The fifth week of my marathon training started to really stretch me beyond what I'm used to for training runs. I ended the week with a 12 miler which is tied for my longest training run ever and just shy of my personal distance record of 13.36 miles that I hit in the Thanksgiving half that I did in Atlanta last year.
Even though it's not much of a cut to my weekly mileage, going from 30 miles to the mid-20s with my long run only being a 9 miler feels like a pretty light week.
3 years ago, I'd have thought someone was out of their mind to tell me I'd be relieved at a 9 mile run seeming short and light.
The big thing I took away from this past week was how important preparation is. My 12 mile run felt awesome and wasn't nearly as taxing as my 11 miler. Part of that is related to knowing my route and not having as much elevation change (Atlanta's terrain gave me an additional 150 feet of climb over a shorter run), but a big part of the difference was that I forgot to take my sweet running belt when I was traveling so my 11 mile run didn't have the benefit of mid-run hydration or fueling.
I can't tell, what proportion of that is physical and what proportion is mental, but I can certainly say it makes a difference. Not only did I feel much better throughout my more recent run, but my average pace was about 15 seconds faster per mile.
Getting back into these distances and looking ahead the next couple weeks when I start hitting uncharted distance territory for myself has recalled some previous posts when I was thinking about the mentality of running and how mentally taxing it can be. I wrote before that the best and easiest way I had found to combat the mental anguish of hurtling my legs into the ground for miles on end was simply to build up my mental stamina as I did my physical stamina. Sure enough, it's still working out.
On a regular basis, I find myself halfway through my long run thinking that running for up to 4 hours will be almost impossible. Sometimes, it's hard enough to think about finishing the run I'm on. Somehow, whether through the incremental mileage increases or simply by virtue of needing to get back home from miles away, I get it done.
I remember having a similar feeling when I was training for my first half. I did an 8 mile run, the longest run I had ever done at the time, and suddenly 13.1 miles didn't seem so outlandish.
26.2 miles still seems kind of outlandish. I said in my last training update, I'll trust in the process since it hasn't steered me wrong yet.