeks before the event and then taper with maybe a 15-miler 2-and-a-half weeks out.  I may rethink my time goal.
  • As I said, the marathon course is primarily downhill and I’ve been working on my downhill form.  I’ve become quite efficient by shortening my stride, lifting my heels, and letting gravity do the work without having to brake with my quads.  It’s led to a substantial reduction in pace without causing damage to my legs or making me winded. I’m rattling off 7:00 to 7:30 miles on slight downhills without an appreciable increase in effort which makes me think I can nudge my marathon time under 3:40.   Obviously I wouldn’t be tearing down hills at a 7:00-pace but I don’t think running some at 7:45-8:00 minute pace is out of the question, even on a long, long run.  On the other hand, I just might be conservative and go for something under four hours.
I’m open to suggestions.


  1. Great job on your 20 miler. I got that same buzzed feeling of confidence after my 17 miler this past weekend. I hoping to do the same in this weekend after my 19 miler. I feel like if I keep the same pace, I too can do my marathon in 3:45. Surviving those last miles is the key!

    1. I've seen your times and you're clearly faster than I am. I'm curious to see how you do since yours is a week before mine. I'm looking for the down hill nature of my marathon to shave five to ten minutes off what I could do on a course like I ran last weekend. Either way, I'm gonna have fun. Thanks for the input and you're right about surviving those last miles, which makes me want to go conservative. On the other hand, No Guts! No Glory! (No Heat Stroke, either).

  2. That sounds like it went ideally! I'm very happy for you, and I love (and miss) that day-after long run buzz. I can't believe your race is so close. Keep up the good training!

  3. Congrats on your first 20 mile training run. I can remember building up to that my first time. It IS an accomplishment.

    You're doing well to train for some downhill. I never trained for downhills thinking they would be easy. They are easy thanks to gravity, but as you know it takes its toll on your quads, and my quads always get sore towards the end of marathons. I've sworn it's time to do more downhill training.

    1. Thanks for the encouragement. I'm a big fan of downhill running for obvious reasons. I've discovered that when I relax my legs, especially my ankles and let gravity do its thing, it's fun.