Mid-Year Running Goals and Summer Smiles Check

June and Summer is here! That means longer and warmer days, and hotter runs. These are the days we covet early morning and night runs, and even running in thunderstorms and the rain. It’s not hard to see why some of us are still reeling at the pace of this year and how quickly Summer has come upon us, and it hardly seems fair that Spring was here for all of a few weeks and now we’re summer running already. Hopefully that means we’ve gotten off the ground with some, or most, of our 2018 goals and have reason to smile.

Right around now, or mid-year, is always a good time to take a step back to reassess how far along we’ve come and where we’re headed. It may be necessary to even adjust some priorities and expectations. Be OK with that. Let it be enough that you were able to get a few things accomplished, or off the ground, and that there are some months left to work with. We are often our worst critics and are first to beat ourselves up when things don’t work out; that can sometimes be a good thing in that it can cause us to own up to our actions and seek to better them. On the other hand, too much of that and the unwillingness to cut ourselves some slack and apply the necessary pat on the back when it’s due, and we could find ourselves a bit jaded and unmotivated to take on the rest of the year.

For my part, I am one to focus on the positives and run with it; some of which include surviving Boston, which became a last-minute goal upon realizing that a PR was going to be near impossible. I did get in a new course – a destination marathon of sorts – out in Providence, RI and picked up a BQ. Additionally, I’m doing better with managing my time and finances around my running, which has allowed me to focus on other non-running related things that needed my attention. Still, there have been a couple of areas that have lost me or not gotten as much attention. The next six months will present ample opportunity to give it another go and place some focus there and on any other outstanding or unfinished business for this year. Some of that focus will be trained on continuing the run or a half-marathon PR, doing my charity run, and getting back on the logging-my-miles wagon. Yep, I’m shaking my heading with a smile here, I’ve fallen off too many times already but I won’t give up. I’ll get it right eventually I know.

One of the reasons it’s important to check in with our goals is that we can realign our them with our reality, if that reality has changed, and view ourselves and the foreseeable future through positive and realistic lens; this sets us up to achieve our year-end goals and leaves us ready to run this year out. So there you have it. Six months later, we’re looking OK and forward to accomplishing what’s left on that 2018 list. More importantly, we’re still smiling!

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Celebrating Running: Global Running Day

Yesterday, the world celebrated Global Running Day. Here in New York, runners turned out in their numbers and laced up for every reason under the sun. While we love to run this city, we were especially excited to be part of this momentous day to showcase the sport of running and encourage others to get moving. The idea was to get out; run, jog, speed walk, or walk, only get active and have some fun doing it, and inspire others to do the same.

Global Running Day was first celebrated in 2016 and was formerly known as National Running Day here in the United States. It’s usually celebrated on the first Wednesday of June every year since 2009. Runners from all over the world pledge via the Global Running Day website to take part in some type of running activity and gain support from like-minded individuals. Lots of runners also use this opportunity to just run amongst themselves and post their miles and motivational pics online.

Runners, like myself, took to the city streets, the parks, tracks, treadmills; wherever and however we could, to run in celebration of the gift of running. And while many teamed up, as is the custom on this occasion, whether through physical run groups or virtually, there were others still who went at it solo because of varying constraints. Regardless, it mattered only that everyone showed up and earned their bragging rights and shared their miles and reason for running. Hopefully this inspired the heck out of the curious, ambivalent, disinterested, discouraged, newbie, or sporadic runner to get running.

We encourage you to join a club, find a group, tag along with someone, or just lace up and hit the road and you will find that there are many others, just like you, all with a reason to run.

Racing in the rain vs Sunshine: A review of the Popular Brooklyn Half

An ideal spring race day would boast an average of 65° temps and be cool and overcast. Lovely right? Lovely and rare. Most runners know we’re at the mercy of Mother Nature on any given day; we can plan and strategize as much as we want, but when it comes down to it – when we stand at the start line of a race- our run is dictated primarily by the weather conditions with ability and efficiency coming in second. I’ve had three races so far this year that have left me in little doubt of that fact.

