When Should You Get a Running Coach?

(source: Pinterest)

(source: Pinterest)

I’ve been mulling over the idea of getting a running coach for a few weeks now. I’ve seen progress in my running over the past year but I know that’s due in part to my inexperience- every race is a PR or close to it. So I thought I’d ask, to improve, should I get a coach?
  1. To get a running coach or not get a running coach, that is the question. Thoughts?
  2. Tons of people were pro-coach…
  3. @FitHappyGirl get one! I love having one and have improved tremendously. Ex 2:03 half from oct 12 to 1:49 this April
  4. Some people said it depends on your goals and finding the right coach (but were mainly pro-coach)…
  5. @FitHappyGirl So important to find one who’s the right fit, philosophically and personality-wise. Otherwise you lose a lot of benefits, imo.
  6. @FitHappyGirl But great to have someone monitor your performance, give advice, and adjust personalized training as you progress!
  7. @FitHappyGirl Absolutely, but a running coach should help you as much with what not to do as pushing the envelope at the right time.
  8. @FitHappyGirl If you haven’t met your goals on your own, try a coach. Make sure he/she works FOR YOU. Then take a leap.
  9. @FitHappyGirl If you have the right coach you’ll love running even more!
  10. @FitHappyGirl i hired @SpeedySasquatch for speed work! so mainly on my own but needed guidance for certain aspect! #justathought
  11. Then there was this…
  12. And you can count on Jason to be the odd man out (just kidding!)…

Luckily I work at Runner’s World so I have plenty of resources here but it might be good to have an objective person (who I don’t work with every day) as a coach instead. I’m nervous it might be too closing to the start of MCM training to get a coach now but maybe not. I’m also wondering about in-person coaching vs. online. I know plenty of people have had success with online coaching but the main reason I want a coach is to have someone push me, especially when I tend to sell myself short. I’m going to keep doing some research into it and see what I come up with.

Tell me, have you hired a running coach? Was it in-person or online and did you see improvements?

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Progress in Running Means Relentless Forward Motion

Big Sur - MarathonFotoLet’s talk about progress for a little bit. Progress, by definition means a forward or onward movement. Add the word relentless before that definition and you get progress in running- relentless forward or onward movement.

I’ve been relentlessly moving forward with my running for a little over a year now and have hit some major milestones, no pun intended (ok, just kidding, pun intended). Within a year’s time I:

–       Learned to run through a couch-to-5K program

–       Ran my first race at the Four on the Fourth 4-miler in Maine

–       Two months later ran my first half-marathon

–       Four months after that I set a 17-minute PR at my second half-marathon

–       Four months after that second half, I ran my first full marathon

Ok, so I’ve become a tad bit addicted to distance running. I went from couch-to-5K-to-half-marathon-to-marathon, in a year. But is that really progress?

I’m a firm believer that anyone can become a runner. I don’t care if you’re overweight, a couch potato, or just a stubborn person like I used to be who would always say, “I hate running.” Everyone has the potential to become a runner. But can everyone make progress and become a good runner? A fast runner? An elite? I don’t know.

I think progress takes a lot of time, hard work, dedication, and above all else patience. In the year that I’ve been running, I’ve seen progress in my paces and average finishing times.

5K– two races exactly 5 months apart (00:41/mile difference)

  • Oktoberfest 5K on October 14, 2012- 27:34 which is 8:52/mile pace
  • B.A.A. Boston Marathon 5K on April 14, 2013- 25:23 which is 8:11/mile pace

4 mile run- comparing my first race (a 4-miler) with a training run during Big Sur training

  • Four on the Fourth 4-miler on July 4, 2012- 37:16
  • 4 mile training run on March 19, 2013- 33:58

Half-marathon– two races roughly four months apart (1:21/mile difference)

  • Smuttynose Rockfest Half-Marathon on September 30, 2012- 2:18:09 which is 10:32/mile pace
  • Disney Half-Marathon on January 12, 2013- 2:02:22 which is 9:11/mile pace

But I’ll be the first to admit I lack patience. I want results now. So since I completed my first marathon at Big Sur in April, I’ve been focusing on making strides with my progress (again, pun intended, sorry I can’t help it). I’ve taken to doing interval workouts every Wednesday to work on my speed. I’ve committed myself to strength training by doing circuit workouts, lifting, and really focusing on my core. I’ve also tried to maintain a 22-25 average weekly mileage, although I’m in between training cycles. I’ve continued to run five days a week.

