On Savoring the Distance: Tips For Increasing Your Mileage

Now that I can officially kick off my quarter life crisis (Mom, I know you’re reading this; happy birthday to you too!), it’s time to do a little reflecting.

In the past year alone, well, less actually, I’ve conquered a lot of fears. I’ve been a runner, or whatever that means, for quite some time now, and yet it wasn’t until May of last year that I signed up for my first half marathon.

Up until that point, I had never quite hit 8 miles. 3 miles marked a normal weekday run and 5ers were reserved for ultra early mornings and weekends (though really, there was nothing ultra about it). Within 2 months, after having to sit out for a solid 4 weeks due to piriformis syndrome, I was as trained as I’d ever be to attempt half marathon numero uno, and by August, I had accomplished the first of many I’d participate in during this past very race-filled year

While I hated everything about that first half marathon – from the never-ending straightaway to the 2 laps around an ugly reservoir – I’ve loved everything about what my life as a runner has become ever since. For one, I’ve gotten over my distaste for distance quickly, shedding the notion that I’d never run another half marathon again just as soon as I recovered.

Since running the Queens Half Marathon, I’ve run the Manhattan Half and the More/Fitness Half, along with a 10-miler thrown into the mix in D.C. But not only is distance something I’ve come to truly appreciate on race day; it’s also something I’ve come to cherish on what I consider to be an everyday run.

Whereas 5-mile runs were my “pushing it” runs and 7-milers were practically unheard of only a year or so ago, I’ve managed to increase my endurance by today, the 25th birthday I’ve been dreading so much, so that 5-milers are the norm, 7 makes me happy, and 10 feels freaking awesome. Eventually, this complete shift in mentality will presumably fuel my desire to complete my very first marathon. (Though for now, my PDR is 15 miles—which you can read about here in my More/Fitness Half Marathon recap.)

I’m not sure I ever thought that long runs would become such an integral part of my repertoire, but I have to say, now that it is, the sense of achievement that comes along with it is undeniably satisfying.

I can only hope that, if you’re a distance runner, you know exactly what I’m talking about. And if you’re not, I hope you find the confidence to one day get there. In my experience, once you defeat that little mental hurdle lodged in your brain, the possibilities are endless.

Here are a few of the tricks I’ve used in order to gradually increase my mileage over the last year:

Plan your route. Maybe this is just me, but if I run without an intention, especially in a new place, 1 mile can feel like 20. By mapping out a run ahead of time, you allow yourself to be aware of how far you’ve gone and how far you’re going. The notion of truly “wandering” has never worked well for me except in Central Park, where I can generally calculate distance in my head.

(Ah, the reservoir. This means I’m 3.5 miles from my apt. Do the math for total distance.)

Make it worth the squeeze. End your run at a donut shop, or a dumpling store, or a flea market, or your brother’s apartment where there’s a ridiculously cute nephew waiting for you. In a way, it’s like a carrot dangling in front of a horse. (Yes, I just compared my nephew to a carrot.) For me, if I know there’s awesome vintage jewelry, delicious food or an abundance of smiles waiting for me, I’m more likely to make the effort to get there.

(Maybe he’s more of a meatball. Either way, he’s delicious.)

Be your own DJ. One of my favorite parts about racing is creating a playlist. (Scoff now, music haters!) Ask yourself, what type of music will motivate me at the start of the race? When should I plan on incorporating the most upbeat tunes in my library? Search around the internet and look for awesome remixes; ask friends for recommendations; prod fellow runners. In the end, it’s funny, because you actually begin to associate your music with running rather than the other way around.

Breakfast and snacks. I used to run on empty—literally. Being a morning runner can be tough because I’m not quite hungry enough to fuel my body with food, and yet I know that without some sort of sustenance, I won’t be able to make it more than 7 miles. For longer runs especially, however, it really is important to nourish your body. This can make all the difference. Make breakfast fun by cooking up eggs or buying your favorite muffin the day before. Either way, by the time you hit the halfway point, your body will definitely thank you—by working even harder.

Run with a friend. While some runners actually create entire routes around running with friends, I like to divide my time. For a 10 miler, I might run a mile or 2 to meet my cousin, for example, spend 6 miles together, and then branch off again to run the last 2 miles back home. It’s incredible how quickly the time goes by when you break up your runs with the company of others, while that little bit of alone time enables you to concentrate on personal goals for the day too.

(Noah was my running buddy. Then he got too fast.)

Wardrobe check. Sounds stupid, but nothing can ruin a long run more than a floppy hoodie, a too-tight tank, or long sleeves under a boiling hot sun. Check the weather, and plan your outfit in advance. Don’t run with earmuffs on a 50-degree day. Do run in a waterproof jacket and fleece leggings on a snowy race day. (This is Noah and I before the Manhattan Half Blizzard Marathon.)

Spoil yourself. Give yourself a boost of motivation by factoring in a reward. It doesn’t have to be big. After I ran my first half marathon, for example, I allowed myself to purchase a pair of Toms, which I had been wanting forever—because, you know, I’d need comfortable shoes after covering that much distance. Other possible prizes? New running gear, a post-run mimosa, or a giant Levain’s chocolate chip cookie. Whatever floats your boat.

  • I used to prefer 3 milers, now I love running between 5 and 7. What are your thoughts on running long?
  • How do you motivate yourself for longer runs? 
  • Have you ever used a reward like food, or new running shoes, or a post-run cocktail as motivation?
  • How do you savor the distance?

7 thoughts on “On Savoring the Distance: Tips For Increasing Your Mileage

  1. My favorite distance is 10 miles. It is a nice round number. Personally my reward is that I feel like I can eat whatever I want :). Not true but makes me feel better. Your nephew is a cutie!!

    • Isn’t he?? I can’t wait until 10 miles is my favorite distance – I’m still a few away from making that totally comfortable. But yes, the fact that I had 3 Levain’s cookies waiting for me when I got back from my last half is a testament to my love of food!

  2. The thought of long distances terrifies me, but I also look forward to accomplishing it at some point. I stlll struggle a great deal with 5K, and feel very unaccomplished. However, I also know i’ve only been running for a little over 6 weeks again, and I’ve got a long way to go. I hope my endurance comes.

  3. A very happy birthday to you!!! In hs/college, when I raced 5ks (ok hs when I raced 5ks, college when I raced one 5k), 3 or 4 miles was my norm too. In hs, the once a week 7 miler we did during the summer/early fall seemed like the longest distance ever to exist. I still feel that way now about anything longer than a half marathon & it’s training runs!

  4. Happy Birthday! I’ll be 39 this year and it does get better. Love this post and your tips. The very thought of enjoying a 10 mile run, doesn’t compute in my head. But when I think back to where I was just last year (not being able to run a mile) I do know anything is possible. I’m going to use your reward hint for my upcoming summer races. Thanks a ton!

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