Tag Archive | marathon training

The Wisdom of the Hundred Acre Wood

I run the Walt Disney World Marathon in five short days. Many things seem to be conspiring against me, as they often do. I’m feeling very stream-of-consciousness like about the whole thing so excuse me while I regurgitate some thoughts bopping around in my head.

Two weeks ago I caught a nasty cold. Just two days before my scheduled 20 mile training run. I couldn’t run it.

The 20 miler got pushed back a week and I ran it in Kansas City over the Christmas break. It was 20 degrees outside. I was still getting over my cold. I hacked up a lung running that thing. I also think my body went into shock because of the cold. I’m a wimp about weather.

Because the 20 mile training run got pushed back a week, my taper period got cut short. I developed early symptoms of shin splints after that 20 miles and since my taper period is shorter, I don’t have as much time to nurse it and recover. I’m investing in KT Tape and I never take off my compression socks. My fingers are also all crossed.

My family is in turmoil. My brother is making life challenging in a way that is hard to put into words. It’s kind of private, although he is very public about the whole thing, so I won’t go into it. It sucks. Big time. I’m angry, frustrated, hurt, depressed, resentful, scared, and a few other negative emotions that don’t lend themselves to endurance running. I have to learn to battle these emotions when the running starts. I wish I was a Jedi.

But then there are things to look forward to…

AltraI have to be honest. I chose my running costume for the marathon because of how well it would match my shoes. Now that the marathon approaches I couldn’t ask for a more appropriate mascot. Piglet. The biggest heart in the littlest body. The most courageous in spite of danger, the most giving in spite of adversity, the sweetest little love to ever be written into existence. Piglet is scared and nervous most of the time, but moves forward anyway. Of course, he does so thanks to Pooh.

You can guess what I’ve convinced Brad to wear for the marathon. I know he humors me and thinks it’s mostly silly to dress up for these things, but I do see great meaning in it. In the most fundamental and pure of ways, Brad really is my Pooh, and I’m his nervous-nelly of a Piglet. He’s my best friend, my biggest cheerleader, my strongest support, and my love. When I don’t think I can do something he gently reminds me that I can. When I feel anxious about something he convinces me not to worry. And he’s the handsomest Pooh bear you’ll ever meet.

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Then there’s our Eeyore, who is also running the marathon with us and I’ve somehow coerced into a running costume. Our friend Neiman. He’s such an Eeyore. Everyone’s favorite little black rain cloud. Eeyore is such an interesting character in the Hundred Acre Wood. Milne is quite brilliant to include him when you think about it, because there’s no use pretending that darkness doesn’t exist. There’s no use ignoring the fact that some people can’t help but think “why bother?” Because once you accept those people, or donkeys, for who they are, you’ll realize what they have to offer you. Eeyore, despite his gloomy disposition, is a great friend to Pooh and the gang. Always saying yes to helping. Always there, even if he doesn’t feel like it. Sometimes you have an Eeyore in your life to remind you that sadness doesn’t blot out kindness.

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Photo on 1-5-14 at 2.01 PM #2Pooh and his pals in the Hundred Acre Wood practically raised me. I was obsessed. Something about the simple wisdom and whimsy of A.A. Milne rang so true for me. It nurtured my creativity, my friendliness, and my sense of poetry. I still have my very first Winnie the Pooh bear from when I was a little wee girl. I’ll never let him go. He’s funny looking and his red shirt never fit quite right, but I love him. I’m thankful for Pooh. I’ll try to be brave like Piglet. I won’t take Eeyore for granted. Now if only we had a Tigger. Any takers?

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Pooh & Piglet

And so in the spirit of Pooh-like optimism. Here are some things that HAVE been going my way lately.

I got sick three weeks before the marathon, instead of three days before the marathon. This makes me very lucky.

I get to go to Disney World.

I found a bunch of leftover KT Tape in our apartment last night to treat my shin splints.

I found the perfect Piglet running clothes. Photo preview coming soon.

I got a raise at work which means extra cash to pay for this trip which means less stress.

I have two working legs and two working feet.

I have support from my friends, my family, and from a slew of complete strangers. Go #teamRunDisney!

