How to Run 16 Miles and Not Die

Although now it seems like a distant dream, I ran 16 miles yesterday. I know some people run 14 miles before breakfast (what?). Impressive as that is, I am not that person. This was my longest run in history, and I was gleeful when it was over. My running buddy Julia and I usually spend the first 10 minutes after the run saying, “Holy crap, we just ran (10, 14, 16 etc) miles!”

16 miles is far. And hard. But I made it! And I can even walk today, no Advil needed. So here’s my advice on how to do a long run and survive.

1. Run somewhere pretty.

I was lucky enough to run here:

Photo Credit

Photo Credit 

Obviously this is not an option for everyone, and even for me it requires a 30 minute trek that I’m not going to make regularly. But find a neighborhood or a park or an awesome graffiti mural to run past to distract you. Anything that makes you say, “wow.”

2. Find your fuel. I have discovered Clif Shot Gels, and I find them AMAZING. They taste like frosting, and I can feel it when the sugar and caffeine hit my blood stream. And I like that they are 91% organica and I recognize all the ingredients. There are a ton of products out there, find what works for you.

3. Use the power of positive thinking. There was one point during the run, where I knew we had less than 3 miles to go. But when I turned a corner and couldn’t see the end, I choked out, “where the f$@! is the end? I am ready to be DONE.” Instead of repeating that to myself, I went with, “You are stronger than you think you are.” “You LOVE running. This is your favorite thing ever.” “You are going to eat so much food later and it is going to be delicious.” “You can totally do this! And all before 10 am!” Even if I’m struggling, repeating those positive phrases helps a lot more than internal, endless complaining.

4. After the run, try an ice bath. It’s cold, so prepare with a sweatshirt, hot tea, and a book or friend on the phone to distract you. I am wearing a bathing suit in this photo, just so you know.

The method is basically – fill your bathtub with ice, fill it with cold water, sit in it for 20 minutes (if you live with people, let them know they might hear screaming) and then get out and dry off. Don’t take a hot shower – let your legs warm up naturally. It’s painful, but it works. My legs felt great yesterday and feel great today.

5. Roll and stretch. I have recently discovered The Stick, another running product that I love. I find it easier to use and more effective than a foam roller. There are many different models, so be sure to figure out which one will work best for you.

Stretch, stretch, stretch. I plan on doing some yoga later today to keep the blood flowing in my legs. I also did a lot of walking after the run yesterday. There’s nothing worse than sitting completely still after a long run. As tempting as it is to crash on the couch, you’ll have more energy the more you move.

6. This is my favorite tip: have absolutely delicious food to look forward to. Alex and I hit up the San Francisco Street Food Festival and got some amazing eats. Not only was the food good, there was live music, the weather was nice, and there was a ton of energy.

Love the Mission murals.

Onigilly Samurai Snacks – rice balls with either eggplant or plum, wrapped in seaweed

A hurache from El Hurache Loco. Deliciously messy!

Amazing falafel with tomato ginger chutney and sweet potato fries with cilantro and lime from Liba Falafel. I loved their bright green truck, and the fact that whoever was at the end of the line had to hold up the sign.

Last but not least, one of the best brownies I’ve ever had from Embrace Sweets that I didn’t take a picture of because I couldn’t stop myself from eating it and a Claire Square – a shortbread cookie, topped with caramel and dark chocolate – that was to die for. Thankfully a three pack is 8 dollars at the grocery store, so that’ll (maybe) keep me away from them.

Having something so delicious to look forward to definitely kept me going on the run. So even if there’s no food festival after your run, have good leftovers in the fridge, hit up a favorite restaurant or ask your significant other/roommate/mom to make you their specialty dish!

So that’s my advice on how to survive a long run – which can apply to any mileage. There are days where I have to talk myself through a 5 mile run as much as I do a 16 miler. So much of it is mental.

Happy trails!


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