Why the Long Run (or Walk)? Or a distance athlete walks into a bar…

For as long as I have been a distance athlete, I’ve done a long run once a week. My first long runs were six grueling miles on the country roads of Bloomington, Indiana as a high school cross country athlete. Nowadays, I can log up to 30 miles during a long run if I’m training for an ultra event. And although it’s practically a distance running cliche, I believe the long run is the most important run of the week.

What is a long run? Why is it so important? What’s going on under the hood, so to speak? And what is up with this bar and where is the bartender? I will try to shed some light on the former three questions, but you’re on your own with the last one. What exactly is a long run and what you are getting out of it?

Author’s note: While I am using the term “long run” throughout this post, please note that the same training guidelines and physiological concepts apply if you are a distance walker and not a runner! Get after it!

What is a “long run”?

The short answer: it’s the longest run of the week. Shocking, I know. The distance and duration will vary depending on the race you’re training for. If you are training for a half marathon, your long run will be less than someone’s who is training for a marathon. In order to facilitate the necessary physiological changes for performing well at longer distances (i.e. full- and half-marathons), the total time of a long run should be more than 90-105 minutes regardless of pace.

Why are “long runs” important? And what’s going on under the hood?

  • Energy Efficiency: Running long distances improves your body’s ability to store glycogen (energy in the form of stored carbohydrates), handle glycogen depletion (when your body starts to run low on fuel), manage muscle fatigue, and use fat in conjunction with glycogen as energy.
  • Muscle Adaptation: During your long run, the cells that make up your muscles increase in size by adding more fibers (the parts that contract) and mitochondria (the parts of the cells that use oxygen to generate energy). There is also an increase in enzymes–which ultimately increases the rate at which delivered oxygen can be used to create energy. And finally, more capillaries become active within exercising muscles, delivering oxygen to and removing waste from them more efficiently.
  • Running Economy: Simply put, running long increases your body’s ability to utilize oxygen more efficiently.
  • Aerobic Capacity: Most runners, especially new runners, are greatly held back by their lack of aerobic capacity (a measure of efficiency, as described above). The biggest gains you can make in overall performance come with increasing aerobic capacity, and running long is one of the best ways to do that.
  • Mental Toughness: News Flash — When running long distances, there is likely some amount of discomfort that you have to manage. If this hasn’t been your experience, I would suggest maybe running farther or faster. Anyway, the more you run long the better you will be at handling the discomfort–emotionally and physically.
  • Specificity of Training: This means that the system you stress is the system that improves. So basically, if you are training for a long distance race, you are going to get the most benefit from running long distances. Micheal Jordan didn’t become a great basketball player by riding a bike!

Final Thoughts and A Word of Warning

So now that I’ve unlocked all the mysteries behind the long run (or walk), you’re ready to get out there and go for as long as you can the next chance you get, right? Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work like that. To minimize your risk of injury, you need to build up your long run over time and in a responsible manner. That means that if the longest you’ve ever run is 6 miles, it’s probably not a good idea to go out for 16 miles tomorrow. A good training program (especially for newer runners) will increase your long run duration over the course of a training cycle (e.g. 12-16 weeks for a half- or full-marathon) and typically have 1 recovery week per month where the distance of your long run is decreased.

I hope that this information has helped you better understand why it is beneficial to incorporate a long run or walk into your training and what you are getting out of it. If you think I got something wrong or left something out, be sure to let me know in the comments. Also, if you liked this blog post, next time you see me out in the real world shout “Mitochondria!” so I know you read the whole thing!

2019 Erika Wells Memorial Scholarship Co-Winner Katie Manion

For four years in a row, Indy Runners has awarded two $500 scholarships to local high school graduates whose lives have been positively impacted by the sport of running. This years’ winners are Jada Coleman from Ben Davis High School and Katie Manion from North Central High School.

Erika Wells, who the scholarship is named after, was a beloved member of Indy Runners who passed away in October 2016. Her dedication to service, personal growth, and social engagement was unparalleled, and she embodied Indy Runners’ belief in the transformative power of running as part of a healthy lifestyle and a way to unify a community. The Erika Wells Scholarship is awarded to high school graduates who exemplify these characteristics.

Katie Manion (North Central High School)

Katie was a member of the North Central Panthers cross country team all four years and a team captain for the 2018-19 season. She also ran track her freshman and sophomore years of high school and competed in the Mini Marathon in 2016. She graduated with a 4.379 grade point average and will be attending Saint Louis University in the fall.