I got my new Driver’s License in the mail weeks before I was expecting it which means my airline ticket will now match my identification which means I don’t have to travel with my marriage license in the hopes they’ll let me on the plane which means I can breathe a huge sigh of relief.

I found out our niece will be in Orlando at the exact same time, and hopefully we’ll be able to share a celebratory beer on Sunday night.

In a strange twist of fate, I have someone to babysit our cats while we’re gone.

I managed to make dinner and Fast Pass reservations on Disney’s crazy new My Magic+ Experience without too much of a headache. Knocking on wood that that keeps up.

Oh and did I mention I get to go to Disney World?

Piglet Square

I’m scared, nervous, and trepidatious. I’m excited, eager, and bold. I fall asleep with anxiety in my heart that I won’t finish/will get sick/succumb to injury. I wake up with confidence that I can do this. I am Piglet! Hear me squeak!

“It is very hard to be brave,” said Piglet, sniffing slightly, “when you’re only a Very Small Animal.”

Behind the Scenes of a 17 Mile Run

Oh hi! So I’m training for a marathon. If you’re friends with me on Facebook or Instagram then you’re sick of hearing about it. If you’re exclusively a Running to Tahiti reader then you may actually be wondering “Is she still training for that marathon thing?” I haven’t written about it that much for ironic reasons. I don’t have time to write about marathon training because I’m too busy marathon training. I guess it’s a good problem to be too busy living your life to sit down and write about it.

Long story short, yes we’re still in training. The marathon is in approximately one month. I’m kind of freaking out. This is the furthest I’ve ever pushed myself to do anything. It’s hard. Really hard. I’m also surprising myself and making it happen, so it’s amazing. I’m also very excited to go to Walt Disney World in one month. Disney World!!!

Since we’re too busy running to write Brad thought we could kill two birds with one stone and record one of our long runs. We’ll let the run speak for itself. I leave you with this, a behind-the-scenes look at a run lasting almost 4 hours. That’s half of a full work day. Running. Just running. Think about that. Venice, Santa Monica, Pacific Palisades, Malibu. We had to hit 4 cities to traverse enough distance. This marathon stuff is not for the faint of heart, or the easily bored.

Enjoy!

Running the Home Stretch

We are almost to Tahiti. We are almost to Tahiti! I find this so hard to believe, as Tahiti has been a bit of a distant dream for these past three years, despite our active plan to get there. The number of miles left to run has remained in the 4 digit area code for what feels like so long.

Until now.

I truly can’t believe it but we collectively have less than 800 miles to run. Less than 800 miles to white sandy beaches, crystalline waters, sea creatures, tropical cocktails, and exotic adventures. Less than 800 miles to our Honeymoon!

That 800 miles will fly by. How do I know this? Because we’ve created a built-in carrot to insure that we keep on track for this final stretch. It’s called the Walt Disney World Marathon on January 11. If Brad and I stick to our training schedule, which we simply must if we have any hope of finishing our first marathon, we will arrive running on the shores of Tahiti the week of December 15. Just in time for Christmas. Happy Christmas to us! We won’t actually make travel plans and get there until sometime in the spring, but this Christmas you can bet our hearts will be in French Polynesia.

The road has been paved with literal blood, sweat, and tears. As well as vomit, panic attacks, dirt, chaffed skin, plantar fasciitis, bursitis, and sunburns. Amidst the injuries and struggles we’ve also had joy, laughs, adventures, and some of the best memories in our 7 years together so far. That’s what running is all about. The incredible beauty in the challenge.

After Tahiti Brad will likely scale back on mileage and FINALLY get rid of the pesky plantar fasciitis that plagues him. I see a bicycle and a swim cap in Brad’s future. Me? I think I’ll stick with running for awhile. It’s become a very important part of me. Running makes me feel strong, sane, and grounded. As long as I’m injury free (knock on wood) I think I’ll always be running somewhere. The question is, where should we run to next?

