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Training for the Distance

April 08, 2015

Training for the Distance

A recent encounter at a 50K got me thinking about running and the increasing popularity of longer distances. It went a little something like this: 

Guy in front of me: “This is my first 50K.”

Me: “Great!”

Guy in front of me: “I’ve only run 13 miles before, but this is just twice that, right?” 

Me: “Uh huhhhh.”

I didn’t have the heart to ask him about his training, or warn him about the 6,000 feet of elevation gain that laid ahead. Deep down, I was really hoping that big smile on his face and positive attitude could carry him through the next 28 miles. 

My dad always told me that if you can run 13 miles, you can run 26. Your body can gut out twice the distance you’ve trained for. And while I always believed him, I never tried it. I have always trained with a plan, knowing that training properly will increase the probability that race day will go smoothly. And now I’ve just come to accept the fact that marathons and other races can go great, but they can also go terribly for a number of reasons. Fortunately, I can always begin each one with the confidence that I put in the training necessary to complete the distance. 

Toeing the line of any race – especially a long distance – is the beginning of a journey. Your body and mind are about to go through so many things, and none of them are predictable. The highs can be wonderful and invigorating, and the lows can be incredibly debilitating. But that’s what makes finishing so amazing. Preparation – making sure you’ve trained for the distance you’re about to embark upon, knowing how your body will react when you’ve been running for 4+ hours, knowing how to fuel your body so it doesn’t bonk, and visualizing how your race will unfold – are all things you can do to get that much closer to the finish line on race day.

My dad gave me some advice that I carry with me to each starting line, “Your race is the celebration for all of the training you’ve done. Enjoy it. The training is the hard part.” The runner in front of me at the 50K was clearly enjoying himself at the beginning of the race, and had the confidence going to the starting line that he needed to get through. But that confidence can fade quickly when the hills get steep, and your body begins to shut down because you haven’t fueled properly. You’ve invested in running gear and entry fees, so make sure you invest in training and preparation for race day. There is no better feeling of accomplishment than crossing that finish line, just like you planned.

Written by: Amy Clark

Amy is a runner, writer, mama of twins and founder of the website, Living (and running) in Bend for over 14 years, she takes advantage of all the trails Central Oregon has to offer.