All of this will help me to continue my relentless forward movement, a.k.a progress. But will it all work the way I’m hoping it will? Who knows. What am I even hoping to achieve? I still don’t know that either. All I know is I want running faster for longer to feel easier. I know everyone wants that but I’ve seen my progress over the past year and I’m just hoping it’ll continue.

What I do know is that it is possible to get better. I look at some of my fellow running bloggers like Ashley who ran her first marathon at a finishing time very similar to mine and is now, just a few years later, chasing down a BQ (Boston qualifying time). I look to Lora, who ran her first marathon in 2011 and has continued to PR since, despite battling through a stress fracture. Both of these runners, and countless others, inspire me and make me truly believe progress in running is possible. It may be tough but the relentless forward motion will pay off. I just need to stop being so impatient.

How do you measure progress? Let me know in the comments below!

6 Tips for Running Through Humidity

HumidRunI went for an easy 5-mile run yesterday morning before work. I woke up at 6 a.m. threw on my running clothes I laid out the night before. Put my hair in a bun. Threw on my Nuun visor and headed out the door.

My apartment felt cool but with the first step out the door I was smacked in the face by a wall of damp moisture. Well, good morning to you too, humidity.

Humidity and I are not friends and we haven’t been for a long time. Before I was a runner, I hated humidity because it caused my hair to have a mind of its own and become curly beyond belief. Now that I’m a runner, well, every humid run feels like I’m breathing under water. Not to mention my allergies are also terrible this time of year, so there’s that.

Any runner will tell you there’s nothing you can do about the weather, that’s why we’re out there in the dead of winter running through snowstorms and getting our sweat on in the summer under the hot sun. We put up with the weather because we don’t really have any other option. (The treadmill is NOT an option- for me, at least.)

So, yesterday, as I turned the corner onto my street to end my 5-miler I thought, how the hell can I deal with this for the rest of the summer and not completely fail on all of my runs? Luckily I know some pretty weather-savvy runners and was able to get some tips. Here are the best ones:

  1. Slow down, speedy! – Just like you slow your pace in the winter when it’s snowing or icy out, slowing down in the summer when it’s extremely hot will help you finish your run strong. Remember how much faster you were in the spring after a winter of slow running? Same thing will happen in the fall. So, pull in the reins and be OK with taking it slow.
  2. Hydrate (and drink tons of Nuun!) – Hydration is key to running in the humidity. Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water, not only before and after your run but throughout the entire day. You can hydrate with water but also try to add in a sports drink or electrolyte-enhanced water (like Nuun) because since you’ll be sweating a ton, you need to replace the sodium in your body to absorb water.
  3. Run early or later – I personally prefer to run before work as opposed to after but by getting out the door in the morning or evening, you’re avoiding the warmest part of the day. I love going on lunch runs but on really hot days, feeling overheated just isn’t worth it to me. So, on those days, I’ll opt to go run before work.
  4. Do not wear cotton, I repeat, do not wear cotton – Humidity and heat make you sweat so try to wear moisture wicking clothes on your run to avoid chafing and overheating. I go by the as-little-clothes-as-possible-without-being-naked rule on hot runs so I have a lot of spandex and sports bras in the near future.
  5. Wear a visor or cap – I don’t know if this will really help but it seems to keep a little heat off of my head. I wear a visor on most of my runs to protect my skin and keep the sun out of my eyes but it can help to keep my face cool. One person even suggested soaking a run cap in cold water before heading out the door to lower body temps.
  6. Don’t worry! – I know I was upset looking at my splits from this morning’s 5-miler. I was slow and it felt hard. But I know I shouldn’t worry about it because with every change in seasons there’s a period of adjustment (unless you live in a season-less place like California, which, if so, I am envious). The body is an amazing thing and it will adjust and adapt to the change in temps. So don’t fret over lost fitness, the fitness is still there, it just needs to make some changes.

