10 Reasons to Run a Marathon this Fall

Source: smileswithmoms.com

Source: smileswithmoms.com

You never know what life is gonna throw at you. One day you could be trading stocks on Wall Street, the next serving a humanitarian crisis in South Sudan. While that may be an extreme there exists many others; from health to sickness and every and anything in between, a person’s goals and life could change in an instant. And so we plan, our God-given right we believe, in the hopes of a million dreams coming through while ironically we have no control whatsoever over any of it.

So what does that mean for you the runner? For my part it says that while planning is necessary to maintain an illusion of order and control in our lives, it is far more important to live in the moment – making use of the days and seasons as they come and fulfilling our dreams as far as we can now. Dreams of running, loving, living, adventure, missions, service..whatever they may be, more often than not, we only get one shot at.

With that in mind, I propose a running dream come true this Fall. How about a marathon? The ultimate running experience for every person who considers him/herself a runner awaits you.  There will never be a better time, a more perfect season or better reasons to challenge yourself. Here’s why:

  1. Fall weather rocks a marathon with near perfect running conditions and is the most scenic and awe-inspiring to runners who are closet nature lovers. Think trails, mountains, foliage etc.
  2. It’s great for destination marathoners. That would be me! I love to pick a beautiful city right off the map just because it promises a beauty of a course.
  3. This is the best time to run (for first time marathoners), complete and even record a PR as it follows Summer where you would have had ample opportunity for executing a great training plan.
  4. Generally, travel rates are lower since it’s post summer so deals are on to make it a few days vacation with a marathon added for good measure.
  5. It presents the perfect opportunity to cross off that bucket list event or new year resolution. I’m guessing a marathon was high up on there.
  6. If you’re anything like me, you love a challenge. Well maybe I’m a bit much, but hey.. how about a Fall challenge to take it to the next level. For steadfast half-marathon folks or those who enjoy still shorter runs, how about pushing those limits while increasing your mileage and building endurance and ability. I promise you will be pleasantly surprised.
  7. Lots of charity runs happening this Fall as we head to October and Cancer Awareness month. Your marathon miles can do a lot of good to so many.
  8. Training for a marathon could just be what you need to put you in tip-top shape for the upcoming holiday season and all the irresistible food and treats that will surely tempt you then. The hard work you would have put into training to get you looking so svelte will help temper your palette as you will want to stay fit and healthy.
  9. A marathon is an inspiration to so many people, those who can’t run, those who do, and others who want so much to. Why not earn bragging rights as a marathoner while inspiring others to do the same.
  10. Lastly, if you didn’t know it, Fall is unofficially marathon season with two really big marathons taking center stage, the New York City Marathon and the Chicago Marathon. You could have a place in either one of these and run the opportunity of a lifetime. Now which runner out there can say no to that?

I guess if after all that you’re not thinking in terms of 26.2 then there’s really no hope for you. Tick-tock, tick-tock, the clock’s a’ticking – to marathon or not to marathon.

Why Carbs are good for your Running

Source: active.com

Source: active.com

You’ve probably heard it enough – lose the carbs, lose the weight – that you’re thinking carbohydrates is your worst enemy. Most diets and diet-fads alike support the theory that carbs contribute to weight gain when in truth it is calories and consuming more than you burn that does that. On the other hand, carbohydrates are necessary for the proper functioning of your body. In fact, The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that carbohydrates make up 45% to 60% of your daily calories. So, if you get 2,000 calories a day, between 900 to 1,300 should be from carbohydrates (The Mayo Clinic).

The Power to Choose (Wisely)
The problem is that not all carbs are created equal and so, it comes down to choosing your carbs wisely. Generally, nutritionists agree with choices that include whole grains and fruits and vegetables while watching your intake of naturally occurring sugar, and restricting foods with refined gains and added sugars. Particularly for the runner though, a diet rich in carbohydrates can help maximize training and performance; emphasis should be on the kind of carbs chosen, such as whole grains, beans, fresh fruit, milk and vegetables. The benefits of whole grain to your general health and wellbeing will be the subject of a later post, but suffice to say for now, your quality of life depends on it.

Power for the Run
Carbs are the brain’s main source of energy and the body’s preferred fuel source says dietician and strength coach Marie Spano R.D., C.S.C.S. It is the primary source for producing energy for all exercise including both long distance and resistance training. It follows that if you cut carbs, your energy will drop. Spano advises that decreasing the levels of your body’s stored carbohydrates will decrease your ability to produce force and power; we know the result of that.