Last Saturday around 25,000 of us ran the Brooklyn Half Marathon to the tune of pouring rain. Now, I’ll be honest, this was my fourth time running this race and while the course was consistent in its wretchedness in the latter half, it was the first time I felt better able to deal with that part of it. All credit to the rains that never let up. Past races on this course have either been hot or humid, not true of this past one and I was only too glad. Seems, for running, I’m partial to cool weather conditions even if it’s wet as oppose to running with sunshine or in the heat, and please, never when it’s freezing rain.

Conditions at the start of the race were wet and hazy that Saturday morning and one couldn’t really be sure how things would progress. Granted, there was a lot of shivering going on, but it was manageable. We knew it would feel much better once we started to run and thankfully it did. What proved treacherous was navigating the puddles and oftentimes slippery roads. I soon gave up that fruitless struggle and committed to running with soaked and squishy shoes. The advantage of running in the rain is that because one need not be concerned with the perils of heat exhaustion, energy can be better utilized focusing on maximizing running efficiency, thus improving pace. And so, once I chuffed my preoccupation with soggy-less shoes, I was able to run and let the chips fall where they may. This strategy allowed me to really enjoy running in Prospect Park and have a really good first half, hills and all. Unfortunately, it didn’t last; though I did feel great up to mile 10. As usually happens with me on Ocean Parkway, the final stretch to Coney Island, I started to lose steam, and myself a bit, as it seemed that stretch would go on forever. With no end or variety in sight, it took all I had and then some to try to stay under an eight minute mile. I managed to do so to finish in 1:39 but I remain hugely disappointed that I couldn’t improve my time by two minutes.

I feel certain that this was the race to get the personal best I’ve been chasing since last year, except there’s something that I’m doing that’s not working. I’m committed to figuring out what the heck it is and so it stands to reason that I’m looking to my diet, sleep, and/or training to get the answers. I mean we had near-perfect running conditions yet I couldn’t deliver on the time. Meanwhile, after crossing the finish line, while I was a bit breathless, I was perfectly fine in under five minutes. I was neither in pain nor exhausted. I felt great. That begs the question, why then wasn’t I able to push more feeling as good as I was at the end? I’m not sure but it’s a question I mean to have answered.

Measuring Success in Running: The Providence Marathon negates my Boston performance or does it?

If at first you don’t succeed, dust yourself off and try again…

In running, as happens often in life, there appear to be more failures than successes. As a runner, it’s quite likely that for every good race you have, you may experience two bad ones. How do you reconcile this with a competitive, burgeoning spirit that thrives on success? A slightly baffling quandary if ever there was one, since on one hand you need success to push you and to make it all worthwhile, while on the other hand, failures are what pushes your dig deep, press on, try harder buttons. It is also what causes frustration, despair, and those doggone dry spells that have you questioning yourself and doubting your ability.

What if I told you last Sunday I ran the Providence Marathon and BQ’d. I kinda, totally did! Two weeks after a horrible race experience in Boston, I bowed to internal pressure, of my own design, and ran a race out in Rhode Island that was the antithesis of Boston in so far as the weather was concerned. It was a pretty course with some hills here and there though mostly flat that required a steady approach with incremental increases over time. I’m afraid I was exhausted by mile sixteen, from the week prior, and didn’t really do it justice. Still, I was able to stay within goal range and that meant something. A bit of redemption if you will.

I began this year of running with two major race disappointments, which leads me to the question that’s been on quite a few peoples’ minds – what is it that keeps me going back for more? Doesn’t successive disappointments make me less-inclined to lace up for another race?The simple answer is obviously not and unequivocally no. On a more complex level, I can argue for the feeling of having accomplished something that was challenging, exacting, and totally out there. There’s no feeling quite like it for someone with a competitive nature such as mine. The daredevil in me will never pack up and go home when failure knocks, but sees (and seizes) the opportunity to push boundaries, overcome limits, and redefine the impossible. This is what motivated me to run last Sunday at a moment’s notice, it is what has motivated me to run the Boston Marathon three times and has me heading for, quite possibly, a fourth. Boston and I, we have unfinished business. Maybe it’s engraved in my DNA, but I refuse to stop until I have conquered that course.