This is just a rough list and I’m still learning so please, please give me your suggestions! Have any tips for running in the humidity? Leave them in the comments section below or tweet at me at @FitHappyGirl.

The Runner’s Thank You

Running is a giftIn honor of National Etiquette Week I thought I’d share with you a little tradition we have at Runner’s World. In case you weren’t aware, we are very lucky to be able to go out for lunch runs every day. Almost everyone on staff leaves their respective desks at about 10 minutes of noon to head down to the locker rooms. Some choose to run solo, others run in one of two groups- the fast runners and the regular runners. We go on long runs, do speed workouts, tempos, trail runs, hill repeats, and especially, easy runs. Whatever the run, we do it and when everyone is back and showered you’ll hear two words before heading back to your desk, “thank you.”

One of my coworkers, Mark Remy, has written about the runner’s thank you on his blog on our website before. Being a relatively new runner myself, I’d never experienced the runner’s thank you before starting here at Runner’s World. This could be because before working here the majority of my runs were solo miles but when I would run with others, especially when we ran long runs or speed workouts, I think thank you was the farthest thing from my running buddy’s mind.

But when you break it down, being able to run is a privilege, a gift, and something to be extremely thankful for. I do like to run alone a lot of the time but there’s nothing more special than running with a supportive group. There are days when it’s tough to get out the door. Days when I think, Instead of doing that 7-mile lunch run, how about I break it up and run twice.  Days when I ask myself, am I really feeling lunchtime intervals today? But then I walk into that locker room and my coworkers are all game for whatever is on the run menu. I feed off of that kind of enthusiasm.

Even on days when I go for a run alone, once I’m back in the locker room I’m always asked how my run went and I ask my coworkers as well. Runners like to support each other. Think about how many times you’ve been out for a run, see another runner, and just give them a wave. It’s comforting. It’s supportive. It’s what makes the running community so special.

So this weekend, whether you go running with a group, a friend, solo, or pass by another runner, be sure to acknowledge the gift that is running and just say, “Thank you.”

Big Sur Marathon Training: Week Nine

"Everything is possible."

“Everything is possible.”

I had a really, really good week of training for week nine. I’m still beaming actually! I logged my highest weekly mileage ever- 40 miles!- and tackled my very first 20-mile run and I’m happy to report it went flawlessly, much better than last week’s 17-miler. I was nervous going into training at the beginning of the week because my legs were noticeably fatigued from the racing/long run combo the weekend before but as the week went on, I felt myself getting stronger and better yet, more confident with my running. Here are my workouts from week nine:

Monday: Yoga- I did the Lululemon Yoga for Runners (Recovery)

Tuesday: 4 miles in 33:58 at 8:29/mile pace.

I was happy the weather cleared in time for my lunch run. It actually ended up being really sunny and nice for the whole run. I wanted to take it easy after my crazy weekend of running last weekend but I went a little faster than anticipated. My right ankle has been a little sore though so I’m going to need to do some serious foam rolling and icing later on tonight. My splits:

Mile 1 – 8:55/mile
Mile 2 – 8:37/mile
Mile 3 – 8:35/mile
Mile 4 – 7:50/mile

Wednesday: First run of the day was a hill workout- 6 miles (two ginormous hills) in 58:34 at 9:45/mile.

I forced myself to do a hill workout because I hadn’t done one in a few weeks (although most of my runs involve significant hills). We usually run this huge hill in the back of our office building but this time we did that, went down the backside of the mountain and then ran back up- two hills for the price of… well, two huge hills. It was hard and I had to walk some of the first hill but I’m really proud to report I didn’t walk ANY of the second hill!

Mile 1 – 9:07/mile (warmup)
Mile 2 – 11:27/mile (first hill and lots of walking)
Mile 3 – 10:29/mile (still on the first hill, less walking)
Mile 4 – 9:59/mile (second hill, no walking)
Mile 5 – 9:01/mile
Mile 6 – 8:32/mile

Second run: Easy 1 mile on the treadmill in 8:40 followed by strengthening exercises.

Day total: 7 miles in 1:07

Thursday: 5.05 miles in 44:22 at 8:47/mile pace.

