Rounding off the Summer in running style: A 50K, Speed Runs, and Views to Run for.

Selfie stop @ Vineyard Haven Harbour

It’s been a helluva busy last couple of weeks let me tell you. In fact, I’ve been stretched so thin ( no one’s doing but mine) that I haven’t found the time to get on here and post anything! Excuses, excuses, I know, but the truth is hellishly the same I’m afraid. I’ve run around trying to keep the end of summer at bay by trying to fit in one too many activities to tide me over once it’s well and truly gone. As it is, Labor Day has come and gone and as of this past weekend we’re heading into Fall territory. Ouch! What have I been up to then!

Smart Ass Trail Mix-Up – 50K – 5th Place

Well two weekends ago, I did some impromptu running and ended up with a 50 K trophy for 5th place after running a 31 miler. Yes, my very first ultra! And it happened so by the way that it’s not even funny. Turned out a few runners I know happened to have mentioned that there were two races: 30K and 50K happening in my neck of the woods and I felt challenged to give it a shot – just to see if I was capable of going beyond 26 miles. As it happened, my running was great for the 30K (ie. 18 miles) and got progressively worse as the miles advanced. It didn’t help that I started out with the idea to treat it as a long run – it’s marathon season after all – and I had never run more than 22 miles for a long run. In addition to which I did little to no race preparedness and got all of four hours sleep the night before. I figured this was just to see if it was possible, no big thing really..I wasn’t planning on racing or anything..and just wanted to gauge my ultra running potential. Big mistake of course but two lessons well learnt. I am never one to do laid back running in a competitive setting (or laid back anything for that matter) and trail running requires a different set of running prep – a different strategy for sure – and will not be as easy as road running just because I enjoy it more. It might have been the smarter thing to cut it off at 18 miles but who says I am (LOL), I actually made a decision then that I was going to finish no matter what. I ended up having to run/walk for a few miles, when common sense prevailed. But I did finish, though with a pretty slow time and way below what I would have ever expected to get a trophy for. I guess with just 100 entrants for the entire thing and with just about half of that choosing to go on to do the ultra that didn’t place me in any stellar field of athletes, but hell, in light of the circumstances, I was fine with that.

Part of our lulu run group

A day later I was back in the gym and the following week I joined up with my running group for some speed work in Central Park. I have a standing Wednesday group run with some fine folks at one of the athletic stores in the city and ideally we meet up once a week, twice bi-weekly during summer, to do some speed runs and drills. Ideally, because really I haven’t been fastidious about meeting up, though I have managed to make it count when I do. These speed runs help me work on my pace, running efficiency, and breathing technique as we vary workouts to include speed drills, hill repeats, 1-mile intervals, and Yasso 800s’ among others. Still, I would like to do more and up my training some. Between work, the gym, and getting about this summer, I may have run my lowest record of miles for the month of August.

Bike Trail to State Beach, Martha’s Vineyard

I’m jumping headlong into September though and already have a few runs down. It all started with a Labor Day weekend trip to the Cape where I spent a lovely 2 & 1/2 days on Martha’s Vineyard. A serene- picturesque-tiny-town-old-harbour-countryside feel. It was amazing and way too short. But, I managed to get a run in through the town of Vineyard Haven and along the water with amazing views of the sunrise, the marina, and the endless ocean. Found myself some hills too heading into some winding countryside of sorts and even shared them with a few other runners. We for went running on one of the days and opted to bike to the beach and explore a bit. Needless to say it was great and exhausting fun. It had been a while since I’d been on a bike for that long. When it was all over I felt even more in need of a holiday than I did before the trip had begun. But hey… memories and experiences cannot be bought only lived and enjoyed one day, or one run at a time. I like to say, I will rest when I die! šŸ˜

Summer Runs – New York City

Summer Runs – Martha’s Vineyard

Summer Runs – Queens, NY

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Miles-4-A-Cause 2018: Team Life Without Lupus

The Lupus Research Alliance ā„¢

It’s been a busy past few weeks around here as Summer pretty much crash-landed on us and had everyone skipping to get a break in whether for a few days or a couple of weeks. I, for one, was pretty glad for the past week off to get caught up on my to-do list and try to squeeze in as much gym time as I could, as well as get some running in, and try to ease my guilt for taking some time off this coming week and weekend.

With all that’s been going on and with this race against time (or so it seems), I’ve been mulling over one of my major goals for this year and how best to go about it. Some of you may or may not be aware that each year I choose a cause that’s close to my heart to run for; thus adding meaning to my miles. This year, it took some deliberating but in the end it was a foregone conclusion really as I decided on running the TCS New York City Marathon for The Lupus Research Alliance.

