What is it that still gives us that weekend feeling in this crazy time asks Hannah Irwin?
For many, myself included, it is our training that reminds us it’s the weekend, especially our long run.
In ‘normal’ times constraints such as squeezing training in before work or before it gets dark mean weekend is usually the perfect time for a long run. You can go out and run for as long as you need or want to, without having to cram it in (Editors note – unless you have children!).
Now we are living in isolation and a lot of us have been furloughed, we are less time constrained. We don’t have that ‘Friday night’ feeling after a busy week at work. Instead we rely on our weekend training, particularly our long run, to remind us what day of the week it is.
I know I have tried to maintain my usual training structure, but as the insights below from some of the country’s top athletes show, approaches to training during lockdown have varied.
Church of the Sunday long run…
So, why do lots of us do our long run on a Sunday?
Many of us in the running community are creatures of habit, that means we all enjoy saving our long run for a Sunday. It’s almost like it is our religion. Like going to church, the long run has become our Sunday ritual. Not only do we enjoy it, but we’ve become accustomed to doing it every weekend.
For those with friends who are also runners, you can rest assured that you won’t be invited out to do anything on a Sunday morning. Just like those of you who attend church, you wouldn’t think about organising brunch at 10am on a Sunday morning.
With faster sessions on a Saturday and Tuesday or Wednesday, Sunday comes at just the right time. It allows you to give your legs a break from the speed work. With a harder session at least two days away, you have plenty of time to recover from the miles you bank. Equally if you’re doing your long run at pace, there is still enough time to recover before you hit another hard session in a few days’ time.
Connecting with ourselves
The Sunday long run is also time for us to connect with ourselves, the environment, and the act of running itself. It’s a time to be grateful for what the sport provides us with. Whilst we are all having to spend time at home at the moment the chance to get out and just run for an extended period of time is precious.
Isolation is really encouraging us to all enjoy running for its simplicity. Whilst ticking off the miles, the long run is an opportunity to think through our worries or joys and take in nature’s beauty or listen to the birds twittering. If you are feeling good and relaxed with no races on the horizon, you may want to push the pace on a bit and lock into your own zone.
I spoke to some of the nation’s best athletes and asked them what it was about their training that gave them that weekend feeling and what their Sunday long run entailed! Here’s what they had to say:
Elites changing it up
With the arrival of isolation, some of us have enjoyed changing training around, completely getting rid of the weekday/weekend structure. Ultimately if you can’t go to work, or you’ve been furloughed, why not make everyday a weekend?
I spoke to Eilish McColgan and Adam Hickey, both of whom are doing things differently now or have been for a while. Eilish tends to stay away from having the typical Sunday ‘long run’;
‘I actually don’t have a long run every weekend. Every weekend is different for me as we’ve completely changed the format of my programme. Session days are definitely the things I look forward to the most. Long runs I generally don’t enjoy! Much prefer the faster, speedier work on track!’
More freedom, less structure for Hickey
Adam Hickey is an athlete who has enjoyed forgetting hois ‘structured training programme’. The Southend man is running for the pure enjoyment of it.
‘To be honest, since London was cancelled and now being furloughed, I’m not actually following a structure for my training. So my long runs (up to a half) are now run whenever I fancy. Some weeks I’ll run 4-5 of these, other weeks I’ll focus more on some shorter sessions whilst still running the long run at least 2-3 times.
I do enjoy the long runs. I know that if I can feel comfortable running these at a decent pace then I’m good shape. However having put in lots of miles up to London, I’m enjoying running shorter distances right now and not overdoing volume. It would be impossible keeping the miles going that I was running in the buildup to London up until October or possibly beyond!
I also personally think it’s perhaps the only opportunity some of us have had – bar injury – to just get out and enjoy running or take the odd rest day when our body needs it – rather than forcing it pushing towards a goal!
This is the first time in 21 years I’ve had no specific race to aim for. So whilst it’s frustrating and hard to motivate myself some days, other days I’m enjoying running more than I ever have!’
Hickey has really embraced the fluidity of the week and relished doing the training his body wants to do, when it wants too.
Sticking to the plan
Many others though have found sticking to their regular training plan the best way forward, and here’s what gives them those weekend vibes. For Kate Avery, whilst the long run does indicate that it’s the weekend, it isn’t necessarily something she looks forward to;
‘Definitely the long run, but it’s the worst thing about my training! It is however a very odd Sunday when you don’t have a long run! My long runs have recently increased, so they are between 11-15 miles, so I guess coach is thinking now is the perfect time to do some 15-mile runs! Well, one positive is I feel like I have done so much I can eat what I want all day! Even though I likely do more miles on session days with a second run in there.’
A weekend refuge
Jack Gray, one of Fast Running’s Fast10 of 2020, told us about how his weekends have become more of a refuge.