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800 countdown

How to Know if You Should Run a Marathon

Last week I bumped into a neighbor in our building and got to chatting about his experience having just finished the LA Marathon. To use his words, it was the hardest thing he’d ever done in his life, painful as hell, a humbling experience, amazing, and life changing. This sort of contradictory reflection is not uncommon I’m noticing. I myself have never run a marathon, though I’m sort of obsessing about it lately and trying to compute in my head whether I’ve got it in me. About 70% of the time I’ve got that optimistic runner’s brain that says “hell yes I can run that.” But there’s that 30% that throws me, and I’ll tell you what populates that 30%. The content is completely anecdotal. I hear stories from other runners about seeing people collapse, cry, vomit, and even go into cardiac arrest on the marathon course. Yes that’s probably rare but it’s still terrifying and begs the question: should we be running this kind of mileage? I hear women say things like “it was harder than giving birth” and all I can think is, well damn, why would I do THAT? I don’t even get a baby when I’m done. I’m not going to lie people, as much as runners proceed to talk out of the other side of their mouth using phrases like “life-changing,” “spiritual experience,” and “incredible,” the allure of those terms are not quite outweighing the fear of heart attacks, collapse, and vomiting in front of thousands of people (I’ve already done that, rather not repeat it, ask me to tell you the story sometime).

Ultimately I think I get it. As a runner I can understand the thin line between pain and pleasure. The sense that the accomplishment isn’t worth it unless it was earned through sweat and tears. We run BECAUSE it’s hard, not in spite of it. But I don’t know, this whole marathon thing seems to take that to a new level which leaves me wondering, is it necessary for me? Can I get that same feeling of achievement, accomplishment, pride, from my happy little half marathons? The problem is that I think the answer is no. We always have to top ourselves. We need a stronger fix to get the high! It’s no wonder that veteran marathoners often evolve into ultra-marathoners; but the truth is, we all do have a line that we really can’t cross without seriously endangering our health. We push that line, boy do we push it, but it will only bend so far. For some runners, that line is a 135 mile ultra-run through Death Valley in July. For Bruce Dern, who has run over 104,000 miles in his lifetime (he’s 77, you do the math) that line was to run from California to Colorado. Why stop there? For runners like Robert Garside, there pretty much is no line! He ran around the world.

So I guess what I’m really struggling with is not whether or not marathons are a healthy or smart thing to do. Thousands of people successfully complete marathons every year. The evidence suggests, overwhelmingly, that it’s possible. What I’m struggling with, what I don’t know is… where is my line?

There are a lot of things I don’t know about myself. I have of late been struggling with, to turn an overused phrase, an existential crisis. Questions eat away at me. What am I supposed to be doing with my life? What career should I really be pursuing? Do I really want to have children someday? What kind of actor am I? What is my myth? What is the story I’m meant to tell. Who the hell am I?

It’s all so annoying. Such first world problems,but they plague me. There are really two things I feel certain of right now in my life. I’m certain that I’m in love with Brad Light and want to spend the rest of my life with him. And I’m certain that I enjoy making Whimsy Dos and bringing a little floral beauty to the world. There are more ancillary certainties as well. I know my cats are the best cats. I love California and I never want to leave. I know I know I know that cilantro tastes like soap. Those small certainties comfort me, but the big questions remain.

I chip away at them. I try to breathe and remember that worrying about the questions often distracts us from the answer. I try to just live, because ultimately these are all rather western concerns. What I am supposed to be determines my success rate. My success rate determines my status in the world. My status in the world determines my value in the world. My value in the world is EVERYTHING. Very western. To quote my brother, “sometimes a beautiful sunset is more important.” I believe that. I do. I guess I can’t help but still succumb to the pressures of our little western definitions of identity. I do want to feel as though I’ve fulfilled some sort of destiny. Made a contribution. I’m turning 30 this year. So many of my friends have already done so much. Mothers, fathers, doctors, lawyers, physicists, teachers, movie stars. What have I done? Doesn’t feel like a lot.

Oy! Now I’m falling down an existential rabbit hole of doubt and self-pity. Not my intention! Wow, not the direction I thought this post would take, but what a discovery that is. I’m not going to edit it. All of this has been on my mind. I’ve been trying to work it out, and I’ve realized as I’ve put it into words that THAT is what that line represents for me. Running takes on metaphorical meaning in so many aspects of my life, this being no exception. So that line, that limit, whether it’s running a marathon or running around the world, where is it for me? What am I made of? What can I accomplish? Who am I? Not knowing has obviously been incredibly frustrating, on the course and off. So I guess there’s only one way to answer my own question. I have to run a marathon.