A few years ago I finally figured that it wasn’t that difficult to turn my passion and pastime into something that could benefit not just me but others as well. Now, I fully embrace the ideology that there is no greater purpose than being a blessing. However, unlike previousĀ years, this year the charity I chose is a personal response to a story that struck very close to home. Someone very close to me was recently (in the last 6 months) diagnosed with Lupus. Prior to the diagnosis, we lived a time of uncertainty and fear caught between not knowing what we were dealing with and wondering where the heck it came from. Now, while those two feelings have been largely reduced, there remains a great deal of uncertainty still about this mystery illness. For months we have struggled to come to terms with what this means for our family and the changes it has brought to our lives. Personally, Lupus has opened my eyes to an autoimmune disease that is quickly changing and destroying individual lives in our country and around the world. Within a six-month period, I have seen the uncertainty, pain, discomfort, debilitating weakness, and fear caused by Lupus and I have been shocked and silenced by the heartrending changes it has brought to my life and to that of my family. It is totally humbling to come to a place of understanding the uncertainty of life and our chances of getting by untouched by the illnesses and diseases our world faces.

More than ever, I am convinced the time to act is now, not tomorrow, not next week, not later, but now. It is imperative that we do what we can with what we have to help make our world a healthier and safer place for our children and the generations to follow. It is important to understand that we can all do something; give something of ourselves, our time, and, or talent to help, not just this cause, but in the goal of leaving this world better off than we found it. To this end, I’m running the TCS New York City Marathon on November 4, to support Lupus Research in preventing, treating, and finding a cure.

I urge you to support this great cause and Team Life Without Lupus but also to choose life, act, take a stand, and make a difference and support me as we take back our world one step at a time. As per always, thank you so much for your support!

Click the link below to give and find out more.

https://www.crowdrise.com/o/en/campaign/lupus-research-alliance-nyc-2018/loricaldon?

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

An ideal spring race day would boast an average of 65Ā° 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.

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

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 cornerĀ provide. Therefore, join a running group if only for the support aspect, though you stand to gainĀ 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 lastĀ 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 toĀ 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 beĀ Ā the start of a great deal more, while for others it may beĀ 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 thatĀ some of these ideas I’ve noted on here are of some use to you, orĀ you’ll get other advice, or even develop ideas of your own.Ā  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.

 

Stepping Up to Run Your 1st Marathon

With all the marathon talk getting batted around, I figure now’s the best time to dig into the how, why, and which as it relates to embracing your own marathon moment. While this is not a comprehensive guide on the marathon process, from start to finish, it, at the very least, gives the prospective marathon runner an insight into the basics of how to go about planning and preparing for the race event of a lifetime.

Why a marathon?

It’s natural for someone who’ve run at least a dozen marathons to recommend it as a must-do, at-least-once-in-your-life, bucket list event. If for no other reason than that everyone should, at least once in their lifetime, push their perceived limits and embrace the incredible potential they were created with. Only then can one honestly know what he or she is capable of. As most marathon runners know, running a marathon will challenge, empower, inspire, motivate and change you. And not for the reasons you may think, for while the accomplishment of crossing the finish line on marathon day is the crowning achievement – and really is the sum of all your efforts leading up to that moment – it comes second to your dedication to training and the physical, mental, and financial sacrifices you made to get there. It is the tenacity, grit, and courage that has defined your training that will outlive your moment of glory and redefine you as a stronger and better version of yourself.

How do I choose which marathon to run?

It’s the 50,000 dollar question, made so as I’m a big believer that if something’s worth doing it’s worth doing well. So, if you’re in the market for a marathon, I’d suggest a popular one. And because I’m a New Yorker, and well because it’s popular, and famous and all that, I’d recommend the New York City Marathon. However, no worries if it’s outside of your range, I’m sure wherever you are, or somewhere close by, is bound to have one that meets the criteria of being a challenge and providing an enjoyable experience. One of the main reasons for going with a popular marathon for your first is that it provides a few things you will need as a first time marathoner. A popular race will have a lot of hype attached to it. This will overflow into the running and local community, which then encourages and fosters team and community spirit. The new runner needs this support and community for accountability, advice and training. Additionally, a popular race will also boast a certified and well-known course. You can use the information available to prepare and get yourself familiar with the race. By race day you should be comfortable, confident, and ready to run. Lastly, a race that is well-known holds the promise of a memorable event for a few reasons: there’s a very good chance it’ll be a well-executed race, have good crowd, support, great swag, and eats at the finish in addition to cool bling.

