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Sunday morning long runs

Peter Snell
Sunday morning long runs are in my DNA.  Since my late teens, with some large gaps, Saturday has tended to be competition and Sunday the long run.  It would probably be smarter to have a recovery day after competition and do the long run on Monday, but there are few athletes with weekday commitments who can afford to do this, so the tradition has evolved.

The weekly long run had its genesis in the coaching philosophy of Arthur Lydiard, a New Zealander who coached a number of Olympic champions in the 1960s.  Even his 800m double Olympic champion, Peter Snell, ran 100 miles per week in his base training period, including a 35km long run in the hills outside Auckland each Sunday.

Near the top of the first Orchard Run climb
I read some of Lydiard's books early in my running career, and adapted his training programs for my own use.  The idea of running 100 miles a week had great appeal for me, and I especially enjoyed the long Sunday run in the Dandenong Ranges outside of Melbourne that became a regular part of my program.  Since that time, any Sunday morning without a long run seems somehow incomplete.  If Sunday doesn't work for some reason, maybe a race, then I try and schedule the long run for Monday or Tuesday.

Orchard Run
This morning, I decided to do the Orchard Run, one of the favourite long run courses for Central Coast athletes.  It's out-and-back along little-used forest roads, with a nasty climb early on (and, therefore, a steep descent on the return).  Part of the appeal is that it is quite accessible, starting outside the Palmdale Crematorium, which has, on occasions, felt like an appropriate finishing place for me.

Near the Orchard Run turn-around
I started under clear skies at 6:15am and found it cold during the first couple of kilometres along the valley floor, but soon warmed up as I tackled the most significant climb of the day, gaining 175m in 2km.  This is a great run to do when you are fit, because you can recover quickly from the hills and stride out on the flats and downhills, but today wasn't one of those days.  My plan was to try and run within myself, knowing that I would be very tired by the end, even at a slow pace.  My right Achilles was also painful after yesterday's hard run, so I was running a little awkwardly to protect it while it warmed up.  It was a beautiful sunny and still morning in the dense forest punctuated by occasional bird calls.  I could see different kinds of tracks on the sandy road surface as I ran, and tried to work out which animals had made them during the night.

Looking north to the Yarramalong Valley from near
the Orchard Run turn-around
Despite a fall after 8km, which took some skin off my right knee, I reached the turn-around point in 1:40, tired but still moving OK.  It always amazes me how many climbs there are on the return trip in this run.  In theory, the run is primarily up on the way out and down on the way back, but there are many descents on the way out that just don't seem to register.  My injured right arch became sore on the final descent and I took it gingerly, but it was OK for the last flat 2km which always seem to take forever on tired legs.  My finishing time was 3:10, which is about 30 minutes slower than my best for the course, so there's plenty of room for improvement.  However, though hard work the whole way, I know that these training runs are "money in the bank" and I will reap the rewards of the investment in the weeks and months to come.