BIG announcement, like, big

Last weekend I watched my friend not only finish the L.A. Marathon, but kick it in the butt. Brad and I drove him to the starting line at 6:00 am. The sun continued to sleep soundly somewhere past the horizon while Dodgers Stadium overflowed with 20,000+ eager and excited runners. As we pulled into the drop-off area, inspiration filled my lungs. I couldn’t believe not only how many people took on the challenge of running a marathon, but how many of them were in the same physical condition (and maybe even a bit worse) than me. I couldn’t help but excitedly think if they could do this, I could do this. And I can.

With no further ado I have an announcement to make. I will run a marathon in 2015.

In case you weren’t sure, that’s 26.2 miles.

I’ve been toying with the idea since about one week after I finished my first half marathon. Immediately after finishing I thought that running that distance twice in a row sounded like the most insane idea I’d ever heard of, and I couldn’t believe ANYone actually did it. But it only took about a week to forget the pain before I started thinking not only of running another half as soon as possible, but entertaining the notion of greater challenges. I imagine it’s a bit like having children. During childbirth and immediately after I think most women curse their spouse’s name and swear they’ll never do this again. Doesn’t take long before that cuddly little bundle wipes away the memory of the pain and you start prepping another baby’s room. So yes, I’ve been thinking about it for years, (the marathon thing, not the baby thing) and I’m done thinking. The only way I’m going to find out if I can actually do it, is to just frickin’ do it.

So I’m going to do it.

Why wait until 2015 you ask? Well I’ve got this little thing called a wedding to plan. Brad and I are getting hitched in July 2014 (BRAD AND I ARE GETTING HITCHED JULY 2014!!!!!) and I don’t need to add to the stress of wedding planning by trying to squeeze in 15 mile runs on the weekends. 2014 is the year ‘o’ love. As soon as we get back from our honeymoon, let the training begin.

The goal right now (and I hope I hope I hope I can make it work) is to run the Walt Disney World Marathon. We’re talking about a marathon people. My FIRST marathon. It’s a big deal. You want your first time to be special, y’know? Whether or not we’ll have enough money leftover to fly to Florida for a running vacay after saving for a wedding and honeymoon remains to be seen. If it doesn’t happen, then it’ll either be the LA Marathon or the California International Marathon that takes my marathon V-Card.

So there you have it! You heard it here first. Accountability officially in print on Running to Tahiti.

I will run a marathon.

special idiots run marathon copy

supergirl day 4 – 8

Day 4

BREAKFAST

  • 1 packet organic oatmeal
  • 2 tsp raw turbinado sugar
LUNCH
  • mixed green salad w/ cucumber, goat cheese, tomatoes, garbanzo beans and balsamic vinagrette
  • 1 iced tea
DINNER
  • Snacky Foods at the “Wonderlust” opening night party:
  • hummus with pita, 2 slices cheddar cheese, 4 fresh figs, sampling of fresh tropical fruits, and a few itty bitty bites of spinach sour cream dip (I couldn’t resist!)
Day 5
BREAKFAST
  • 1/2 egg white omelet with swiss cheese, spinach and mushrooms
  • a few bits of potatoes
  • 1/2 english muffin with apple butter (no regular butter)
LUNCH
  • mixed green salad with tomato, cucumber, onion, carrots, fresh bean sprouts and balsamic vinaigrette
DINNER
  • 1 Trader Joe’s green chile tamale (again, not like normal fat full Mexican food. This stuff from TJ’s is not bad for you)
  • 1 Trader Joe’s Vegetable Masala burger (amazing!) on whole wheat bread with onion
  • 2 fresh figs
SNACK