Each scholarship applicant was asked to write and submit an essay on how they came to love running, what the sport of running means to them, or how they believe running will impact their future. We are happy to share Katie’s essay below.

At the age of seven, my parents signed me up for my elementary school’s running club. At the age of eight, I ran my first 5k. By the time I was nine, my neighbor and I were running around our neighborhood together on a daily basis. When I was 11, I completed my first cross country season at Eastwood Middle School, and I loved every minute of it. At this point in my life, running kept me going. It gave me something to look forward to after school, a way to release my negative emotions, and a way to keep my growing body strong.

Right before my 12th birthday, I found myself in the hospital at Riley. I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. While sitting in my bed, my doctors rattled off the dangers of running and the precautions that I would need to take in order to be able to continue to practice the sport I love. I was told that running would become incredibly challenging and that I would have to wear monitors while on the move to ensure my safety. I would have to take lengthy breaks between reps and space out my workouts to keep my glucose levels stable. They told me it would be hard to get faster. I made varsity the next year. And the year after that. I did not let myself become defined by my diagnosis and I refused to let it slow me down.

As I went into high school, my body began to slow down as my disease became harder to control. It became evident that maintaining the speed that I had known for so long would be nearly impossible. Freshmen year was the most difficult. Not only was I trying to find my place on the team socially, but I was watching myself fall behind my peers in practice. By the time the first meet rolled around, I was nowhere close to making varsity. I was having to sit out of practice two or three times a week, and it was honestly humiliating. I always felt like people thought I was a slacker or uncommitted, but in reality, I was just sick.

Before this point, I loved running for the competition. I loved collecting my ribbons and hanging up medals in my room. However, I was no longer able to compete at the level that I had in the past. I began to receive less and less medals, and my bulletin board full of ribbons did not become any more impressive. But during this time, I began to love running more and more. It reminded me that I was still strong, and it still does. Though I cannot run everyday, I feel unstoppable when I am able to. It has taught me that I do not need to be the fastest to be the happiest, and that is all that matters.

Remember, if you think you know a deserving young candidate for the 2020 Erika Wells Scholarship, encourage them to apply this upcoming winter/spring!

2019 Erika Wells Memorial Scholarship Co-Winner Jada Coleman

For four years in a row, Indy Runners has awarded two $500 scholarships to local high school graduates whose lives have been positively impacted by the sport of running. This years’ winners are Jada Coleman from Ben Davis High School and Katie Manion from North Central High School.

Erika Wells, who the scholarship is named after, was a beloved member of Indy Runners who passed away in October 2016. Her dedication to service, personal growth, and social engagement was unparalleled, and she embodied Indy Runners’ belief in the transformative power of running as part of a healthy lifestyle and a way to unify a community. The Erika Wells Scholarship is awarded to high school graduates who exemplify these characteristics.

Jada Coleman (Ben Davis High School)

Jada was a four-year varsity Track and Field athlete for the Ben Davis Giants. She ran the 4 x 100 relay, the 4 x 400 relay, and the 300 intermediate hurdles. In addition to Track and Field, she was a four-year varsity basketball player and a three-year member of the volleyball team. She graduated last May with a 3.92 grade point average and will be attending Marshall University this fall.

Each scholarship applicant was asked to write and submit an essay on how they came to love running, what the sport of running means to them, or how they believe running will impact their future. We are happy to share Jada’s essay below.

I fell flat on my face and attempted to run again. I did not get to the finish line in time to secure my place but I did not give up. I was in first place. I clipped a hurdle during the Girls’ Track and Field 2017 Sectional Championship at Ben Davis High School on my last hurdle.

The next season I worked ten times harder than I already had. When I felt like giving up and wanted to stop during workouts, I replayed falling over the hurdle in my head and remembered that I had to redeem myself from the past year. I studied videos of professional hurdlers, worked out during my off-season, and worked on staying on my tippy toes while running. I had a great season and now it was time for Sectionals again. It was such a larger crowd than before and it was almost as if more people had come my junior year just to see me fall again. I told myself I was not going to fail and was more ready than ever. By the end of my race in 300 meter hurdles, I got a personal record and became the 2018 Sectional Champion!

This whole experience was very chaotic, sadly, but it gave me the knowledge of believing in myself even if thousands of people do not. It made me learn how to have self-confidence and gave me a reason to never give up on something no matter how many times I fail. After an experience like that, most weak-minded runners would have quit. I faced my mistakes and improved upon them.