This run was neither here nor there. It was a good pace and I felt good but my right ankle was still a little funky. I’ll keep foam rolling and icing. My splits:

Mile 1 – 8:56/mile
Mile 2 – 8:45/mile
Mile 3 – 8:47/mile
Mile 4 – 8:51/mile
Mile 5 – 8:36/mile

Friday: Rest and ice my ankle.

Saturday: 20 miles in 3:06:18 at 9:18/mile pace.

This was my first 20-miler of my marathon training and my longest distance ever. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous for this but I felt oddly calm before heading out. My legs felt amazing the whole time, no hip or ankle pain! In a lot of my long runs the last two miles are the worst because my legs are just done but that wasn’t the case for the 20-miler. I also couldn’t believe the pace I was able to maintain despite all of the hills on my run. Here are my splits:

(1) 9:29 (2) 8:54 (3) 9:11 (4) 9:08 (5) 9:17 (6) 9:16 (7) 9:13 (8) 9:03 (9) 9:44 (10) 9:43 (11) 9:38 (12) 9:30 (13) 9:21 (14) 9:10 (15) 9:30 (16) 9:15 (17) 9:28 (18) 9:07 (19) 9:04 (20) 9:16

Elevation gain: ~400 feet

Sunday: 4 mile shakeout run in 36:00 at 8:57/mile pace.

When I woke up my legs were DOMS city post long run but I had a 4-mile easy shakeout on my schedule. I thought it was going to be super slow but once I got going my legs actually started to feel better. I am now a big believer in the post long run shakeout. My splits:

Mile 1 – 9:32/mile
Mile 2 – 8:56/mile
Mile 3 – 8:54/mile
Mile 4 – 8:29/mile

Weekly mileage total: 40 miles.

See all weekly training recaps here.

Pros and Cons of Running Doubles

Fit your run inMy marathon training plan has me running pretty high mileage during the week. I usually have at least one 7-mile run midweek and in the coming weeks I’ll be logging upwards of 20 miles between my runs on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. While my training plan is a little more aggressive than a typical first-time marathoner training schedule, many marathon training plans, no matter the experience level of the runner, have at least one high mileage day during the week. If you’re like me and have a pretty busy work schedule, it’s hard to log the mileage in one run so I opt to split it up during the day and run what’s referred to as a double, or running twice in one day, a.k.a. two-a-days.

At first, I was weary about doing this because I thought I might not be getting the full benefit of a 7 or 8-mile run on a Wednesday, but after asking around and a little research, I learned running doubles actually has more pros than cons. If done correctly, running a double can boost fitness and build mileage (without feeling like you’ve been running forever).

When I have a double day on my schedule, like I did on Wednesday, I like to make one run a “workout” and the other an easy, recovery run. Since I’m training for Big Sur, my workout focus was on hills. I had to run a total of 7 miles for the day but instead went out for a 6 mile run at lunch that included two intense hills with an elevation grade that looks like this:

Screen Shot 2013-03-22 at 2.47.30 PM

Since I already got 6-miles of my daily mileage total done, after work I only had to run a mile so I opted for a slow, recovery run at the gym followed by tons of stretching and some strength exercises.

This was a more intense double day than I usually do. Usually I’ll split up a 7-mile run into a 4-mile tempo run at lunch followed by a 3-mile recovery run after work. I prefer to do my second run at the gym because then I’m able to get some strength training in after but you can do it outside too.

One tip I have for running doubles is to make sure you do some dynamic stretching before your second run. You’re muscles are going to be a little tight from your first run, especially if it was a workout, so you want to make sure you warm up before going right into the run. Then, as always, be sure to stretch out after your second run and hydrate- running twice in one day takes more out of you than you think!

Still not convinced about the benefits of two-a-days? Don’t you fret, of course I asked Twitter for its opinion on the pros and cons of running doubles. Here’s what people had to say:

There are also some cons though, although the majority seem to revolve around having to shower twice in one day.

So if you can get past showering twice in one day, endless hunger and not to mention some extra laundry, two-a-days really aren’t that bad. At the end of the day you have to ask yourself: how bad do you want it and how much are you willing to work for your goal?

Big Sur Marathon Training: Week Eight

A prerace photo with my friends before the Holyoke St. Patrick's Day 10-K!

A prerace photo with my friends before the Holyoke St. Patrick’s Day 10-K!