A Running Times article on Runners World titled “Fueling the Runner: Carbohydrates –Battling a Bad Rep” by Jackie Dikos, R.D. and 2:45 marathoner, highlight a key issue that unsuspecting runners fall prey to – fatigue. She stipulates that further investigation of such a complaint may reflect a diet lacking in carbohydrates the cause of fatigue either purposely done, as part of low carb diet, or with the runner totally in the dark as to the amount of carbs needed to perform efficiently. As already stated, our bodies prefer carbohydrates as the main fuel source when we run. But did you know that if it is not present, the body will convert fat and protein into carbs for energy. According to Dikos, this is a very inefficient form of energy for an endurance athlete. When you don’t eat enough carbohydrates and continue training, your body snowballs into a state of mental and physical fatigue.

We Determine Carbs
We see then that carbohydrates are thus fuel for runners. For running efficiently and effectively we therefore need to throw away all our misgivings, all the misinformation and misrepresentation about carbs that we’ve sucked up for so long. No low-carb or no-carb diet can do the trick of making us the runners we wish to be, our responsibility is to make healthy food choices. Balance, variety and moderation should be our watchwords.

The Skinny on Recovery Runs

Source: my treadmill trainer.com

Source: my treadmill trainer.com

You’ve heard about that post-race run that all élite athletes and those in the competitive world of running make much ado about. Sounds like it might be something to get excited about and may even be beneficial to you in some way. But what does it really mean to you the runner? Is it a have-to? Can it have bearing on your future performance and ability? What’s all the hype about? Based on my experience and the information out there, I’ll attempt to shed some light on what is quickly becoming characteristic of runners today.

By definition, a recovery run is that which you do the day after a hard workout (race, long-distance run, speed work etc.)

I haven’t always been an advocate of recovery runs, truth is for much of my running life I’ve more-often-than-not, done my thing. I believe in whatever works for you and not necessarily a one-size-fit-all approach. Granted, there are times it’s necessary to toe the line as happens with particular training techniques and smart training practices but in my opinion, we are all unique and respond differently, adapt at our own pace and acquire different skills and abilities special to us. And so I’ll never be a “Jesse Owens”  but I can be the best me if I’m willing to sift through the crud and embody what really matters.

The Experts

Elite athletes, coaches and avid runners will tell you what we all know to be true, practice makes perfect. You want to get good at something you practice hard, you want to be great, you practice harder. Coaches are big on recovery runs as they believe it enhances training leading to optimal performance and so most of their workouts are designed with this in mind, whether it’s hill repeats, sprints, interval training or others ( key workouts aimed at challenging your body to resist causes of high-intensity fatigue) are usually followed by a period dedicated to recovery. The belief here is that exposing your body to these key workouts simulate adaptations that enable you to resist fatigue better the next time (Matt Fitzgerald, competitor.com). Matt proposes that because recovery runs are gentle enough to not to create a need for additional recovery, they allow you to perform at a high level in your key workouts and therefore get the most out of them. In his words, ‘It is a way of squeezing more out of your key workouts.’ Coach Jeff in an article titled “Maximize Your Running With Planned Recovery Days” on RunnersConnect stresses that the body gets faster and stronger by breaking down muscle (hard training),and then allowing the body to build itself back up faster than before (recovery) and then repeating the process until you’re in shape and ready to race. A slightly different twist but with the same emphasis on allowing the body time to assimilate and recuperate to come back stronger.

My Experience

Two years ago, after running my first marathon, was the first time I gave any real thought to doing a recovery run. Rebel that I am, I felt I didn’t particularly need it and that since I pretty much ran all the time anyway, I had it covered. Then I ran 26.2 miles of joy and sorrow that ended with me in a boot for a month, wishing I could get out a day or two after as that discomfort would be preferable to what I then had to deal with.  See the magic in the recovery run lies in forcing you past your limits to not only embrace pain..you did that with the “hard workout” but it challenges your body to go beyond the point of fatigue, again you already achieved this; to embrace it. The run is done in an entirely fatigued state thereby boosting fitness. That is to say, you’re so doggone tired and hurting, how about 5 miles on top of that. Sounds machochist right?  Don’t worry, there’s a method to the madness; you get to slow down to an easy pace where breathing and carrying a conversation is easily done and the distance could range from anywhere between 3 to 5 miles. Plus it’s a tiny price to pay for you who see an ultra in your future.Thinking about rolling over the next time after a key workout? Think again. Your next race may depend on it.

Running Miami


Less than twenty-six days stand between me and 3:25, my projected finish time for the Miami Marathon on February 2. I feel pretty confident I can achieve this time despite my last result here in New York, as nothing is more motivating to me than failure. Some may say The INGNYC Marathon wasn’t a failure and maybe so, given my injury and all, but I see Miami as an opportunity to redeem myself – to no one but me.

