How Long is ‘Long’ (Andrew)

It’s Boxing Day. Iain and I are running a three mile route around Stornoway and I say: “Tomorrow, we’ll run the long way round the Castle Grounds”.

I know what I mean. I mean we’ll run from our parents house to the Castle Grounds then we’ll run anti-clockwise through Willowglen, the golf course, Lews Castle, Cuddy Point, the Porter’s Lodge and then out and back around town via the harbour.

Iain should have known what I meant.  It’s our usual route. The one we run most times we’re at home. It’s the long way round because, well, it’s 5 miles, and that’s quite long. Hence, it’s the long way round the Castle Grounds.

Iain, on the other hand, hears an entirely different route. The next day we don’t take a left and run down to Cuddy Point, which is about midway along the Castle Grounds, he takes a right.

“Where are you going?” I ask.

“The long way,” he says.

“That’s not the long way.” The route he’s going will take us to the very end of the Castle Grounds before coming back via the outer road.

“Yes, it is!” He insists. “You said we’re going the long way round and this is the long way!”

“No,” I say, “That’s is the ULTRA way!”

It’s amazing how the word long means different things to different people. When I started running and I was going for a long run I meant I was going to run a couple of miles. A couple of years ago a long run was  6 – 8 miles. Now a long run is 10 to 12. My idea of long has changed.

It’s the same with triathlons. My first triathlon felt like it lasted forever. The 10k run at the end was chalked off a kilometre at a time with each kilometre feeling as slow as waiting for a Dominos pizza to arrive (the slowest feeling in the world).

Now, a triathlon doesn’t feel slow (though my times tell me otherwise) because my perception has changed. Long has become short.  And long has become longer.

That’s why you can’t yourself when training. You’re idea of a long run or a long ride changes over time and it’s easy to kid yourself when training for a race that you’ve put in the miles when your long runs and rides were all in your head.

That’s why I’m going to try an experiment in the next month. I’ve had a heart rate monitor for over a year but I’ve never used it. Next week I’ll start to use it. I’ve joined TrainerRoad and I’m going to see if science and technology will help with my Celtman training.

This year “long” won’t mean “long”. Instead “long” will mean “a scientifically generated objective number based on verifiable testing and quantitative analysis”.