  • 1/2 slice Trader Joe’s garlic naan with low-fat shredded mozzarella cheese, avocado and mini heirloom tomatoes
  • raw organic almonds
Day 6
BREAKFAST
  • Organic Instant oatmeal with 1 tsp organic brown sugar and 1 tsp butter (weekend splurge)
  • 1 banana
LUNCH
  • 1 tuna salad sandwich from One Life Natural Foods. Tuna on wheat bread with lettuce, bean sprouts, carrots and somehow-not-bad-for-you mayonnaise
  • 1 serving Terra Exotic Vegetable Chips
DINNER
  • Thai Tom Yum soup from Chan Darae (lemongrass soup. Delish!) with shrimp
  • 1 cup brown rice
Day 7
BREAKFAST
  • Starbucks Cool Lime Refresher
  • 1 serving raw organic almonds
LUNCH
  • Mixed greens salad with tuna, cucumbers, roasted red peppers, red onion, croutons and lite caesar dressing
DINNER
  • Spaghetti with Mama Coco’s basil marinara sauce (this is THE best pasta sauce in the world. Run out and look for Mama Coco’s. You will thank me)
  • 1/2 slice Trader Joe’s garlic naan
DESSERT
  • 2 bites Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey. I caved! I know it’s wrong. Anything with the word “chunky” in the title is NOT on the Supergirl diet. But I only had two widdle bites. I swear! 
Day 8
BREAKFAST
  • 1/2 Vegetable sandwich. Weird breakfast food I know, but I was craving it. I read some good advice once that said don’t feel limited at breakfast time. Just because it’s breakfast doesn’t mean you HAVE to have something sweet or with eggs in it. If you feel like having a sandwich, have a sandwich. Healthy choices are more important than staying in the breakfast box
LUNCH

  • 1 small greek salad with kalamata olives, feta cheese, cucumbers, tomatoes, and lemon oregano dressing
SNACK
  • 1 Tuna bistro box from Starbuck’s
  • Trader Joe’s Thai Lime & Chili Cashews. These are to die for. Proceed with caution however, as it’s very easy to eat more than one serving
DINNER
  • Homemade vegetable stir fry, made in olive oil, with 1 cup brown rice and 1/4 cup shrimp
DESSERT
  • 5 dark chocolate covered almonds. Get off my case. Both dark chocolate and almonds are antioxidant rich superfoods, so eat up Supergirl! 

super foods for supergirl

The Disneyland Half Marathon is in 8 days. I know that my training process this year has not been quite as robust as it was last year. What can I say, life gets in the way sometimes. It’s alright though. There is nothing I can do to change the miles I have run before this moment. There are things I know, and things I can control. I know that I’m going to run that race in 8 days despite not having trained as vigorously as I should have. I can control my preparation from now until then. I will not miss any more training runs. I will not freak out. I will meditate. I will breathe. I will go with the flow. I will have a great time, hopefully.

A major factor that I can control and that I believe will have a huge impact on my race performance is what I put in my body. If learned anything from my crisis last weekend it’s that no matter how in denial I am or how hard I plead to the contrary, my body and all its various systems are sensitive. I am not like Brad who can go without food or water all day, throw back a cup of coffee and go run 6 miles. It sure must be convenient to be that resilient, but my body needs a lot more tender love and care. For the next 8 days I am committing to a very strict diet of whole, fresh, healthy, performance boosting superfoods. I’ve never been strict enough about this and frankly I’m curious to see if it changes how I feel on race day compared to last year. 

To keep myself in check, I’d like to share with all of you every morsel that I eat for the next week. I’m not going to count calories as that’s really not what this is about. It’s about listening to my body and only giving it optimal fuel when I need it. It’s common sense that onion rings and a hefeweizen are not going to help me run so it really doesn’t matter how many calories they have, I’m not eating them. Oh, did I mention beer? That leads me to a major point. There are some basic ground rules for the Supergirl diet, one of them being zero alcohol. Oy. It’s going to be difficult, but no No NO alcohol between now and race day.

If I feel great and I run like Supergirl next Sunday then you’ll have a nice little meal plan for when you run your own half marathon some day. Which you will!

*NOTE* I’m a pescetarian (I eat fish, no other meat) so you won’t find any poultry, pork or beef on this meal plan. Hopefully this will also serve as documented proof that you don’t have to eat a ton of meat to get a substantial amount of protein. 

