Escape Velocity: The Joy of Long Runs
There's nothing quite like going long to develop your running body—and refresh your mind.
Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth fitness, nutrition, and adventure courses and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+.
An hour into my run on Sunday morning I escaped. Up until then, as in every other waking minute, my mind had been full of incessant and interrupting concerns.
It jumped from running issues—does my foot hurt…is my stride compromised from too much sitting last week…am I overdressed—to home questions—will those shingles I glued down yesterday survive the winter..why didn’t that outdoor light come on last night…should I get the mower serviced now to be ready come spring—to work troubles—can I get this project done on time..do we have enough budget for that idea…should I be focusing on that issue—on and on, an unsolvable web of unanswered questions. Just like yours, I suspect.
But as the run took over, the rhythm of my breaths and my footfalls replaced the barrage of emails and news cycles, the calm of long, open time and space replaced tight schedules and intense interactions, and each concern drifted away. The questions didn’t get solved but they faded in importance and urgency, replaced by a quiet calm, a voice that said, “It is going to be alright.”
I’ve known that voice since it calmed adolescent anxieties some forty years ago. And it has always been right. I didn’t realize, until I heard it again, how much I’ve missed it. This run was the first time I’ve gone that long since August, when I broke a bone in my foot on a trail run.
I’ve also missed the awareness of feeling no pain that washes over me as the run gets longer, and the thought that I could keep doing this all day, even as a deep and satisfying fatigue grows with the miles. And, I’ve missed the feeling I have today, two days later, of my body adapting into a stronger, leaner, more efficient machine.
The long run does amazing things for your body. As much as any other workouts, long runs transform you at the cellular level, raising your level of running excellence and ease.
Beyond all the fitness benefits, however, the long run is worthwhile for its own sake, as a time in your week when you escape all your other roles and get to be just one thing: a runner, alive and free.
Whatever you are training for this year, whatever your level of conditioning or experience, I hope you get to go long often.
—Jonathan Beverly, Editor
Originally published Nov 2019.