It’s that time of the year again.  The time when we start reflecting on our biggest achievements and our worst setbacks from the past year, all to help us prepare for the next.

Some people say that we put too much emphasis on setting goals and resolutions for the new year, but I think the exact opposite.  I think taking time to challenge yourself and make a plan for self growth is exactly what we need each year.

So when a friend linked to an article about rules for 2014 on Facebook, I couldn’t help but sit down and ponder the running rules I want to follow in the coming year.  The list started building, so I decided to write them down and share them with you today.

honolulu-marathon

Running Rules to Live By

1) Call yourself a runner.  If you run, you’re a runner.  Don’t be afraid.

2) Set a bigger goal than you ever thought possible.  And figure out what you need to do to get there.  Then do it.

3) Change your shoes more often.

4) Eat a little cleaner, and enjoy the added energy.

5) After crossing the finish line of an upcoming race, stop to cheer on other runners and congratulate them on their accomplishments.

6) Join a running group.

7) Spend more time analyzing your training data.

8) But don’t forget that sometimes you shouldn’t record the data at all.  And just run.

9) Run more hills.

10) Sign-up to volunteer at a trail race’s aid station.

11) Take a few weeks off, and use that time to try out a new sport or activity.

12) Do your strength training.

13) Thank your spectators and supporters, and treat them to a special surprise.

14) Put in the warm-up and cool-down miles.

15) Read more running books.  Learn from them.

16) Find a training partner.

17) Try to set a new 5k PR, even if you’re focused on marathons or ultras.

18) Treat yourself to new socks.  Maybe even ones with a little compression.

19) Foam roll more religiously.

20) Plan out your schedule now, at the beginning of the year, so you can train properly.

21) Don’t be afraid to reward yourself after tough workouts or long runs.

22) Get up and run in the morning more often.

23) Talk a non-running friend into signing up for a 5k with you.  And run with them the whole race.

24) Attend a race just to cheer on runners you don’t know.

25) Stretch.

26) Return to a race you struggled with in the past.

27) Experiment with new ideas by committing to different 10-30 day challenges.

28) Start a run streak, even if it is just for one week.

29) Keep up with long runs, even if you aren’t training for any particular race.

30) Run on trails.

31) Force yourself to break out of routine and try new routes.

32) Most importantly, be proud of every run.  Be proud that you are a runner.

What rules will you be following next year?

Photo Credit

This post is written by Jennifer Heidmann

shop

Running is the anti-consumerism sport. Seriously, once you get those shoes, everything else is simple. A tee shirt. Shorts or tights or sweats. Socks.

This is the beauty of running. Simplicity.

The Tarahumara Indians do not even require shoes, shorts, tights or sweats. You do not need a gym membership. Or an iPod or a subscription to Running Times or compression socks or Gu. Witness the naked running toddler. They know.

Still, gift giving is nice, and runner’s are not immune to the pleasures of receiving a well thought out and useful present. Sometimes runners might even want to give gifts to themselves, therein both giving and receiving, and thus enjoying the best of both worlds.

It is the season for thinking of others, and along those lines the gift of running itself can be magical. Have you ever watched someone go from being a non-runner to a runner? It is like a light switches on in their brain. And not just a little glimmer, but one of those bright, colorful, neon lights that feeds the circuit which allows the mainlining of endorphins.

Santa should probably take up running. He would feel better about the millions of cookies and milks he must consume to ensure the happiness of children everywhere in the world. I might leave Santa an Espresso Love Gu and some red and white running socks this year. I bet there are some fabulous trails to run in the North Pole.

If you are opposed to shopping, I applaud you. Many of us need little, and the world is too stuffed with unnecessary bling.

But if you think you might want to shop for your Runner, here are some tips. I really hope my husband reads this post.

Perfect Give Ideas For Runners

1) Support those who are giving the gift of running to those in need

Give a donation in your Runner’s name. They will be stoked. Here are just a few programs to consider supporting. You can also donate to your local running club.

2) Clothes

There have been many improvements in this department over the years.
No longer is it just those weird short shorts that Bill Rodger’s wore (and nicely, I must admit).

  • For the Women:
    • Oiselle. No I cannot pronounce it either, but their clothes are da bomb.
    • Title Nine. Maybe the only great thing President Nixon ever did (gender equality, including athletics).
    • Athleta. I never believed in skorts. Till I tried one from Athleta. Now I could run in a skort every minute of every day.
  • For the Men:

3) Socks

Compression socks are all the rage. Personally, I like to put them on after hard workouts, or on long trips, say to that out of town marathon.

The importance of socks cannot be overstated. Socks can make or break a runner. It is true.

4) Headphones

Running in silence is beautiful. But sometimes you have to have tunes.

5) Audio Books

I love long runs accompanied by a good book. If it is good enough for Ryan Hall, it is good enough for me.
I use Audible. Podcasts are a good gift too. Once I was laughing out loud to a podcast while running on the treadmill at the gym. Everyone was jealous about how much I was enjoying my workout.

6) Jewelry

OK. It is never a bad move to give a woman some bling.