In all honesty, that’s how I live and treat with any challenge that life throws my way. I dust off failures as missed opportunities and consider the next step that will take me closer to my goal. And everytime that I run a race and it doesn’t turn out like I hoped it would, which is often enough, I shake off the disappointment, turn off the self recriminations, dig deep, and muscle up for the next time. So if anything, I’ve learnt that goals are simply benchmarks we put in place to help us navigate this life with some accountability and a modicum of affirmation, challenge, and encouragement. Perspective allows us to see each step of the journey as just another move forward to realising our true potential. As Des Linden, female winner of the Boston Marathon 2018 likes to say, “keep showing up.”

The Spirit of the Marathon thrived at Boston 2018

It is often said one should be careful what one asks for. It is also said that one should be specific in prayer. Whichever it is, it seems I didn’t cover all my bases as far as preparing for the Boston Marathon last Monday. On any typical spring day 26.2 miles is a good and challenging run. Because we haven’t been enjoying typical weather since last season, I shouldn’t have been overly surprised at what blew our way and maybe a bit more prepared – though I’m at a loss as to how, maybe mentally. On said day, the weather was unforgiving in its intent and threw everything it had at us. In fact, it was considered the worst conditions in the 122 years of the running of the Boston Marathon. I won’t dwell too much on the unceasing pouring rain, which started with the light snow on Sunday and ended with Snow again on Monday night post-marathon, or the 40 m/ph wind gusts, and the resulting permeating coldness and chills that saw many runners suffering hypothermia-like symptoms yet fighting valiantly to the end. There were also those for whom conditions made it too difficult to finish, and yet more still adjusted pace and hunkered down with raincoats, heat sheets, or plastic bags determined to run the race of their lives if just to finish. I won’t dwell I promise; Instead, I prefer to focus on the amazing spirit of the Marathon that shined through the heavy rains on that Marathon Monday and the fact over 30,000 runners braved it and got their moment to shine amidst the overwhelming clouds.

Runners entering Athlete’s Village

It was something that you couldn’t really prepare for. We began our trek to the buses at Boston Commons, from our respective hotels last Monday, also known as Patriot’s Day in Boston, aware that things were going to be a bit dicey. I mean from the day before at the Expo, we were hearing lots of “good luck out there tomorrow, you guys are gonna need it” and so the seed was down..it would not be an easy one. Hell, I doubt there’s anything like an “easy” marathon in Boston. In any event, I felt it was rain and that couldn’t possibly be worse than the heat of the two years prior. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Runners I spoke with at the hotel and on the bus that morning were, like me, wet but optimistic and excited. Not so exciting were wet shoes, which we tried to cover up for as long as possible. Under the tents at Hopkinton we huddled while the rains continued to make mud pies and pools everywhere. What stood out to me then, and even now, was how determined people were to not let the elements outside of their control dictate their ability to see this race through. I recall standing next to a guy under a raincoat, who sounded quite the Englishman, he mentioned being part of a larger group who were all running that day and that they were scattered about seeking warmth but would meet up in their corrals. “We’re running it,” he said, “I just need to change my socks.” See, the question of not running never even entered the conversation. At the hotel earlier, runners had been busy detaining the inevitable onslaught of wet shoes and feet by taping up their shoes or wrapping their feet in bags –It took all of two steps outside to see how futile that thought was. So there we were busy with strategy on how best to get started and staying as dry as possible for the duration. I don’t think quitting even entered anyone’s mind. What you think about are the months of training, the road to qualifying, how far you’ve come, and/or the cause you’re running for. At the end of the day it was the only motivation that was needed to face the weather. And out there, when the wind and rain kept drumming away at that thought and the cold was attempting to chip away at fortitude months in the making, thousands of us hunkered down, adjusted expectations and determined we would remember this day, maybe forever, and certainly because it was the day Boston kicked ass but we also kicked back with over 90% of runners finishing the race in miserable conditions.