Day 1:

SNACK: 20 raw organic almonds and 5 fresh black cherries
  • LUNCH
  • 1 c spaghetti with marinara sauce (not ideal but I didn’t want to waste the leftovers so I employed some major portion control. Plus, pasta is actually good runner’s fuel and tomatoes ARE a superfood)
SNACK: 2 slices cantaloupe, 2 tablespoons eggplant hummus, 15 Mary’s Gone Crackers crackers
  • DESSERT
  • 1 c Greek yogurt with honey
  • 1 c raspberries
SNACK: 1 Smart Dog Veggie dog
Day 2:
  • Breakfast
  • 1 c oatmeal with 1 tsp raw turbinado sugar
  • 20 raw organic almonds
  • Lunch
  • Mixed green salad with roasted red peppers, cucumbers, black beans, avocado and goat cheese with lite balsamic vinaigrette
  • 8 oz. green iced tea, sweetened with agave nectar
SNACK: 15 Mary’s Gone Crackers crackers, 2 tbsp eggplant hummus, 1 donut peach (not to be confused with a peach donut)
  • Dinner
  • Raw vegan “taquitos” – made out of almonds and bean sprouts. Was actually pretty good
  • 1/2 slice garlic naan with 1 tbsp mozzarella cheese and 1/4 avocado, sprinkled with salt and pepper

a beginner’s guide to running: the mental edition

This is for all my ladies and gents out there who have said to themselves at one time or another “I could never run that far.” Remember Chef Gusteau’s motto from Ratatouille “Anyone can cook”? Change one word and that sums up my feelings exactly, *anyone can run.

*who doesn’t have severe back injuries, knee injuries, a lack of two functioning legs or other debilitating health issues. If you do not have any of those things, be grateful, sheesh. And stop being afraid of running.

I wanted to publish a beginner’s guide in The Happiest Runner on Earth last year, but somehow it got away from me. In all honesty, giving people advice about running intimidates me probably as much as running itself intimidates you. Offering advice implies that I actually know what I’m doing, which is not something I usually feel confident about when it comes to anything athletic, BUT, I ran a Half Marathon last year. I ran the entire time. I have to accept the fact that I must know a thing or two about endurance running or I would not have been able to finish without serious injury, mental or physical. Suddenly I feel like sitting up a little straighter, letting my nose ever so slightly rise up into the air. That’s right! I DO know some things. I’m no Jeff Galloway, and I am not a role model for speed, but I am an amateur runner who has learned a great deal from my running adventures, and who has a strong desire to inspire people who are afraid of running, to run. It’s fun! Let’s get to it:

Preface: as I alluded to above, I am a complete amateur. Please take everything I say with a grain of salt. I don’t mean to talk myself down but I want you to know that I have never consulted with a professional trainer about running and every piece of advice I can offer comes completely from personal experience. These are the things that work for me. Running is such a personal sport in so many ways. Not only are you competing against yourself and relying completely on your body, your will, your spirit to get you across the finish line, but what you discover works for you will not work for a hundred other people, and what works for a hundred other people will not work for you. The following techniques have steered me clear of injury and discouragement. Give ’em a try. If you end up disagreeing completely with what I have to say, let me know and let’s start a healthy dialogue. Or we can yell at each other. That’s fun too.

  1. ANYONE CAN DO IT. Finishing a Half Marathon, Marathon or Triathlon displays three things about a person. 1) She likes running. 2) She is patient. 3) She is determined. (Or “he.” So what, I had to pick a pronoun and writer’s ALWAYS pick “he.” Drives me bananas.) If #1 applies to you, then anyone and everyone can accomplish #2 and #3. The part about liking running, well, you either do or you don’t. Craving the experience and loving the sport are both very important components to becoming an endurance runner. Now, there’s a bit of a tricky catch to this. You may think you hate running because you’ve never given it a fair shot. Or maybe you’ve been running with bad form, or trying to force yourself to run too far too quick. All things that would turn off even the most seasoned athlete. It’s like sex. If every girl forecast her sexual future based entirely upon her first time, there would be no new babies in this world. Thank God we take it on a wing and a prayer that “it’s not always going to feel like that, right?” Same with running. You may discover, if you do it the right way, that running and you go together like Rebecca and Ice Cream:

    mmmm, i love ice cream

    To all the running/jogging haters out there, follow my advice in this guide and see if it changes your outlook. If you truly do hate running, then I’m afraid I can’t help you friend; but I can point you in the direction of the lap pool or the spinning studio. Try those out.

