Way back when (i.e. 2006ish), I went for a run one day and returned about 23 km later. I wasn’t training for a marathon or half-marathon. I wasn’t training for anything. I wanted to see if I could run to UBC and back. I wanted to go for a long run so I could eat a bunch of ice cream without feeling guilty. I wanted to kill a bunch of time so I wouldn’t be bored on a Saturday afternoon.
I threw on my running shoes and some crappy non-athletic gear and carried absolutely no water. It was just me and my pre-Apple mp3 player and not a care in the world. I had no distance goal. I had no time goal. And somehow, I ran my longest run ever and kicked off an almost year-long habit of running 20-22km every Saturday.
Since then I’ve often wondered what possessed me to do that and, even more importantly, what was the magic behind my ability to consistently run that type of distance without actually trying? I believe my early success boils down to a few key factors:
- Zero ability to estimate distance: This was the era before tracking apps, and a simpler time when I didn’t know running route distances by heart. Now, now I would know exactly how far it is between key route points. Back then, it was all a mystery. Also helpful, I had no concept of what a 5 min/km pace felt like let alone the difference between a 5 min/km pace and 6 min/km pace. I miss those days…
- I had minimal social commitments: I had all the time in the world on weekend afternoons. Really, I had too much time on my hands at that point and hadn’t yet learned how to focus my energy. At any rate, this was a blessing in disguise as it made lengthy runs an appealing escape from boredom. And, since I almost always followed up my long run with a late afternoon nap, I usually managed to kill off a sizeable portion of the day.
- No pressure: Back then I wasn’t trying to be a distance runner or a fast runner. I wasn’t comparing myself to anyone else out there running and wondering if they were better, faster, runners. I wasn’t even worried about my overall fitness level and staying in peak shape for hiking season. I ran slowly and didn’t care. I think it took me about 2.5 hours to run this distance and, to me, that sounded pretty fantastic for a casual runner.
So there you have it, if you’re looking to up your distance without feeling like you’re running distance, all you have to do is clear your social calendar, lose your ability to gauge distance and pace, and forget about how slow you might look. Easy, right?
And, in case you’re curious and want to replicate the run that started it all for me, here was the route I took.