Volunteers give high-fives as well as fuel to runners (source: boston globe.com)

EMT officials helping a runner across the finish line (source: bostonglobe)

Another heartening image ingrained with my memories of this race is that of the amazing volunteers that carried us through. From start to finish they were out there with not just fuel but words of encouragement and support that embodied the heart and spirit of the marathon. You had to give it to them, who leaves their warm and comfortable home on a day such as that to stand out there for hours on end to support people they didn’t even know. It’s the bigness of heart that was present time and again, from the kind words and help offered from one runner to the next, to the volunteers at mile 16 water table that offered an encouraging smile along with a drink under pouring rain, to the police men throughout the course, some of whom added a few stripes to their uniform, in my opinion, when they offered words of encouragement while carrying out their duty. The odd soldier was also in attendance along with fire department officers quietly cheering us on and in support of us having a safe and enjoyable race. I remain thankful for their service.

Spectators cheering runners on (source: bostonglobe.com)

Runners on Heartbreak Hill (source: bostonglobe.com)

Additionally, the spectators were an outstanding feature of the race that spoke to the indelible awesomeness of the people of Boston. From Hopkinton to Newton, through Brookline to downtown Boston, despite the rains and in spite of the damper atmosphere threatening to overshadow this race, Bostonians came out and cheered their hearts out for the runners. And yes, the crowds might have been a tad smaller than previous years and the funny, unique, and sassy signs were pretty much absent, but that in no way diminished from either the race or the experience. It would be remiss of me if I didn’t call out the volunteers at the finish, in particular for staying the course really and waiting it out as each runner made it home and crossed that finish line. There they were all lined up, ready to assist and help us transition from, what was for many, a difficult run. They hugged, congratulated, and saw to our needs – with the medics and those in the medical tent especially – providing first class care to those of us that were shaking, crying, shivering, hurting and having difficulty breathing.

Desiree Linden wins the women’s race @ the Boston Marathon in a time of 2:39:54 (source: bostonglobe.com)

Runners crossing the finish line on Bolyston Street (source: bostonglobe.com)

The true spirit of the marathon was present and on full display in Boston that Monday, as it was on that fateful day five years ago in that very same city. Any future obstacle might do well to remember that as American, Des Linden showed us how to rally like the champion she is as she ran her way to finish first place in the women’s division. While it was the slowest winning time ever recorded in Boston, it was an amazing finish in miserable conditions and reason for us all to smile. We did. We are, after all, Boston strong.

Photos courtesy Boston Globe

Taking NYC Half Marathon Lessons to Boston

Three weekends ago over 30 thousand runners ran the new course from Prospect Park, Brooklyn through the streets of New York City, into Times Square to finish NYRR’s (New York Road Runners) famous NYC half marathon in Central Park.

It’s a morning that I will remember for some time to come. Starting out cold and windy, runners were left to improvise at the start with triple layers, blankets, heat sheets and various oddities with one aim in mind, that of not freezing to death, or at the very least, keeping the blood flowing so leg muscles wouldn’t cramp or freeze up. The weather wasn’t that much of a surprise, this race has always been a cold one, but what threw a lot of us off was the brutality of the cold, which was February-like in its intensity. With real-feel temperatures in the teens there wasn’t much we could do but run, run and hope like hell that it would warm up a little and the wind would be kind. This leads to lesson 1: Plan B is hugely important. Extreme temperatures requires plan and goal adaptations, which quite likely means a change in running strategy.

The new course proved that most times different is good. It made for interesting running with new sights, or at least sights seen from a different angle, and many unsuspecting spectators in midtown Manhattan. Bless the hearts of all those who came out in their numbers to support and cheer along the course. They helped me navigate the head and cross winds and to dig deeper when the going got rough. I felt that if they weren’t running yet were willing to brave the cold to support those who were, then it was only right that I give it my best shot. One thing I definitely will take with me is lesson 2: No future pit stops to use the toilet. I’ve always been good at running without that necessity but for some strange reason, that morning, coming off the Manhattan Bridge from Brooklyn, at around mile 3, I had to go. Huge mistake; for though there were toilets lined up on the side, and while I jumped the railings to get to them, since there was no visible entry, and almost face-planted for my efforts, they were all locked save for one – the last one I tried out of a whole slough.. I sincerely lost about 8-10 minutes there and never really recovered. On the other hand, I felt really good about my hydration, there were adequate water stops, a gel station, and amazing volunteers behind those tables along the course. It is absolutely true that the race would not have been what it was without them. Lessons 3: Giving back blesses not only the one who receives but the giver as well. I am super appreciative to volunteers who give of their time and sacrifice their comfort for us runners.