This past week was a great one for training. I was able to get in all my training runs, including my first ever attempt at Yasso 800s and my first 10-K (race). I also was able to go back to Massachusetts for the weekend to spend time with my close friends and family and honestly, it was the most perfect weekend. I couldn’t have asked for a better week of running and I hope this week will be the same! Here are my workouts:

Monday: Cross-training day. I went to metabolic boot camp at the gym after work. It was no-repeats Monday and we did four circuits with five different exercises for 40 seconds on and 20 seconds off.

Tuesday: Easy 5-miler in 44:00 at 8:52/mile pace.

I thought this run was going to be awful because for one, it was on the treadmill, and secondly, I forgot my headphones and there’s nothing worse than running 5 miles on the treadmill with only Sports Center on repeat to keep you entertained. So, I decided to entertain myself by running intervals. During ever commercial break I cranked the speed up to 7.1 mph and during the show I ran at 6.6 mph. This kept be entertained enough to make it through the run feeling great.

Wednesday: Easy 3-mile in 25:12 at 8:24/mile pace.

This was a really great, short lunchtime run. My shorter distance runs are starting to get much faster and what’s even better is the faster average pace is feeling easier. I think after Big Sur, during the summer, I’m going to focus on shorter distance races and trying to get faster overall. My splits:

Mile 1 – 8:32/mile
Mile 2 – 8:23/mile
Mile 3 – 8:16/mile

Thursday: Yasso 800s- 7 miles with 6×800 at goal marathon time, in 1:01:00 at 8:42/mile pace.

My first ever attempt at Yasso 800s was a success! (And that’s a good thing because Bart himself came over to my cubicle on Thursday to make fun of me for never having done them) My training plan called for 7 miles with 6×800 at pace. I ran this on the treadmill because I don’t have access to a track and I thought it would be the best way to make sure I hit my pace.

1-mile warmup at 9:22/mile pace.
6×800 at 4:00 with 200m in between at an easy pace.
1.5-mile cool down.

Friday: Rest day!

Saturday: Holyoke St. Patrick’s Day Road Race (10-K) – Official finish time 53:55 at 8:34/mile pace. Came in 1787 out of 5777 (top 30 percent!) overall and 332 out of 1657 for my age group (women 2-39 years old) which was top 20 percent!

I ran my first 10-K ever Saturday and while I wasn’t trying to race it I ended up doing pretty well! The course was extremely hilly which I thought would be hard but didn’t turn out to be too bad except for the final hill right before the finish. My splits:

Mile 1 – 9:14/mile
Mile 2 – 9:22/mile
Mile 3 – 8:55/mile
Mile 4 – 8:42/mile
Mile 5 – 7:41/mile
Mile 6 – 7:56/mile
Mile 7 – 2:03/mile (for 0.28)

Sunday: 17-mile long, slow distance in 2:49:00 at 9:56/mile pace.

Probably wasn’t the best idea to run my long run the day after racing but lesson-learned. It was really great though to get to run with my cousin Paige and my friend Lindsey. We took it really easy because we were all tired from yesterday’s 10-K that we promised we wouldn’t race but ended up racing anyway. It was also a tough route we ended up choosing because there were a ton of hills but it was a really nice run. The wind set us back a bit too but overall, a great run with great friends.

Total mileage: 38 miles

See all training recaps here.

On Marathon Training and Getting (Much) Faster

(source: Pinterest)

(source: Pinterest)

I tend to get a little bit ahead of myself when it comes to goals. For example, when I first started running last March I registered for a goal 5-K race, but when I had to miss it to cover a story for work, I registered for a new race- a 4-miler. What’s one more mile I thought?

After a successful race, in the pouring rain, I decided, on a bit of a whim and a lot of peer-pressure from my cousin, to register for a half-marathon. Couch-to-5K-to-4-mile-to-Half-Maraton, sounds good right? No problem.

Before we even finished training for the half, my cousin begged me to register for a full marathon with her and our friend Lindsey, less than 14 weeks away. While I was heavily considering it, and even wrote a blog post about it, I knew it would be a bad idea- too much too soon. Then, my body decided to pull in the reins by giving me a lovely, painful bout of IT Band Syndrome to remind me I wasn’t Shalane Flanagan and I needed to calm down.

