Running With the Right Attitude

“To give anything less than your best, is to sacrifice the gift.”  -Steve Prefontaine

In my earlier years I confess to being a complainer, one of those people extremely hard to please. For such a person, life can be a real bitch; their cup is always half-empty, it’s always a bad day and as a result bad things always happen. Picture running with an attitude like that, a nightmare. The weather (biggest running pet peeve ) is never right, the shoe never fits well, someone’s always messing up their race, they’re never running well..things just never work out right. And the worst part is that they’re so busy looking at the negative things, they miss the most beautiful parts: the beauty of the changing seasons, the sheer joy of competition and success, good health and vitality and so many other blessings that runners enjoy.

Thank God the past is just that, past and gone forever. However, it serves as an important reference point, whereby I can assess the changes I’ve had to embrace in order to see my self-growth, particularly in my running. Whenever I’m asked what caused my shift in perspective, I point to my arrival here in the United States and the succeeding period of uncertainty I endured before my move to New York. There’s something to be said for not being in control of things – in truth, thinking we are in control is an illusion anyway – we are forced to tap into our natural strength and ability, traits we might never have explored otherwise. In any event, my aha moment came in realizing that living in the moment and maximizing my gift was not a blessing to be taken lightly. The rest, as they say, is history.

This week, before my marathon on Sunday, has gotten me to thinking of how important it is for any person facing a challenge, especially a runner, to do so with the right attitude and perspective. The ability to run is a gift. You owe it to yourself and the gift-giver to do your best with it. Running gives you freedom, direction and purpose; you can choose to do with that as you may, but it is yours to enjoy for as long as you can. Your ability to engender enthusiasm and embrace its benefits ensures that running becomes a lot easier, more enjoyable, and more of a blessing if you do it with grace, gratitude and a genuine desire to make a difference, whether personally or to the world at large. Either way, it will ultimately extend beyond you because you’re running with the right attitude.

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Up Your Running With Speed Training

Source: Runners World

Source: Runners World

You may have the idea of a PR in an upcoming race or it may even be among your goals for this year, don’t give up. It is doable. Runners are a competitive lot never quite satisfied with the average run, maybe it’s the stuff we’re made of, but somewhere inside there is always the thought of a better run. We go the distance and do whatever it takes to increase our speed and improve performance. With this in mind, it’s been my personal experience, in addition to all the information out there, that incorporating speed work into training for a race could change the dynamics of your racing and help you achieve the results you want.

Speed Workouts are structured workouts that include running specific intervals or time or distance at a specific pace. Research and a lot of coaches agree that it builds endurance, strengthens legs and lung muscles, burns more calories,increases speed, and adds variety to your workouts. I particularly like going to the track to do speedwork as it’s easier on the knees and the distance is already worked in. Here I share a few that I use regularly.

Fartleks

These are timed distances at a specific pace, generally fast, with a slower recovery period. You can incorporate as many reps as you want to maximize your workout but should stick to doing these once per week. Eg. 6 reps of2 mins on, 1 min off at 5k pace.

Interval Runs

Short intense running followed by equal or longer recovery periods. Here the focus is on reaching hard, above your red line or limit so that you’re really counting the minutes until you stop. Recovery takes the form of a jog where you can really regain your strength to go full steam ahead again. Eg. 2 mins hard running, followed by 4 mins of easy jogging.

Sprints

High intensity workouts that can take the form of super-quick repeats, hill repeats, downhills and ladder workouts. Each of these are short and fast with distances ranging from 40 meters to 200 meters depending on which one you’re doing. Eg. Super-Quick Repeats: 8×200 meters for 30 to 40 seconds each and a recovery time of 2 mins. With Hill Repeats and Downhills the run is on the hill for the distance decided, say 20 yards uphill and 100 meters down x8, varying the intensity of the run on the basis of your max effort-starting at 70%- and a recovery time of 2 mins. With Ladder workouts, you increase the distance after each rep and retrace your steps and work your way back down, decreasing your recovery time after each rep.