The adrenaline running gives me makes me push myself more and more. I love running so much that even when it felt like I did not belong on the track anymore, one more workout and one more result reassured me of the reasons why I do belong on a track. I have come to realize that it is not always about running perfect races, it is how you finish. My love for running drove me into a mindset that anything is possible when you have faith. I had faith in myself and went out there the next year and surprised everyone watching me run. They did not expect me to get that far knowing how I performed in the previous year.

Love conquers all. When you love something and want it you will do anything in your power to go and get it. I went after what I wanted. I knew that I loved to run and that it was my destiny to be on the track so I was going to show everyone why they should believe in me the way I did. I love the wind in my face, the soreness after a workout, and that my body aches are a symbol that it all will pay off. I love running and I realized that when I failed but kept trying. Loving to run is in my blood.

Make sure to check out our next blog post, as it will feature this year’s other winner: Katie Manion from North Central High School. And if you think you know a deserving young candidate for the 2020 Erika Wells Scholarship, encourage them to apply this upcoming winter/spring!

Monon Trail: 7 Places to Hydrate and/or Evacuate. Broad Ripple Village to 96th St.

It’s time to continue our journey of the best and worst places to hydrate and/or evacuate on the Monon Trail! This time we head north from Broad Ripple Village up to 96th St. My previous blog post on this topic covered Broad Ripple Village to 42nd St. I’m not going to rehash stops previously mentioned, so you can refer back to that post for two spots–The Runners Forum and The Loft–where you can pop in and take care of business in the Village.

Special Note: I was going to include the Annex Club House in the Village but saw on social media that they are closing down that location. So please don’t blast me in the comments when you don’t see it!

Now that we have covered all the pleasantries, let’s get down to where you can handle the unpleasantries while traveling north on the Monon Trail!

Water Fountain Only

Stop 1: The Rock water fountain, located approximately 5-10 feet west of the Monon Trail, about a half mile south of 75th St.

Pro Tips: Do you smell what the Rock is cooking? The way this fountain has been leaking lately chances are you do. If you look closely at the picture above you can see the mini-swamp that is forming on the fountain side. If you do manage to get around all the water without soaking your feet, you will be rewarded with a very low drizzle of water. To drink from this location you practically need to do your best Andy Dwyer impression and put your whole mouth on the nozzle. I can’t remember the last time I attempted to drink here, but I’m fairly certain this fountain is seasonal and is shut down for the winter.

Recommendation: Unless you are on death’s door, skip it. The juice isn’t worth the squeeze.

Water Fountain Only

Stop 2: The School for the Blind water fountain, located approximately 20-25 feet west of the Monon trail just about a quarter mile north of 75th St.

Pro Tips: This fountain is currently leaking too. Good news though, the water pressure is a lot better than the rock and you can easily get a drink without soaking your feet. This fountain is also seasonal, so it shuts down in the winter.

Recommendation: This is a common place for runners and bikers alike to stop for a break, so make sure you have your gossips ready!

Water Fountain Only

Stop 3: Jordan YMCA water fountain, located approximately 100 feet east of the Monon Trail. When you are getting close to 86th St. look for the Jordan Y sign and start heading that way. You will see the fountain on your left right before you get to the parking lot.

Pro Tips: This is a pretty reliable fountain with good water pressure. On the other side of the fence is a Port A Potty. That fence is locked a majority of the time and I’m guessing not meant for the general population. Do with that information what you will. This fountain is also seasonal and shut down during the winter.

Bathroom & Water Fountain

Stop 4: Kroger located just south of 86th St. approximentely 200-300 feet west of the Monon Trail.

Pro Tips: This isn’t a RRCA runner friendly location or anything, but it can save you in an emergency. I can’t speak for the women’s room, but Guys: be ready for the stall to look like a WWE cage match just took place and for some rando to be camped out in there for long periods of time. Other than that it’s pretty great! It also has the added benefit of being open in the winter, and the water fountain is pretty solid.

Water Cooler Only

Stop 5: Big Lug water cooler, sponsored by the Carmel Marathon, located approximately 10-15 feet east of the Monon Trail just south of 86th St.

Pro Tips: This is the second hydration post in a row where I have mentioned a Carmel Marathon sponsored stop. Kudos to them and their brewery partners for helping us stay refreshed during these hot summer days! If anyone from their marketing team is reading this, I have three words for you: Logo. Urinal. Cakes. Run with that. Big Lug fills the cooler daily. I’m not 100 percent certain, but I’m guessing this is only a seasonal location as well.

