The Good, the Bad and the Coronita, Plus Running Truths for Newbie Runners

Let’s sum up the weekend quickly.  Friday night involved dinner at our friends, a raucous game of Cards Against Humanity and a few too many of these…

Image

I didn’t win at cards, but when it came to next morning hangovers, I was the champ.  Those sneaky Coronitas left me feeling pretty pathetic on Saturday, so I scrapped my scheduled 3-miler.  I lounged on the couch instead and chilled with the family.  That was bad.  I felt like a loser (mainly because I was one.  Let’s call it like it is.)

The good part of Saturday?  My baby turned 12!  Here he is last night with his second birthday cake of the weekend (HH provides a lovely photobomb here.)

I love my new 12-year old!  And he loved his new Lego King’s Castle that you see on the counter…

ImageThat was the good…well, that and my 9-mile run yesterday morning.

Image

I needed to get out and have a good long run to finish my second week of training, and I did.  The wind was calm, so I was nice and comfy the whole way, though I did feel a little like Randy from A Christmas Story.  My splits got faster with each mile, and I had to hold myself back so I wouldn’t go under 9:15.  It felt wonderful, and I finished with no fatigue.  Yippee for me, and hooray for my new Garmin Forerunner 220 that I purchased with Christmas gift cards.  I needed this thing like Anthony Kiedis needs a shirt and a stylist!

Some things you just can’t unsee…

So. Damn. Bad.  I think you can skip the belt when you’re shirtless, dude.

And now I leave you with a short Monday list of Running Truths for Newbie Runners…self-evident to me, perhaps not to others.  Feel free to add contributions in the comments and/or to disagree.  This might become a regular segment.

If You Are a Beginning Runner:

Never do an out-and-back run with an untried distance or a big jump in mileage.  Having to quit or come up with a muscle strain/cramp/injury with a long walk home sucks.

Always stretch after runs.

Never get in a race on a treadmill with some random person next to you (I admit that I race with unaware strangers to this day, but I don’t recommend it for newbies!)

Never decide one day that you’re going to start running and set a marathon as your first race (see my previous bitchy post on this topic here.  And may I add that the lovely gal and fabulous blogger got sidelined with a common running injury during Jeff Galloway’s pathetic training program and couldn’t run for months.  No marathon for her.)

Always invest in decent running socks, and if you’re running beyond three miles a few times/week, get yourself a proper pair of running shoes (preferably with a treadmill analysis at a running store.)

Never underestimate the potential pain of bloody nipples.  If yours can cut glass when hard, tape them, men, please.  Every time I see bloody nipples, I die a little inside.  Please, think of me and have some compassion.  🙂

Never run in 100% cotton.  You don’t have to spend a lot, but get yourself some moisture-wicking gear.  Please.  Chafing is a friend to no one.

Never increase mileage more than 10% per week.  Did you just start running last week, got high on the endorphins and now you ran 4 miles three times already since Sunday (and it’s Thursday?)  Oh my God, you are so kickass…and when you come up lame here soon, let me know.  I will send you a sympathy card.  Seriously…start slow.  Don’t be afraid to start with a jog/walk regimen.  Build up the time on your feet, with at least 70% of your running time spent jogging at a comfortable slow pace.  I always put a few songs on my long run playlists that I can’t help but sing to…and I sing them under my breath to make sure that I am keeping my pace where it needs to be (and just to show you that I have no shame, I will list those songs at the end of this post.)  Your entire body–muscles, ligaments, tendons–needs to get used to the pounding of running.  It’s not just about willpower.  I want you to be a lifelong runner, so don’t get hurt or give yourself a chronic injury right off the bat.  Oh, and if you are one of those exceptional people who was born to run and can just take off like a fricking gazelle with no running background?  I hate you :-).  Mazel tov!

Always be thankful.  Every run is a gift.  A good run puts you closer to nature, closer to your pure sense of self.  Your heart, lungs, legs, everything working together, testing your mental and physical limits…it’s pure perfection, and so many would love to be doing what you’re doing.  Take a moment to appreciate it.

And finally…Always act promptly when a BM feels like it falls off a cliff into your lower bowels and then starts chug-chug-chugging through your colon.  Take it from an experienced (average, but experienced) runner…the time to act is now!  Just google “chocolate rain” if you have a strong stomach.

Happy running, readers!

