It’s a hallowed tradition and time spent, if not solemnly, then certainly treasured and focussed. The Church of the Sunday Long Run is as much part of the running lifestyle as spaghetti, Vaseline, the Rocky theme song and finish line photos that dispel all myths of what we look like when we run: a long run is an introvert’s journey to be free. The cornerstone of any training plan, it’s the single most important practice run not to be missed.
The wrong person on a long run can sabotage an entire training session, destroy the flow state, and otherwise ruin the delicate dance between patience and effort, exertion and bliss.
An invitation to a Sunday long run is an intimate gesture, nothing for a first date, only a treasured accomplice can be trusted upon this voyage. Like guests invited to a long weekend cottage, the long run presents equal opportunities for conversation and silence; once setting forth, there’s not turning back—and thus a runner must be very selective about who can join on the journey.
I protect mine like my carbon-plated sneakers. Like my playlist. Like my mother.
This is important stuff.
Most running shoe stores worth their salt have running clubs and these groups get together, normally at the store, to set forth on their adventure. But amongst this large group, subdivisions naturally form—both for temperament and pace. It just doesn’t make sense to go on a long run as a huge group, what with traffic lights and water breaks, bathroom stops and walking—it’s essential, on a long run, to find your people. Long runs by their definition are long, they take awhile. But no one wants to be out there all day.
That’s why you can’t join me on my long run.
Long run bliss is one other person. Someone your speed, frame of mind; best if they’re training for the same race, but that’s not essential. What is essential is that you’re on the same page. Are you both listening to music? Do you agree to water breaks, stops? Will you be sharing your gels? Upon setting forth on a three-hour trip in short shorts, it’s essential to be aligned on these basic rules. You’re already in hell at 29K.
You just can’t risk bringing strangers into this covenant.
Now, hardly are there runners breaking down my door to join me. In fact, I lean on my running partner more than he leans on me and I’m closer to getting ditched than suffering from popularity. But this is a running public service announcement—treasure your long runs, my friends, and hold your running partners closely.
The long run is a rite of passage, a tradition shared all over the world and a ritual worth defending. Be quiet if you’re joining a new group and pace yourself—no one wants the speed to be screwed up by someone’s inexperience spreading jitters like lice through the group-at-large. Ease into the long run, breath. Take the temperature of the group: less is more.
I’ll smile at runners always on a Sunday long run morning.
And then keep going—with one other runner, and myself.