I Am A Runner

Bringing me into the finish at last year's Thanksgiving Day Marathon in the Bronx

This morning, I ventured out on the Perkiomen Trail for a few miles. There wasn’t anything majorly significant about this early morning run. I didn’t feel real fast; in fact, I felt kind of slow as I plodded along.

It was amusing to me that someone from my company called me not long ago to seek advice about running this year’s Philadelphia Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon (it used to be called the Philadelphia Distance Run). It just makes me laugh that people would look to me for advice about running. I have run this race four or five times, but’s it’s been several years since I last ran it. I’ve completed three marathons, and two or three Broad Street 10 Milers. I can’t tell you how many 5Ks that I’ve run over the years. Nonetheless, I don’t consider myself an expert. I’m slow and bigger than most long distance runners (that’s a nice way to say that I carry a little more weight than most if not all decent distance runners).

So what did I tell him?

1) Get into a training program. Whether it’s a runner’s group at the YMCA or like Team in Training or it’s simply an on-line or written plan like one from Hal Higdon, I think these programs can help keep one focused on doing the right mileage and exercise and rest to prepare for a longer race. I used a modified Hal Higdon plan when I prepared for both of my marathons. As a numbers guy, I created spreadsheets to help track by progress through my training. I tracked distance and time, and I tracked details about each of my runs and workouts about how I felt, where I ran, and what the weather was like. It was amazing to watch my mileage build up from week to week.

2) Get some accountability through a runner’s group or a friend who’s at your level. I found a friend to train with for many of my shorter runs, and I asked several people to ride their bike alongside me for a few of my longer runs. They carried my water and gel packs, but they also provided conversation to distract me when the mileage was getting the best of me.

3) Cross train and rest. These are important to build your strength and cardio capacity without overdoing it. I liked to ride my bike as one of my cross training activities, and I would recommend swimming and lifting as great cross training activities. I looked forward to my scheduled rest days. These gave me a chance to recharge. These are just as important as the exercise days.

4) Practice hydration and fueling on your longer runs. I ran with a belt with four water bottles. I filled one or two of the bottles with an energy drink like Accelerade. Practicing eating a gel shot or energy bar in the middle of your longer runs. Find out what works for you and your stomach. I learned that certain gel packs don’t work with my stomach. It’s best to learn this lesson while training and not during your race.

5) Set goals. A first goal would be to make it through your training and to the starting line of the race. Next, your goal should be to finish the race. Then, you can start adding time related goals – overall finish time, negative splits, etc. Finally, you might want to add a stretch goal that you can go after if you’re really feeling good.

6) Have fun. The running community is great – before, during, and after the race. Talk to other runners. Find out what works for them. Ask them about their favorite races. Cherish each moment.

For not being a running expert, I guess I have a lot to say.

Are you a runner? What tips would you add to this list?