Training Races

Summertime is nearing closer every day and you know what that means…tons and tons and tons of races! Probably two a weekend, one at least. Lots of long races, but let’s talk about the shortys, shall we?

During marathon training, it’s easy to get all bugged out and bored with running for hours and hours and hours by yourself on the same ‘ol routes every single time. The monotony can really get to you. Been there. Hated that.

What has always saved me is that random 5K or 10K on a Saturday morning. Here’s what I’d do: get up early and clock about 12-15 miles on my own, run to the start line of the race and run the rest of my training run with 5,000 of my closest friends. Awesome idea, right? Certainly, I am not the first one to think of this.

Advantages: water/fuel stations late in your run, POJs, cheerleaders, pace groups (to keep you going at your desired race pace in the longer miles), friends to run with, post-race food. I mean, I guess my main focus is food and people. It’s so awesome to run with a buddy for the last few miles when you’re pooped.

It's better with friends.

Lots and lots of friends!!

So sign up for a 5K or 10K somewhere deep in your marathon training. It’ll be something fun to look forward to on those longer runs in the heat of the summer. You’ll have a much more dramatic finish at a finish line with music and other runners than you will be just stopping once you get to your front door.

Now go out and run.


Lonely long runner no more!

How To Race a 5K

5Ks kick my distance runner butt. It is the dreaded, personally less than successful distance of my high school cross country years. Don’t get me wrong, I loved being on the team but I never trained properly prior to the season and, thus, never performed up to my full potential during the season.

I think my personal best was somewhere in the 22 minute range. Just to give you perspective, I run about 7:40-7:55 miles for 7 miles now. When I race 5Ks, I run 6:45-7:00 without actually training for the shorter distance. My thirty-i@nr*tsld#kh year-old self runs faster than my 16 year-old self. Yeah, but I feel like I want to vomit the entire time.

This is probably the last time I raced a 5K. I was a little excited. To be fair, it was in Yankee Stadium.

That’s how those shorter distances go.

You run your guts out for 20-something minutes (or less) and then it’s over. Shorter distances are a completely different beast and racing them requires a strategy all its own.

#1.  Warm up

For most of us, the first several miles of a marathon/half marathon serve as warm-up enough and it’s usually too crowded to run fast at the start of any race. However, in order to reach your full speed during a short distance, you have to warm-up for at least a mile. Why? It’s gets your heart rate going, your muscle fibers twitching and responding, and allows for you to race right out of the gate.

Middle miles racing on the Warning Track of Yankee Stadium. Not bad.

#2.  Strategize

  • Run your first mile at a comfortably fast pace that you practiced during your tempo runs. No faster, no slower.
  • The second mile is where you push a little harder, find that next gear. Don’t kill it just yet, but get those legs moving a tiny bit faster. You want to negative split your miles, but they don’t have to be drastic changes in order to make a big difference.
  • The third mile is where you lay the hammer down. You use your arms to make your legs go faster and increase the speed of your foot turnover. Start picking off people in front of you.
  • When you are a half-mile out, rock it. Get to that place where you are pushing as hard as you can and leave it all out on the course.

Arms up! Big finish! (not really the finish, but it's a fun picture)

#3.  Cool down

You’ve just run really hard and your heart rate and blood pressure are sky-high. You MUST at least walk around, but preferably jog around, after you’ve caught your breath. This will help to loosen your legs and guide your heart rate to a safer place. If you stop, lie down, stand still or otherwise cease moving immediately following high-intensity exercise, you run the risk of having your blood pool and passing out.

Are any of you running shorter distances in the near future? What’s your game plan for these races versus the longer distances? Does your training schedule change at all? Tell me all about it!

Now go out and run.

I’m A Newbie Runner: Goal setting

Congratulations! You’ve decided to start running (or running more frequently). You’ve made the right decision and I’m proud of you for taking an active role in your health and well-being. Welcome to the world of running.

You bought your shoes with the help of the experts at your local running store, you have a swanky new moisture-wicking outfit, your schedule is approved by your running coach/guru/trainer/seasoned running friend. Soooooo, now what? Well, you run! Eh, not so exciting. You need a goal!

I am a big fan of finish lines. Be it finals or chutes at the end of cross-country meets, I am a strong finisher (I’m working on the steady-in-the-middle-of-the-race stuff) and I love the sight of the finish line more than most anything else in the world. The sweet relief of being done and the feeling of pride that I accomplished my goal is what I work for in life and in running.

Goal-setting is important because without goals, what are you working so hard for? I find that my clients (and me!) often need goals to stay motivated on the days when working out is the last thing you want to do. When I want to sleep in and go to breakfast at EJs instead of hit the pavement for 15+ miles, I think of the Philadelphia Marathon in November and how badly I want to set a PR. I want to train hard and smart and give it all I’ve got, especially since now my doctor and I have a back-up plan for if my body isn’t cooperating that will avoid a repeat of the tremendously disruptive race I had at the Jersey Shore. Oh no, THAT will not be happening again.

Here’s how to set goals: Start small. If you’re brand-new to running or racing, choose a local 5K fun-run that’s about 3 months away. Tailor your running schedule to that distance and see how you do at that race. Everybody has a different race-morning routine and it’s important to figure out how you best prepare in the hours right before you race.

If you dig the 5K distance, stay with it for a couple of months while you add on some mileage geared toward a 10K. Training for a 5K and training for a 10K are very different animals and you’ll want to prepare accordingly. You may not need water during a 5K, but you find that you do in a 10K. You might need a bathroom break during a half-marathon and you’ve got to figure out how to navigate all that (my own current personal battle). Or, you might find your favorite shorts chafe during a 15K and now you need new shorts for longer distances. At the very least, you will definitely need to pace differently for each race and that takes some refining, so don’t rush yourself right into the longer distance before you’ve switched up your workouts for a month or two.

And you go on from there. I never recommend anyone race for the first time at a distance greater than a 10K. Getting comfortable with how races start, how to avoid traffic jams in the first mile, how to fuel during a race and how you react to race-day nonsense is all very personal and worth taking the time to figure out. Especially before you jump into a marathon.

So, find a 5K for September or October (there are TONS) and grab a friend while you’re at it! Better yet, find a charity you feel passionate about and enter in their 5K. That’ll keep you going! Set your goal and keep it in mind when you’re in need of a reason to lace up your shoes and head out the door.

Now go out and run!