As I head into Boston this weekend, I’m also mindful of being thankful for the opportunity to be there and to be able to participate in this amazing race for the third time. I remain committed to running my best race and to lesson 4: Never take a race for granted, no matter how much times you’ve run it before, or get complacent with a course. Have a healthy respect for it and always approach it with a strategy that it may become necessary to tweak.

It’s so important to see the opportunity for learning and development in every area of life and running is no different. If the goal is to be a better runner then there’s no better place to learn than in the field.

How Women are Running Things

Oprah finishes the Marine Corps marathon 1994

“Running is the greatest metaphor for life because you get out of it what you put into it.” – Oprah Winfrey

Two weeks ago we celebrated International Women’s Day but that’s not the end of it, the entire month of March has been dedicated Women’s History Month here in the United States. We’ve all been inspired by, or impacted upon, men and women, boys and girls alike, either by the women in our lives who lead by example or by those who have gone before us and paved the way for us, girls, to go out there and, each in our own way, conquer the world.

From the days of the suffrage movement to today, women have argued and fought for equal opportunities across the board. This fight has led to the presence of women in almost every echelon of society and have seen them dominate or come close to it in many fields such as sport, education, social justice and the family and gender issues. Even now, we are slowly breaking down barriers and reaching toward a future with no glass ceiling as women have begun to make their presence felt in, what has long been male-dominated fields such as economics, finance, politics, government and technology. I should point out that this is not meant to be disparaging or threatening to our boys and men. If anything, it should be met by a sure and equal response that women need and want male figures to stand and take their rightful place alongside us. This, however, is a topic for another time and place.

For my part, I grew up in the eighties, long after Katherine Switzer, the first woman to complete a marathon – an all-male race back in 1967 – whose registration as K.V. Switzer hid her gender and thus allowed her entry to the Boston Marathon. Nonetheless, I grew up hearing this story and learning of the struggle women faced having to prove that they weren’t fragile or lacked the stamina to compete in the world of running. In fact, women weren’t officially allowed to run the Marathon until 1972 and even then it was twelve years later before they could compete in the Olympics.

Top runners like Grete Waitz, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Gail Devers, Molly Barker, Joan Benoit, Pam Reed, Nicole Deboom, Florence Griffith-Joyner, Catherine Ndereba, Deena Katie, Paula Radcliffe, Shalane Flannigan, Desiree Devila, and Kara Groucher among others have kept women running pertinent and on the world stage. Year after year they clear hurdles and break records and have shown why women have become dominant runners and a force to be reckoned with across the running spectrum, from track and field to the Marathon and beyond. These athletes have inspired the average female, from young girls to moms and/or middle-aged women and everyone in-between, including some celebrities, who are not afraid to hope for more and push their limits, to see that maybe running could be more than just a competitive and elite sport, that it could be a tool to create awareness, motivate change, inspire hope, and make a difference in people’s lives.
“In 1967, few would have believed that marathon running would someday attract millions of women, become a glamour event in the Olympics and on the streets of major cities, help transform views of women’s physical ability and help redefine their economic roles in traditional cultures,” Switzer wrote in an essay http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/15/sports/othersports/15switzer.html for the New York Times in 2007. Going on 11 years later we can safely say that she helped pioneer a movement that continues to have reverberating effects all around us today. Like Switzer, when Oprah Winfrey at the age of 40 finished the Marine Corp marathon in 1994 (after dropping more than 80 lbs), she inspired many women to believe that they didn’t have to be athletes or even runners per se, they just had to be willing to work hard to achieve their dream. In other words, they had to want it badly enough.

