Justin Lagat, who lives in Kenya, in fact, is Kenyan, wrote a piece for RunBlogRun on the four ways in which Kenyans do their long runs. Since our very lean friends from the Rift Valley own distance running, this post, I thought, held great promise—secrets revealed, myths busted, the spleen-withering made easy!
Lagat's insightful post skipped over the obvious: A long run is accomplished by moving your legs back and forth for about the same amount of time you spend rooted to one spot on line at the DOT. Instead, he focused on the real crux of the long run—how to give up—describing four scenarios ranked Best, Better, Good and What Every Schlub Does.
There's an art to quitting, nuances that make the difference between an insouciant change of plans and a North Korean field trip. Well researched, maybe even personally tested, these didactic tableau are going to transform your long run.
The Best way to do a long run, says Lagat, is with a high class operation like Rosa & Associati who follow runners in a pickup truck, handing out water, encouragement and whatnot, and critically, "help carry athletes who give up before the end of the long run." Any fool can see, hopping into the back of a pickup truck, wind in your hair, beverage in your hand, is the best way to do a long run.
Following this same logic, Lagat says you can still enjoy your long run if you and some mates hire a driver, or make your wife drive alongside in a car. "The athletes can finish their long run anywhere and visit a restaurant for refreshments without worrying so much about the inconveniences that can be found in the larger groups," he points out. See why Kenyans are better? Personal driver, restaurant, refreshments, small groups so it's easier to get a table. And you thought it was about pace or carbs or running 10K barefoot to school or other such nonsense!
Lagat admits, the above methods of doing a long run are spendy and not available to everyone. But Kenyans are nothing if not resourceful: You can hire a motorcyclist. True, it's going to get crowded once three or four of you have given up.
Finally, there's the last, and it must be said, most common way to do a long run. This has a distressingly familiar ring to it. You plot an insanely long loop course that starts and, optimistically, ends at your front door. You schlep your own water bottle, hand out your own thin happy talk, and when the wracking sobs inhibit your shuffling stride, you give up. So what? You can give up all you want to, but you're still in East Buttwhistle smelling like three-day-old fish. This is not a good way to do a long run. Lagat finds the bright spot: "The only advantage with this kind of long run is that the athletes have to finish it because there are no vehicles to hop into when one feels some discomfort. One gets to train mentally to finish a race."
In the last paragraph, Lagat lays out the hard truth of the long run—being a quitter, a forlorn and stinking failure, is neither as alluring nor as easy as it seems. In fact, this scenario is so sad and awful, it makes running 45K seem attractive. And boom, #Kenyansecrettosuccess.
"In all these long runs, it is always advisable to put some money in your pockets just in case of anything. You can get lost, injured, or if in a group of professional athletes from the big camps, may be left behind very early in the run and the driver fails to notice you. If it is a 45km [28 miles] long run for example, then you definitely will find it hard to get back to camp on your own, especially if the vehicles had ferried the athletes to do the long run in a place far from the camp, say some other 40km away!"