This Thankful Running Heart

Photo Credit: Jim McWilliams / The Philadelphia Marathon

To think that it’s Thanksgiving already, that we’re already so close to the year’s end..sometimes I feel as though we’re in this race against time, only we’re getting left despite our best efforts to up the ante and increase our speed. In spite of this, and time’s steady progression, it is important that we take a moment to reflect on what we have been able to achieve thus far and in so doing be better able to continue in our pursuit of excellence and fulfillment.

Thanksgiving provides us the perfect opportunity to look both within and around us to account for our blessings and/or areas in our lives that we are thankful for. For my part, I’m particularly full of running thankfulness, thankful that:

– thus far this year I’ve had very minor running injuries
– I’ve been able to run four marathons within a 12-month period with a faster time each time
– I feel healthy and strong
– I qualified for Boston again
– my knowledge of running grows more and more each day
– I have a running group to train with
– I live and run in beautiful New York
– I’m able to share my running thoughts and dreams with you here on this blog
– I can now appreciate that there are no limits to what I can achieve if I want it badly enough
– through running I have met the most inspirational and dedicated people
– I know and love my body

Of course I’m thankful for a lot more than running; like family, friends, the gym, my job, my faith and yes, completing Philly in 3:34:33! I. Did. It. Last Sunday, I ran the Gore-Tex Philadelphia marathon. Here’s a short recap; downtown Philadelphia is a beautiful and historic city with pretty architecture and happening restaurants. The scenic route of the marathon was pretty cool and saw approximately 30,000 runners take off from center city around 7am. Save for the seemingly endless miles around a reservoir on the course, what can I say – I enjoy variety – this became the most challenging aspect of what was basically a flat and fast course, it would have been a phenomenal sub 3:30 run. Reflecting on my performance, I feel I need to particularly work on my pace in the latter half of a marathon if I’m to really maximize the negative-split concept, which is basically running the second half of the race faster than the first. Around mile 19 the forefront/ underside of my feet began complaining, I am convinced there is an issue there either with my shoes or feet, and I found myself struggling to increase and even keep pace. This led to some challenging moments from which I eventually emerged on top. Still, it was touch and go for a while there and though I’m always up for a challenge, a masochist I am not, so given this is my second time dealing with the same issue, I think this warrants looking into. All in all though, it was a great experience and my fastest marathon thus far, which makes me feel pretty confident moving forward; for this, I am extremely thankful.

Setting goals are great as it provides initiative, momentum and accountability. Realizing your goals are greater still for providing satisfaction, self-confidence, inspiration and a sense of achievement. There’s just over a month left in the year and more than enough time to express our thanks for life’s many blessings while yet keeping our eyes on the goal.

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Sick With Marathon Fever

imageHow many know it’s marathon season and that no where in the world do you feel it like here in New York City. The way I see it, it begins with Fall and lasts right through November though there is no official advent into what is in fact the most hyped running time of the year. This is due largely in part to the feature running event of the year being held here every November – the newly named, TCS NYC Marathon, a premier running event here in New York and perhaps the world as it is one of the World Marathon Major Series. In fact, it follows the Chicago marathon, which was two weeks ago and the Berlin marathon a couple weeks before that, all part of the Marathon Majors as well.

As a regular New Yorker, one can’t help but get caught up in the hype. The city lives and breathes running, its signs are everywhere: at the subway stations, in the shopping centers, the streets, on the air, everywhere. As a New York runner, it’s a bigger deal, with most runners rounding of their year of training with the run of a lifetime here in New York. Of course there are other marathons around this time as well, like the Philadelphia marathon, rock and roll Las Vegas, Marine Corp in DC and the Nike women’s marathon in San Francisco to name a few, and there’re even runners doing more than one of those. In fact, it’s not unheard of to run from Chicago to New York to Philly, not literally of course, but to take on those three marathons in succession. Whatever the reason, there is a whole bunch of running crazy going on; so much so, that you run the risk ..no pun intended..of company each time you go out for a run. Runners are everywhere: the parks, the busy city streets, the relatively quiet neighborhoods, the gyms, the outer boroughs – everywhere. The air is palpable and the feeling is infectious, everyone knows and a great deal care about the marathon. On Sunday November 2, it is expected 50,000 runners will take to the streets of New York City, accompanied and cheered on by thousands of spectators: members of the running community, family, friends, visitors and everyone else. If that is not in essence a celebration then I don’t know what is.  How to live here and not be a part of that? You either run, get run over, run out of town..kidding..mostly anyhow, or preserve sanity and health and, in the words of New York Road Runners (NYRR), get your run on.

Last year I had the privilege to run amid that 50,000 and what an experience it was. So good in fact, I’m back for more, though not running this time as I had other goals this year. This year I’m part of the spectator/volunteer crowd and think being on the other side should be quite something itself. It’s so cool that last year I ran in wave 2 of the orange coral and this year I get to be an Orange Coral Marshall; in case you couldn’t tell, I’m all about experiences and can I tell you, life is full of them and that is enough reason for living, loving and running.