7) Bags.
Men, women and children love a good bag to stow stuff in. Runners need a good bag. It is not frivolous. It is essential. Let it also be stylish and the envy of every other runner they encounter.

8) Magazines and Books

Excellent running books are abundant. And nice to wrap and place under the tree.

9) Race Entry

Give your runner a race entry. Boston. New York. Or some race in your home town. Maybe they would like a membership to your local running club. Think about your runner’s wildest dreams, and make it come true. Hawaii has some nice marathons. Just saying.

If you cannot buy something, that’s OK. Just offer your runner love and support on race day. Or make them pancakes after their Sunday long run. Or rub their hamstrings after a particularly strenuous workout. Runners? Easy to please. All we need is fresh air, a path to conquer and someone who understands our need to run.

Santa, baby, been an awful good girl, so hurry down the chimney tonight.

I left you some Gu and socks.

Maybe you can set a PR.

Jennifer Heidmann has been running for 30 years, racing every distance from the 400m to the marathon. Her next adventure will be tackling her first 50 mile ultramarathon. She is also a physician, a pianist and a mother of 3 teenagers. Check out her personal running blog, Redwoods and Running, for more great tips and stories.

Ed Note: It’s Holiday Spirit Week here at Rock Creek Runner, and we’re celebrating with two awesome giveaways to help you kick-start your training in the new year. You can still enter to win the first awesome giveaway here.  

Originally I was going to split this giveaway up into separate nutrition and hydration prizes, but then it dawned on me how awesome it would be to win one incredible prize featuring goodies from so many amazing companies.  But before we get into that, let’s talk a bit about fueling.

The Importance of Fueling Right During a Long Run

Keeping up with nutrition and hydration can make or break a distance runner.  Unfortunately scarfing down a dozen donuts isn’t going to cut it, so, it’s important to know how to fuel properly.

The very general rule of thumb is that during a run longer than an hour, you should consume:

  • 30-60 grams of carbohydrates
  • 150-200 calories
  • And drink to thirst

Finding foods and drinks that are easy on the stomach, easily digestible, and contain the proper amount of calorie – carbohydrate – electrolyte ratio is key.  Electrolytes keep the muscles and body moving properly, and calories/carbs give you the sugars and fat that feed your energy levels.  Achieving that balance will help ward off major bonks and muscle cramps.

In today’s giveaway, I’ve assembled a great package of nutritional products that have that perfect blend to keep you running long.

The Giveaway

FuelingGiveawayToday we’re giving away a sweet package that will keep you fueled right to kick-start your new year.  Here’s what one lucky winner will get:

  • Ultimate Direction Access Hydration Waist pack: Ultimate Direction has been paving the way in innovative hydration packs for long time, and this alternative to the handheld is a perfect example.  It comes with the signature UD 20oz bottle, and offers plenty of room for gels, chews, or bars.
  • Nuun Original 4-Pack + Holiday Pint Glass (not pictured) Electrolyte hydration drinks are nothing new, but where other companies falter, Nuun does it right.  They are packed with just the right formula of electrolytes to keep you energized, alleviate cramps, and keep your muscles functioning properly.  Just add a tablet to your bottle of water and off you go.
  • Pocketful Naturals 2-Pack Tired of gels? I thought so.  Loaded with purred whole foods high in potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and sodium, Pocketful is an all natural, organic, vegan way to get your refuel with just the right blend of minerals and calories during your next long run.  We’re giving away two for the winner to test out.
  • Bearded Brothers Bars 2-Pack I had the privilege of visiting the Bearded Brothers warehouse in Austin recently, and after testing out several of the bars myself, I just had to pick up a few more to add to this giveaway.  The 100% natural, vegan, raw, gluten and soy free bars provide a perfectly clean food to refuel with after a run, or to take along with you on the trail.

How the Giveaway Works

I’ve set it up so everyone has the opportunity to get as many as 8 entries into the giveaway.  You don’t need to complete all of the options to be entered into the giveaway, but as with the Injinji Compression Sock giveaway, the more you complete, the more chances you have of being drawn.  If you’re already a subscriber or follower, no worries, sign in and click “done” and you’ll still get the point.

This contest will end Sunday, December 8th at 11:59pm ET, giving you plenty of time to enter before the end of Holiday Spirit Week.  I’ll update this post with winners on Monday.

Huge thanks to Nuun and the other companies for providing some of the products in this giveaway.

Happy Holiday Spirit Week, and may the odds be ever in your favor.

Winner:

And the winner is….Maggie!  Check your email for details.

Ed Note:  It’s Holiday Spirit Week here at Rock Creek Runner, and we’re celebrating with two awesome giveaways to help you kick-start your training in the new year.  Today we’re giving away 5 pairs of Injinji Compression Socks and Thursday we’ll post details on a nutrition giveaway, featuring hydration gear, Nuun products, and Bearded Brothers bars.  Don’t be a Grinch, and be sure to check back!

——————————————————

injinji_compressionIt’s no secret that I’m a fan of Injinji toe socks.  In fact, I’ve been wearing them almost exclusively during long runs for the past several months.  I get more blisters than any runner I’ve ever met, but the toe socks have helped.  A lot.