The stats on these workouts can change to suit you ability, but no matter which you decide, remember to give yourself time to warm up to avoid injury. Warm up times may vary from 15 mins of running to 2 miles depending on the intensity of the workout.

I Confess 2 weeks of Marathon Training

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I’ve been a bad girl. I mean like really taking-for-granted-my-ability bad. I’m running the New Jersey marathon on 4/26 and I’m nowhere near the peak of my training as I should be as I have yet to complete a long run. That’s not to say I haven’t tried, on two occasions I attempted to do just that and fell short because of 1. The weather and 2. The time. Sounds like I’m full of excuses right?

For me, this weather has been a nightmare for training. I am so over the treadmill when it comes to running long distances, this has been a major setback to my training. While I was training for the NYC half marathon, it was all well and good since ten miles is the maximum I can handle on there, and that was for two long cold months, now, I pray daily just for average temperatures so I can head out. So far, not so good. It’s not every person can work a 10-hour day then train for two hours; It takes a lot of self-motivation, determination and sacrifice. Toss the weather we’ve been having in there and it becomes the ultimate challenge to which I have not responded in the best way.

At this point I am quite the realist, it is what it is. Sometime in the next couple days, I plan on doing a long run even if it hails, afterall, it’s down-to-the-wire-time and there is just no more time for excuses. Ironically, that should have been my attitude from the onset, but I confess, even I am not perfect.

This week my focus has been on adding milage and strength and interval training with emphasis on hill repeats. So far, so good. I’m certainly glad there are a couple weeks left before the race as I feel there is so much left to be done as far as diet, hydration and cross training, in addition to running.

One thing I’m very thankful for is being injury-free up till now. I pray to remain that way and focus on the simple things that will make a big difference on race day, such as: resting/sleeping well, eating well, hydrating, and adding a little umph with a creatine supplement while varying my workouts to include some cross training. While it sounds like a lot to do in so little time, I’m onstream – somewhat anyway – resting well presents the biggest challenge as I keep such crazy hours. But hey, I’m still thinking Boston qualifier.. OI’m either crazy or extremely confident.

What It Means to Run with Faith

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 “I have learned that track doesn’t define me. My faith defines me. I’m running because I have been blessed with a gift.” –
Allyson Felix

Ten years ago when I started running seriously, I would never have imagined it becoming so intricately woven into the fabric of my life that not a day goes by when I either don’t run or think about running.  Back then, my future mapped out looked pretty simple: humanitarian work, writing at some level, and travel and adventure on the side.  The New York City Marathon was to be a bucket list event among a host of others.  Today, I remember it as the running event of a lifetime that inspired many others.

I recall completing my first half-marathon and the heady feeling that ensued, but I really didn’t think it would transform into the passion for running that it is today.  Life often hits you with nice surprises like that.  Eight years ago when I moved to the united States, I moved with a ton of baggage by which I don’t don’t mean suitcases; rather, my issues and a ton of issues on top.  In hindsight, running was my saving grace. If you have ever made a major change in life, then you can attest to the life transforming event it is.  Because I was in a new environment, where a lot was also new to me, I had to find something that was at once comforting and familiar, but which gave me the opportunity to lose myself and not focus on the uncertainties I was faced with.  Enter running – my saving grace – it became my outlet, my escape, my connection, my mode of survival.

Running, I discovered peace, beauty, tranquility, inspiration, challenge and a profound sense of self.  Conversely, my future loomed, a blank, uncertain canvas.  Many years, runs and races later have added splashes of color and slowly an image is breaking forth.  The process has been painstaking: deliberate and tough, but extremely instructional and not a journey I could have completed without my faith.  Daily, those runs have taught me that I do not, nor have I ever, run alone.  I am immersed in the love of God; whether evident in the trickle of a running stream or the mad rush of a waterfall, the burst of sunrise or the quiet outrageous sunset; He runs with me.  In the white mass of winter or the first signs of spring, the solitary morning run or the packed course filled with runners, every step I take, I take with Him.  He surrounds me with His presence, covers me with His protection, enfolds me in His love and when the going gets tough, armors me with His strength.  He is the wind at my back, the lift in my legs and the power in my stride.