Training this time around hasn’t been so easy. Post the NYC run, I was still struggling with recovery from my ankle injury and was forced to take pretty much all of November off while I resumed running on Thanksgiving Day. Then along came Christmas and my Georgia trip, where I managed to squeeze some running in but not a lot.  Back to New York and it’s been crazy cold, snowing, even frigid at times; not-so-great weather for running outside, but here too I’ve been trying. I’m looking at the days dwindling away and I’m like..”wait!” But of course time waits on no one, least of all me, and I’m getting quite antsy here trying to get my miles in. I’m not too worried though, I’m relying on God, determination and self motivation to get me up-to-speed and across the finish line in record time.
In the final weeks leading up to the big day, I’ll be altering my regime somewhat to accommodate, what I pray is, a healthy and whole ankle. Not that my training plan for New York wasn’t ideal..it was and worked great in spite of the circumstances, but I really couldn’t reap the benefits then. So I’m speeding things up a bit, with the promise of ‘nicer’ weather on the way. A long run this weekend is long overdue followed by a shorter recovery run on Sunday. Thereafter, I’m planning five days of running next week; to include another long run and then on to some short tempo runs the following week. As I taper down leading up to race day, I also plan on stealing a day for some cross training, which will provide the necessary variety to keep me sane. My diet will see some slight changes as well, as I increase carb intake and amp up hydrating methods to include coconut water, tomato juice & smoothies..I love! Finally, stretching, stretching and stretching; very important to avoid injuries and to keep my muscles agile and relaxed.

Beautiful Miami, you inspire me!

Your First Long Run

So you’ve decided to give it a try.  Step out of your 3-5 mile comfort zone and enter the world of longer runs.


Maybe you’re thinking 10 miles, a half marathon or even a full marathon.  I say let’s start with the half.  It’s a safer bet and you’ll get to them all eventually anyway.  It’s all good.  I’d wager you’re well on your way already given your decision to challenge yourself.  I’ve always agreed that whatever the path of life you choose, you should always give it your best shot; it’s the only way you grow and have the opportunity to realize your full potential.  With that in mind and with you half-way there, after-all making the decision to stretch yourself being the toughest part, here are a few tips to help you along the way.

  • Build up slowly; you’ve done 5 miles so make your next goal 6 miles in say two weeks, three times a week then to 7 miles, then eight and so on.
  • Have an overarching goal/race in mind, that way you’ll be working towards something and will be motivated to see it through.
  • It sometimes helps to have a physical reminder, especially on those days you’re not feeling it; write down your goal and place it where you’re sure to see it and be reminded daily.
  • Find a running buddy; someone who shares your goal and will help you in the areas of encouragement and accountability, one with whom you can discuss healthy eating, rest habits and get motivated.                                          
  • Lastly, as you work your way up the mile rack, it may help if you do trial/test runs. Do a 10k, then as you progress try a 9 miler etc., and always, always, prepare yourself mentally as well as emotionally. Running is no easy feat and the best runners will tell you it’s as much mental as it’s physical.

Good Luck! You’ll do awesome!!!

Preparing for the Marathon

IMG_2441So I’m in! What does that mean? What does it look like?

Honestly, it means a lot.  I dreamt about it sure, I’ve talked and thought about it but I never really thought I would be given the opportunity of running it.  Back in the day, I know I sound ancient, but back home in the islands, we’re bombarded by western media, fashion, culture even and so we think of the United States and it’s like.. that place, we love to hate.  Truth be told, you really want to visit but not to be seen as wanting to.  Anyway, to think that after all these years of having this dream of running the New York City Marathon on my peripheral mind, that I’m actually here, loving it and running it!!! Way cool!

On the other hand, running is no strut on the catwalk.  Competitive running , even some-what competitive (me) demands so much commitment and determination.  I call it, “the sport of the mind” because a lot of preparation begins there.  I’ve written my goal, I tell it to myself daily and even have alert reminders on my phone and running buddies to keep me focused.  It’s like having another job minus the monthly paycheck.  My reward will be 26.2 miles under my shoes come Nov 3 and my medal stating so!

Some idea of what my crazy starting schedule looks like : 5/7 days of running, avg of 50 miles p/wk, strength training 2/7 days, high-intensity cardio, yoga and toning classes 3/7 days p/wk.  I’m also considering joining a  running group that’s doing training runs for the marathon as I feel this is important in acquiring a support base to help with mental and physical preparedness.  Now all I need is more hours in the day; if you can help in this regard, please let me know.

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