But it wasn’t until Injinji offered to send me a test pair of their compression socks that I even considered giving the knee high version of their funky toe socks a try.  I’d never given any sort of compression sock or sleeve a second thought.  I didn’t really understand what the compression did, and thought they looked a little hokey.

Never one to turn down an easy chance at improving my training, once they were offered, I gave them a shot.

What’s The Deal With Compression, Anyway?

As I’ve come to find out there isn’t a whole lot of definitive research that says compression makes you a faster runner.  Or that it assists in quicker recovery.  But runners don’t need definitive research to be convinced.  They just need to try it.

The research that is out there shows that compressions socks/sleeves affect the legs in the following three ways:

  1. Reduces Calf Vibration:  Every time your foot strikes the ground, it sends a vibration up your leg.  This vibration is known to cause that terrible delayed muscle soreness, and keeps us wobbling for days after a big race.  Compression around the calves reduces that vibration, keeping your legs fresher.
  2. Increases Blood Flow:  The compression acts to squeeze the blood through your veins at a quicker rate, clearing out all the byproducts that build up in your blood causing fatigue.  This is thought to help during the run, but especially during post-run recovery.
  3. Reduces Swelling:  Any endurance runner knows that after a long run, your feet, ankles, and lower legs are often swollen and sore.  Compression during the hour or so after the run reduces swelling by increasing the blood flow.

Why Injinji Compression Socks are Special

When I first put on my pair of blue Injinji Compression Socks, Mrs. RCR ask if I was headed out to play soccer instead of going for a run.  And I was OK with that.  Soccer players are cool.

That day I took off on what would be my first 20 mile run in the socks.  Since then I’ve run 6 15+ mile runs in the socks, along with 3 of my 6 legs of Ragnar DC.  During each run, I’ve been amazed at how fresh my legs feel.

What I’ve used them for most is recovery.  I throw them on immediately after my shower for about 30-45 minutes to help reduce swelling and increase blood flow around the feet, ankles, and calves.  I don’t need the studies, I can tell you from experience that it works.

But what I’ve said so far could be accomplished through any compression sleeve or sock.  Here’s what can’t:

  1. Compression sleeves stop above the ankle.  This means that the foot receives none of the compression, leaving the ankles and feet without assistance.
  2. The 5-toe design reduces moisture in the foot, prevents rubbing between the toes, and reduces the chance of blisters.  If you’re going to wear a compression sock, you might as well wear one that makes the whole foot comfortable, not just the calf.

If you’re already an Injinji fan, and you’re looking for compression socks, these should be a no-brainer.  If you haven’t given the toe-socks a try, I promise you won’t regret it.

The Giveaway: 5 Pairs of Injinji Compression Socks

Now for the fun part.  It’s Holiday Spirit week on Rock Creek Runner, and we’re kicking it off with a giveaway of not one, but 5 pairs of compression socks (winners select the size).  That means 5 lucky people will be armed with compression for the new year.

I’ve set it up so everyone has the opportunity to get as many as 8 entries into the giveaway.  You don’t need to complete all of the options to be entered into the giveaway, but the more you complete, the more chances you have of being drawn.  Think Hunger Games where some people have a greater chance than others, only if you are selected, you get a sweet pair of compression socks and you don’t have to face a near certain death.

This contest will end Thursday, December 5th at 11:59pm ET, giving you plenty of time to enter both this giveaway and Thursday’s Holiday Spirit giveaway.  I’ll update this post with winners on Friday.

Huge thanks to Injinji for sponsoring this giveaway and supplying the socks.

Happy Holiday Spirit Week, and may the odds be ever in your favor.

Compression_otc_pink

Winners

Abby, Jacob, Priya, Rob, and Patrick!  I’ve emailed you all with further details.

Thanks for playing everyone!

Note From Doug:  While Injinji did supply these socks giveaway, the views above are completely my own.  Injinji did not review the post or require any praise when offering the giveaway socks.  I just really like them.

I am a thankful runner.

I’m thankful for my two feet, which propel me forward, stride after stride.  And for my legs which continue to build in strength to carry me up hills and through miles of trail.

I’m thankful for my head, and my heart.  Combined they get me off the couch or out of bed, and out on the road day after day.  And together they push me through tough miles and difficult runs.

I’m thankful for the tears.  Because yes, runs do bring me to tears.  Both the good tears and the bad tears.  Both have taught me humility.  Humility towards the distance, the time, and the pain.

I’m thankful for the running community, which we’ve always known comes together in times of triumph, but we now know thrives during tragedy.  A community that supports me when I set big goals, rejoices when I succeed, and stands by me when I fail.

I’m thankful for the toenails I still have, and the ones that fell off.  They’re a constant reminder of both strength and weakness.

I’m thankful for family and friends, who come out to almost every race.  They ring cow bells and stand in the cold.  They’re supportive when I leave for hours at a time to go train, and helpful when I finish a race and struggle to walk.

I’m thankful that even though every race wasn’t a PR, they all taught me something.  Something about myself, about my abilities, and about pushing on.