Some Fun Spring Runs

Source: Precor.com

              Source: Precor.com

After a long, cold Winter you deserve some fun. And I’m not talking laying-under-a-beach-with-an-umbrella-drink type of fun, heck no, we’re not sedentary like that. I’m talking body painting-mud covering-rock climbing, kinda running fun. Don’t mind if we celebrate everything with a run, we don’t know any other way. It’s just too darn bad that some of us are still experiencing winter-type air but for the rest of us, there’s nothing like a crazy, adrenaline-pumping, butt-kicking running adventure for Spring initiation. Never mind the rains we’ve been promised, plan on getting soaked anyway with all the sweat and grime that’s coming your way.

I did some digging and scored what I think are some of the best fun runs around the country – only because I think hopping around adds more adventure and fun and you get to meet runners. Here’s hoping these 10 suggestions help to kick off Spring and get you on your way to earning a bad-ass runner reputation.

1. The Original Mud Run – DFW Spring 2015, Bear Creek Road, Lancaster TX 4/04/2015
This race boasts three courses: 5k fun run, 10k fun run and 10k competition and a new Apex 200 yard – Super Obstacle Course (competition only). All courses are Military Style Obstacle Courses and boots and loose-fitting cargo or sweat pants are mandatory for competition categories while recommended for non-competition runs where crazy costumes are also welcomed.

2. Mud on the Mountain – Seven Springs,Pennsylvania 5/09/2015
A 7-mile mud run through some of the most challenging terrain in Pennsylvania traversing ponds, scaling boulder fields, climbing over obstacles and clawing up impossible inclines to a triumphant finish.

3. Savage Race – Georgia Spring 2015, Dallas, GA 4/18/2015
An intense 5 miles, 25 obstacles on rolling hills and rocky terrain to include mud, fire and barbed wire. Run individually or as part of a team.

4. Spartan Race – Tri-State New Jersey Beast 4/18/2015
A distance of 12-14 miles over New Jersey’s Mountain Creek with steep inclines and rocky track descents. Athletes are asked to carry a headlamp & water supply in a camelback or similar type pack as the average finish time is 5+ hours. Teams are encouraged but there is also individual registration.

5. Spartan Race – Citi Field, NY Sprint (Stadium) 5/09/2015
3 miles of throwing, jumping, crawling and grueling climbing will take you to the remotest corners and every level of this ball park.

6. Virginia Rugged Maniac – spring 2015 Petersburg, VA 5/02/2015
A 3.1-mile run averaging 30-60 minutes with 25 obstacles the likes of 12′ high walls and 50′ water slides while running, crawling and jumping through a combination of forests, fields, motocross tracks and ski slopes.

7. Ultimate Challenge Mud Run – Columbia, SC 4/11/2015
Run 36 military style obstacles spread over 6.2 miles with Marines to “motivate” your team at each one. This is a team event only challenging you both physically and mentally through mud, water, and over obstacles just like veterans do in training. Obstacles are built with the same materials and techniques as used in military training courses around the world.

8. The Color Run – Camden Waterfront, Philadelphia, PA 4/25/2015
Dubbed “the happiest 5k on the planet” this run is designed to uplift and inspire runners to shine and live in a happy healthy way. Get ready to do that with special sparkle/ glittery attractions on the course, new shine elements at the finish and paint of course.

9. Virginia Wine Country Half Marathon – Loudon County, VA 5/30/2015
Who needs mud when you have wine. The race starts and finishes at Doukenie Winery, with post-race access to the Wine & Music Festival. This scenic, grape-scented course runs north of the winery on historic byways, passing vineyards, farms, ranches and estates along the way. Midway is your water and wine stop.

