Training for ultramarathons is hard work. It requires a huge commitment of time and energy to prepare yourself to run – maybe even race – up to 100 miles. Fifty-mile training weeks, punctuated with at least one long run of 20 or more miles, are the staple of the ultrarunner.
But sometimes your body is too tired, sore or injured to get it done week in and week out. Sometimes your mind is too fatigued and burned out to motivate you onto the trail. And sometimes life gets in the way and it is just “too much.”
At times like these the answer for me has always been the two-miler. No matter the time crunch, mental stress or physical issue that has me down, I can always fit in a two-miler. Whether it is my favorite short trail loop or an out and back mile on a flat fire road, the two-miler always lifts me up and sees me through.
And here’s why:
- If I’m feeling overwhelmed and the guilt of not running is creeping in all around me, with a two-miler at least I did something.
- If I’m stressed and feeling down, getting the blood moving and some extra oxygen into my brain always lifts my mood.
- If my body is sore and fatigued, an easy two-miler loosens things up, makes me feel better and accelerates my recovery.
- If I am battling a nagging injury, the movement from a bit of easy running often brings some relief and seems to stimulate the healing process.
Since a challenge for me is keeping extra weight off, an easy short run knocks down my insulin and boosts my metabolism – making me more likely to burn some of my “on-board” fuel rather than add to it.
I have no science on this, but an easy two-miler triggers some of the beneficial aspects of a big training session but without the actual wear and tear.
If nothing else, two-milers get me going and usually leave me wanting more, thereby setting me up for bigger miles in the days ahead.
When you do them properly it is like warming up for a longer run but then shutting it down. This worked for me when I was more fit and faster – they served as the “easy running” which can actually be hard to do when things are going well. In those days they were often part of a daily “double.”
Short easy runs are a no pressure opportunity to try to run with perfect form and tap into the joy of running. Like a baseball player taking ten swings in batting practice before a game, sharpening the athlete’s skills. For someone struggling to get fit and overcome injuries as they try to tackle ultra training, they may be all that is possible and can be a godsend.
There’s beauty in the two-miler for every ultrarunner. Find some sweet short routes in your neighborhood and give them a try.
May your every run be a great one.