I’m thankful for the PRs that were achieved, which have shown me the value in hard work, and how it will pay off.

I’m thankful for that blistering hot summer run, that toughened me up.  And that wicked cold winter evening, because I was able to go out anyway.

I’m thankful for every fall.  For every twisted ankle.  And for every bruise the trail threw upon me.  The trail offers peace and quiet, but it’s also a constant reminder of mother nature’s strength and how vulnerable I am to its greatness.

Expressing Gratitude

This Thanksgiving, as we take time throughout the day to express gratitude, I’m reminded of everything running provides me on a daily basis.

Mrs. RCR does something called a daily gratitude practice, where she writes down and meditates on something she is thankful for every single day.  This hasn’t been a ritual I’ve picked up on, but it should be.  And maybe you will find it useful as well.

Let’s start together.  What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?

If you’re like me, sometimes you just need more than a “How to” list, or a 1000 word post could ever offer.  You want to dive deeper.

You want science, back story, and page after page of useful information or good stories that will make you a better runner. 

In other words, you want a book.

Even with the boom of the internet and short reads, books are still probably the best way to dive deep into a topic and become a student of your craft.  And luckily for us runners, we have plenty to choose from.

Below I’ve listed 11 books that I believe every runner should have on their bookshelf or side table.  The list is split into two sections:

  1. The first section include books that provide training advice, workouts, and running fundamentals that will make you a stronger runner physically.
  2. The second section includes 4 books guaranteed to work the mental side of your training.  Two are actually guides to training the brain, while the other two are more meditations on running that speak to the deeper meaning behind the miles.

So here you have it, books I recommend every runner read, presented in no particular order:

Books That Train the Runner’s Body

Run_Faster1) Run Faster by Brad Hudson and Matt Fitzgerald

Ever wanted to have access to everything an elite coach has to say?  Here’s your chance.

This incredible book offers training plans from 5k to marathon distances, and explains, in detail, the techniques Hudson has used to turn runners into Olympians.  No guarantees that will happen to you, but Run Faster will help you find your best run.

chi_running_cover2) Chi Running: A Revolutionary Approach to Effortless, Injury-Free Running by Danny Dreyer

If you’re looking for a way to improve your running form, this is a good place to start.

The Chi Running approach is all about removing the heal strike, reducing injury, and creating a more effortless stride.  The approach has become a sensation in recent years, to the point where they hold multi-day workshops and trainings.

This book, along with the included informational DVD, provides information that will help you rethink and adjust your stride and cadence.

bookphoto3) No Meat Athlete: Run on Plants and Discover Your Fittest, Fastest, Happiest Self by Matt Frazier

Matt’s new book is the perfect guide for beginner runners, especially those looking to run on a vegetarian or plant based diet. The first half of the book focuses on goal setting, forming habits, and running basics.  He even throws in training plans for 5k to half marathon distances.  The second half is all nutrition, including how to fuel before, during, and after your run, along with optimizing your diet for when you aren’t running.  And the recipes are great.  A few have already become go-tos in my house.

Plus Matt gives me a shout-out in the acknowledgements.  How could I leave his book off this list after that?  Also check out my full review of the book.

Daniels_Running_Formula4) Daniels’ Running Formula by Jack Daniels

So you’ve read the introductory books, and you’re ready to take your training to the next level.  This should be your next stop.

Daniels’ Running Formula is all about the science of getting stronger and getting the most out of your effort.  It’ll tell you all about your heartrate, cadence, VO2 Max, and all the other science runners love to geek out on.

It includes training plans, and an in-depth look at how you should approach training for your next big race.

101_Simple_Ways5) 101 Simple Ways to be a Better Runner by Jason Fitzgerald

Want to be a better runner?  Jason gives you 101 ways to do just that.  Laid out as short tid-bits grouped together in a categories, the e-book covers everything from workouts to gear to safety.

This simple, easy to read e-book is a great reference guide for all runners looking to pick up a few (or many) pointers.

Since it’s an e-book, I guess it wont actually go on your shelf, but it comes highly recommended, and you absolutely can’t beat the price!

Relentless-Forward-Progress-cover-250x3756) Relentless Forward Progress by Bryon Powell

If you’re even thinking about running an ultra, you should pick up a copy of Bryon Powell’s book.  He’s the go-to guy for anything ultra, and his elite ultrarunning buddies back him up throughout this book.

If you want to know how to poop in the woods during a long run, you’ll find it in this book.  If you need to know how to handle stomach cramps, dehydration, over-hydration, or fatigue from lack of calories, you’ll find it in this book.  Gear, training plans, horror stories, and stories that will make you immediately want to get up and run 100 miles, you’ll find it in Relentless Forward Progress.

Born_to_Run7) Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall

When I tell someone I’m an endurance runner, it’s usually no more than 45 seconds before someone asks if I’ve read Born to Run.  The book has easily influenced the mainstream more than any other running book currently on the market.  And for good reason!  It’s fun, exciting, and tells a great story.