10. Barkin’ Dog Duathalon – Denver, CO 5/30/2015
The largest duathalon in Colorado and a popular run-bike-run race, this race has two distances participants can choose from: a 1.2-mile run, 18k bike, and 5k run or a 5k run, 34k bike, and 5k run as they transverse the trails and roads through Cherry Creek State Park. Enjoy a post-race picnic and the 4200 acres of the park upon finishing.

Of course there are a lot more going on this spring, hundreds of mud runs and obstacle races in each state through the end of the year actually, and sometimes multiple in any given state, at various locations. The point is that there are so many races and so much fun to be had, it would be a tragedy to let it all slip away without stepping out and grabbing as much as you can. Another positive is that these races have a charity component and so you could always do good while you’re having fun. Enjoy Spring!

The United NYC Half Marathon: miles for a cause

United NYC Half Marathon Start Source: ABC online

United NYC Half Marathon Start
Source: ABC online

Last Sunday was my “miles for a cause” run, the first that I’ve run based on my fundraising efforts with 100% proceeds going to a youth charity. For this reason alone, it was a phenomenal success.  We, my donors and I, were able to successfully raise $1225.00 in just about six weeks with the limit being $1000.00.  I am tremendously pleased and humbled by the support and love shown by everyone for The Seed Project, an organization that provides sport and education scholarships for students in Senegal, West Africa, for which I chose to run. Words are insufficient to impress the positivity and good that will result in the lives that were touched by our efforts. Thus, I’m inspired to continue impacting lives one step at a time, with the hope that it will encourage others to make a difference doing what they love.

Secondary to my fundraising goal was my wish to run a PR, which didn’t happen much to my disappointment.  The NYC Half Marathon is run with much fanfare and spirit: lots of runners, spectators, media hype and excitement; sort of like its bigger counterpart, the NYC Marathon, only on a smaller scale.  With a field size of around 20,000, it’s not hard to see why.  Like the marathon, there are runners from all over the world, dozens of charities to choose from and it delivers a spectacle course. From Central Park to Times Square, then running along the West Side Highway to the heart of the financial district in lower Manhattan, it’s NYC 101, and impossible not to get caught up in the excitement of it all. Also, it’s not everyday one gets to stop traffic in Times Square with the hope of getting caught on the big screen.  I dare say that is the highlight of the race for many, that, and collecting the finisher’s medal.

Secondary to my fundraising goal was my wish to run a PR, which didn’t happen much to my disappointment. While it wasn’t a particularly difficult course, there were some, what I call, challenging moments: the hills in Central Park and the 4-mile stretch of the Westside Highway presented the most challenge and while I could factor in a number of reasons why this was so, I’ll just focus on adjusting my strategy for another race of this length. That being said, I finished in 1:38 while we enjoyed great weather during the run and I couldn’t help recalling the last time I ran that race in 2013, it was a freezing 18 degrees. However, at the finish it got quite chilly as the winds picked up and it turned out to be a very cold day from then on and I could only feel for those runners that were still on the course. I ended the day hanging out with the fundraising team at an after party hosted by the organizers in the seaport area. I really couldn’t be happier with my efforts..well maybe with my time..but I’ll gladly accept that to be able to give those kids in Senegal a better chance at life.

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Carpe Diem: Run with It

Source: blulabelbungalow.com

Source: blulabelbungalow.com

“Life is often compared to a marathon, but I think it is more like being a sprinter; long stretches of hard work punctuated by brief moments in which we are given the opportunity to perform at our best.”
-Michael Johnson

What a difference a week makes! From banks of snow and tunnels of cold air to kisses of sunshine and the keen almost-there scent of glorious Spring. Admittedly, there are still traces of snow on the ground but the rain is doing its thing, so am I, and so should you; which brings me to outdoor running and races. With the advent of Spring, there is a lot of running going on in these parts, and forgive me for being an overly enthusiastic runner, but, I am once again super-excited to be living in the running capital of the world.

