Notes to Myself After a 20 Mile Trail Run in August

Sunday’s 20 mile trail run wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t even remotely cute. I seemed to do everything wrong.

If I had had a shell at mile 18, I would have crawled in and stayed there.

As I walked the last two miles back to the car, feeling miserable and sorry for myself, and slightly unhinged from the 97 degree heat, I started making notes in my head. Here are some of the things I wish I had told myself before the run:

  1. Don’t run 20 miles when you have a stomach virus. You’ll feel miserable, won’t have enough energy, and your overall confidence in running long will plummet.
  2. Less than six hours of sleep two nights in a row doesn’t cut it. You need more rest than that, even if the Olympics are on.
  3. Don’t go into a 20 mile trail run with a sore quad, even if it means taking an extra day off during the week. It will only feel worse during the run, especially on the hills.
  4. Don’t wear a hydration vest with a racer back tank top. Really stupid idea. Mid-back chafing hurts, and you’ll wind up slinging the backpack across one shoulder the rest of the run.
  5. Don’t forget to apply copious amounts of Body Glide. Stepping into the shower after the run will let you know all the places you forgot about.
  6. Slow and steady gets the job done. Find your own pace and stick with it, even if you get left behind. Don’t worry about keeping up with anyone else. Listen to your body and trust what it’s telling you.
  7. Nutrition is more important than you think. If you don’t eat well, it will especially show up in your long runs.
  8. When you’re not on your A game, pay even closer attention to the trail. If you don’t, you’ll trip and fall. If you feel tired or fuzzy-headed, take a walk break.
  9. Don’t beat yourself up when you have to walk the last two miles. At least you finished. It still counts, especially on the trails.
  10. Have cold beer at the finish. Just knowing it’s waiting at the end will keep you going, even if you aren’t much of a beer drinker. Gatorade is almost as good, too.

In hindsight, I did what most runners do. We put our heads down, hope for the best, and get the job done. There’s no shame in that. There will be better days.

*Photo by: By Mary Hollinger, NODC biologist, NOAA ( [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


  1. Bud Grune

    I was out there Sunday morning as well – we ran towards Rockledge and then back. Had to walk the last mile or so. Loved it – the trail was so pretty, not so many other people around, lot’s of foliage. Makes me think that hiking after I can’t run anymore is going to be fun…. mg

    • Mind Margins/Run Nature

      I’m like you, I love to walk and hike. As long as I can still walk, I look forward to not putting in so many miles running one day. I’m always amazed when someone tells me we were on the same trails and never saw each other.

  2. iRuniBreathe

    I think it’s every runner’s struggle to ‘rest’ when injured or not feeling well. Sometimes the rest/recovery makes us stronger and moves us farther ahead in training than what we’d gain by slogging through a long run.
    That being said, I can barely ever sit out on a long run. I’m like you in that I will pretty much go at all costs, and suffer just as much for my stupidity.
    Great list. I need to read this again when I’m not feeling well and still getting ready to go.

    • Mind Margins/Run Nature

      I think most serious runners are like we are. I’ve always said runners are the most stubborn people. We hate to give in and miss a long run, even if we know it’s going to make for a miserable run.

  3. imarunner2012

    All good advice. And most importantly, don’t beat yourself up for whatever shortcomings you think you may have, just get out there and do it again! It’s your run/race, do it your way and keep doing it.

    • Mind Margins/Run Nature

      You know, the not beating yourself up part is the hardest one to follow through on. I am so good at telling other runners the same thing, but seem to struggle with being so hard on myself (like most runners are). But you’re right: just get out there and do it again!

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