Running 18 solo miles

So I’m about a week and a half away from my 15th marathon. I won’t lie, I’m nervous. I’m always nervous about marathons.

It doesn’t matter how many I’ve done, I still have the fears. The worry of injury (my first Bournemouth Marathon), the worry of the monotony and the mental torture of the miles dragging on (hello Dubai Marathon) and the worry I won’t finish (thankfully, yet to happen). But saying all of that, there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be OK. My training has gone well. I’ve bagged two solid 18 milers. I don’t have any niggles. I’m in good shape. But the marathon is a tricky beast, you never know what will happen on the day.

Speaking of the 18 miler then… I ran my second one on Sunday. Normally I’d dread a run like this. My last 18 miler (the week before) had been run with two of my mates and had flown by. This time I was tackling the beast on my own. Sure there were people who I could have organised to run with but most of them prefer to go out really early and as I get up stupidly early during the week, I quite fancied a lie-in. And having no pressures to get out and run when I wanted to.

Also, I’m a firm believer in doing some long runs solo. It’s not just the physical training that’s important for marathons but the mental training too. It’s a long way to go and it’s not just your body that’s going to feel tired. Your brain is going to be struggling. The demons are going to start creeping out of the woodwork and whispering things like “slow down”, “just stop” or “you’re not going to finish this”.

You need to have some solo time to work out how you can conquer those voices and overcome the psychological side of running a long way. If you’re always running with your friends then you might not encounter these problems until race day and then be screwed how to overcome it. Basically I always think it’s good to get rubbish runs done during training so you can work out how to deal with those issues. So on race day you’re prepared and can think back to those runs and remember YOU CAN DO IT. (I have some more long run tips HERE).

Anyway, strangely I was feeling good about the 18 miler. Maybe because I haven’t done a long run on my own for ages and I had a good route planned. It was my usual route I do on a Sunday but I’d added a bit extra around Stokes Bay and I had good memories of running there before. It helps to make your route feel as positive as possible. Small things like this definitely help!

I headed out nice and slowly. No point in starting fast and exhausting myself or trying to maintain a silly speed. I had my podcast going and the sun was shining. I knew I’d get hot later so I had my “safety” £1 so I could buy a drink later on. I also had several options of shops I could use on the route and a couple of “dodgy taps” I could use as well so I didn’t feel I needed to bring water with me.

I find that using the same route I always use helps the miles fly by quite nicely. I know those miles so well. There’s a tough hill for 2-3 miles but that’s pretty much the only hill. Then it’s plain sailing all the way to to coast. I saw a lot of cyclists flying past me and exchanged lots of good mornings which is always nice.I relaxed into my pace and found it all very effortless. Runs like this are the dream. No niggles, everything flowing and feeling smooth… Happy days. I stopped for a quick drink at my familiar dodgy tap and then had a quick wee. During long runs I’m not bothered at all about taking the time to do these things. Anything to make life more comfortable! I ran along the coast and hit a bit of a headwind which was a bit annoying but I knew when I turned back to go the other way it’d be a nice relief on the final miles.I stopped at around 10 miles to grab a drink from another tap and then did a little photo on the promenade. It was just so picturesque and I find these sorts of things quite fun. I so love living near the sea.Then I continued on my way. As I got towards 15 miles I decided I’d probably need to buy a drink for the final miles. I probably could have lasted but the pound was burning in my pocket and the need for water playing on my mind.

I stopped at a Co-Op, grabbed a 56p bottle of water and joined a large queue. This was quite frustrating. I just wanted to get back on with my run. I showed the lady behind the till the bottle and put the pound coin on the counter and asked if I could just go. I was paying almost twice the cost so didn’t think it would be an issue but she, quite stroppily, said “no I need to scan it”.

I went back to the queue quite frustrated. It really wouldn’t have taken much for her to let me leave the coin would it? She could see what I’d got! I didn’t even want change! I stood for a minute or so longer and then decided to let my hotheadedness get the better of me. I went over to the bottles, took another one of the same that I had, then went back and put both the bottle and the coin on the counter and said “that’s what I’ve got” and then left the shop.I don’t think I’ve ever ran so fast mid-long run! I was genuinely scared she’d run after me or someone would stop me. I realise now this sounds ridiculous but I’m quite the rule follower so this was fairly “out there” for me. Just call me Good Girl Anna. Anyway, obviously no one followed me but I managed to maintain a faster speed all the way to the end. The final mile was TOUGH but I felt fully in the zone and was loving it. Thank you grumpy Co-Op lady!

I finished feeling tried, yes, but strong and happy. A solid solo 18 miler! Hurrah!

Now just a 16 miler as my last long run and then the marathon!

Do you ever stop to buy anything mid-run?

Do you prefer to run with others or on your own?

What makes a good long run?

12 thoughts on “Running 18 solo miles

  1. Great running Anna and nothing wrong with the swift in and out at the Coop for your drink that shop assistant needs to wind her neck in !
    I do the same plan to run past shops and the loose change can be annoying rattling round in your pockets 🙂
    I’m training for Chester Marathon this year how did you find it good race ?

  2. I’m the same as you, emergency £1 for water and some local dodgy taps! I do tend to carry water on a long run though as I like to add a High 5 tablet to it. I tend to do most of my long runs solo but every so often it’s nice to have a bit of company for a change.

  3. Nice work on the long run. I agree with you about needing to train your mind for the long runs as well as training your body.
    Being by the sea is so lovely (although possibly not mid-winter!).
    I love how much you sped up after the co-op stop! It seems that’s good for a strong finish!

  4. Well done on the long run! I would have been frustrated by the Co-op lady too – surely there was another bottle she could have scanned?! I did used to stop on long marathon training runs and had a few places on my route that I knew I could use the loo or buy some water!

  5. Oh wow! You definitely increased the effort at the end there. I agree with you that you have to practice the mental aspects of racing and you clearly did that. I predict great things at your marathon!

  6. I’ve come to enjoy running on my own as I can do my own thing – stop for pictures, take a toilet stop, etc. I love to set up a queue of podcasts and just head off.

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