This weekend I embarked on my longest training run so far of the season – 18 miles. This is often a make or break part of marathon training. Once you get up to 16, 18 20+ miles…that’s when ‘shit gets real’. There is a course that needs to be mapped out, varying temperatures to consider, hydration and nutrition to strategize and then there is the actual run. This has the potential to be an adventure.
Lucky for me, this long run fell on the Saturday three weeks out from the Boston Marathon, which is when most of the runners preparing for Boston will do their longest training run 21 miles from Hopkinton to Chestnut Hill. The charity teams, run clubs and local athletic companies are all out to support the runners with water, Gatorade sugar and even a bathroom (thanks Saucony). So while I was technically running my 18 alone, I had plenty of friends out there happy to help me out. Its a pretty unique opportunity when you are preparing for a race not nearly as popular as Boston and I won’t have another long run like it before the Vermont City Marathon on May 26.
I planned my route and timing so I could take advantage of all the ‘runner energy’ and resources that would be on the course. I took off a little later than usual and did a short loop close to home to eat up some miles before heading toward Comm Ave to run the famous Newton Hills with everyone working on their pre-Boston long run. I passed a group from Saucony, my friends at RaceMenu who gave me a hat when I got chilly and former RFR teammate, Brett Gordon with his family. Turning around with a pit stop at the Newton Firehouse I was already at 8 miles with only 10 more to go. Heading back up the hills I found some friends staffing a water stop for the Project Hope runners. A little further on this stretch of my run and found John Stoller, another former teammate of mine and creator of the fabulous Right On/ Left On t-shirt that every Boston Marathon runner must own. Find him at the expo marathon weekend or grab your shirt at Marathon Sports, City Sports or online.
I had to run past the ‘finish line’ for everyone running 21 miles from Hopkinton to Chestnut Hill but I hit my turn around point a mile or so later and stopped at the American Liver Foundation/ Children’s Hospital finish for some water and to say hi to a few RFR friends. Just a few feet ahead I caught up with my morning running partner Chrissy Horan for a quick drink, a Gu and photo. I was jealous that she was finishing up 22 miles and I still had 4 more to go but I was still feeling strong and ready to focus on my run and not on all the socializing I was doing. I made one more stop to say hello to my former coach Brian Hamill who had his new baby girl in tow and was giving out candy while marketing his relay race The New England Relay. Brian is responsible for my most successful racing season which included qualifying for Boston so I was happy to take some time to catch up.
After waving goodbye to Brian and baby Scout I was close to turning off the course and would be on my own for the last three miles. It was mostly downhill and went by fast – mostly because it was the longest I had run all day without stopping to say hello to someone. Finishing back at home I took a look at my watch to see it took me 2 hours and 40 minutes to run 18 miles, but I was gone for closer to 3 hours and 20 minutes spending over 40 minutes chatting with friends. Brian Hamill reminded me that taking my time is okay because it’s not just about the miles but also about preparing your body for being out for a run for that duration. Sounds good to me.
I’m thrilled with how well that long run went. There is a lot of opportunity in 18 miles for something to go wrong but thanks to all my friends, I wanted for nothing. It’s good to have friends, especially friends as amazing as mine.