But more than that, it is a great introduction to running biology and physics, and raises a lot of good questions about conventional modern running techniques.  Should new runners use Born to Run as a guide?  Probably not.  But you won’t regret picking it up…except maybe when you realize you can’t put it down.

Books That Train the Runner’s Mind

JOANN-BOOK-Web8) Your Performing Edge: The Complete Guide to Success and Fulfillment in Sports and Life by JoAnn Dahlkoetter

They say running is just as much mental as it is physical.  In my opinion, the longer the distance, the more that mental percentage goes up.

The information Dr. JoAnn Dahlkoetter shares in this book will help you strengthen the mental side of your training.  She uses examples from research on pro athletes and Olympic runners to explain just how the mind works under pressure and intense athletic stress.  You’ll come out of the book with knowledge of how to train the mind for high pressure races, and stay focused during throughout training, injury, and defeat.

what_i_talk_about_when_i_talk_about_running_1.large9) What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

Haruki Murakami is an elegant writer, making this mediation on running a perfect quick read for anyone who loves the sport.  Murakami walks you through his thoughts and reflections on running and writing while training for the New York City Marathon.

I’m not sure the book made me a better runner, but his delicate words definitely inspired me to get out and log more miles.  Then go home and write about them.

Power_of_Habit10) The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

Alright, I admit it.  You’ll never find this book sitting around the running section of your local book store.  But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a lot to teach us.

The Power of Habit dives deep into why we form habits, how to create new ones, and how to manipulate the ones we already have.  Arming yourself with these skills can help create habits that turn you into a running machine, by turning your running form and technique into natural motions you never have to think about, and by making it easier than ever to actually get out the door in the first place.

Running_and_Being11) Running and Being: The Total Experience by Dr. George Sheehan

More of a meditation of life than it is about running specifics, this book summarizes beautifully what it means to be a runner.

Sometimes we just need a reminder of philosophical reasons why we run, and the mind/body connection we are creating.  As a distance runner, this book is a solid curl-up-by-the-fireplace read, that will speaks to the pain or triumph we experience from each run.

Now it’s your turn.  What running books have had the biggest impact on you?  What books to you recommend to runners that I left off this list?

Running_Goals_Image_quote

On Saturday, May 17th, 2014, I will run 100 miles.

Or at least that is the goal. Only it’s more than just a goal, because I’m certain it will be a reality.

On Setting Goals

I spent the last week accompanying Matt Frazier and Matt Ruscigno on the No Meat Athlete book tour. We stopped in several different towns and cities along the route from Phoenix to Austin, where the two Matts introduced the book and gave a short talk about the book and about their stories.

During each stop, Matt Frazier would tell his story of setting a goal several years ago to run the Boston Marathon.  That may not seem like a life changing goal for some, but considering he needed to cut more than 100 minutes off his first marathon time just to qualify, it wasn’t going to come easy.

The goal was a doozy. At first most people doubted him. He even failed repeatedly during the first several attempts.

But Matt never doubted himself, set on succeeding.

Over time, people started to believe as well.  A growing number of friends and family came to his races, one after another, fail after fail.  They came out to root for him, even when any sane person knew a Boston Qualifier was a long shot.

And as Matt reflects back on those years now, the support was no surprise,

It’s why we love movies like Rudy and Rocky, where the hero sets his sights on a ridiculous goal, goes after it, and gets knocked down every time, only to get back up, again and again and again.

But as inspiring as it is to watch someone in this situation, I can tell you from experience that it feels even better to actually be the person doing it, and to see others being inspired by what you’re doing.

Avoiding Big Goals is Easy

See, setting big goals is hard. It’s scary to think about failing, embarrassing yourself in front of family, friends, or blog readers. It’s terrifying to consider the major letdown that often consumes you when a major goal isn’t reached.

To avoid that fear, we often avoid the goals all together.  In the short term, it feels a lot easier to just go about life with no big goals, enjoying the each day as it comes.

As Seth Godin puts it in an old blog post,

If you don’t have a goal (a corporate goal, a market share goal, a personal career goal, an athletic goal…) then you can just do your best. You can take what comes. You can reprioritize on a regular basis. If you don’t have a goal, you never have to worry about missing it. If you don’t have a goal you don’t need nearly as many excuses, either.

That’s true.

Without a running goal, I don’t need to push myself or run when I don’t feel like it.  If I don’t race next year, no one will notice.  Hell, I could even take the entire holiday season off! Uh oh, this is starting to sound a little too good. 

But what Seth says later is also true,

…the people who get things done, who lead, who grow and who make an impact… those people have goals.

Now that is the kind of person I want to be.

Why 100 Miles, Why Now

Ever since the first time I read about ultramarathons, I was immediately sucked in by the lure of the 100 mile race.

Slow, painful strides for what seems like an unfathomable distance to run. Often more than 24 hours of forward progress, through the heat of the day and the chill of the night.

That first time, when I thought of pushing my body and mind to a place I never even dreamed of, it was so compelling.  I’m still craving it two years later.

But I told very few people about this dream. Maybe I’d mention it offhandedly, or said, “oh I’d like to do that some day,” but I never set the goal.

I never picked a race or announced to friends, family, and the world that I will be running a 100 mile race.

