St. Luke’s Half Marathon & 5K


I’m not one to bury the lead so I’m happy to say I set a new 5K PR by running 22:37 at the St. Luke’s 5K!

This was the first time I’ve run sub-23:00 and I broke my previous PR by about 30 seconds. I am so incredibly ecstatic to have finally broken through what seemed like a barrier for the past couple races and I’m excited to see what’s to come.

The race itself was really solid. I ran the half marathon last year and didn’t have such a good time but the 5K was perfect. In hilly Pennsylvania, the St. Luke’s 5K is known to be a fast course. I knew it started with a pretty significant downhill, followed by rollers on the out-and-back course, and finished with a slight (kind of steep but short) uphill before dumping runners onto a track where you run about 300 meters into the finish line.

I got to the race with not a whole lot of time to spare but began my warm-up immediately with a few loops around the block near the finish line. I only managed to do about three strides before heading over to the starting area but I wanted to make sure I’d be able to line up closer to the front so I felt that was enough.

I might have been a bit ambitious with my self-seeding but it’s always tough to gauge, especially when there’s a significant amount of younger kids running the race. Regardless, I decided it would be better to get closer to the front than to get jammed up in the middle.

Instead of getting nervous before this race I decided to take a Shalane Flanagan approach to my racing and just go balls to the wall from the beginning. I figured if I blew up later on, at least I tried. My mantra for this one was the same as Shalane’s—f–k shit up.

When the starting gun went off, I did just that and raced down the downhill letting my legs take me at whatever speed they felt was right. Turns out racing a downhill at the very start of a race is hard. With all the excitement and adrenaline pumping I felt almost as if my legs were getting ahead of me but I tried to keep up as much as possible. Once the road flattened out a bit, I reined it in and settled into a steady pace.

I decided again not to use my watch during this race. I feel like this helps me focus on how I’m really feeling instead of worrying about pace. I don’t know if I’ll keep doing this every 5K I race but I really like the feeling of tuning into my body and listening to what it’s telling me instead of what my GPS says.

I kept a steady pace until the turnaround when I decided to try to pick it up a bit. I was pleasantly surprised when I was able to pick off a few runners on some of the rollers. Hills are usually not my specialty but I think I’ve gotten strong enough where I can really charge up them.

By the time I passed the 2-mile marker on the out-and-back the half marathoners had begun their race and were coming towards the 5Kers. This was a bit tough because it really squeezed the 5K into almost a single file lane, which made any passing or surges hard. Soon enough though the course took us up the final hill and onto the track. At this point, Adam—who was volunteering in the medical tent—was waiting at the top with the rest of the St. Luke’s medical volunteers and I started hearing them cheer my name which gave me a boost of energy for the final trek around the track. I tried for one last surge and as I was coming up on the finish I saw the race clock and knew I was going to break 23 minutes.

I crossed the line at 22:35 (although the official results list me at 22:37) and was thrilled with my time! I feel like breaking 23 minutes has remained elusive to me in the past two 5Ks I’ve done. It always felt in reach but either conditions weren’t great or something was off and it didn’t happen but today it felt easy. Yes, I said easy. I know I had more left in the tank and I know I probably could have run even faster. I still need to practice on getting uncomfortable in the 5K. I think I’m still a little hesitant to reach that point but I know once I do, I’ll be able to really see some improvement.

Big Hearts Bright Hope 5K

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I won—yes, outright won—a local 5K. WHUT. Here’s the story.

As many of you know, I’ve been training for 5Ks lately. It’s been a humbling and rewarding experience and so far, I’ve learned a lot. I’ve done more speed workouts than ever before and my average pace per run has dropped significantly.

The thing I like about training for 5Ks is I’ve been training for a season as opposed to training for a goal race. I actually really like this because it takes the pressure off of one day and one race.

I raced a 5K a few weeks ago (and completely neglected to post about it–sorry!) and was pretty disappointed I didn’t automatically snag a new PR. I came close, but didn’t get it. It was a cold, windy day and I was pretty nervous–like marathon nervous–to start. I ran even splits and my legs felt great but my breathing was way off. I ended up placing third in my age group, which was great, but I wanted more.

Two weeks ago I ran my second 5K race of the season. The weather wasn’t ideal, steady winds at 16-20mph with gusts of 25+ mph. (Wind is my nemesis when it comes to running weather.) Right off the bat I knew it probably wasn’t going to be a PR race. I decided to run sans watch because I knew if I kept checking my pace I’d just get disappointed.

