Running For More

I was at a running event recently when an older, seasoned male runner was describing his favorite marathon to me. He said it was a beautiful race with a smallish field because, “They don’t let any of those charity runners in.”

I winced at his comment and thought, “I’m a charity runner.” Boston aside (good luck to everyone registering this week and next!), I don’t know what runners have against charity runners.

They didn’t have to scramble to get in. No, they had to pay the same entrance fee AND raise thousands of dollars for charity.

They make the field more crowded. The slots and number of runners in the field are designated by the race, not by the charities.

They’re not serious runners. Ahem. I beg to differ.

There’s a great quote (the author of said quote is unclear):

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

In 2006, my then boyfriend (now husband) re-upped with the United States Marine Corps Reserves in order to take a deployment to Iraq. It would be his second and last deployment to Iraq during is eleven years in the USMC.


Back home in New York, I worked, went to school, sent care packages and letters, and tried to occupy the time between phone calls from him. But I wanted to do more. I wanted to do something, contribute something to the military community.

Since I had run a few marathons, I decided that the perfect way to honor his service was to run the Marine Corps Marathon. I looked for a charity team whose mission was one that benefitted veterans and their families. It was an easy choice and I joined Team Fisher House and began fundraising for the Fisher House Foundation.


I chose TFH because of the Fisher House Foundation mission. Fisher Houses are large houses built near military hospitals all over the country where the families of injured veterans stay for free while their soldier recovers from injuries. They also fly the family to be by their soldiers’ side upon their return to the US.

It was a no-brainer for me. If ever I needed their services, God forbid, I wanted to have earned my keep.

MarineMarathon_The Face!I raised a lot of money and was very proud to represent TFH at that and four more Marine Corps Marathons and one New Jersey Marathon. My sister, Red, joined me for one of them and that year, together, we raised over $16,000 for TFH.

But that first year when I was running while JB was deployed, it was more of a cathartic experience for me. I cried as I ran. I smiled at the newly minted lieutenants from the Officer Candidate School handing out water. I accepted the high-fives from my teammates and strangers who cheered as I ran by.

I ran for more than just me.

Since then, I have run a dozen or so races of all distances for various charities, all of which held a special significance to me and my family.

photo (15)

We are a community, a #RunnerArmy. We are a family. Or, at least, that’s how I see the running community. I’m proud to be a runner who sometimes runs for a cause, sometimes my own. The experience of running in honor of someone else was entirely different than running my first race for myself, for my disease.

I fought like hell to get to that start line.


Next time you’re at a marathon and find yourself judging the charity runners, remember that they’re there running for more. You don’t know. Not all of them joined the charity as a back door into the race. Some of them are like me, running for their Mom, Dad, sister, husband, or even for themselves.

Maybe give them a high-five.

Now go out and run.

Q & A: What’s the Point?

So, when I first started running (many, many moons ago), I had no idea what the hell I was doing. I basically just tried to keep up with the boys on my team and hope that I finished in the top 10. This was back when running wasn’t cool and a runner like me could regularly finish in the top 10 at a race.

Oh yes. I was cool. Me and my braces.

Oh yes. I was cool. Me and my braces.

As I progressed in my competitive (snort) running career into high school, I caught wind of how we had different workouts throughout the week. We termed them “easy, medium, or hard” and feared guessed which one our coach would throw at us as we changed for practice after school.

But then I started noticing a pattern to the weekly workouts.

You know, the usual.

You know, the usual.

These days, there is a very specific method to my madness, not unlike the daily torture we were prescribed in high school by my mustached coach.

The physiologic benefits of each run cannot be ignored.

  • Repeats: clearing the lactic acid out of your system
  • Tempo: increasing lactate threshold and practice cadence
  • Long: improve cardiovascular and mitochondrial function
  • Fartlek: improve running economy (how fuel/oxygen is used)
  • Intervals: improve VO2 max

There are cross-over benefits in these workouts but they all do one very huge thing:


Mary Cain is a MACHINE. (Image courtesy of

Mary Cain is a MACHINE.
(Image courtesy of

Period. End of story.

If you want to run the same times (or slower) and feel the same (or worse), go right ahead and do the same workouts. Be my guest. Doing the same type of run over and over will not change your body, how it functions, or affect your times.

But if you want to feel awesome when you run and get a little faster along the way, it’s time to get down to business with a real schedule. With some real science.

Ron Burgundy knows what’s up.

Not every workout needs to be balls out (in fact, some are purposely BALLS IN workouts) but there is a purpose to every run. Even if that purpose is to boost your mental game.

Now go out and run!