Living in New York affords one the year-round opportunity for running, though I try to pretend otherwise when winter comes around. However, that is only for self-preservation as there are countless runners who brave the chill and ice to religiously get their daily runs in. Don’t ask me how or why, as the couple of times that I’ve given in and done so have left me convinced that it is not for me. In a perfect world, there are ten months of Summer, one month of Spring and one of Fall; no worries. Winter aside, it’s time to put your game face on. I’m so into what’s ahead that I’ve had a few shopping sprees specifically dedicated to running gear; nothing like new shoes, leggings and racer backs to get you into a total running frame of mind.

To get things going, I’m looking for a PR on Sunday at the United Airlines NYC Half Marathon. The weather looks promising, I feel fantastic as I’m revelling in racer-mode, only possible with a half marathon or less, the course is awesome -#TimeSquare- and so I expect great things to propel me into next month’s New Jersey marathon. Did I mention that I’m looking for a faster qualifying time for Boston 2016? That’s my next goal in the next race. Stay tuned for more on that. Till next week, seize these beautiful running days!

March-ing On to Spring and a Confident and more-than-Capable You

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It is the Winter that just won’t quit. If you think you’re in the process of having a winter melt down, you’re not alone.  I’ve been cold and had a cold since the day of the NYC Marathon last November and can barely remember what a hot day feels like.  To bring it all home, I now boast a full-fledged break-out of the cold that hit me last weekend when I temporarily took leave of my senses and went running in the park in 14 degrees.  My only excuse is that I have had enough.. enough running on the treadmill, breathing recycled, stale air, staring at the walls, meditating etc… and so I thought, why not? Cold notwithstanding, I had a good 12 mile run.  It was fun being in the park after three long months and though my lungs had the initial struggle with cold air, I was well bundled up, not ideal for running but necessary for winter, and after the first couple miles, it felt pretty good out and I was able to enjoy a decent run.  That there were other like-minded crazies out there was hardly surprising, this city loves to run.  On the other hand, my body didn’t enjoy the shock too much, and I’ve fought a losing battle with the cold since then with this week seeing me only one time forcing a run at the gym.

That being said, we’re already coming to the end of the first week of March, where running becomes fun once more, and I have my first race in just over a week.  Yippee! Though I shouldn’t be so excited with the weather if past experience is anything to go by. However, optimist that I am, I will not dwell on that but focus instead on the prospect of Spring and the fun it brings.  Training for this race has been pretty much on schedule given it’s only a half marathon, since I haven’t been able to do longer runs with all the “great” weather we’ve had. Hopefully, this improves as Spring gets closer and we’re off to a running start then, because next month is my first marathon, and I need to get a few long runs in by the end of March.

One thing I can say, is that planning and looking ahead to nicer weather and prettier days keeps things in perspective and is a sure way to keep your confidence up and stay motivated, which is always a tough but necessary thing to do in Winter. It allows you to plough ahead, through the snow, on those crazy winter runs, stay in the gym and carry on with workouts and classes on those bitter cold days, and keeps you healthily aware of your food choices when you’re tempted to start succumbing to winter blues and comfort food.  It also prevents you from going stir crazy when your movements become restricted as you would have been working a schedule to get things up and running come Spring.  For my part, I’m pretty pumped with all this indoor activity I’ve been busy running around with for the past months and I’m revving to go – sick and all – truth is, just thinking about it makes me feel better already so don’t sweat it. We’ve come this far and there are only a few more weeks left.  Here in New York, we runners are very excited!

Running Luxuries

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Remember those days when all you needed for an enjoyable run was good health, running shoes and shorts? It’s amazing what time and technology can do to a person; today the average runner cannot leave home without plugs of some kind dug into their ears attached to either a musical device or, more commonly, a smart phone.