I ran the half and was really happy with my finish. It wasn’t fast, it wasn’t the best race, but I finished 13.1 miles. Woah. Then I landed a position as an editor at Runner’s World. If I thought the peer pressure to race from my cousin was bad, the peer pressure at Runner’s World is on a whole other level. But it’s healthy right?

It took my fellow staffers about five minutes to convince me to run my second half-marathon in January with less than a month to train, but I set a PR, by 17 minutes! Coming off of that I was confident and ready to make the distance leap up to a full marathon- the Big Sur International Marathon to be exact.

I’ve been training for the Big Sur for about eight weeks now and I’ve been feeling really good. I’ve been running my highest mileage weeks ever and my longest distances ever- longest run so far ahs been 18 miles. I knew what I was getting myself into with the mileage, and it didn’t surprise me that I’d be able to handle it because the build-up is so gradual. What I didn’t expect to see was an difference in my average paces.

Since I started running my average paces have always hovered around the mid-9-minute mile range. This was fine by me because I wasn’t experienced at racing and since I kept increasing my distances, the goal was always just to finish, not to hit any specific time goal. But now, my mid-week short runs of 3, 4 and 5 miles have been averaging 8-minute per mile paces and sometimes, on the 3 and 4-mile runs, the mid-7-minute per mile paces. This is new. Who do I think I am, being all fast and whatnot?  The more alarming (exciting?) part is this- it doesn’t feel hard.

Basically, I’m starting to get faster and I don’t know what to do about it since I’m currently training for a marathon. I don’t want to take these faster paces out on a long run because that sounds like a recipe for disaster and/or (probably) injury. But, I also don’t want to lose this newfound sense of speed. See my dilemma?

Circling back to how I opened this post, I’m getting ahead of myself, both literally and figuratively. I need to focus on the goal at hand and that is to complete Big Sur, my first marathon. The course is not an easy one but I want to finish feeling good and having enjoyed the experience. I can’t and won’t be able to maintain these faster average paces for a whole 26.2 miles but that doesn’t mean I won’t be able to use them after the marathon.

So, I’ve decided this summer, post marathon recovery of course, I’m going to focus on shorter distances. Focusing on shorter distances will help me to get faster and more importantly, teach me how to race. Since I will have hit my goal distance PR with Big Sur (I never plan on doing more than 26.2 miles in one race) I need to get back to basics and learn how to race. This is going to help me not only with shorter distances but with the next marathon I run. While I believe in dreaming big and making goals, I also know getting ahead of myself too much can lead to injury or burnout. I’m going to take the rest of this training day-by-day and if I’m feeling good enough on a short run to run faster, then I will. If not, I’ll see you this summer 7-minute miles!

Do you sometimes get ahead of yourself with running goals? How do you deal with it?

It’s My One Year Run-niversary!

Finishing the Disney Half-Marathon with a 17-minute PR.

Finishing the Disney Half-Marathon with a 17-minute PR.

Today marks my one-year run-niversary! I really don’t want this post to be all sappy and cliché about how running has changed my life and all that blah, blah, blah. But the truth is, it really has- and not just because I’m now training for a full marathon, it’s changed my whole way of life.

Literally, a year ago, I kid you not, running a mile seemed like an impossible task. I would make excuses to avoid any sort of running. My cousin would ask me to go out on a 3-mile run with her during the summer and I’d reject the offer every single time. When I look back, I’m not sure if it was because I didn’t think I could run that far, I think it was more that I was afraid and insecure about running.

When I started running, those insecurities did not go away. In fact, they took months to go away. I only ran on the treadmill, at the gym, on a very low speed. I was afraid to run outside because of passing cars, nervous my form was awkward or that I’d get to a certain point and not be able to turn around and run home. I was also afraid to run with other people because I was insecure about my pace, my breathing, and my (sometimes) lack of motivation.

But in a year’s time, all of that has gone away. Now I loathe the treadmill and will do anything to be able to run outside. I went from a run-walk a year ago, to being able to run 18 miles in a single shot today. My paces used to hover around the mid 10:00/mile speed to now the low 8:00/mile and even some 7:00/mile paces lately. All within a year.