From Zero to Hero: preparing for the run of a lifetime

This part actually requires an entire article dedicated to it, but I’ll go ahead here and touch on the key concepts for running your first marathon and follow up with greater detail in a subsequent piece.

Because no one gets up one day and decides to run a marathon right there and then, it means careful thought goes into the planning and execution of such an event. Once the decision is made the runner can join a running club and be privy to their training schedule or adopt a certifiable training plan either through enlisting the expertise of a running coach or following a proven plan (online, from print etc.,) if training solo. Only, beware that enlisting professional help will get you a plan tailored to you while any other plan will have to be adjusted to your abilities and goals. In addition, new marathoners will likely have to change or enhance their diet to accommodate the change to their [active] lifestyle. As such, runners are encouraged to see their physician to assess their health and visit with a nutritionist if necessary to ensure they get the required foods in their diet that will fuel their training. Also, proper and adequate sleep is another key element that comprises a runner’s “diet” and oftentimes requires a concentrated effort to follow through on, this becomes even more critical in the final 3-4 weeks before race day. Additionally, Because of accountability and support factors, training with a group or team is recommended, however solo runners should be sure to get some group runs in to help with speed work and long runs. Just as important is gearing up and making sure to get good trainers and running shoes along with proper running wear. Finally, new runners should, in addition to their training, seek to participate in official races such as 5k’s, 10k’s and half marathons, where those races can be seen as additional training under race-like settings and their official time can be used to gauge progress and track ability and preparedness.

Now that you’ve gleaned just a little of how this momentous occasion goes down, trust me there is so much more tricks and tips to pulling this off in true warrior-like fashion, you can possibly appreciate the impact running a marathon can have on one’s life. It is not far-fetched to believe that it will change you.

Running Dreams: The TCS New York City Marathon

Source: getty images

Only those who dare to dream long enough and work hard enough will ever have a true shot at something grand enough to make believing worthwhile.

Last Sunday over 50,000 runners lived that dream at the TCS New York City Marathon. For some it was their first, while for others it may be their only or their last. Still, there are those who do this regularly, and for such as these, it never gets old. Regardless, I’m almost certain it was a defining moment for most, if not all, of them. I mean it was pretty defining with an American woman winning in the women’s category for the first time in forty years. Congratulations to Shalane Flannigan! For each runner though, their victory was just as important and valid. While many of us can talk a good talk, it takes so much more to run a marathon, half marathon or any endurance race that requires months of training. It takes grit, passion, determination, fortitude, sacrifice, and vision. No one gets up one day and decides to run a marathon tomorrow, it requires months of planning and preparation and all of this for one day, one race – a moment in time – and a medal, or so it seems.

In fact, many runners will dispute the notion of running for “just a medal.” For them, their sacrifices of time, effort, energy, pain etc., is worth the immeasurable feelings of pride, passion and purpose they experience every single time. Take all of that, times a hundred, and what you have is the resulting glory that is running and finishing the TCS New York City Marathon. It has the largest field size, the biggest spectator size, and the most volunteers compared to any other marathon around the world. And if that isn’t enough to entice your competitive and inspiring spirit, then the fact that it’s run as the most diverse and patriotic, yet inclusive, melting pot of humanity in the largest street party in one of the most renowned cities of the world ought to surely secure this momentous achievement high up on your bucket list.

The truth is while a lot of this sounds really grand, the average runner, the one who runs an average of 25-35 miles per week, is the one, forget the fanfare of running New York, who sees running a marathon or completing an endurance race as an opportunity to let the sport speak to their sense of determination, commitment, and tenacity. It’s a statement to anyone who’s listening that, ” Hey, I’m stronger, tougher and so much more able than you think!”

In a world gone crazy with all the violent acts being visited on citizens almost daily, we had that here in New York just days before the race, there is an indelible need to have an impact, to make our own positive mark and inspire others to do the same. In the face of evil, adversity and turmoil, nothing says “F you” like the communal spirit that is the marathon. And so crossing the finish line and getting that medal whether in New York, Bejing, London, or any other city, here in the United States or around the world, allows us to not only fulfill a dream, but it is our determined effort to face down life’s adversity and own the moment we deserve. Meanwhile, we get to wear the crown of our victory forever and will take all the bragging rights that goes along with it. #BADASSWARRIOR

Source: eBay

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