Fast forward 2018, we now have more women running than ever before. From track, to road races, to obstacle racing to ultras, the field size of women runners and competitors have grown and even outgrown men in many instances. Just last Sunday, we ran the New York City half marathon (read the recap on my next blog) to the tune of a whopping 21,965 runners, of which 11,077 were women and 10,888 were men. All of that to say, we’re not only making our mark out in the corporate and business world, but we’ve discovered our running strength and are owning it. Progress is here and the future is bright. I’ll end the way I started, with a quote:

“The future belongs to those who believe in the power of their dreams.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Sources: active.com, ny times.com

March-ING on!

Source: pop sugar.com

Gotta say I’ve been ready for Spring since the ending of January. And now that March is here, I’m talking myself into its sights and sounds wherever I go. But darn it… the weather just won’t cooperate. I can do rain. What I can’t do is cold rain and the snow/sleet that accompanies it, along with the crazy wind we’ve been getting. One can only hope it’s on its way out. Meanwhile, there’s been lots of running so as to keep up with my first official race of the year – the NYC Half Marathon – happening this Sunday.

Ambivalence seems to be the order of the day as I’m not sure how to feel. Part of me is excited about the new course for this race – a new course is always a thrill – on the other hand, past experience has left me in chills. Literally. The timing of this race almost always ensures it’s a cold one. One can only hope for a miracle of sorts this time around. Weather projections aside however, there’s the usual pomp & excitement that comes with runners taking over the streets of NYC – running through Times Square never gets old, and now we get to explore different parts of the city as well. No more West Side Highway and Seaport or Financial District for me. I think many of us will not miss that too much, if at all, since running near the water is no one’s idea of a fun race on a cold day. That being said, I’m not sure if it’s wise to describe this as a fun run. Well..maybe so, maybe not, it all depends on perspective. Since I’d love to run a PR I’m not looking for too much of excitement. But hey, I’m not opposed to having a bit of fun out there on the course if time allows, which it probably won’t and that’s not the view of a pessimist. On the contrary, I’m always optimistic about my runs, maybe too much so some might say. In any and every event, I’m hoping for a good race and plan on spending this week relaxing the running, doing a bit more cross training, eating well, and getting to bed earlier. Notice I didn’t say early, because that’s near impossible, but earlier will ensure I get between 6-7 hours sleep per night in order to be able to execute a good race.

Race-preparedness means that I’d do well to look over the course, devise a running strategy and a few days before (like Thursday) go through my race checklist to make sure everything’s squared away and I’m ready to go. Most likely, I’ll enjoy a short, easy run on Saturday morning, about 3-5 miles – mainly because it’s become more of a tradition before my races, but also because it simply makes me feel better.

There really is no magic to this sport. You train, eat well, rest and allow the body to recover, and then just go out there on D-day and give it your best. At least that’s what I plan on doing. Wish me luck!

Ready, Set, Run-ning Gear

February Is Heart Health Month

img1519497740564_1.jpgFebruary brings to mind: hearts and flowers, and hugs and kisses, and endless mushiness. Cute and necessary I think, but ideally it’s how we should live everyday, receiving and sharing love with those in our lives and those we have the opportunity to meet. Before and beyond that though is the notion of loving ourselves. Just what does that mean anyway. Aside from pampering oneself and giving others the permission to treat us with dignity and respect, how can we engender love for ourselves that has a multiplying effect that extends beyond us to make a lasting impact on our world? I posit that how we treat and care for our bodies, minds, and spirits speaks a helluva lot more to how we care about ourselves and in turn determines whether we can truly care for others.

Every February we celebrate Heart Health Month. During this time we talk about physical matters of the heart (monitoring our cholesterol & sugar levels, diet, exercise, and other risks factors) all super important..but what if we paid equal attention to the emotional and spiritual aspect of our hearts as well. What if we approached the heart as more than just an organ that beats and transfers blood throughout the body, but one that is intrinsically linked to the very nature of our existence. After all, there is no life without it.

