The First 20 Mile Long Run

Mile 16 of Libby’s first 20-Mile Run!

This week’s recap: I ran 13 miles midweek. This included a 7-miler where I practiced my current plan for race strategy (12:30-12:45 min/mi run with 1 min walk break each mile) perfectly. On Sunday, I did my first ever 20-mile run.

With 11 weeks to race day, it’s unusual in a novice training plan to do a 20-mile run this far out from race day. Some plans only ever have you do a maximum of 18 miles. I’m planning on doing multiple longer runs in this added time before race day so I can tweak and practice for race day for things like pace, run strategy, nutrition, apparel, and hydration.

Lessons Learned

I learned so much from this 20 mile long run. This run was set up as a 3.3 mile run to the race site for a local half marathon, run the event, and then run back to the car. If you can abide by the plan to run a race as a training run, this is a great way to get in the long miles.

Remember, as always, one size doesn’t fit all. I am about a 13-14 minute/mile pace for my long run, which means that 20 miler took 4 hours, 40 minutes. This is a long time on your feet. Some training plans do not attempt to keep runners on their feet this long, but if I’m going to do a 5-6 hour marathon, I believe I need to know what that feels like.

What Went Right:

  • No blisters – with a 20-miler, it’s worth celebrating.
  • Hydration and during-run nutrition feels okay – Took energy gels at all the planned times and Gatorade in between. Hydrated appropriately.
  • Ran more of these miles than I expected – Unlike my last longest run of 16.6 miles last weekend, I ran more than 12 miles of this. In fact, I felt pretty good of how much of mile 16 I ran (the last mile of the half marathon race). Yeah, my walk breaks became more frequent about 12 miles in, but celebrate the bright side.

What I Need to Work On:


Chafing is No Fun! For some reason, and this had never happened before, I had a little chafing under my heart rate monitor strap across my chest. I think this could have been from shifting the strap a little in late miles when my upper abs were cramping. Now I know a new place to apply a little Bodyglide!


Runners Need Muscles! About 12 miles in I ran into a problem I’ve had off and on the last couple months with harder or longer runs. Soreness and cramping in my upper abs and then my oblique abs.


Should I be surprised? I have a 5 ½ month old baby that was delivered by C-section. My abs were stretched and then pulled aside to pull a baby out of my abdomen. Those abdominal muscles are just not recovering and getting stronger on their own in sync with the miles I’ve added on. There’s only so much good that running almost 400 miles since Sophie’s birth can do. I have not been doing any strength training. At my slower pace, the time needed for running itself is a lot when matched up with a busy family life. But I realize this has to be addressed because I think it’s a major obstacle to having a good race.

So the next morning I called the gym I pay monthly membership to but NEVER go to (oops) and set up an appointment with the Manager of Personal Training to figure out who would be the best fit of a personal trainer. From there, I hope to try to do 2 sessions a week until race week to get my muscles up to the cardio ability and mental ability I need for this race!

Race Day and Week Nutrition is Important!

I started this 20 mile run feeling hungry. Not a good thing. I always try to have my half-bagel between 1-1/2 and 1 hours pre-run. I learned too much more food and too close to the race and I was more susceptible to GI problems during the run. I felt all during the run just a general lack of get-up-and-go. I felt like GU gels worked well but was still just trying to replenish an empty fuel tank – it’s futile. So I need to work on nutrition the couple days before, night before, and morning of race day.

Next week: Stepback week with a long run of about 10 miles. Try to keep overall total mileage about 30 miles.

Libby Jones has been running for 5 years, is a self-described “serial half-marathoner”, but has never attempted the marathon distance. She is also an active part of the Dallas-Fort Worth running community.  She is the Founder and Race Director of the New Year’s Day Half Marathon in Allen, Texas; the Executive Race Director for Heels and Hills, a non-profit geared towards getting women fit and active; the North Texas State Representative for the Road Runners Club of America; past Dallas Running Club President & 2008 RRCA Scott Hamilton National Outstanding Club President Award Winner; and an RRCA-certified running coach. She’s also a wife to Steve and a mother to Marissa (3 yrs) and Sophie (3 1/2 months).  Read her blog “The Active Joe” and follow her on Twitter @libbyruns

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