Running safety: plan out running routes

As many of you know, I’ve just moved to a new city to start my job at Runner’s World. I haven’t been able to blog much mostly because I’ve been so busy at work (which is great!) and I’ve been trying to get settled into my lovely, new apartment.

However, of course one of the very first things I did when I had a second was to try out some new running routes. Being in a new city, I think running is one of the best ways to explore a new neighborhood (as long as it’s a safe neighborhood).

So, last Saturday morning I set out to do just that- explore my new neighborhood via running. I had a vague idea of where I was in comparison to some run-able roads but I was still getting used to the area. I pride myself on having a pretty good sense of direction so I figured I’d be fine.

My new city has a really cute historic area in the downtown part so my goal was to get there, run over a bridge and turn around to head back. I figured it would be about 4 miles.

Well, a mile into my run I was lost and standing next to a highway. What? I thought I went the right way and made all the right turns. Apparently not.

Usually I’m good about mapping out my runs ahead of time and planning my route but I wanted to explore (and I don’t have Internet in my apartment yet) so I thought I’d let my legs do the mapping.

As I stood in front of the highway, completely lost, I thought the only thing I could do was turn around and head back. On my way back I found the street I should have taken a left onto instead of going right. Duh! So, I headed down that street right into the downtown area, my original destination.

Moral of the story? Map out your runs if not so you don’t look like a complete idiot standing next to a highway like I did; do it for safety. November is National Running Safety Month and it is quickly approaching. Here are some tips on how to stay safe on the roads:

  • Map out your route- I like to use the Map My Run web application. It’s super easy and lets you map out a run and calculate the distance.
  • Bring a phone- I know it’s annoying but if you do get lost or into a sketchy situation you need some way to get help. You can get a SPIbelt or a phone armband to easily carry your phone with you.
  • Wear bright colors and/or reflective gear- countless runners get hit by cars every year and it’s not always the fault of the driver. So, be safe and make yourself visible!
  • Don’t wear headphones- people might hate me for this one but I think headphones can be extremely dangerous on the road. You lose your senses and can’t hear if a car is quickly approaching.
  • Run against traffic- for the love of God run on the left side of the road facing traffic! You need to see what’s ahead of you and running against the traffic will help you with this.
  • For my ladies out there, if you’re running in a sketchy-ish area, it doesn’t hurt to arm yourself. I have friends who actually run with a mini can of mace just in case they get in trouble.
  • Use your head- when in doubt, use common sense. If a path looks really lonely, poorly lit or just plain sketchy, don’t run down there. We all love running but it’s not worth your life.

Be safe out there!

Did I miss a safety tip? Tell me about your safety tips in the comments section below!

Monday Motivation: Success…

Today is a big day for me because it is my first day as associate editor of multimedia at Runner’s World magazine. I had a great introduction to the magazine this past weekend with the Runner’s World Half Marathon & Festival and am really excited to begin this next journey. While I know this week is going to be extremely busy, I cannot wait to tackle it!

Also my tendonitis seems to be feeling a little better after running an impromptu 5K Saturday night so things are looking up! I hope everyone has great runs this week. Run happy!

Saying goodbye to my home, family and friends and starting a new chapter

I really can’t write about this too much because I will become far too emotional but tomorrow I am moving away from Massachusetts, where I have lived my entire life, to start a completely new chapter of my life down in Pennsylvania where I will begin working as an associate editor at Runner’s World magazine.

This is a huge step for me as I know it will further my career but it’s also a big step because I am walking into the unknown. My entire family, including the majority of my extended family, lives in and around the Boston area. In fact, only one of my aunt’s ventured to move away from the homeland and relocate to California. Besides not having any family in Pennsylvania, I also don’t have many friends. I have one friend who lives in Philadelphia (an hour from where I’m moving), one friend who lives 45 minutes from where I’m moving but she’s about to move to Korea to teach English for two years and a second cousin in New Jersey, again, about an hour away.

Moving to Pennsylvania and taking on my dream job at my favorite magazine is a risk but it’s one I’m willing to take. Although the risk does not come without sacrifice- moving away from my family and all of my friends- I think it will allow me to grow and develop as my own, adult self. I desperately don’t want to leave my support network but if I’ve learned anything in the past few weeks I’ve realized how truly blessed I am to have them in my life. They’ve been so supportive throughout this process that I think they would have been mad at me if I had not taken the job. Of course they want me to stay in Massachusetts for their own sanity but I don’t doubt they will be coming to visit me very soon.

So, in closing, this post is just a huge thank you and see you soon (not goodbye, I hate goodbyes) to my parents, my little sister, my entire extended family, especially my cousin and one of my closest friends Paige who honestly, without her I might not even be where I am with running now, to my two best friends Sydney and Angela, who I know are going to miss me but have been practically packing my bags for me!, and to all of my other friends, especially some of the ones I have only recently met, everyone has been supportive and led me to where I am now.