‘For me, lockdown has meant the uncomfortable convergence of work and home life. The economic slowdown has meant putting in more hours than usual at work, therefore the weekend feels like more of a refuge than usual.
So, what does weekend training mean for me? Time.
Working from home has allowed me to do my weekday interval sessions in the daytime, which is great. However, my sessions are all time-constrained.
The weekend now means Saturday tempos (my favourite). In these I target half-marathon or marathon pace, and Sunday long runs. These are the elements of my training I love, I also love having the time to prepare properly for them! I particularly value leisurely Saturday morning coffees and having the time to fart about doing drills and activation exercises.
I crave the grind of my tempo sessions, and the ability to lose myself in the zone; even the attrition is alluring, as I think to myself “was that 11 or 12 laps?”. Last weekend I did a 16-mile tempo (40 mins, 20 mins, 20 mins at 5:05 per mile), which was fun.
Long runs mean exploring, always off-road if I can. I have built my long runs up to 20 miles, usually at 6:00 minute mile pace, but if I’m doing a monster tempo (e.g. above 10 miles) this replaces my long run.’
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Today I got my first taste of marathon training sessions 😬 … As many of you will know my aim is to compete in the marathon at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games in 2022. So, with 2 years to go, I thought it was about time I started doing some proper marathon sessions. Today I started with 8 miles, 4 miles, 4 miles at 5:05 pace off 2.5 minutes recovery. It was a long old slog, but I’m chuffed that I managed to pull it off 🙌 My training has progressed nicely since coming back from injury, and even though there is no tangible race to aim for, my hunger and desire are strong. But for now, I’m just looking forward to more 🍺 in the garden☀ cheers! #metricmarathon #marathon #26.2 #marathonsesh marathoncontinues #marathonprep #Runnershigh #berlinbound #hokaoneone #hoka #timetofly #trainhard #resteasy #ukrunchat #runasone
A lonely road
GB 800m runner, Adelle Tracey, is another athlete who looks forward to her long run. Despite this she is finding the solo nature enforced by the current climate rather lonely.
‘I normally really like long run on a Sunday, which I know is unusual for an 800m runner. It’s a chance for me to catch up with my friends. Sunday runs have definitely felt longer while in lockdown, so I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts to make the time pass quicker.
I’ve kept the same routine of training during lockdown and my coach and I have just reduced the intensity, as it’s not possible to get treatment at the moment. I’ve been really grateful for the routine of training and being able to exercise outside during these times.’
U.S. based athlete, Alice Wright, tells us how the long run is always an indicator it’s the weekend for her.
‘The weekend long run has always been a constant in my week. I say “weekend” rather than Sunday specifically because NAZ Elite work on a three-day training cycle (a session followed by two days of recovery runs). This means our long runs can be on either Saturday or Sunday. Nonetheless, I can always count on the long run being on one of those days.
There is something so satisfying about completing a long run and it certainly gives me a “feel good” factor; ending the week on a high. The run itself can serve meditative purposes (I think, anyway) as well as obviously important training benefits. I would say the long run is my favourite session of the week- I love getting in a good rhythm early on and seeing if I can wind it up a little towards the end.’
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Keep up, ladies 💁🏼♀️😉 . . Jokes aside, absolute pleasure running hills with these three the other day. They let me “rip” on my last one (🥴) while they maintained ‘marathon effort’ + cheered me on. All I can say is if that’s their marathon effort….well, let’s just say big things are in store for them this year!✨🙀👏🏼 #WomenWhoFly #HOKAONEONE #NAZelite #CorosGlobal PC: @rabbitwolfcreative @ryan_sterner / @stephenkersh
Alice Wright – who is used to a bit more company outside of lockdown
More time for training and recovery
For some, Verity Ockenden included, the arrival of isolation has meant she can finally make the most of weekend training. She has been able to train without the time limits a busy weekend at work brings.
‘Usually, I wouldn’t differentiate between weekday and weekend training. I think this is probably due to my work as a chef, I always work a full Sunday shift. During the winter this meant having to do my 2 hour long run in the dark after being on my feet all day.
Obviously now, things are a bit different with the restaurant being closed. I’m really enjoying getting back to the classic ‘Church of Sunday Long Run’. The ritual of having a light breakfast first and then a big brunch to come back to. It’s pretty much always a 16 miler for me. That’s only 2 miles further than I run on a Wednesday but somehow it feels way more epic.
Strangely, at the moment I am enjoying these runs for the connection they provide, rather than as a quiet escape. I tend to see far more of my fellow aficionados out there in the mornings than I used to in the evenings. We nod and smile from a distance in this kind of mutual recognition. It’s good to have such camaraderie with strangers in times like these. Where even a silent acknowledgement of a shared tradition reminds you that you’re not alone.’
So, whether your training as stayed the same or changed as a result of isolation, what is it in your training that makes you know it is the weekend?