Last weekend I was very brave. I did my longest pre-marathon run of 17 miles... OUTSIDE.
For the longest time I was strictly a treadmill girl. But time and circumstances pushed me outside more and more. Then last June I lost my nice, walking distance gym, and vowed to perform as many of my runs as possible outside so as to avoid the trek and packing that involved driving to my new one. There is certain weather I still drawn the line at, but I've gone down to 22 degree temperatures and endured some rains and winds.
And I gotta say, I think my running game has improved enormously because of it. That very same terrain and weather and bloody freaking HILLS, even when I hate them, make me stronger. My races have been increasingly speedy (which makes sense, since they are also, y'know, outside). At my last marathon, I broke my previous time record by over 10 minutes. It was the WDW Marathon, too, so that includes character stops!
So I've been surprisingly jazzed to run outside and keep that upward trajectory. But my really long runs? Those were still on the treadmill. I mean, you've got your bathroom right there, and your water fountain for refills, little nooks to stash snacks, and a TV for entertainment. Anyway, I just plain run faster when I can control my speed and push myself through, so it's over faster.
But in the back of my mind, I wondered... could I handle those double digits outside? I'd never done more than 11 miles in an outdoor run - that is to say, the purely training outdoor runs - and I kinda wanted to. I wanted the running XP.
At first I thought I'd tackle my 14 miler this way, so as to not stray too far outside my comfort zone. But when the appointed day came it was rainy and miserable, and I was driven inside to the safety of the treadmill.
When it came time for my 17 miler, well... that seemed like a stretch. But I was looking at a nice, sunny day with highs around 50, great for running. I told myself if I needed to I could run back to my apartment at any time for a bathroom break, more water, etc. Off I went.
I stepped onto my usual running trail and began my run in reasonable spirits. To add mileage, I ducked onto a few side streets and other sidewalks I usually passed by. As I crossed the street from my usual running trail's end, I saw a man out of the corner of my eye... WALKING DOWN A RUNNING PATH I HAD NEVER NOTICED BEFORE.
Well, that's not strictly true. I noticed it all the time, because it was a continuation of my usual trail. But I'd never known there was more of it! I ran up over this new bridge and into a magic world.
The next 5 miles or so were spent in delighted wonderment - not that the scenery was as exciting as all that, but because it was new and new is always more interesting and what an incredible boon that I would find this interesting new thing on the day I needed it most!
I credit this humble discovery to the ultimate success of my outdoor run, in that it kept things fresh and interesting and minimized the amount of rehashing I had to do. I finished feeling strong and capable and totally ready to marathon.
That helped along with the Happily Ever After fireworks soundtrack, of course. You didn't expect me to NOT mention Disney, did you?
How do you slog through your long runs? Are you a treadmill loyalist or an outdoor enthusiast?