What’s the Best Way to Run Longer Distances?

how to run longer distancesI remember when I first started running, five kilometres (3.1 miles) seemed like a marathon. I didn’t think I would ever crack that distance. Eventually, I did. Then 7, 10, 15, 21, 42 (once so far). The way I did it didn’t involve any fancy strategies, nor was is just pure drive. It was actually something much simpler and more fun.

There are lots of ways I’ve heard of to push yourself to run longer distances, but the method that worked best for me was good, old peer pressure.

You see, I belong to an informal run club. I say informal because we kind of came together through the efforts of one or two outgoing people, we’re not affiliated with anything, we just like to get together once a week, go for a short run and then have a couple of drinks. Truth be told, it’s more about the social aspect.

One thing we do, though, is run competitions. We team up in twos, or threes, or small teams. Sometimes boys versus girls. And we try to beat each other. Sometimes there are prizes, sometimes just pride. The competitions range from the run-of-the-mill, run as much as you can in a week, to the more interesting 24-hour-run-a-thons. Sometimes it gets so complicated, we need a manual to keep track of what we have to do when, but regardless of the structure of the competition, it gets us out running. More often. Farther. Faster. And we do it all because we don’t want to let our team mates down.

Peer pressure is a remarkable thing. Everybody is running. Everyone is emailing, texting, talking about how they are doing, how their team is doing, who is slacking off. It’s fun, it’s infectious and it gets us running.

I remember one competition a couple of years ago where each person on a team was assigned a weekly distance they had to complete, 20, 30, 40, or 50 kilometres. You could go over your distance, but if you didn’t make it that week none of your mileage counted. Talk about wasted effort! That competition pushed me to run more in a week than I ever had dreamed I would before, which got me running longer distances because I couldn’t get out every day.

This week we started the first competition we’ve done in a while, and I’m very excited. I’ve needed a kick in the ass to get me back in the game, and I’m pretty confident this will do it. If it doesn’t, I’m sure my partner will let me know!

On a side note, I have to slag Nike here. They used to have a brilliant competition component as part of their online community. We used it all the time. It made it so easy to track everyone’s runs. And looking at the other competitions going on around the world really gave us some great ideas. Sadly, they killed it a few years ago. I guess it didn’t sell enough shoes. I think they really blew that one.

Anyway, what do you think of the competition idea? Do you think it would get you running more? Do you ever have them with your own group? If so, let me know what types, I’m always looking for new ideas.

Image courtesy of Flicker CC and Mary Beth Griffo Rigby

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