Cheesy-ass songs I check my pace with because I can’t help but belt them out:  We Belong Together by Mariah Carey, Giving You the Best That I’ve Got by Anita Baker, Jukebox Hero by Foreigner, Forrest Gump by Frank Ocean, Love on Top by Beyonce, Solid by Ashford and Simpson, Alive and Kicking by Simple Minds, We’re in This Love Together by Al Jarreau, Takin’ It To the Streets by the Doobie Brothers, Baby-Baby-Baby by TLC.

Advertisements

Couch to Marathon Revisited

Last week I wrote a nasty post about people who decide to run a marathon and start from a zero balance (if you go back and read it, please take the time to leave the great comments from other bloggers!)  I wrote the post in part because I was conflicted about my feelings.  I want to support any runner, and yet I found myself almost angry thinking about the foolishness of people who want to just suddenly start running and think that they can run a marathon right off the bat.

I was surprised by my own vehemence on the subject, that I would feel so angry about people chasing the same medal that I had worked so hard for and potentially walking away with it in 6-7 hours versus my 4:22.  I saw the ridiculousness of it.  There will always be someone faster than you who could scoff at your time, and Lord knows there’s a whole gaggle of runners who could laugh at mine, so who was I to judge someone else’s journey?

Further, I’d written months ago in a post on joggers versus runners that speed is not the issue, and that committed runners who run slow paces have my admiration.  It’s easy to do something when you’re exceptional at it, right?  But to be committed to something for the love of it, even when you’re technically not the best?  That takes true love (not to mention more time out of your day to make the same training run commitment as the faster runners, and that adds up when you get into the meat of the marathon training!)

So where were my feelings coming from?  I love new runners, and I admire those who make the commitment to run long distances.  One of the commenters helped me understand my feelings on the subject.  She said I sounded like a marathon purist.  And I think I am.

I’ve only run one…I’ve only ever wanted to run one.  I held off on running it until I had my good reasons and was ready to make the commitment to train hard.  It deserved nothing less than my absolute best.  I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to do it, even though I’d been a runner for years.  I was afraid that I would get injured (which I did, btw!) and that I wouldn’t be able to give it my best.  I revered the distance (and the runners who tackle it) like it was holy ground, and I resented people who want to jump into the ring and immediately go after the lion.

Still, those feelings didn’t seem entirely like me either.  I hoped that other bloggers and running readers would chime in and help me understand my thoughts.

And you did!  Thank you for taking the time to comment.

So here are my (semi-revised and semi-just better expressed) thoughts now, in all their who gives a rip what she thinks glory.

Are you a person who is longing for a change, hoping to feel inspired, looking for a personal goal?  Hello, I love you and would like you to discover running!  It’s a life changer, a soul scrubber, a surefire way to squeeze more meaning into every day.  I write this blog in the hopes that some new person will stumble across some of my words in any random post and feel motivated to run.  Running has added untold meaning to my life in the past ten years.

Are you brand new to running?  No problem.  The internet is there for you to get you started!  Check out the Runner’s World website for tips and info on how to get started.  Google beginning running and you will find numerous articles.  Check out all of the amazing WordPress blogs written by everyday runners, and you will find countless sources of inspiration.

But start slow.  Please don’t set a marathon as your first goal, even if it’s a 28-week plan.  I want you to be able to run long-term, and I want you to learn how to incorporate running into your daily schedule, not just as temporary training.  Be kind to yourself.  Give yourself time to learn what it feels like to run and recover.  Give yourself room to adjust and cut back as necessary, since your body isn’t used to it yet.  Training programs, even the Disney 28-week plan, call for a certain number of miles on a particular day, and I don’t want you getting scared in Week 4 when you’re scheduled to run 6 miles and don’t feel like that number is possible.

Are you the type that needs a goal, though, to keep you going?  I understand!  I would say try a 5k first, but I know that when I started running, a 5k would have been the LAST race I wanted to run.  Run fast for a shorter number of miles?  No way…

So try a 10k (6.2 miles.)  See if you can find a 4-mile run…it’s a nice step up from a speedy 5k, but doesn’t add too much distance.  Or do what I did–I ran for years without racing, then ran a half marathon as my first race.

And if none of those work for you (because let’s face it, I’m not in your head and don’t know your needs and goals), and you set that marathon as your first target and get up off the couch or off the elliptical in Week 1 for training, then here’s what I want to say…

Good Luck!  I will cheer for you.  I may not agree, because I have your best interests at heart and am scared, but I will hope that the running gods spare you any injury and that most of all, you emerge from the process with your medal AND…

a love for running that doesn’t go away.

