Mention the words “a long run”, people either conjure up an image of messy struggles in the restroom after an exotic meal, or one of tortuous struggles out in the open, endlessly pounding the pavement. In either case, the reaction usually involves a moan followed by a groan. Even for an enthusiast like myself, heading out for a 90-120 minute jog requires a certain fortitude – the lack of which I compensate through my sheer love of the activity … and some artificial assistance.
MUSIC. This is the reason why I would never be welcomed into any hardcore running cliques. I enjoy listening to music while I’m on a long run. Not only does it drip feed the occasional boost to my pace with inspiring beats, but it also acts as a comforting companion while I mentally negotiate the long stretches of solitude.
I am, of course, aware of those purists extolling the benefits of running and learning to listen to your breathing at the same time. But I would rather not listen to my heavy breathing, especially when I’m on my own and engaged in something which does not lead to the kind of climax that usually follows such heavy breathing!
As for those who believe people should think instead of listening to music when running, I have never found my mental faculty to be hampered by the presence of music in the background. In any case, I do very much savour listening to lyrics of some songs – have you ever actually followed the words of any Black Eye Peas or Fat Boy Slim tracks? They don’t make any sense at all and yet they do when you’re dead-tired on a run.
JELLYS. In any bag of jell-snakes or jelly-beans, I avoid the orange and black ones like the plague. Instead, I save up all these neglected ones to take on my long runs. And, boy, how they suddenly taste so sweet when fed to a body aching for sugar and a mouth aching for anything but just huff & puff.
These little treats are also great rewards to look forward to at certain intervals during an arduous running journey. A word of warning though – once you condition your body to receiving these precious “pick-me-ups” during a long run, don’t ever forget to take them on every outing. Just as it is cruel to suddenly deny a dog a treat after he has jumped through fire hoops, it’s heartless to also suddenly deny yourself a reward after your legs have laboured through monotonous loops.
THINGS TO STEW OVER. I don’t lead a life dictated by jam-packed schedules. Mine is a rather vanilla one that is typical of any working parent with a tireless partner, taking care of two active young children. In other words, I’m always extremely busy without knowing exactly why. It also means I never seem to find time to cogitate about things, from innocuous ones like “how can I teach my aqua-phobic younger son to swim“, to important ones like “what can I write for my next blog“?
Just like the unwanted orange and black jelly-snakes, I store up all these imponderables and unleash them on my feeble brain to stew over during long runs. In most instances, I may not come up with solutions to the dilemmas, but I invariably feel much better having given them a mighty workout over 90 to 120 minutes of running.
… BUT THE MOST IMPORTANT THING. Sometimes your iPod playlist just won’t cut it. The jelly-snakes just don’t taste as rewarding. And you’re just not in the mood to stew over problems. What you are then left with, ahead of a long strenuous run, is just yourself.
To those who feel daunted by this mere thought, don’t be intimidated. As you put one foot in front of another, learn to enjoy your own company. And certainly don’t feel guilty about the “me” time you are having. Sure, you could (and should) be mowing that overgrown lawn, mending that broken fence or teaching the kids how to build that fully-motorised go-kart. But don’t beat yourself up over it. You will take more than enough of a physical beating over the course of a 20km run, without you componding it emotionally. So long as you know deep inside why you need to run long, crank up “The Hardest Ever” by will.i.am, pop down a couple of those orange jelly-beans, and just enjoy it.
After all, if you can’t even be at peace with yourself over the course of an innocent jaunt, what chance do you have over the course of an unpredictable life?
Keep on pounding.