The race started at a local community center which was surrounded by a park. I did my 15-minute warmup trhough the park before heading over to the start line. I wasn’t as nervous as my first 5K of the season, I think because the pressure was off.

I also finally had the balls to line up relatively close to the start and when the gun went off I just went with the leading pack of guys.

It only took about a quarter of a mile for me to realize I was the only woman around. The lead pack went out and got ahead (with Adam leading the group!) and then it was me and two guys. Seriously, no women to be found, anywhere. I kind of assumed there must have been a woman in the lead group but I really couldn’t recall seeing one. I didn’t want to worry about it too much though so I kept focusing on my pace and try to build a gap between myself and the guy behind me.

The wind was pretty brutal though at some points. It wasn’t a cold wind but it definitely increased my level of effort a lot and made it hard to breathe at points. The course was also pretty confusing though. It was through neighborhoods by the community center but there were tons of turns (which slowed me down) and most of the turns were lacking volunteers telling the runners which way to go. Since I’ve never been so far in front of a race, I’ve never not known where I should be going. Usually you just follow the pack. But not this time. There were at least two points in the race where myself and the two guys running near me totally guessed which way to go. We ended up running the right course which was good but the added stress didn’t help.

Since I didn’t wear my watch, I don’t know what my splits were so I’m not going to do a mile-by-mile breakdown of the race. But, before I knew it I was headed back toward the community center and the cops holding traffic yelled out at me “First female! First female!” That was pretty surreal!! I came into the parking lot where the race finished and Adam was yelling for me (he had already cruised into first place!). I ran around the parking lot and into the finish and asked him, “Was I the first girl?!” And I WAS! It was so incredible.

Now, if I’m being honest, the race was not that competitive but I don’t care. I still was the first woman to cross the finish line and I am damn proud of it!

Running and Racing Fearless

fearlessThis weekend I have my first 5K since I started training to race the 5K—and I’m getting nervous!

About a month ago I started getting coaching advice from our own Runner’s World coach (and 2:13 marathoner) Budd Coates. I needed help because I honestly had no idea where to begin with 5K training. I knew I would need to push myself and I’d be running a lot more speed workouts than I’m used to but I needed guidance as to how to actually construct a training week. And boy did I get it from Budd.

He’s handed me weekly plans I never thought would be possible for me. I’m talking about workouts with paces as low as 6:20. But I’ve surprised myself and I’ve nailed those workouts without a problem. They’re hard. My legs feel it afterwards. But I know it’s working.

Going into Sunday’s race, I know my biggest obstacle won’t be trying to hit my goal pace but rather overcoming my fear. I’m afraid to line up too close to the starting line because I don’t want to be in anyone else’s way. I’m afraid to see those paces flash across my watch in case I don’t hit the right pace. I’m afraid that I’ll miss my goal and be disappointed in the outcome.

But none of that matters because 5K training isn’t marathon training. I only know what it’s like to train hard for a race that is left to chance at the end of the day. I only know what it’s like to follow a plan for four months only to not be able to go to the bathroom on race morning and cramp up at mile 15. Training for a 5K isn’t like that.

It’s hard and more challenging (for me) than training for a marathon but I’m enjoying it so much more. If I can’t overcome my fears on Sunday and really lay it all on the line, it’s not a big deal. I’ll be fully recovered by next Tuesday and have two more 5Ks coming up in the next month to test my fears again.

So far, I like 5K training and I’m just looking forward to running fearless this weekend.

3 Treadmill Workouts I’m Loving

In the fall my boyfriend and I splurged and bought a treadmill for our apartment. It was the perfect addition to our at-home gym in our basement, which we now refer fondly to as “the thunder dungeon” (I did not come up with the name, obvi).

Neither of us are particularly in love with running on the treadmill – and given the option, I’d say we’d both prefer to run outdoors any day – but when the mornings are really dark, and temps drop below zero, it’s pretty sweet having the treadmill conveniently located in our own home. Also, I can run in just a sports bra and booty shorts and binge on as much terrible TV as I want, which I don’t mind!

Lately, as part of training for 5Ks, I’ve been doing a lot of speed workouts on the treadmill. I would much prefer to do most of these on the track but unfortunately the one public track we have access to doesn’t have lights and I can’t get there during the day. Womp, womp.

