Running Long

AJW talks about why the long run is essential to an ultrarunner’s identity.

By on September 14, 2012 | 40 comments

AJWs TaproomYou’ve all had some version of this conversation before,

“How do you train to run 100 miles?”

“Well, I just like to run, and, I like to run long.”

“But, really, how do you do it?

“Well, I just run long.”

Then, a boring interlude ensues.

Truth be told, typically it gets odd, repetitive, or annoying after that but, with all due respect to those who don’t get it, that is what makes us different. We run long. And, our version of long is typically very, very long.

As a once somewhat fast runner who is coming to grips with middle age and doing more than his fair share of slow running, I can assure you that nothing makes you feel more like a runner than the Long Run. Sure, it’s nice to do speedwork and the hill repeats are always good to make us feel a bit of vim and vigor, but nothing quite makes us complete like the long run.

And that, my friends, is what makes me happy to report that I finally, after a year of fits and starts, feel like a runner again. You see, last weekend, in the midst of an oppressive heatwave and near-record humidity, I managed to get in not one, but two meaningful long runs. They were by no means fast and, as a result of that, they were certainly long, but they were, in the end, the kind of runs that make us different.

They were the runs you take two bottles on, they were the runs where you walk a bit, they were the runs where you run out of stuff and they were the runs where you run into stuff. They were long and hard and sweaty and deep and, in the end, they were the kind of runs that make a difference in who you are and who you want to be.

I am at peace with the fact that my best running days are behind me. But, I am also at home with the fact that my most meaningful and purposeful days are in my hands right now and the running I am doing now makes me more of who I want to be. To quote the late great George Sheehan, “these are the runs that make me connect with the animal in me.” So, here’s to the long run!

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week
Bell's Oarsman AleThis week’s Beer of the Week comes from Bell’s. These guys never disappoint and their go-to session beer these days is Oarsman Ale. I gotta say, as far as sessionable beers go, this is one of the best. And, that makes it dangerous. If there ever was a brewery to sponsor an aid station at a 100, Bell’s is my pick. :-)

Call for Comments (from Bryon)

  • What role does the long run play in your identity as a runner?
  • What are your feelings after you return to the long run after a significant hiatus?
  • What’s been your favorite (non-race) long run this year and why?
Andy Jones-Wilkins
finished in the top 10 men at the Western States 100 7-straight times. He's sponsored by Patagonia and Drymax socks and is iRunFar's editorialist.