Bathroom and Water Cooler

Stop 6: Athletic Annex, located approximately a quarter to a half mile west of the Monon Trail in Nora Plaza Shopping Center on 86th St. The exact address is 1300 East 86th St. Ste 29A. Best way to get there on foot: once you are north of 86th St. run west around Huddles into Nora Plaza and head north in the parking lot by the Whole Foods. You should be able to see it from a distance.

Pro Tips: Admittedly, I have never been in this location. It is relatively new and looks pretty nice from the outside. I’m guessing though, being a running shop, that they would be cool with you stopping in for a pit stop and a drink. Not sure about fresh dance moves though? Try it and let me know in the comments.

Bathroom and Water Fountain

Stop 7: 96th St. Rest Stop, located just north of 96th St. approximately 5 feet on the east side of the Monon Trail.

Pro Tips: When you arrive at this location you are officially in Carmel, IN. That means a couple things. First: Unisex bathrooms open year round! Second: A water fountain that, at first push, will squirt water into your face if you’re not careful. This is actually quite comical when you see an unsuspecting victim of these H2O shenanigans. The water fountain, unlike the restrooms, is shut down during the winter.

Special Tribute: Seen in the picture above is Pirate Cat. I’m not going to get completely into his story, but you should check him out on Facebook or Google him. One of my favorite memories of Pirate Cat is during a pit stop, on a 5 AM run, at this exact location, I saw him come out of nowhere to pounce on a mouse and swallow it whole. The things I find amusing while exercising half asleep could fill another entire blog post. Anyway, enough digression, the day after I took this picture I heard Pirate Cat is sick and not expected to make it much longer. Just wanted to give him a special shoutout and say thank you for bringing me joy on countless runs on the Monon.

Please leave a comment on this article if you know a stop I missed between Broad Ripple Village and 96th St. I promise to head even further north on the Monon in a future post!

Yours in timely hydration and evacuation,

Jesse

Monon Trail: 7 Places to Hydrate and/or Evacuate. Broad Ripple Village to 42nd St.

Scenario 1: It’s summertime and it’s hot and humid outside. I’m not talking about “I’ll just get a splash of water before my run or walk and be fine” hot and humid. I’m talking about 70-plus-dew-point-sweat-everywhere-sticky-wet-need-water-every-step hot and humid. What are you going to do? You can’t just take the day off. You’re training for your next big running or walking adventure and a day off is not an option.

Scenario 2: You’re out for a run or walk and feeling great. Nothing can stop you. Today is your day. Then all of a sudden your stomach starts to get a little uneasy. You think back to last night and remember the spicy Pad Thai you had for dinner… A sudden panic sets in and you immediately start weighing your options.

Sound familiar? If you have run or walked long enough, chances are you’ve been in both of these scenarios. You’ve also probably made a pit stop or two that you’re not proud of. No judgement–we’ve all been there. This post is the first in a series where I’m hoping to help you the next time you need liquid relief (or relief of another kind). Here are some places to make a pit stop that you won’t be embarrassed to tell your friends about later:

Water Cooler & Bathroom

Stop 1: The Runners Forum in Broad Ripple Village, located approximately 100 feet west of the Monon Trail at 902 E. Westfield Blvd.

Pro Tips: When you see a blue snow cone shack look to the West for a big red awning on the north side of Westfield Blvd. The Runners Forum is a Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) Runner Friendly Business. That means they are cool with you just popping in to get some water or take care of that “other” business. Unlike a lot of the other spots I will list, they don’t close down in the winter. This is also where I work so feel free to pop in, say Hi!, and share blog ideas, fresh dance moves, or whatever.

Hours: Weekdays 11-7, Sat. 10-6, Sun. 12-5

Water Cooler & Bathroom

Stop 2: The Loft, located approximately 100-200 feet west of the Monon Trail at 6201 Winthrop Ave.

Pro Tips: Just like The Runners Forum, The Loft is a RRCA Runner Friendly Business and is open year-round. You will have to go around the building (if you’re coming from the Monon) to enter. They usually have a sign on the Monon about a quarter mile south of Broad Ripple Ave. If you stop at The Loft for a bathroom break you can check out the creative paper towel/toilet paper holder they rigged up!

Hours: Non-standard. It’s a fitness studio so the best times to catch owners Doug or Heather are in the morning or evening.

Water Fountain & Bathroom

Stop 3: Canterbury Park, located just over a mile south of The Loft on the east side of the Monon. The water fountain and bathroom are approximately 50 feet off the trail and super easy to spot.