Until now.

Inspired by the words of Matt and Seth, tired of putting off something just because I’m scared to fail, and ready to push past what I once believed impossible, I’m telling you now, I will be running 100 miles on May 17th.

There will always be a reason to avoid setting a big goal.

  • You’ll always think you’re too busy.
  • The risks will always seem too big.
  • And you’ll always think of something else, something easier, that could be done first.

But those are just excuses masking the real reason you haven’t made that goal declaration.

Fear.

I’m going to go ahead and say it’s time we take a risk together and set the goals we’ve been putting off.  I hope you’ll follow me in putting yourself out there this year.

Set the goal.  Take the risk.

Because as Matt said earlier,

It feels ever better to actually BE the person doing it, and to see others being inspired by what you’re doing.

P.S. – For those curious, I have two races in mind on that date. One requires entry through a lottery, and the other will serve as a backup if getting into the first doesn’t work out. I will post more race details once the race as been determined.

Aging_Runner

This post is written by Jennifer Heidmann

This is not an existential how-to-guide for living life fully through running. Nor is it a treatise claiming running as the next fountain of youth or as an uplifting cure for all that ails us in modern society. Granted, it could be about any of those things, but it is not.

It’s about how running can be something done for much, maybe even all, of our lives.

This is on my mind after spending time recently with some old high school cross country team mates, at what we called “running camp”. 26 years after high school’s glory days, we met and spent 5 days running together. We also ate delicious food and talked and sat in the hot tub.

But after all these years, we are still running.

It’s also on my mind after watching grey haired, lanky and frankly elderly people running 100 miles while I did the mere 26 mile version of the same trail race.

Let me repeat that: Elderly ultra runners. And that 80+ year old Japanese woman at my last road marathon, flanked on both sides by people making sure she didn’t lose her way, given she was blind. And that local elderly runner, obviously post-stroke with one side of the body much weaker, running a regular route around the grass at the local track. There, at the track, like clockwork, like it is just another necessary part of his daily routine.

And that is just the elderly.

How about those of us solidly in middle age? Or those in their 30’s starting to pack on a few pounds and in the thick of demanding careers or child-raising? Heck, even those in their late 20’s may find themselves hopelessly out of shape and wondering why certain parts of the body ache in new ways.

How can someone stay motivated? How can one start over or even run for the first time at an older age? How can someone who may have put all of their eggs in the elite running basket as a kid find joy in running slower at an older age?

Life would be infinitely happier if we could only be born at the age of 80 and gradually approach 18. – Mark Twain

How to Run Like an 18-Year-Old Without Reversing Your Age

1. Eat well. Vegetables, fruit, yogurt, some small amount of meat or adequate protein-heavy grains/beans/rice if a vegetarian. Eat breakfast. Avoid too much alcohol. Get in a routine. The most annoying thing about aging is the need for routine. Eating well may be the most important and effective way to stave off the middle aged middle, the roll of “where the heck did that come from?” around the waist that will certainly add time and effort to one’s long runs.

All that said, when you are over 85, eat and drink whatever the hell you want.

2. Run often. Now one might think this is counter-intuitive (see below re “rest”). But when you are a teenager, and maybe up to age 25 or so, you can run whenever, wherever, however, and probably come out feeling just dandy.

After a certain age, unless you run consistently, you risk doom in the guise of injury, which will inevitably lead to pity-eating and even worse, pool running. If you pity eat, then pool run, you have to face the shame of trying to stuff your middle aged middle into your swim suit next to all the serious lap swimmers who will not be putting on the goofy floaty you will be using to run in place in the deep end of the pool.

Run pretty much every day, even if only a little, and you will avoid the pool run, widening middle, floaty-wearing shame fest.

3. Rest. After my marathons, I have to rest. Not necessarily total abstinence from running (“just say no” works about as well for dedicated runners as it does for hormonal teenagers and heroin addicts), but just easy days or maybe some cross training. I also have to listen to my body regarding what day might not be the best for a killer workout. Not every ache and pain indicates something serious, but fatigue should be respected.

4. Aches and pains are part of normal aging. I treat sick people (as a doctor) but believe that there are a lot of normal parts of being human that have been over-medicalized.

We are truly amazing machines, but we will inevitably have issues with our bodies, and not all of them need major surgery, medications or a stat MRI. Being an aging athlete requires being in tune with how your body/machine ticks.

  • Do you feel better running in the morning or do morning runs make you feel like you’ve been run over by a Mack truck?
  • Do you like running in cushy, supportive running shoes or more minimalist shoes?
  • Do you get massages? Because if you are over 30, you should. Really.

The key to aging is knowing when that ache or pain is more than just a hard, cold reality of older cells. Things should not hurt to the point of making you change your gait when you run (or walk). Sometimes our bodies need serious time off (see above re pool running).

5. Check out the age-adjusted ratings. You can now look at race results with a rating based on your age. I scored 100% on my last trail marathon and I thought to myself, well it has been a really long time since I scored 100% on anything. I think I just bragged a little there.