However, I have discovered some pretty good workouts to do on the treadmill that aren’t completely boring or borderline terrifying (I haven’t fallen off yet!). I usually start each workout with a solid 15 minutes of easy running to warm up – also, my basement is cold.

3×1-mile repeats

  • I know some people will scoff at this and say “How could you possibly do mile repeats on the dreadmill?!” Well, my mile repeats aren’t super fast paced so I don’t think I’m going to absolutely eat it.
  • To do the workout: Start off with 15 minutes of easy running for a warmup and then do your first mile. I’ve been running them at 5K pace + 30 seconds, so for me that’s a 7:30/pace. In between each repeat I recover for 800m (or a half mile) at a super easy pace before beginning the next repeat. I’ve been trying to do each mile slightly faster, but I really only increase the speed by one. Finish with a 10-minute cool down jog.

Fartlek – 5-6 x 3:00 at 5K pace

  • Fartleks are a great workout to do on the treadmill because they’re based off of time rather than distance.
  • To do the workout: Start with a 15-minute warmup then jack the speed up to 5K pace for 3:00. Follow each interval with 2:00 of recovery jogging. Repeat this 5-6 times (or more if you’re up for it!). Finish with a 10-minute cool down.

Progression Run 

  • If you do a progression run based on time rather than distance, they aren’t so bad on the treadmill (especially if you have sometime good to watch!).
  • To do the workout: Start with 30 minutes of easy running followed by 15 minutes at steady state and finish up with 5 minutes at 5K pace. My progression looked like this: 30 minutes at 8:49/mile, 15 minutes at 8:06/mile, 5 minutes at 7:14/mile. I finished with a 10-minute cool down.

Remember, these workouts work really well for me, but they might not be the best for you. If you want to try them go ahead, I think they’re fun! But be careful not to push too hard. You don’t want to end up like this:



Monday Motivation: Make It Count

(Source: Pinterest)

(Source: Pinterest)

Happy New Year! I hope you enjoyed the holidays and were surrounded by those you love. I also hope your first miles of 2015 were blissful and strong. I ran 10 miles on January 1 to ring in the New Year and they couldn’t have gone smoother. As far as resolutions go, I haven’t set any concrete ones like “I want to set a xx:xx PR in 2015!” or “This will be the year I BQ!” While I think those kind of goals are great to have, I don’t know if they always work for me.

Instead, I have a few things I’d like to work on in terms of running this year.

  • Get stronger with more consistent strength training.
  • Get faster by doing more speed work.
  • Fall in love with running again (I’ve been working on this since my disappointing run in Chicago).
  • Run gadget-less more often.
  • Have fun!

That’s it! Nothing too crazy, just a few goals to keep me on track this year. What are your running goals for 2015?

Training During the Holidays

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I once read on this cool, little website called (cough, my employer, cough) that to maintain fitness when you’re not in training you just need to run 30 minutes 2-3 times a week.

I kept telling myself this last week as I watched days go by during the holidays and I barely ran more than 5 miles at a time. I ran exactly one speed workout (6 miles with 3×1-mile at goal 5K pace, so nothing to scoff at!) and managed to fit in three other measly runs between the presents, the family time, the cookies, and the wine… all of the wine.

Instead of feeling guilty about missing a long run and consuming about a billion calories, I reminded myself of that nifty running tip from RW. Fitness doesn’t disappear after a week of reveling and enjoying yourself with your family during the holidays. In fact, sometimes breaks like I had last week help to restore your determination in training, whatever your goal might be.

Last week I made sure to check off my most important workout and I planned it so I’d run that workout before heading back to Massachusetts to see my family. Why did I do this? Because I knew I wouldn’t be able to drag myself away from a delicious breakfast with my family in our cozy New England home on Christmas Day to run 3×1-mile. I knew I would be up late, drinking wine, eating delicious foods, and enjoying the company of those I love. Missing out on moments like that to run a workout is not worth worrying about my fitness.

Your fitness will be fine during the holidays. Enjoy time with your family, friends, and loved ones, and worry about your training after New Years and the holidays are just really lovely recent memories. You can hit the roads as hard as all the other New Year’s resolution-ers do every year.

Happy holidays!