I also want to send out a HUGE thank you to all of my blog readers who have also been supportive of me through reading and exchanging stories and conversation. You all are truly an inspiration :)

That being said, tomorrow morning I’m off and driving away into the unknown. It’s scary, but I like it. See you soon!

Coming to terms with a running injury

The running Gods haven’t been too kind to me lately. Although I had a great race last weekend, got a new 5K PR and ran my first half marathon a few weeks ago, I can’t seem to shake these aches and pains from running. If you’ve been reading my blog somewhat consistently over the past eight months you know I’ve been plagued with my fair share of running-related injuries- runner’s knee back in the spring, IT Band Syndrome this summer and now self-diagnosed peroneal tendonitis.

I can be extremely thankful that none of these bumps and bruises have seriously sidelined me for any extended amount of time (knock on wood!) they have been extremely frustrating. This latest mishap has me more frustrated than usual. While it doesn’t hurt as bad as the IT band flare-up did, it’s more of a nagging pain. I can run with it, it even seems to go away after the first few miles, but I just want to run injury-free. Is that so much to ask for?

After seeking advice from some friends and going on a Google frenzy in search for stretches and exercises to ease peroneal tendonitis, I came to the conclusion that it might not be a bad idea to take a few days off. I haven’t done that in the past eight months so maybe that will help? Hopefully. I know I sound like I’m complaining but it pains me to “rest” especially when I see my friends and the close-knit virtual running community logging their weekly miles. I want to go running, why can’t I log 30 miles, 40, even 50 miles a week?

Oh, that’s right, I only started running eight months ago. I think my ambition and sheer love of the sport is the real cause for these injuries that keep sprouting up. I love running so much and am always itching to get out on the road or to hit a trail that sometimes I forget to really listen to what my body is trying to tell me- I need rest.

This reminds me of a conversation I had with my dad a few months ago. My dad is a 16-time marathon veteran (he ran Boston eight times and boasts a 3:09 PR) and although he hasn’t been a consistent runner for awhile now, he can relate to my recent frustrations. He said to me, “Hannah, running is like a roller coaster. One day you can be high up and feel amazing and the next you come crashing down.” He explained to me that a lot of the time things happen for no apparent reason and you just have to take it easy to prevent further injury.

Old photo of my dad running Boston.

If this means resting a few days for me, so be it. I forget that there are so many people out there who can’t run. I get so down on myself when I get an injury and find myself getting jealous of those runners who say they’ve never been injured, but the truth is, every runner is different. I also need to be more patient with my running. I get overly excited by new PRs and longer distances that I forget I really haven’t been running that long. Moral of the story? I need to be more patient, listen to my body and be thankful for all of the progress I have made in the last eight months. The rest will fall into place over time!

Have you had any running-related injuries? What’s your advice on staying positive through injury? Share you stories in the comment section below!

A new take on race bling: Erica Sara Designs race jewlery

A lot of runners set major goals to keep themselves motivated like deciding to run their first marathon or half marathon or maybe tackling your first 5K. No matter how big or how small a runner’s goal is, success is so much sweeter when there’s a reward on the other side! Most races give runners a free t-shirt for registering and more and more races are giving finisher medals to everyone who finishes the race.

These are all great and everything but honestly, how many race t-shirts can you have? I have at least a drawer-full and I’ve only been running for 8 months! Finisher medals are really cool too because they definitely feel great around your neck at the end of a race. But after race day, what do you do with the medal? You can’t wear it out and about or show it off really, so they usually end up around a mirror, maybe on display but not many people will see it.

Enter Erica Sara Designs, a New York City jewelry designer and runner herself. Erica Sara has a whole line of race jewelry designed to mark the accomplishments of runners of all abilities. Her designs are chic and sophisticated and are the best kind of reward a runner girl could ask for after crossing the finish line. According to her website, her mission is:

On our paths to becoming accomplished & empowered women, we’re constantly taking on new challenges, from the office to the gym, from our family to our friends, from our bodies to our minds. Something we can all agree on? It’s tough work! At the end of the day, we can also agree that our hopes and dreams, our beliefs and convictions, and our values and achievements, are well-worth the effort—and well-worth celebrating.

Wear your sense of encouragement, that burst of wisdom, that source of inner power, with Erica Sara Designs, an ever-growing collection of feminine jewelry for fiercely strong women everywhere.

So of course I had to order a 13.1 “Run Like a Girl Distance” necklace after completing my first half marathon. Erica Sara lets the runner personalize her necklace too by giving you the option of picking the metal, the font and even engraving something on the back. I got the sterling silver necklace with 9.30.2012 (the date of my first half marathon) engraved on the back.