In addition, I’m thick in the midst of all things running because I’m gearing up for Philly marathon on November 23. Training has offered me the opportunity to run all over the city sure, but it has also given me an insider’s view on how enthused New Yorkers are to this whole idea, rage, sport, fad -call it what you will- it’s real and like I stated above, likened to being caught with a bug, fever and all. Whether it’s 6am or 9pm makes little difference to runners out here, only the rain can cause a decline in their presence and even so temperatures must be low. As the marathon draws near, a week and a half away to be exact, a lot of runners are tapering down as training is pretty much done for this event, though I imagine the ones that are out there are just maintaining form now while others like myself are looking to the next run. In any event, that’s my rationale for the many I see daily on my runs in and around this fevered-marathon city. You can tell I love it here right..I’m the very biased, not-so-subtle aspiring New Yorker.

Beyond Disappointment Runs Hope

“Either you run the day or the day runs you.” – J. Rohn

How many times in life have you had to deal with things either not going the way you planned or not turning out the way you had hoped it would. If you ask me, too often. In the typical everyday scheme of things, life seems to be full of disappointments; from unemployment to sickness to death, it can be overwhelming and downright depressing at times. Add the running dynamic and things get a bit more dicey. Not only do you have to deal with life’s everyday disappointments, but now you have those that come along with the sport as well. How do we do it?

At the beginning of the year, I made a list. Remember those new year resolutions/ goals..yep those, well mine were particular to running and on there were a few pertaining to achieving new times and running new races. Mainly , I wanted to qualify for Boston next year, by which I mean run Boston next year, and frankly though I knew they weren’t interchangeable, I really didn’t consider not getting in if I qualified. You guys know what happened with that – major disappointment. But I survived, had to live to run another day right? In any event, I’m thinking… Ok, I still have Denver, my fun, exploratory run, which I’ve been looking forward to for sometime now, only now it’s also not happening. After much thought and strategizing, it seems more prudent to run a marathon that will allow me to re qualify, which is what I must do to run Boston 2016. Dreams of high-altitude (not really), rolling hills, fresh air, scenic route, adventure, and meeting new runners aside, I must now channel and redirect that energy and enthusiasm to achieve a bigger dream.

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Disappointment, I accept as a part of life. As a part of my running life, I find it a bit harder to manage – but manage I must. There is no where one can hide really. No runner plans on injury before a race after training so hard for so long, or on not finishing or qualifying or making the cut. Or what about falling sick, having a bad race or race cancellation (as was the case with the ING NYC Marathon 2012). These are not plans a runner makes, on the contrary, we do everything within out power to ensure we have the opportunity for a successful race: we train long and hard, sacrifice time, money, energy and give up so many things to make our dream happen, and to be honest, it happens as often as it doesn’t. So really 50/50 is not so bad but the over-achiever in me wants a higher percentage in my favor.

The key to overcoming and managing your disappointments, come as they must, lies in your perspective and in your hands. You see, our ability to choose what we do with what happens to us or even around us will ultimately determine our attitude and shape our actions. Choosing to put a positive spin on things, to see the light at the end of the tunnel, to take the good and leave the bad is a choice we have. This choice can either absorb us or absolve us, it can either makes us or break us, destroy us or build us. We get to choose. Each time I am faced with disappointment, I choose hope; I choose to motivate myself to try harder, to run faster, to be more diligent and more determined. It works for me.

The Philadelphia Marathon comes up on November 23, it’s my next hope for Boston 2016, where I hope to qualify with a faster time than before. I hear it’s a fast and pretty flat course, there should be some advantage to that. The weather will also be much colder, hopefully more cool than cold, but this is my reply when disappointment comes, I plan another race, I train a little harder, and mentally prepare myself to achieve what is inevitably a tougher goal the second time around. I never give up. Quitting is never an option.

Running a Fall Marathon (Part 1)

Bank Of America Chicago Marathon

Bank Of America Chicago Marathon

Sometimes there’s no help for it, you just have to take the proverbial bull by the horns and have faith in your handling. Deciding to run your first marathon or going for a fall goal after some absence away from running or maybe you’re like me, just looking for a good race in cool weather; whatever your reason, let’s pave the way to make it happen with as little pain and pomp as possible. Choosing your run should be among the first set of things you do so here’s a list of some great, local ones. Choose your fancy.

  • The Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon, Minneapolis, St. Paul/Minn.
  • The Bank of America Chicago Marathon
  • Under Armour Baltimore Marathon
  • Detroit Free Press/ Talmer Bank Marathon
  • Nike’s Women Marathon, San Diego, Cal.
  • New York City Marathon
  • Marine Corps Marathon, Washington DC
  • Anthem Richmond Marathon, Virginia
  • Philadelphia Marathon

For some of these races there are pre-conditions to racing or some pre-qualifying standard to be met, so that should be taken into consideration when choosing. For my part, I’ve decided on one not on the list there but part of the Rock n’  Roll series which are always loads of fun,  this one in Denver, Co.

So you’ve signed up..Congratulations! Now what? It’s time to start training. Various training plans exist ranging from 12 to 18 weeks but before taking up one it’s wise to get your body used to running four or five times a week and build some base mileage. This can offset injuries and help you prepare for the longer training runs due in a few months.  There are five parts to a successful marathon training plan says Jason Devaney, writer for Competitor Magazine, 1. Establishing a base. 2.Building core strength 3. Increasing mileage and developing fitness 4. Running a tune-up race and 5. Executing on race day. Next week we’ll cover similar aspects to these according to my experience in tandem with what the experts say. For now, let’s focus on building our base mileage by continuing to put in a few steady runs per week, slowly increasing as we go along.

Happy and focused running!

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