So with just a week left, it’s not too late to encourage you to consider:

(1) A healthier lifestyle this year. Give some thought to embracing a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables, lots of greens and color, whole grains; reduce your intake of unhealthy fats and oils, processed foods, refined sugar, and sugar additives.

(2) Visiting a doctor. Get all your vitals checked including your cholesterol and sugar levels and for heart and breathing irregularities, and blood pressure levels. Use the opportunity to take all the necessary annual blood and other tests that are recommended to make sure you’re healthy and whole physically.

(3) Exercise. Not over rated, exercise has been proven to have positive effects on your heart and reduce your chances of heart disease, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, or to have a stroke if you are physically active. Some experts recommend at least 30 minutes per day of some time of exercise that accelerates your heart rate, while some cardiologists even suggests running ( particularly interval training) as a means of achieving cardiovascular fitness. Most often getting involved in group exercise to motivate and support you can work to get you started and keep you going.

(4) Volunteering, giving back, and embracing our spiritual selves. Engaging in individual or community efforts that relates to reaching out and cultivating and building relationships with the aim of encouraging and uplifting others works to create feel-good endorphins and empathy in us and toward those we engage with. It also opens us up the reality of our place and purpose in life to being a blessing to others. We begin to recognize that there exist a common thread that links all that we do. Our desire to be healthy and whole individuals is tied to our need to live with meaning and purpose, which helps us in our pursuit of happiness. Ultimately, and altogether, it all has an over reaching positive impact on our mental, emotional, and thus, physical health.

Your (smart) Marathon Guide

Source: audible.com

A few months ago I promised to do a detailed piece on the steps to take when you do decide to run your first marathon. See, I’ve always believed it’s a done deal – fait accompli – now it’s only a matter of when (LOL). My last post about this was brief and gave a general sense on how to pursue this momentous event. Here, I’ll describe the steps to take now that you’ve already made the all-important decision on where or which marathon. Hopefully this leaves you fully informed and ready to run.

Steps to running your First 26.2

1. Ensure you are fit and able to run by visiting a doctor & doing a routine physical exam. Make sure to mention your plans so the physician can decide if there are any specific or other tests that you need to do.

2. When you get the OK, start doing small runs..even jogging is fine if you’re totally new to this..and increasing your mileage and pace incrementally. Starting out 4-5 times per week is a good idea depending on where you’re at – with a goal of 1 mile initially if you’re new or 3 miles or so for the runner with some experience but haven’t been running in a while. These runs should be done at an easy pace to gauge your ability and get the body used to running. Subsequent weeks should see an increase in both mileage and pace as you progress. The goal is to get your mind and body used to the idea and fact and to begin racking up some mileage. After about 3-4 weeks of assimilating you are now ready to figure out a marathon training plan.

3. First things first. Devise a plan that works for you, one that takes into account where you’re at and where you’re headed. Many of the popular marathons will offer some type of training assistance either online or locally. Depending on your proximity, you can choose which to take advantage of and be prepared to tweak it to suit your purpose. Most plans run between 16-18 weeks and should be a consideration before registration as you want to give yourself enough time to train.

4. I can never emphasize enough the importance of getting connected. Having some type of support system is fundamental to your training and race success. It doesn’t mean that you have to do every run in a group or with someone but only that you need to be accountable at some point in your training to someone, you need the support, encouragement, trading of information and critique that having others in your corner provide. Therefore, join a running group if only for the support aspect, though you stand to gain much more.

5. Around the 25% mark into your training you should be making headway with your running and should likely be focusing on speed, strength, and endurance. It is smart, at this point, to add some group runs into your training as part of your speed work, as in interval training and tempo runs and as part of your long runs, which should be seeing a small but steady increase in mileage weekly. In my training, I always reserve Saturdays for long runs and do them with friends when possible. I also try to run different routes to keep it interesting.

6. The fear factor, which may exist for new runners, is one that can be overcome by participating in a couple of races midway through training. Signing up for a 10k and half marathon helps you to get a feel for running under race-like conditions, gives you some experience and helps build your confidence. These runs are an opportunity to simulate your race day or as close to it as possible. Additionally, it is smart to try your marathon goal pace or slightly faster given that you won’t be running 26.2 miles just then.