6. Brag. Or not. I notice that age makes me care less about achievement. Please just ignore the obnoxious reference above to my 100% score.

Seriously though, it feels good to be at a high school reunion and be fit with those guys who wouldn’t even consider you as a prom date now overweight, out of shape and asking you for advice on healthy living.

7. Clothes. You no longer have to conform to the latest style craze, because your self esteem is built upon your strength, wisdom and life experience.

Nevertheless, I do think what you wear is more important with older age than it was in those days when you could skinny dip in a cold lake at midnight and live to tell about it. Some favorites:

Age requires warmth. Age requires good socks. Get new shoes every 300 miles or so. Dress well, and create your own style. Side note: it appears that leg warmers are back

8. Read. A few of my favorites include:

Many of these books do focus on youthful champions. And there is a place for that. How exciting to watch the Ryan Halls and the Shalane Flanagans of the world run impossibly fast! But is there life after running as an elite? I think there should be. My hero is Joan Benoit Samuelson. In her 50’s, she continues to run, to race and to inspire.

9. It is Never Too Late.

“But I am too old.”

Nope.

George Sheehan started in his 40’s. And there are many who started later than that. 50, 60, 70. Running is a simple sport, and one humans were meant to do. Side Note: Plus, have you seen Meb’s abs?? In the latest Runner’s World he is shirtless in an ad, and even my teenaged daughter remarked “wow, not bad, for an old guy.”

How to start? Visit your doctor and say, “Hey doc, I am going to start running. Can you check me out to make sure my ticker is OK?”

Then, go to your local running store and get some shoes. Eat breakfast. Wear comfy socks. Stay warm. Choose a route with solid footing. Run some, walk some. Slowly increase your distance. Sign up for a race. Brag to your friends. Or not. Find a masseuse, use your hot tub. Learn about your body. And definitely bring up your running habit at your next high school reunion.

In heaven there’s no running, dear
That’s why we do it here!
When we are all gone from here,
All of our friends will be running, and talking about how we used to kick their ass.

Jennifer Heidmann has been running for 30 years, racing every distance from the 400m to the marathon. Her next adventure will be tackling her first 50 mile ultramarathon. She is also a physician, a pianist and a mother of 3 teenagers. Check out her personal running blog, Redwoods and Running, for more great tips and stories.

Photo Credit

Marathon_Training_Tips

Last weekend’s Marine Corps Marathon was my fourth marathon finish, but in a way, you could say it was a first.

It was the first time I didn’t study the course map for days before the race.  I didn’t plan out when to take each gel, how much water to drink at each station, or where I’d see my family along the way.

For the first time ever, I cared more about going out and having fun than I did about when I would be crossing the finish line.  I wanted it to feel more like a group run (with nearly 30,000 of my closest runners) than a timed race.

And I have to say, it worked.  I had a blast running with my friend David, chatting with other runners and spectators, and soaking in everything the third largest US marathon has to offer.  Even though I was about as close to a PR as Congress is to passing a budget, the run was a success.

24 Lessons From More Than 31 Marathons

Twenty-one miles into the race, my mind started reflecting back on the past miles and considering how this approach was working, and how it wasn’t.

When I sat down to write those thoughts out, a Dos and Don’ts list naturally started to form.  While the two approaches to training and race day were incredibly different (and produced totally different results), they both taught me a lot about racing this distance; how to prepare, how, and how not, to execute the race, and how to enjoy every step along the 26.2 mile journey.

But after putting my list together, I knew my experiences alone weren’t enough.  So I reached out to some of my favorite runners and writers to see what advice they thought was a must share.

What resulted was an amazing list of 24 Dos and Don’ts that will help get any runner through their next marathon.

Together we have 31.96 (don’t ask) marathons medals around our necks.  That’s more than 836 miles of marathon racing.  And probably almost that many lost toenails.  Yikes.

Below you’ll find advice on what to do, and what not to do during marathon training and on race day.

The Dos and Don’ts of Marathon Training and Prep

1) Do get in all your long runs. They are arguably the most important part of marathon training.  Whether it’s your first race or your fifteenth, getting in the long miles builds confidence, trains your legs, and prepares your body.

2) Don’t skip on the speed work either. If you hate it like me, it’s easy to skip, but speed work will be the difference between hitting your goal time and not.

3) Do rest your body when you need to.  Skipping a single training run or cutting a Tuesday easy workout short isn’t going to keep you from finishing the race, but it may help keep you injury free.

4) Don’t rely on music too much for long training runs. Mental strength is crucial in running a marathon, and developing it before race day can keep you from searching in vain for the right tune on your mp3 player when your body is falling apart. For that matter, don’t listen to music in a marathon. What your senses take in during your race will last you a lifetime, and you can listen to “Return of the Mack” anytime. Tip from Charlie, Editor in Chief of RunWashington Magazine

5) Do something other than running.  Good runners run a lot.  Great runners do other things as well.  Cross train by catching a yoga class, joining a pick-up soccer game, or even just commuting a few times a week on the bike.

6) Don’t forget that marathon training is long and hard.  Watch running movies, run with training groups, or do anything else that keeps you motivated during a training lull.