Friday Fitness News: Diana Nyad Rocks

There is absolutely no question that week belongs to Diana Nyad, the 64 year-old World Champion swimmer who, after 5 attempts, completed the 110-mile swim from Cuba to Florida.

Without a shark cage.

For 53 hours.


This is the moment.

The finish. (Image courtesy of

The finish.
(Image courtesy of

Please. Let’s not even talk about what I did this week. It’s all Diana and she rocks my socks right off.

You go, girl.

In other (more mundane) news, here’s what you missed this week:

You need to live here for 3 minutes 3x/week. Do it.

You need to live here for 3 minutes 3x/week. Do it.

  • Preventing and repairing ACL injuries has come a long way but nothing’s perfect.
  • Rear foot strikers, rejoice! (I say run how you run and don’t force a change)
  • In other foot-related news, minimalist footwear ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.
  • Remember last week’s news about Competitor Group no longer supporting elite athletes at their races, here’s a good response as to why we should all care about this huge change to our sport.
  • My friend (& fancy-schmancy jewelry designer) Erica wants to be your cheerleader.
She makes pretty things.

She makes pretty things.



Happy Friday, y’all. Anyone racing this weekend? Running long? Sneaking off to the beach for one last summer frolic (ahem, Birdie). Tell me about it so I can live vicariously through you as I study for my CSCS exam!

Now go out and run.

And happy birthday to sweet baby James.

Getting Out the Door

Have you ever started your training season and had to talk yourself off the ledge into actually starting? Like, a pep talk to get your butt out the door?

Or maybe you started back at school this week and almost had a panic attack about the pending weeks and days and hours ahead of sitting on your butt, freezing in the classroom, knowing only too well that you have a ridiculous amount of work to do OUT of said frozen tundra of a classroom.

…just me?

Break out the winter coats, folks. The A/C is set at 20 below.

Break out the winter coats, folks. The A/C is set at 20 below.

“We are all cowards at the start line.” ~Alberto Salazar

I love this quote because no matter how many start lines I toe, it rings true. I have to talk myself into starting just about every race I do. Usually because I cannot fathom running as far or as fast as I’ve set my goal.

Fear of failure, I guess. But really, it’s finishing in a respectable time and fashion.

I don’t want to crawl across the finish line or puke as I get my medal.

Totally puked after my first marathon. You can see my tummy is full of Gatorade. Thank you, Indian Summer, for the 83 degree November day.

Totally puked after my first marathon. You can see my tummy is full of Gatorade. Thank you, Indian Summer, for the 83 degree November day.

And I don’t want to hate every step I take.

But I will hate some of those miles. And I will hate being in class some of the days. I mean, hours and hours of lecture wears on you no matter how interesting the material. And miles and miles of running can make you crazy no matter how beautiful the day.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Mountains are pretty but HOLY SMOKES was I glad to be done with those runs.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Mountains are pretty but HOLY SMOKES was I glad to be done with those runs.

So, how do I get myself out the door for a long run when I’m panicked about the distance? How do I gear up for (what will sum up to) 5.5 years of post-graduate school in my thirties? (I’M SO OLD!!!!)

Guys, it’s all about your team.

I text, email, tweet, and send smoke signals to any and all my runner friends that I need a running buddy. Even if it’s only for a few of the miles in my monster long runs with someone I’ve never met except online, a buddy gets me out the door and running.

I have to meet them. And I look forward to chatting for as long as they’ll tolerate my company.

Sometimes it's a few dozen friends, sometimes it's just one. I'm not picky.

Sometimes it’s a few dozen friends, sometimes it’s just one. I’m not picky.

If I don’t have anyone to run with, I text Birdie and complain. And then she tells me to go because the sooner I start, the sooner I can finish and eat all the salt.

And if I can’t get a hold of anyone, I trick myself.

“Just go out for 5 and, if you feel good, keep going.”

“Well, you’re at 10. May as well kick a 5K in.”

“15 is only 5 away from 20.”

Seriously, I have this negotiation with myself at the start of almost every long run. It’s normal (I think) to not feel like you want to run 22 miles every Saturday. And it’s normal (dear God, I hope) not to love every single minute of grad school.

Sometimes you fall asleep on your notes. It's normal.

Sometimes you fall asleep on your notes. It’s normal.

It’s not all roses. It’s not all awesome. But if you have a goal, you gotta get through the sucky days, the sucky runs, to reap the benefits of having finished. Of having reached the finish line and having that medal placed around your sweaty neck.

You gotta earn it.

Now go out and run.

Tell me: Have you had a recent crappy/intimidating run that you had to talk yourself into doing? Do you negotiate? Please don’t tell me I’m the only one who bribes herself with food. That’s normal, right?