My necklace was shipped to me super fast and came with a lovely little note from Erica herself! I couldn’t be more pleased with my necklace and I wear it now every day to remind myself that I did run 13.1 miles and I can do it again!

Interested in commemorating your race accomplishment with some race bling? Check out the Erica Sara Designs website! She also has a ton of other amazing pieces of jewelry that are not running related but beautiful! Be sure to follow her on Twitter as well @EricaSara and wish her luck on her upcoming New York City Marathon which I’m sure she’s going to rock!

What’s your reward for accomplishing a major running goal? Share your story with me in the comments section below!

Race Recap: Cambridge Oktoberfest 5K and a new PR!

This past weekend was absolutely fantastic! I was able to see my Dad play for his acoustic duo (probably the last time I’ll see him play for awhile), I had a great going-away dinner with my entire family and my closest friends and on Sunday I PR’d at the Cambridge Oktoberfest 5Kand ran the race with some of my best friends! I don’t think it can get much better than that.

I registered for the 5K sometime during the summer and hadn’t really been focusing on it at all because I had been focusing so much on the half marathon. However, last week I did a little speed work to prep for the race and was feeling pretty good about the race. I was also looking forward to it because I was going to run it with my cousin Paige and my friend Lindsay who had both run it last year and said it was a blast!

I stayed over my friend’s apartment the night before the race to spend some time with her and be closer to where the race was actually taking place. I was pretty disappointed when I woke up however because it was cloudy and raining- I swear, every single race I run has been in the rain, I’m over it. But I got dressed, had a slice of toast, put on my hoodie and we were off.

Pre-race shot of myself at the finish line!

We met up with Paige, Lindsay and their boyfriends at the starting line outside of Cambridge Brewing Company, who was sponsoring the race, in Cambridge, Mass. We had quite some time before the race started so we took a bunch of pictures and did some dynamic stretching to get ready.

Around 9:45 a.m. we started to head over to the start line, which was about a quarter of a mile away from where the race would finish. Paige really wanted to line up at the front of the pack because she didn’t want to get lost in the sea of runners. I thought this would probably be a terrible idea because although we’re good runners, we’re not THAT good and I thought we’d be trampled. Lucky for us, when the gun went off, we were able to get out front and keep a really solid, fast pace for the beginning of the race.

I was SO disappointed my Garmin didn’t find a signal in time for the start but Paige was tracking the course on her iPod nano so we knew we’d have the most accurate times. Lindsay and I kept pace with Paige and her boyfriend for the first mile but they’re much faster than us so we lost them after that. Lindsay’s boyfriend was trying to PR with a time under 21 minutes so he was long gone ahead of us too.

I forget exactly when I lost Lindsay but she was dealing with a pretty bad stomach cramp and had to slow down a bit. I was feeling really good however and thought I had some extra energy to kick it up. As I came to the 2 mile marker I was feeling great and I knew I was going at a pretty good pace. My legs felt fresh and my breathing was steady.

When I passed the 3-mile mark the timer read 26:32 and I could not believe it! My last 5k I ran in 28:09 so I was going much faster for this one. Then something weird happened, the last leg of the race, which should have been .1 miles seemed like it went on forever! When I finally crossed the finish line the timer read 27:32- this is arguable still a huge PR for me but I was dying to get 26:??. I was still extremely proud of myself and at that point I was just focused on finding Paige and the two boyfriends while we waited for Lindsay to cross.

When I finally found them in the sea of runners Paige told me her watch said the course was actually 5.58 kilometers which we clocked out to be roughly 3.5 miles. I don’t know exactly how much time off that would mean to get my 3.1 mile time but it is most certainly in the 26:??-area!! I was on cloud 9 at this point and was ready for the much-talked-about Oktoberfest after party.

We met up with Lindsay and all went to claim our complimentary beers. The race coordinators were blasting some German techno music and even though we had zero idea what the lyrics were, we had a blast dancing in the streets with all of the runners. There was a dance off and Lindsay and I even took part in an impromtu limbo contest- it was awesome!

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After the race we grabbed a bite to eat at the Cambridge Brewing Company and drank some much needed waters. After lunch I said goodbye to Lindsay and Paige, arguably the worst part of my weekend because I knew I wouldn’t be seeing them for a very long time but it was definitely the best way to spend my last weekend with them!

Overall the weekend was amazing- an unexpected huge PR, fun times with my friends and family- doesn’t get much better than that!

Have you ever had a completely unexpected PR? Tell me about it in the comments section below!