In this past year, my running has taken me to places I never thought it would. I’ve been lucky to find support through social media and this blog, and that support is what has kept me logging all those miles. I’ve developed relationships with runners all across the country and people are now turning to me for advice, which is something that continues to humble me every day. I also went from being just a blogger to an online editor at the nation’s leading running magazine, and that’s definitely not something I take lightly.

I think a lot of times, we, as runners, can get intimidated by other more experienced runners. I know I do but I also know the effort, strength and devotion it took for me to get to where I am now with my running. When I started this journey a year ago, I never could have imagined where it would take me. But when I look back at all the amazing gifts running has given me, the one I cherish most and will continue to build on is my self-confidence. Before I started to run I was able to slap on a smile and express faux-confidence but after this year, I know how to truly be confident in my own skin.

One of the first running blogs I ever read when I started this journey a year ago was Dorothy Beal’s blog Mile Posts. Her story was very similar to mine and I admired her drive and flat-out honesty. My favorite quote from her that has kept me going this year is “I run this body.” It’s me. I’m the one who had brought my body across two half-marathon finish lines and countless shorter races throughout this year. I’m the one who brought this body to the track after work on 90-degree summer days just so I could work on my speed. I ran this body through rain, sleet, snow, humidity and wind, just so I could prove to myself that I was strong enough to do it. I run this body and I will continue to run this body until I physically cannot take another step. I’ve still got a lot to learn but so far, I can say with confidence, I’ve enjoyed this journey to fit…

Respect the Long Run – No Matter the Distance

(source: Pinterest)

(source: Pinterest)

A few months ago, before I began training for Big Sur, I was talking with my Dad about running. My Dad is a 16-time marathon veteran, a nine-time Boston Marathoner, repping a 3:09 PR. He started running during the first running boom, which he describes as the “hippie days” of running, and while he doesn’t run very often anymore, he is still a vault of knowledge when it comes to anything having to do with running.

At the time of our conversation, I was getting ready to run my first half-marathon and in the midst of dealing with a pretty bad IT Band flare-up. He told me, “Hannah, running is like riding a rollercoaster- it can get you so high to the point of feeling invincible and send you crashing down in a second.” But, he reminded me, at some point the ride levels out.

I remembered this conversation while I was running my 12-mile long run last Saturday. It was a cutback week for me and I thought to myself, “12 miles, that’s a piece of cake!” Maybe I was overzealous coming off of successful back-to-back 16, 18, and 15-mile long runs. I was climbing the roller coaster and didn’t realize I was in for a long downwind decent. All I know is that 12-miler was one of my worst long runs in a long time.

But, you know what? It wasn’t just me who had a bad long run last weekend. In fact, many of my friends training for spring races had bad weekend runs. One person, who was also on a cutback week, said it perfectly – “I didn’t respect the long run.”

I know I didn’t respect the long run last weekend and the long run knew it too. Did I have to stay up until 12:30 the night before? Was it a great idea to try to squeeze in my run before a hair appointment in the late morning? I allotted myself 45 minutes of prep time before heading out the door, was that enough to digest my cereal and coffee? The answer to all of these is probably not.

I think it’s common in marathon training, at least in my experience, to assume the shorter long runs are going to be easy. But it’s that kind of thinking that leads to being less prepared for these shorter long runs. I tend to put the 16, 18, and 20 (which I have yet to do) milers on a pedestal. But in earnest, all long runs should be put on that same pedestal.

So why was the 12-miler such a bad run? It wasn’t that I was hurting and it wasn’t that I wanted to stop, I just felt like my heart wasn’t in it. My stomach felt terrible for some reason and all I could focus on was getting back to my apartment, showering and making it to my appointment on time. But looking back on this run, maybe I was not as prepared for it as I am for longer long runs, but I will take that as a lesson learned.

A blogger friend of mine, Michele Gonzales, had a less-than-fantastic long run last weekend as well. In her blog post about it, she said, as much as she enjoys a successful long run, there’s a lot to learn from the bad ones too. Whether a run is good or bad, short or long, goal pace or easy, there’s something to learn from every run. While these ups and downs can be strenuous, they are what levels us out in the end, so we can make it to the starting line, knowing what works.