Perspective is one of those things that changes. From individual to individual, from subject to subject; our past experiences shift how we view the same things, and running is no different.
One thing people say when they learn I ran 100 miles is: “that’s a long way.” In truth, I suppose it is, but coming into it, I didn’t look at it as a long way, but just another event.
When I first started running, there was no real fixed distance we would strive to attain during practices. Rather we’d head out with our coach and he’d tell us when we were done – usually somewhere in the 50-60 minute range. Race day would come and we’d run our 5k, and then be back to random non-distance measured runs. I knew what a mile was, but I guess I never really grasped the distance of it. It’s just a distance, not long, not short; point ‘a’ to point ‘b’; four times around a track.
As I got older, I entered longer races: a 10k road race, a 15k road race. I did well enough that I convinced myself I enjoyed the ‘longer’ distances. The thing was, now that I had done a couple of these longer races, a 5k seemed like a short little jaunt. It was still demanding, but it seemed shorter.
They say when you’re training for a specific race, you should make at least one of your long runs longer than the actual race. For half marathons and below, this is an easy enough feat, but when you start getting up to marathons and 50ks, it becomes a little trickier – though still doable. One of the things going long does is to warp your perspective. If you’ve run 20 miles before, 13.1 is a heck of a lot less.
I was nervous going into my first 100. I’d run 50 miles before, once, and it was okay, but 100 miles seemed like a big undertaking, albeit, not as big as some of the races I’d read about. I’m not sure if I have some simpleton nature that stops me from being able to comprehend how long an hour is or how far a mile is or if it was hearing about guys running 400+ miles in one outing at a 6-day event, but the enormity of 100 miles is lost on me.
In October I ran a 6 hour timed race. Six hours might seem like a long time – it is a quarter of a day – but in July I had run (read: moved forward) for 19:36, six hours is less than a third of that time. It would be a cakewalk I told myself. In the end, it was rather enjoyable. Coming up in a couple of weeks I have an indoor marathon. My training has been sub par for sure, maxing out at 30 miles per week with no real speed work to speak of. I have no hope of a ‘good’ time, but I’m not scared of the distance. Compared to some of the recent distances I’ve done, a marathon is nothing.
If you want to run long, run longer. Forget what you know about far and short. Ignore what an hour is or isn’t. Go run and run and run some more. Change your perspective. Stretch it out. Let what you once deemed long become average.