7. In keeping with the last point, you should strive to do at least one simulation run in the last quarter of your training where you mimic your race day routine as close as possible; ie., run in your race day gear, take gels or whatever form of energy and calories you intend to have on d-day and hydrate as planned. Of course this should be a long run and maybe your longest at that. I usually do 20-22 miles.

8. A lot of us believe in carbs. It’s a runner’s primary source of calories and thus energy. I usually start carb-ing up two weeks before race day. However, as a first-time marathoner, it is important to overhaul your diet and nutrition to make sure you’re eating the right foods that will give the energy you need for training as well as enable you to build muscle and maintain a healthy weight. Running can take a lot from the runner, it is only wise to make sure that you are feeding the beast, so to speak. Some foods that power my runs are: whole grain spaghetti, potatoes ( white & sweet), brown rice, Farrow, stews w/beef and beans, ground beef/turkey, salmon, fruits, particularly banana and veggies and other whole grains like oatmeal.

9. I’ve found that protein shakes and/or other sources of energy and muscle boosters can add value to my running, and I often make my own at home using natural ingredients and fresh fruit and whole grains. Oftentimes, I use them pre or post runs, or, as often as I need the boost and depending on how my body feels.

10. Another important element to training is cross training. This has helped me in two main ways: (a) added variety to my workouts and broke up the monotony of running. (b) helped develop: muscle and strength through weight training, aerobic and anaerobic ability through cardio workouts like cycling and dance, and flexibility and strength through yoga. Cross training has always played a significant role when I’m training for marathons as I do it in tandem with my running workouts right from the onset. Other runners may do the odd cross training session or have a planned day per week. I urge you to try different methods and types of exercises and practice what works for you.

11. Getting enough sleep is a deal breaker when it comes to running, especially when it’s down to crunch time – the last 3 weeks before race day. Although, I will say that getting sufficient sleep throughout your training is paramount to having enough energy daily to deliver on your runs and other workouts. It also helps to improve your attitude and perspective and keeps you focused and excited to run.

12. Finally, with two weeks out and marathon day fast approaching, it is necessary to turn down the tempo some. Hard for those of us that are competitive but very necessary. While it maybe included in your training plan, or not, runners adopt a strategy known as tapering. It is the two-week period prior to race day when running is gradually reduced to allow your muscles to rest, relax, and repair themselves. It is done gradually and consists of varying methods but will all include eliminating long runs and reducing mileage and intensity. The idea is to use this period of rest to store up energy by resting well, including sleeping, eating and hydrating well. You can keep active by indulging in shorter, low-intensity workouts.

An aside to running, but something which maybe just as important to some runners who are in it for the from-first-step-to-finish-line experience, is the idea of keeping a log, journal, diary, or blog about running your first marathon. You can log your miles, post pictures of your training and progression, and write tidbits of advice and wisdom you’ve acquired along the way. Some benefits derived from journaling your marathon journey are: (a) You can use it to measure your progression and successes as well as to see where you may have delivered below your expectations. This can serve to motivate you to do better, try harder, or try again, or, it can help you see where your strengths are and what to focus on. (b) You can share your story and experience and use it to inspire or motivate others. (c) Your first marathon is a memorable event. For some it may be  the start of a great deal more, while for others it may be their only one, you won’t want to forget it nor regret having documented some aspect of it.

When all is said and done, you, the runner must find what works best for you. It could be that some of these ideas I’ve noted on here are of some use to you, or you’ll get other advice, or even develop ideas of your own.  That’s great if it’s what works for you. There is no one size that fits all. The successful runner is one who is focused though open, one who is not afraid of stepping up to try new things in the pursuit of what sets his feet on fire. He or she knows that all knowledge is good, though not all knowledge is pertinent. That being said, it is fundamentally important to have a workable training plan, to pay attention to your diet, to get enough sleep and to get connected with other runners. Everything else amounts to a bonus and will help deliver an exceptional marathon experience.

Ready. Set. Go.

 

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