Despite the way I sometimes ruminate anxiously over an impending long run long before it’s begun, I secretly wish every day could be long-run Sunday. Each day of the running week brings something special to the table, but long-run Sunday is possibly my favorite.
To begin with, long-run Sunday actually starts on Saturday. In my 30’s I’m finding that I’ve gotten less “fun.” In a good way. And as I get less “fun,” I actually look forward to turning in early on Saturday and focusing on hydrating instead of dehydrating. I enjoy thinking about how my carb intake will come in handy and those few extra calories are actually going to serve a higher purpose rather than being tacked on to my butt somewhere. I enjoy an easier workout, maybe a yoga class like my current favorite Hot Flow Vinyasa at Grow Yoga. Or in the summer, the free yoga class on the Columbus Commons downtown. And in the evening, I enjoy having my one glass of wine with dinner and then making a conscious decision to have a glass of water afterwards. And when my body tells me it’s time to get sleepy, I snuggle up in bed with a good book, and wind on down.
In my perfect world, Sunday has nothing on the calendar. And that means I get to rise and shine in my own dear sweet time. Usually that means that when the first rays of light start to filter through the window, my internal clock says, “Hey, you know what? I could go for some coffee.” And sometimes I’m even more well-rested than that, and maybe before dawn, I find myself wide awake, staring at the ceiling and excited to go get my English muffin and check my email. Feeling refreshed, I shuffle out of my bedroom to start brewing some coffee. I’m not in a hurry because, after all, it’s Sunday. Sunday exists specifically for the purpose of not being in a hurry. (This applies to the run, itself, too.)
No matter what the weather is like on long-run Sunday (let’s call it LRS), I know I can handle it. I’ll dress for it. Sometimes it feels like such a waste of layers and time to get bundled up for a short cold-weather run. But on LRS, I’ll be spending a couple hours in the elements, so each thoughtfully selected layer is worth it’s weight in, well, running gear.
The preparation is part of the process. Charging my GPS watch, filling my pocket with the proper number of jelly beans (one for each mile marker), and planning my distance and route. Finally I take off, sometimes with a running partner, sometimes alone, right from my front door. I’m not in a hurry, because that’s Sunday. I’ll have plenty of time to address my to-do list when I get back. I don’t have to worry about my pace or finishing at any specific time. I run at whatever pace feels ok today because that’s what the long run is all about. The first few miles of my runs are always the ones that feel the stiffest, the least comfortable, the achiest, the hardest. Somehow, they always seem more pleasant when I have no expectations for them. I can just run slowly and comfortably, and gradually check miles off my list, rewarding myself with a jelly bean every time my watch beeps the next mile completion.
A couple miles in, I’m finally getting warmed up. I’ve adjusted to the temperature and the pace. It starts to feel easier. Maybe I’m subconsciously adjusting my pace accordingly. Conversation or thoughts flow, and the time passes gradually and gently. It’s like meditation in a way. If you can just be present in the long run instead of thinking about what needs to happen the minute you’re done, then you get to enjoy the privilege of being in a very happy place for the duration of your run. The to-do list can wait. Right now, I’m just running.
I encounter a few hills, and I let myself slow down up the hills or push myself a little bit depending on how I feel. And sometimes I get to enjoy a fast straightaway and feel the lightness that accompanies effortless running. Every once in a while, I realize that I’ve forgotten to look at my watch in a while, and I’m surprised when I look down to see that I’ve covered more ground than I realized. Other times, I check my watch every .02 miles, and I can’t believe how slowly I’m covering ground. But as long as I keep putting one foot in front of the other, I’m covering ground, nonetheless. I get to the half way marker, and I remind myself that it’s all proverbially “downhill from here” (even if some of it’s uphill).
With only a couple miles to go at the end of a long run, a mile or two doesn’t seem like much anymore. It’s funny how the idea of starting a two mile run after work can seem so daunting, but finishing two miles at the end of ten or twelve seems like a blip on the radar. Sometimes those are the best two miles of my whole run. Maybe it’s because I paced myself correctly, or maybe it’s just because I’m already thinking about the snacks I’m going to reward myself with when I get home.
At the exact moment my GPS watch beeps to signify the completion of the final mile, I stop and walk to cool down, shuffling up to my front door, and entering my reward phase. I know I should look at the run, itself as a reward – how lucky that I have the time and the physical capability to complete a long run! But grateful though I am, it is a reward to be done as well.
The post-run rituals and routines are, perhaps, the most enjoyable parts of the whole day. The immediate refueling with bananas and peanuts, leftover coffee and water, the stretching of my tired muscles, the way my legs feel pleasantly sore and tired, the fresh hints of blisters on my toes where they always appear (why I like this, I don’t know), removing the sweaty, now-cold and smelly running clothes, and enjoying a hot shower. Changing into something warm, dry, and comfortable and then the best part of all – feeling ready for whatever is next. Finishing a long run makes the rest of my day feel like NO BIG DEAL. If I have errands to run, meetings, cleaning, for some reason, it’s all pleasant if I finished a long run. I feel competent, I feel satisfied, I feel confident. I feel oddly sleepy, yet not annoyed by it. I could nap, but I don’t need to. All the food I eat feels like it’s more than just food, but rather it’s fuel, the noblest form of food. All the motion I experience reminds me of what I achieved today with each sore muscle or creaky joint.
I know my body wouldn’t handle this many miles every day. And I wouldn’t have time anyways. But on Long-Run-Sunday, I am grateful for the all-day gift of my long run.