Running isn’t something that comes easy to me, I didn’t wake up one day and decide to be a runner. I have spent years working up to where I am today and yet I still have both good and bad running days. A few years ago I would never have even considered running 26.2 miles. Eventually I decided to challenge myself and just a few weeks ago I completed my second marathon.
For non-runners, I know it seems crazy to run that far. It still seems crazy to me some days. I often get asked “Why do you run?” For me there are many reasons; I like the feeling of having accomplished something before most people are even out of bed, it helps me relieve stress, it clears my mind, it gets me outside, I don’t need fancy gear or equipment to do it, and it’s a healthy way to stay in shape. All of these reasons could be applied to other activities and it’s important to find something active you like and make the time to do it. For me, it’s running.
Signing up for a race or event in advance helps me to stay motivated and to adhere to a training plan. I usually train harder if I have something specific to train for. I found a 16 week training plan which incorporated three shorter runs during the week and one long run on the weekend, progressing in distance over the training period. In all honesty, I tried my best to get in every long and short run but I typically ended up running one or two during the week and a longish run on the weekend. Despite my good intentions and planning, life still gets in the way sometimes.
In 2013, I ran the Denver Rock‘n’Roll Marathon finishing in 4:29:00 (10:16 average pace). I was extremely happy with my first marathon time but I thought I could do better so the next year I signed up again to try for a better time. I ran it on October 19th and accomplished my goal. I completed the 2014 Denver Rock’n’Roll Marathon in 4:13:33 (9:40 average pace).
My training program was different the second go around. For the shorter runs I tried to run a little faster. I also started doing CrossFit three days a week about 3 months before the race. It was probably not the best idea but I did it anyway. I now think that cross training really helped me become stronger overall. I modified slightly by switching to lighter weights a few weeks before race day as I didn’t want to be sore.
I also took a different nutritional approach. I tried to incorporate more protein than I would in my usual diet (which in all honesty wasn’t a lot to begin with). Also, during training periods I did not restrict calories. This is because it’s important to replace the calories lost in order to recover properly and be able to train the next day. Over the years, I’ve found that my performance would suffer if I didn’t take the time to take care of my body and refuel properly. Likewise, training for a race is not the time to lose weight or try a new fad diet. In the beginning I had to experiment with eating different foods before a race, some would upset my stomach and others didn’t seem to fuel me enough but.
Most importantly, every runner needs to try different things to find what works best for them. Below are some of the things I’ve learned through my experience as a runner. Facing the physical and mental challenge of running a marathon is difficult but if you put in the training miles and maintain overall good nutrition, it really shows come race day!
My Runner’s Tips:
• Sign up for a race in advance; signing up with friends helps to keep training accountability
• Put in the training miles
• If you get bored with running in the same area, switch it up or join a running group
• Don’t try new things on race day, that’s why you train (whether it be gear, nutrition, etc.)
• Find a good pair of shoes; know when they’ve seen too many miles and retire them
• Find what works for you
• During a race take an energy gel about every 5-6 miles, it keeps you going
• Stop at water or Gatorade stations during the race to stay hydrated
• Get a massage, it’s probably well deserved