It’s more important than the medal.  It will stay with you and be a far better friend than that one piece of bling.

Happy running, and welcome to the club!

 

Couch to Marathon = One Extremely Hacked Off and Opinionated Blogger

I’m going to attempt to be delicate in this post, which is not one of my talents.  I’m getting ready to criticize someone about her running, which feels so wrong.  I don’t like attacking anyone personally, and I hope this lovely woman never stumbles across my blog (please, dear sweet lady, don’t find my blog because I do love you!), but I do hope to make a few points that other beginning runners might take not of based on the example.  I’m also wondering if I’m totally offbase in my thinking, and I’m hoping some readers will comment and give their thoughts.

In short, I’m going to be mean.

So let me get comfortable on my high horse, and here goes…

I follow a foodie blog.  Actually, I follow several, which I find pretty amusing since I am often found oogling beautiful recipe pictures while feeding my family the nutritional equivalent of a Hot Pocket.  I love to bookmark recipes that I (usually) never make, and I love these bloggers’ writing style (ever read Smitten Kitchen?  She is to die for, and don’t get me started on her recipes and photography!)

A few weeks ago, a certain blogger started writing about her marathon training.  Out of the blue.  Suddenly she’s on Week 1 of a program.

Say wuh?

I read the first post and felt confused.  She listed her music and her gear (she’s got a Garmin–I’m jealous!), but not one word on WHY she was doing this (which is not a big deal to most people but is the biggest beginning question to me.)  Her reasons may be private and not ones that she wants to share, but still…where is this coming from?

I didn’t recall ever reading about her running, but I wasn’t sure how long I’ve been following her.  I was going to search her blog for previous posts, but then I saw her mention in a reply to a comment that she did a Couch to 5k program last fall and then got sidelined by tendonitis in her foot for six months.  She’s recently started running again using the same program and is running 3x/week.

Oh no.  Oh please no.

Her Week 2 post described how she now considers herself a real runner because Week 2 of training is in the books, she ran a longer distance than she’s ever run in her life (5.65 miles) and she liked it.  Though her program only called for a long run of 4 miles, she ran 5.65 instead (um, why?), jogging up to five minutes at a time and taking walk breaks.

My brain was screaming.  It took every part of restraint I have not to leave a comment begging her to stop.  I looked through the comments to see if any other readers were runners who might offer a gentle word of caution, but all I saw were comments like “you go, girl” and “oh, you’re such an inspiration”.

Oh my goodness.  I’m a train wreck now.

Week 3 is now behind her, and things didn’t go so well.  She is now over a 15:00/mile pace for her long run (just over 6 miles), had to limp home in excruciating pain because of her foot, but is still counting the weeks until her marathon (25 to go!)

I have to wonder at this point…what program is this person following?  What running expert devises a program for non-runners to get to a marathon in 28 weeks?  Who encourages that kind of nonsense?

Jeff Galloway, of course.

Most runners know of Jeff Galloway…at least the name, anyway.  I knew he was the advocate of the run/walk approach, which encourages running for a certain number of minutes (or seconds, I guess) and then walking briskly for a shorter duration.

After looking into it, he’s got a whole thing going with Disney.  Disney offers a number of races and events on their runDisney website (here.)  They are very inclusive, offer many events and encourage runners of all levels.  Jeff Galloway is their consultant, and he offers a number of training programs for runners of different abilities.  He emphasizes getting to the finish line “without injury or pain.”

Sounds good so far.  Let’s get people fit and off the couch.  Let’s offer some 5ks, 10ks, and maybe a lovely half-marathon or two.  Great for beginners!  I’m all in!

But here’s where I get pissed.  They offer a training program for the MARATHON for people who aren’t runners.  I almost barfed as I read it…

The runDisney program for beginners covers 28 weeks (plus the week after the race) and includes 3 runs per week–two 30-minute runs on Tuesday and Thursday and one long run on the weekends.  That run alternates every other weekend between a shorter distance and a longer one.  For example, for the first sixteen weeks of training, the long run alternates between 3(!) miles and a longer distance (17 miles in Week 16!)  For the first several weeks, the runner can run for 50 seconds and then walk for 10.