Pro Tips: This is a city park and only open seasonally (spring to fall) from 8am-9pm. I will warn you that I have been in dire need of a pit stop on a run or two and been burned by a locked door at a time when it should be open at this stop. Typically though, it is pretty dependable. It also has a pretty unique hand dryer that gives me the chills when I think about it.

Hours: Seasonal, 8am-9pm

Water Fountain Only

The next two locations are hydration only and are located between 54th & 52nd streets.

Stop 4: Good Dog water fountain, located approximately 5-10 feet off the Monon at 5345 Winthrop Ave., on the west side of the trail just south of 54th street. Just look for the Good Dog sign!

Pro Tips: This is also a seasonal stop: the fountain is turned off during the winter. On a personal note, I’m not sure I have ever used this fountain without first pushing the dog bowl water button first.

Water Cooler Only

Stop 5: Half Liter water cooler, located 5-10 feet west of the Monon just south of the The Good Dog. If you missed the fountain at Good Dog, you don’t have to go much farther for your next chance for some good old fashioned H20 relief.

Pro Tips: This water cooler is brought to you by the nice folks at Half Liter and the Carmel Marathon! It is a relatively new spot so I haven’t had a chance to join in on any water cooler talk with passers-by. I have been told by a reliable source, however, that Half Liter does fill and put out water daily, so I’m saving up gossips for my next pit stop.

Bathroom Only

Stop 6: Porta-pots off 46th street. This is the hidden gem of all the stops featured in this post. It’s bathroom only AND seasonal, but if you absolutely cannot make it to a respectable place for “evacuation”, these porta-pots are here to save the day!

Pro Tips: They are not the easiest to find (hence the “hidden” part of hidden gem). When you come to 46th St. on the Monon, head east on 46th for about a quarter mile and look for the baseball complex on the south side of the street (If you hit Indianola Avenue, you’ve gone too far.). As you can see in the picture, the pots are located in the complex. I promise that there are no fences to jump or anything! They are unlocked–just don’t tell anyone who let you in on the secret if asked.

Water Fountain Only

Stop 7: Near the Indiana School for the Deaf, located just north of 42nd St. and 10-15 feet off of the Monon to the east.

Pro Tips: This is not only our final stop, but also your last chance for water if you are continuing south on the Monon for quite a while… (The only place that I can think of that might have a bathroom and/or water fountain is a soccer park just south of 16th St.–but I cannot make any guarantees there.) This fountain is pretty easy to spot. Big thank you to the Indiana School for the Deaf Class of 2006 for giving us this nice oasis on our fitness journeys!

Hours: This fountain is also seasonal and shuts down in the winter.

Please leave a comment on this article if you know of a stop between Broad Ripple Village and 42nd St. that I may have missed. Also make sure to check out my next post, where I will go north on the Monon from Broad Ripple Village to 96th St. I hope that if you took the time to read this article that it will bring you relief on a future run or walk!

Yours in timely hydration and evacuation,

Jesse

I Didn’t Need a Running Club.

The reason I joined Indy Runners nearly a decade ago is the reason I’ve remained a member.

It’s the same reason I’ve committed to renewing my membership year after year, the same reason I volunteered for my first club event, and why I went after for a seat on the club’s board.

The reason: to ensure that runners and walkers in Indianapolis have a thriving club and community to be a part of. 

When I joined, though, I thought Indy Runners was just a running club. I didn’t need a running club. I could log miles from my front door whenever I wanted. But, I wanted to make sure that others had access, should they want it. $25 seemed like a small investment in something so many others found so valuable. (That should have been enough to make me take notice and join in, right!?)

Then I volunteered for the 35K-ish Relay, met a few members (now dear friends), let myself get talked into joining a Saturday run and realized just how shortsighted I had been. Indy Runners was far more than just a time and place to log miles on a common route.

Indy Runners was a place for creating connections and forming friendships that existed beyond the hours together on the road. It was about working together and pushing one another to be better in our sport and in our lives. The club expanded my professional network and exposed me to people I may never have met otherwise. It’s helped me develop skills that have nothing to do with pounding pavement. Oh, sure – Indy Runners provided accountability, knowledge and resources that helped me train harder and smarter.

Sure, I can do all of my training by simply stepping outside my door, but why? Indy Runners has made me faster, stronger, tougher, more connected and more inspired.

Whatever your reason for joining, I hope you’ve also found your reason for sticking around, renewing your membership, volunteering with club members and recruiting new runners and walkers to be part of Indy Runners. Help me make sure that Indy Runners continues to be the Place for Every Pace in Central Indiana, won’t you?