7) Do practice your marathon fueling during your last few long runs. They should be a dress rehearsal for the big day! Tip from Jason of Strength Running

8) Don’t be that guy (or gal, but let’s face it, guys are more likely to do something this stupid) who buys a new pair of shoes at the expo, wears them during the race, then complains for the next two weeks about his blisters.

9) Do an overdistance run if you are shooting for a moderately-challenging time goal, about three to four weeks out. It doesn’t have to be fast, but if you’re going to be focusing on running a certain time, you want to be sure you can at least run 26.2 miles. Survival will be less in doubt.  Tip from Charlie, Editor in Chief of RunWashington Magazine

10) Don’t piss off all your friends by skipping all social events and only talking about training when you actually do hang out.  From time to time, work your training plan to fit around other activities or you’ll burn out before you reach the starting line.

The Dos and Don’ts of Marathon Race Day

11) Don’t deal with bag check. Bring some warm clothes you’re willing to donate at the start line right before the gun goes off. If you can’t part with any of your own clothes, hit up a thrift store before race day and buy some warm clothes. Staying warm AND donating to charity is a win-win for everyone.  Tip from Jamie of DC Runster

12) Do take your gels/energy shots/Gatorade before you think you need them. When you think you need them, it’s too late.  Tip from Mary of Minutes Per Mile

13) Don’t get pissed when you have to stand in line for the porta potty.  You’re turn will come.  Take that time to stretch, relax, visualize the finish, but not to freak out about getting to your corral.  Same rule applies to baggage check, standing in your corral, or whatever else happens before the race.

14) Do allow yourself to open up after mile 20.  If you’ve got something left in the tank, don’t sit in idle.  Smart pushing can lead to big gains.

15) Don’t panic when you hit a low point.  Take a few deep breaths, down a gel, and relax.  The low points pass if you let yourself get by them.

16) Do smile at and thank the volunteers at aid stations. I mean, they deserve a medal. Tip from Jennifer of Redwoods and Running

17) And on top of that, Do take care of your spectators. They are giving up their day (maybe even weekend) to come watch you run by every few miles. As I talk about in Jason Fitzgerald’s free Race Tactics eBook,

“Make them their own race bag, packed with snacks, water, maps, and sign-making supplies. Throw in a cowbell for some added excitement. The more fun they are having, the more fun you will have.”

18) Don’t go out too fast.  The advice that’s shared by many-a-weary marathon finishers.  But it’s legit.   Creating a time buffer at the beginning isn’t the way to run a marathon.

19) Do have fun with it. Unless you are really concerned with a BQ or a new PR, a 3:10 isn’t much different than a 3:15, a 4:25 isn’t much different than a 4:30, and a 5:15 isn’t much different than a 5:20. Have fun! Stop and say hi to your cheer squad. Thank the volunteers who came out to provide you with water.

20) If you do listen to music, don’t listen to music for the first mile, which is usually crowded with runners who are trying to weave in and out.  Tip from Mary of Minutes Per Mile

21) Do bring some baby wipes in your race bag. Those porta potties, honey buckets, whatever you want to call them, can run out of TP. Enough said. Tip from Jennifer of Running and Rambling

22) Don’t be hesitant to ask for medical help at the finish, if you really do need it. The medical volunteers can work magic if you let them! And always be sure to thank them when they get you back up and moving. Tip from Jamie of DC Runster

23) Do check back in on your form throughout the race. Three, four, five hours is a long time to be running, and efficient running form can really help when you’re left digging deep over the last few miles.

24) Do remind yourself it’s just a run. When I went to bed the night before this year’s MCM, I fell right to sleep. That is very rare for me before race day. But in the end, no matter what happened, it was just a run.  Relax.

Thanks to TomTom for letting me try out their new GPS watch, the TomTom Runner, and for sponsoring my entry into this year’s Marine Corps Marathon.

Also big thanks to Mary, Jason, Jamie, Jennifer, and Charlie for sharing their expert advice.

Photo Credit: Randomduck

Websites, including this one, love to share articles about how to run faster, get stronger, and avoid injury. They talk about hills, trails, and training plans, and while those can have major impacts on your running, they pale in comparison to one key ingredient: Your running form.

Making slight adjustments to your running form is probably the most important, and easiest, way to prevent injury and become a more efficient runner.

As Alberto Salazar, former marathon superstar and now top endurance running coach, puts it,

“You show me someone with bad form, and I’ll show you someone who’s going to have a lot of injuries and a short career.”

By not paying attention to your form, it’s easy to create habits that stick around for life.

But you’re reading running blogs right now because you care enough not to let that happen. Just by focusing on slight adjustments to your form, you can make small changes that have a massive impact on you as a runner.

In the infographic below, I’ve pointed out several ways to improve your running form and become a more efficient runner.

I recommend focusing on just one or two at a time, and constantly reminding yourself to focus on that adjustment over the course of several runs. Once you have that part down without having to focus on it, move on to something else.

It’s true that no running form is perfect for everyone, but by following these simple rules, you’ll start running more efficiently and effectively. How could you pass that up?

Running_Form_Info