Monday motivation: if it scares you…

I love this graphic because for me, my goals, whether for running or just life in general, usually scare me before I try to attempt them. But really, like this graphic says:

If it scares you, it might be a good thing to try

So this week, I dare you to go after those scary goals. What’s the worst that could happen? Happy running!

Testing out the “speed demon” interval run

I may be one of the few people who actually enjoys doing speed interval runs- in fact, I think they can be fun. I think they are challenging and I feel like they teach me to push my limits. Also, of course I can see the benefits during my long runs as my times get faster and faster.

However, while I was training for the Hampton Rockfest Half Marathon, I was doing the exact same interval workout and it was getting dull. I was following a training plan and since it was my first half marathon, I made sure not to stray too far from the plan. Now that I’m done with the half, I thought it would be a great opportunity to test out some new interval workouts to mix into my weekly runs.

I knew I wanted to do some speed work today so last night I searched on the Runner’s World website for some new interval plans. I came across an old article about different treadmill workouts and of course the one called “speed demon” caught my eye. This run was based on time instead of distances on the track which was good because the local high school track is closed during the day.

The run basically called for six 3-minute repeats at 20 seconds faster than your latest 5K pace. I would strongly urge anyone who wants to try this to use your most recent 5K pace, not the pace you ran during a PR. I say this because you may have run a fantastic race a year ago and PR’d and you may want to use that pace. But, it’s important to keep in mind the shape you might have been in when you ran that race may not be the same shape you’re in now. You could be in better shape, but you may not be so it’s important to base your speed intervals on your last 5K pace.

That being said, here are the rules of the “speed demon” interval workout.

I thought this was a really great workout and it was nice to switch things up and try a new run. I thought it was challenging but not too hard that I was on the verge of dying. I think when I run it next week, I’ll go a little faster (progression is key!).

Do you have a favorite interval or speed workout? If so, I’d love to hear about it! Please share your favorite speed work run in the comments section below!

Reflecting on my first half marathon

I can’t believe more than a week has passed since I ran my very first half marathon. I feel like I’ve needed the time though to fully digest the entire experience. While to some of my more experienced runner friends, running a half marathon may not seem like a big deal but it was a huge milestone for me.

I started running only eight months ago, in March, the goal of running a 5K. When I started running I didn’t expect to fall in love with it like I have but I was pleasantly surprised when I realized I was actually getting good at it. So, in June, after only having been a runner for four months, I decided to register for the 2012 Hampton Rockfest Half Marathon.

Many of my friends and family tried to discourage me from registering because they thought I didn’t have enough experience as a runner yet. My dad, a 16-time marathon veteran (3:09 PR), said I needed more experience racing and building up mileage. But, I ignored their opinions and decided I had the capability and drive to build up my mileage to be able to run the 13.1 miles and cross the finish line on Sept. 30.

After months of training, some injuries, and some amazing runs, I crossed the finish line without stopping once. The race was amazing and the course was a breeze. Although the weather was awful, it was the most amazing experience.

When I hit the 11-mile mark I even started to get emotional and thought I was going to start crying. I couldn’t believe how far I had come as a runner in just eight months. In eight months I went from being able to run 0 miles to running more than 13 miles. Not only did I develop into a “runner,” I’ve noticed other changes in myself over the past eight months. My body has changed quite a bit, my muscles are much for toned and I have a much higher level of endurance but I’ve also changed emotionally. I’ve learned to use running as an outlet for when I’m angry, stressed or happy and excited. While I may not have started running for the best reason, it has literally transformed me into a different person and I love it.

As I started to speed up during the last 2 miles of the half marathon, all of these thoughts were whirling around in my head and just then, I saw my parents with all of the spectators and nearly lost it. I feel so lucky to have had such an amazing support system throughout this journey and although they had their reservations in the beginning, they never doubted me. The same goes to my friends who have also supported me through all of this and showed up at the finish line to congratulate me.

As I said in my last post about the half, my first thought upon crossing the finish line was I can’t wait to do it again and I’ve been looking for some more to register for in the near future. I think once I get a few more halfs under my belt, a full marathon is not too far off :)

What was your biggest race accomplishment? How did it feel when you crossed that finish line? Please share your stories in the comments section below!

Monday Motivation: me and running

This is a little later than usual today, but better late than never! I’ve been so busy lately as I prepare for my next journey that it’s been really hard to keep up with the blog but I will promise you, there will be some really great things happening on here this week! One thing I haven’t lost track of is running, I’m all over that. I really liked this graphic that I found on Pinterest because it’s always important to remember that even if a run isn’t great, or your body is telling you it’s time to rest, every run is a chance to grow stronger. Whether that means listening to your body and resting, or pushing your limits, every day is a chance to learn something new. Happy running this week!

(via Pinterest)