  2. DON’T BE AFRAID. Running is the art of the possible. When I talk to non-runners about finishing a Half Marathon, I often get the response “I can’t believe it! I could NEVER do that!” I feel proud of the accomplishment, but I kid you not when I say, it’s really not that big of a deal. You (yes I mean YOU) could do it, and I’m going to tell you how. If your joints have been kind to you, if you enjoy running, and if you have time enough to train, then you can most definitely run a long distance race. Believe it. If you don’t believe it to the very depths of your being, then you won’t finish.
  3. IT’S ALL IN THE MIND. If you’re going to start out on the quest to become an endurance runner, be prepared for some healthy mind games. Don’t think about how many miles you are going to run. Think about the first step you are going to take. Can you take a step? Then you can run. Don’t think of the mountain, think of one foot after the other. There is no reason to be afraid of a series of steps, but I would understand feeling afraid of 26.2 miles. When I approach the final leg of a long run, I cannot finish if I focus on the front door of my apartment. I have to give myself small goals. “Can I make it to that tree? Yes! I made it to the tree. Can I make it to that lamp post? Yes! Made it to the lamp post.” Before I know it, I’m at my front door. You must be very Zen about the whole thing. Focus on the moment, the journey, not the destination. Of course the point is to finish the race, but the finish line itself has no inherent value. It’s all the little strides in between that give it meaning. Relish those.
  4. ACHH! GET OUT THAT DOOR MISTER! The last major mental hurdle you will have to jump over if you want this running thing to happen for you is waking up to the days that you simply cannot imagine hitting the treadmill, and doing it anyway. Ideally you should run 3-5 times a week at the very least to build up your endurance. It’s alright to miss a day here and there. Lord knows I do. Studies show that missing one or two days out of your week every once in a while will not adversely affect your training, but endurance does steadily decline after one week off. One week! Just one widdle bitty week and you’re going to lose what you’ve worked so hard to build up. Don’t let that happen. Just get out the door. Even if you only run half your intended distance, even if you have to walk part of it, even if you curse my name the whole time, get out that door. I’ll finish with a little anecdote. About a month ago, I remember having a particularly lazy day. The last thing I wanted to do was run. I’d had a long day at work, I was tired, hungry, exhausted. Brad kept tempting me with going to a movie or cooking a delicious dinner instead of running. Sharky had jumped up onto my lap and made it almost impossible to get up. I mean, that furry face. How could I? I honestly did not know where I was going to find the motivation to get on the running trail. I was looking everywhere for even just an ounce of inspiration and found myself at a complete loss. I knew I couldn’t miss this run, so I translated some acting advice the late great Jim Spruill used to give us at Boston University: fake it ’til ya make it. Sometimes in a scene, you don’t feel the emotion. You can’t find the key in. If you start breathing a bit differently, start wimpering, start physically crying even though you don’t feel it, 9 times out of 10 you’ll end up with warm tears running down your face. The body remembers when the mind doesn’t. I knew this technique could be applied to this situation. I figured maybe if I just get off my you-know-what and change into my running clothes “something” will happen. I got up off the couch thinking “don’t want to run don’t want to run,” walked into my bedroom “don’t want to run don’t want to run,” went into the closet and put my running clothes on “don’t want to run don want to run… don’t… well, hold on,” laced up my sneakers “kinda sorta…. starting… to…,” looked in the mirror and voila! The simple act of putting on a sports bra and running shorts made me feel like going out for a jog. I knew I wasn’t going to find the inspiration from within, so I just walked through the motions of getting ready, zombie like, and it worked. The moral of the story is, training is hard. No matter how much I love running, there are days, many days, that I do not want to do it. The test of a true athlete is not on the easy days, but the difficult ones. It’s easy to do something good for yourself when you feel like it, but it means so much more when you do it in spite of the little lazy devil on your shoulder.

There is so much to cover in a beginner’s guide to running. We’ll call this the “Mental Chapter,” covering the mental/emotional hurdles associated with beginning running. Next time I’ll tackle some physical challenges like how to protect your knees, running form, the burnout factor, breathing and pace, things like that.

All I can hope is that there is someone out there reading this who has been completely intimidated by the prospect of signing up for a race, yet now feels a bit closer to searching Active.com for a nearby 5k. In fact, how about this. If you’re still feeling apprehensive and need that extra nudge to sign up for your first race, I’ll push you, literally! Sign up for your first 5k and my schedule allowing, I will run it with you. Just let me know which race you have in mind and we’ll do it together. How’s THAT for motivation?