Further, from Week 17 to race day, the program calls for 3 runs of 20 miles or more, including a 26-miler in Week 25.  He urges runners to run 2 minutes per mile slower than their goal pace during these long runs and not to worry if their long run pace is slower than 16:00 per mile.  Are you serious?

Here comes the nasty…this is not running a marathon, people.  It’s just not.

I want to be a cheerleader.  I do.  I talk about how I want this blog to encourage people to run and how runners want others to join the club and find the joy and peace that running brings.  Running changes people’s lives, their health, their confidence.  It’s a big tent…come on in!

But I just can’t see this.  Not for the marathon distance.

Why the need to go from zero to marathon?  I try to recognize that everyone has different personalities, and I want to be respectful of that, but this is too much!  I ran for years before even considering running a race (too much the other way, I know), and then I ran several half-marathons, a 10k, a 5k, THEN thought about tackling 26.2.  And even then, I didn’t have to do it.  In fact, though a runner for many years, I always said I’d never run one…until I had a specific set of reasons for doing so.

I myself would see no joy in completing a marathon at such a pace.  That medal would mean nothing to me.  And though I realize that such a medal could mean EVERYTHING to someone else, someone who has come from nothing, who has maybe begun a life-changing process, it still makes me mad.

And that’s where I feel so guilty.

The marathon takes a tremendous toll on your body.  It’s a dance of muscles and joints and tendons, electrolytes and glycogen, mental endurance and months of training.  It requires discipline in a way that’s so different from any shorter distance.  It’s a gorgeous, ugly, taxing feat.  And though I’m certainly no elite, I felt confident that I was equipped to take it on.

And here’s the meanest thing I’ve ever written, and it shocks me a little…if someone goes from the couch to a marathon in less than eight months, and walks away with the same medal that I would, it dilutes it.  It disrespects it.  And that’s not an inclusive attitude, and so I feel terrible, because I know that those people would be so proud of themselves and would have worked so hard, just like I did.  Why can’t I just be happy for them?  How would I feel if I read an elite runner’s blog and they said the same thing about people who run the race at my speed?  What is wrong with me?  I might not be proud if I’d run a marathon at that distance, but why can’t they be?

I’m shocked that I feel that way.

Further, it makes me mad because I worry about people.  The capacity for injury is huge, and the desire to not quit weighs heavy when you’ve been training for months and are close to race day (trust me!)  You need to tackle marathon training knowing that you have to be able to LET IT GO if you get hurt, and where does that leave a beginning runner?  On the couch and inactive again!

I know I’m not an expert, and Jeff Galloway is, but only running 3x/week?  And then 3 20-mile + runs?  Huh?  I know these people are jogging super slow, but still—how do they not get hurt?  And when they’ve just gotten going and are feeling so good about themselves, it would be sad to get hurt.  I don’t want someone who is just beginning to run get derailed by injury because they’ve taken on too much, because then they need time to recover and then they will be starting from scratch again.  If they’d just built up slowly and maybe set a 10k as their first race, they would have a far greater chance of becoming a true runner, nabbing that first special medal and avoiding chronic injury.

If you’ve never run a 10k or half-marathon, you will not have a good sense yet of listening to your body, of understanding aches and pains and what signals your body is sending you—these are things that come from lots of running experience, and they are so helpful during training.

There are differences between types of soreness/pain and their location.  It matters when you feel pain during a training run and when and how it goes away.  Understanding how you should feel on recovery days and how you shouldn’t…knowing your level of energy, your sleep, etc. during training…these are things you need to be very familiar with before you tackle a 7-month long training commitment.  

I can’t imagine going through the training I went through last winter without the experience and knowledge my previous half-marathons gave me.  I also can’t imagine setting such a huge goal to start.  When I started running, my initial goal was just to better myself.  I built up to running 3-4 times a week and got comfortable with varying mileage and speed and getting to know how running affected my body.  That experience was invaluable.

If you’re a beginning runner and you’re reading this, please don’t hate me.  Please start slow…there is so much joy in the 5k to half-marathon distance, and those medals will make you so proud AND more likely to be a lifetime runner!  There is simply NO NEED to start with the marathon.  Please feel free to leave a comment or add your perspective!

If you’re the lady who I’ve singled out and you ever stumble across this post, please know that in spite of my doubt and my nastiness, I still wish the best for you! 

And if you’re a runner like me, please add any thoughts of your own.  Correct me, yell at me, agree with me…I just really wonder what other people think!