On these life-support devices, one can either be subjected to a barrage of sound that effectively drowns out every noise, unfortunate person trying to get your attention and/or any connection to the present moment.  Supposedly, you are either encased in a world of kick-ass music to motivate your run, having that all-important conversation with Sally that couldn’t wait or listening to an audio book.  But wait, that’s not all and it’s not all bad either, modern technology has seen to it that you can now map your run, log your run and even count your calories and steps as you run – how about that?

In addition, we have at our disposal, a queue of wrist devices: watches and arm bands that can do more than we would ever have thought back in the day, per above. Information at our fingertips may be cliché but it’s real, as there’s no way of getting lost even if you wanted to. Most of these “luxury items” come GPS ready and can order and direct your run according to your taste – sounds like a take-out order right – and needs and if one doesn’t work, there’s always good-old-dependable, multi-faceted smart phone who comes hands-free ready with specially designed cases that can be attached either to your arm or clothing.

But by far, I think the greatest advantage comes with the road ID that provides a form of identification should something go wrong while out on a run. The more common forms bear your emergency information and are attached to your running shoes or worn on the wrist. Another device that has changed the face of running is the headphone. They come in a vast variety of colors, shapes and sizes and can be paired with your listening device. Whether you call them headphones or ear buds, it’s all the same but may not necessarily do the same thing. From regular all the way to bluetooth, its capabilities are specific to sound, style, fit and durability.

Tech gadgets aside, stepping up your run can now include running items specific to your comfort such as ear warmers, fancy headbands, compression sleeves for arms and legs, compression socks, running belts; which can hold your fuel, gels and phone, fuel belts and hydration packs. Whether you want to admit it or not, most of these additions to your run can, more often than not, be a bother; I often forget to charge my watch and my Nike plus band.  Also, I don’t know about you, but I look forward to a run as an escape from the humdrum of life and really just want to be effortless and free – not weighed down by clothes nor electronics – as the amount I have on impacts how fast my run will be. I don’t know but I kinda liked “those days.”

Advances in technology comes with a price; the price of seeing the “good old days” slip away as well as the cost of accessorizing your run.  This cost of outfitting for a run has increased almost a hundred fold in the last twenty years with all that’s available, and makes it more of a challenge just to run for the fun and love of it. Mind you, we haven’t even ventured into the area of advanced running shoes and wear, as this is not the point but that to will increase your cost to run.  Ahh… how I miss those days of shorts, tank and sneakers where the wind at my back was the only luxury I needed.

Running to the Sights, Sounds and Sunshine of Miami Beach

Running Heaven

Running Heaven

Selfie

Selfie

Call me spoiled, high-maintenance, so-not-new-Yorker, whatever, or rather,call me sunshine lover, jet setter (wink), or runner; I’ll respond to it all with varying degrees of enthusiasm. On the other hand, I’m no winter baby and so I’m here in beautiful, sunshiny, glitzy, never-sleep South Beach, Miami soaking up some sunshine for a few days to last me until Spring. Mind you, if I had a mind to escape the cold, I am sadly disappointed. It’s been chilly at best for the last couple days with today being OMG windy. That being said, the sun, emanating from its ultra-blue skies and reflecting off its pearly sand, is warm and offers a welcome cover of warmth, wind not-withstanding.

Indian Creek Road

Since I’ve pined away at home the entire winter, dreaming of running outdoors, it’s an easy guess what I did on this oh-but-for-the-wind-it-would-be-perfect day. Sure enough, I took off for a long and scenic run along the beach, broad walk and streets of Miami Beach, camera in hand and got me some treasure pics and memories that will last for a long time.

It was a day well spent and run-ned (my word) as evidenced by the photos, which by the way, I thoroughly enjoyed taking. After all, it’s all I’ll have left when I return to the Big A and this screaming winter and will have to suffice until Spring.

The famous Palm

The Famous Palm

The Marina

The Marina

Broadwalk

The Broad walk

Ocean Drive

Ocean Drive

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