Monday Motivation: Stronger Each Day

Last week I hit a new 5K training milestone – I ran six days and 40 miles total. I’ve hit 40+ miles before but that was always when I was training for marathons, definitely never for a 5K. It was the first time I’ve ever run six days in a week. Usually I run five days a week with one cross-training day and one full rest day.

I’ve added in more speedwork and a lot more strength and now I’m starting to see the changes. I’m seeing more definition in my legs than I’ve ever seen before. I’m feeling better and faster on easy runs. And paces that I once thought were impossible for me are starting to become more and more possible. So far, my personal little #5Krevolution is turning out even better than I had hoped!

(Source: Pinterest)

(Source: Pinterest)

What Should My 5K Goal Be?

Photo from Shalane Flanagan's Back the Track 5K where I ran another 23:02.

Photo from Shalane Flanagan’s Back the Track 5K where I ran another 23:02.

The other day I went on a lunch run. I didn’t have an agenda. I thought I’d go out for a 5-ish-mile easy run.

During the first mile I settled in to an 8:30/mile pace. Lately, this has been my natural “easy” pace. (In truth, it’s probably a little faster than I should be running on easy days but it feels comfortable.) The route I decided to run was an out-and-back and was rather uneventful until mile four clicked off and I looked down at my watch and saw 7:57/mile.

I don’t typically run 7:xx/mile during an easy run and I most definitely don’t run it comfortably. At least that’s been the case until this lunch run. I felt totally comfortable and didn’t notice a change in effort or breathing. Then my fifth mile clicked off and my watch read 7:47.

So what’s the deal?

About a month ago I posted about how I wanted to focus on speed for the winter. I decided to hone in on training for 5Ks because I think it’s a manageable goal, especially once the weather gets really bad. To work on this I’ve been incorporating more speed work into my training week. I’ve been running at least one tempo and one interval run each week and now I’m starting to see the impact.

My only problem is I have no idea how to actually “train” for a fast 5K. Sure, when I started running I did a couch-to-5K program. I ran my first 5K in 28:07 in September of 2012 but then I immediately began climbing the race distance ladder instead of working on speed.

I had never really raced a 5K until a month ago when I decided to test my fitness to see where I should start. I ran a 23:02, a nearly 2-minute PR since my previous 5K. After that I decided my first goal should be to break 23:00 but then my next goal should be… I don’t know?

If I’m running high 7:xx/mile pace at the end of an easy run, I don’t know what a more realistic 5K goal should be. Maybe a 21:xx? All I know is I like this newfound speed and I like the challenge running fast presents to me. Sure running long is fun too but right now, at the risk of sounding super corny, I’ve got the need for speed.

I’m welcome to any suggestions about what you might think would be a good 5K time goal. Share your thoughts in the comments! :)

Back to the Basics

My speedy shoes!

My speedy shoes!

On Sunday I ran a 5K PR of 23:02, good enough for fourth female overall (I thought I was third since spectators near the finish said I was but oh well!), first in my age group, and I won a turkey! Best.Prize.Ever.

Anyway, this was a really small 5K and it was run in conjunction with a larger 10-miler that my boyfriend ran (he also set a PR). The 10-miler goes up and over a mountain in our town and I wanted no part in that. Instead, I registered for the 5K as a way to test my fitness and see what kind of shape my legs were in a month after Chicago.

I was pleasantly surprised to have set a 1:50 PR off of my last 5K which was in April. Like I said, I went into this race just looking to test my fitness, but really, I wanted to set a PR and I wanted to win a turkey.

But, I had some other motives as well. The night before the race I told my boyfriend “it would be really cool to go under 24 minutes.” I think he didn’t want me to get my hopes up too much because honestly, I haven’t been running too much since Chicago. I’ve done a couple speed workouts, two “long” runs, and a bunch of easy runs, but that’s about it.

I had a feeling I might have some speed left and welp, during the race it came out. It felt so good to be running a race, actually racing a race, and moving fast. I don’t think I’ve truly felt that in my running life in the two years I’ve been at it.

So I’ve decided to spend the winter chasing after that feeling. Getting turnover in my legs. Doing speed workouts. Pushing my limits.

I don’t have a time goal or target paces. I just want to get that feeling I had on Sunday.

My next race is on November 29 at Shalane Flanagan’s Back the Track 5K in Marblehead. We’ll see what happens next!

Race Recap: Chicago Marathon

What happened?

That’s the text I got from my family and friends who were tracking me at Sunday’s Chicago Marathon. It was my third marathon and I had trained to run a sub-4:00. Through the half, I was on pace to run a sub-3:55 which would have been a 12-minute PR. I was feeling great, strong, confident, until everything fell apart at mile 15.

So, what happened? Let’s start from the beginning with what went right pre-race.

Our flight was super easy and we lucked out by getting extra leg space!

Jackpot! So. Much. Room.

Jackpot! So. Much. Room.

I had a nice shakeout run with my boyfriend and his friend who was in town for the race too. We ran fast but it felt easy.

Striking a pose at the end of the Navy Pier.

Striking a pose at the end of the Navy Pier.

We took a free shuttle to the expo and spent about an hour there in an attempt to not walk around too much.


We rested during most of the afternoon before going over to a friend’s apartment to cook our own, homemade pre-race pasta dinner.

Our beautiful view while cooking dinner at a friend's apartment.

Our beautiful view while cooking dinner at a friend’s apartment.

I got about 8+ hours of restful sleep and awoke on race morning feeling refreshed and ready to go.

We got to the race with plenty of time to spare, however, we didn’t realize how long it would take for 45,000 runners to get through security. By the time I checked my bag at gear check and got in the porta potty line (to pee!) I had about 10 minutes until the corrals closed. The lines weren’t moving at all so I decided it was probably just nervous pee and I could hold it, so I left the line and headed for my corral to find the 4:00 pacer.

Our throwaway game was on point.

Our throwaway game was on point.

I found the pacer but I didn’t get to line up as close to them as I would have liked. Then, they dropped their pacing signs and were nowhere to be seen for the rest of the race. That was frustrating because I’m used to pacers holding the sign for the whole race so they can be seen. That wasn’t the case in Chicago.

Chicago is a crowded race so I spent the first few miles trying to get around people to find some open space, but there really wasn’t any. Going into Sunday my plan was to run with the 4:00 pacer through the half and then, depending on how I felt, step it up a bit. Since I couldn’t find the pacer after the gun went off, that plan went out the window. Instead I tried to just run based on feel.

This worked but I was nervous when I kept seeing my miles click off at 8:35-8:54/mile. I thought this was too fast but I was really feeling good so I just decided to go with it.

Then I started to get excited. I knew a 3:55 marathon was a 8:58/mile pace so I knew I was well under that. I told myself to just keep running at a comfortable place, no speeding up, but no slowing down.

Still feeling good, and smiling, at this point.

Still feeling good, and smiling, at this point.

After hitting mile 10, the pee that didn’t happen at the start, began to make it’s presence known. I tried to ward it off but by the half I knew I was going to have to stop at the nearest porta potty to avoid cramping later on.

I didn’t see a porta potty until mile 15 and by that time I had to pee so bad I thought I was going to explode. I lost a whole two minutes just peeing (sorry for the TMI) and because porta potties are disgusting, I had to squat. The second I started running again I knew my race was gone, my legs immediately cramped up and remained cramped for the final 11.2 miles.

Pain. Face.

Pain. Face.

My left calf and hamstring felt like they had rolled up into a ball. It totally threw off my form and I felt so horrible the rest of the race. I don’t remember a lot from the last 11 miles. There was a lot of walking. Plenty of self-pity. I even thought about dropping out.

Somehow I managed to stick it out and by the time I crossed the finish I just wanted to sit down on the ground and cry. I felt so defeated.

When I talked to my dad after the race he was very congratulatory and told me, sometimes the marathons to be most proud of are not the PRs but the ones you finished, despite the conditions. He’s right. There’s only so much you can train for and prepare for when it comes to running marathons. Leading up to Chicago, I was in the best shape I’ve been in for a race. I trained in all conditions, mastered my nutrition, tested my gear, found the perfect shoes – I was as prepared as I could have been.

We all made it.

We all made it.

So what happened? I think I learned majorly big city races are not for me. Or, at least they’re not conducive to a PR for me. Had it not been so crowded at the start, I might have been able to use the bathroom before and instead of writing about what went wrong right now, I’d be writing about how I set a 12-minute PR.

But there are so many things that can happen in a marathon. Things that we can do wrong as runners and things that are completely out of our control. Each mile teaches us something and we can use those lessons for future marathons. Had you asked me at the finish if I’d ever run another marathon, I would have scoffed in your face. But today, four days after the race, I found myself Googling fall 2015 marathons.