Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Are you a real runner?

This past Sunday was Pike's Peek 10K in Rockville. This is a great local race with a great kids race and post-race festival. It's a mostly downhill, fast race which is always fun!

I coached a group for this race and was super excited about how they would all do. After they did their warm up and got to the start line, I went over to an area where I could see them pass as they got started. When I made my way over to the spot, there was a man and woman also waiting for the start. We smiled and exchanged pleasantries.

That came to an abrupt end when the man leaned over to his wife and said, "The real runners will be at the front." Excuse me? The "real runners?" I could not let this slide and told him that everyone on that start line is a real runner. He sneered at me (yes, sneered) and turned to his wife and said again, "The real runners will be at the front." Okay.

I bit my tongue after that comment because it just wasn't worth getting into an argument with some strange man. But I was irked. This guy was in no shape to be passing judgment on anyone, especially a bunch of runners that were about to race a 10K in already 80 degree heat.

A little time passed and he asked me how many people were running the race. I told him there were over 3000 "real runners" running today. Yes, I know, perhaps it was a little jerky. But it was the truth. He then said, "Well, it looks to me that we're both standing here." Implying that we're certainly not real runners because we're not in front, but we're also not even the loser runners in the rest of the pack because we're not even running the race. I told him that I coached a group for this race and was there to support them. He sneered at me again and turned away.

Attitudes like that really bother me. I just firmly believe that anyone that laces up their running shoes is a real runner. You don't have to run fast to be a real runner, you just have to run. The last runner in a race still has to run the same distance as the winner. How quickly you cover that distance shouldn't determine your overall worth as a runner. And I think it's important to let people know that it's not all right to put down someone else because they don't run as fast as the lead runners. The average runner most likely works full-time, has a family, and other obligations. Yet they still find the time to pound the pavement. They do it for several reasons, but most importantly they do it because they love it. To me, that makes them a real runner.

Happy running!

(P.S. all my real runners kicked some you-know-what!)

Friday, April 24, 2009

To Race or Not Race? Is that the question?

I often tell my clients that the #1 way to motivate yourself to run is to sign up for a race. If you have something to work towards it not only gives you motivation to get out the door, but it gives your training direction. It can help define when and how you should be running.

For the last 4 years or so, I've always been training for a marathon or some other big event (minus the year I took off to have my son). Currently, I am not training for anything. I have nothing on the horizon! I am taking a self-imposed race hiatus. I did the Chicago Marathon last fall and then I broke and dislocated my toe in November. So that put running on hold. I signed up and ultimately ran the Cherry Blossom 10 miler earlier this month, which was fantastic. But I didn't really train for it. I ran, of course, but mostly just with my clients. I didn't really follow any sort of plan, which is very unlike me. I ran the race with a great friend, and while it wasn't my best, it was so much fun. We talked and laughed for 10 miles and while we both kind of felt the lack of training (she is a nursing student and had an especially tough semester and couldn't run as much as she'd liked), we were happy with our performance. In fact, it was a great race.

When I decided not to sign up for anything else, I thought not having a race on the horizon was going to hamper my running. I would feel aimless and lack motivation. But this is not the case. I find myself really looking forward to my runs and not worried about how long I run for and whether or not I do it in the appropriate time, etc. I am actually having fun!

Now, don't get me wrong, training for a race is fun and rewarding. And I do feel a little wistful when my friends tell me all about their upcoming races or watch my clients reach their goals. And yes, I'm sure I'll do a random 5K or 10K just to keep things interesting. But I am really enjoying the freedom to do what I want (as far as my running goes). Training constantly can get to the point where it's just not fun. It seems like work, especially when you have to get up extra early to get a run in. Now that I don't have to hold tight to a training plan, I feel a lot of freedom. I kind of crave the run!

I think it's important for runners to understand that they don't always have to train for something. They can take a break from racing for no reason at all. Use this time to try new things with your running, such as the introduction of a new type of workout, running route, cross training technique (to see how it affects your running), etc. I think we may, as runners, get caught up in always having to train for something and that you're not an actual runner if you're not going to run a race any time soon. Not so!

For those of you training for a race, if or when you feel like it's becoming work, or you feel like you're just not having fun, take a step back. Put your training plan in a drawer for a day or two and just run. Just lace up and go. Don't think about race pace, how long till race day, etc. Just go. And have fun. You'll feel refreshed and I bet a little invigorated, kind of like you cheated on your training plan. That's OK. It will be there to welcome you back with open arms for your next run.

Happy running!

Monday, April 20, 2009

The 113th Boston Marathon

Wow. I was able to catch the last half hour of the Boston Marathon online at Universal Sports. What a race!

Kara Goucher, who is the future of women's marathoning in the US, pushed hard to place third. There was a lot of pressure on Kara to become the first American female winner of Boston since 1985. And she had a great shot at the win. But
Salina Kosgie of Kenya won it in 2:32:16 (!), finishing just one second before Dire Tune of Ethiopia (last year's winner who won by 2 seconds). Kara ran a 2:32:25, which is only 9 seconds off the winning time. These ladies pushed and fought for the last few miles. In fact, I thought Dire and Salina were going to start elbowing each other as they neared the finish line. It was such a great race.

The men had just as an exciting race. Ryan Hall, who I think is the future of men's marathoning in the US, lead the race for some time. I think the hard pace from the start hurt him a bit. Like Kara, he had a lot of pressure on him too. That's got to take a toll both physically and mentally. But he still held on for third. Derbia Merga from Ethiopia won in 2:08:42, Daniel Rono from Kenya was second and Ryan was third. Ryan was pushing so hard at the end there was a slight chance he could get second but just didn't have enough left. Oh, it was so exciting.

I get extremely emotional when I watch races, for many reasons. I am, first and foremost, inspired by the sheer talent of these runners. I also get really emotional when I see the emotions are their faces. I know every emotion going through them. Well, maybe not every one...I've never won a marathon before ;) But I have a pretty good idea of what is fleeting through them. And lastly, I get emotional because I just plain LOVE being a runner. Watching this race, and countless others, makes me thankful that I am a part of this community.

Congratulations to ALL runners taking part in the events of the Boston Marathon.

Happy running!



Saturday, April 18, 2009

Nerves

I just got back from working with one of my clients that has a race next week. This was her last hard workout before the race: hills! My favorite!

This client and I have been working together since December, so I've gotten to know her quite well. She has come so far since then, it's been really awesome to watch. Not only just the progress she's made in her running, but in her confidence. It's been great.

Even with all her confidence, though, she still has some serious anxiety about things. She gets quite nervous before our hard workouts, and even more so before her races. I know this is pretty common among all athletes, but some people have more trouble than others.

I think one of the best ways to deal with nerves is to visualize your steps before race day. Mentally going through the motions of getting up, getting dressed, eating, getting to the race, warming up, etc., can really set your nerves to rest. Because when you actually get to race day and the start line, it's almost like you've already done it. It doesn't feel foreign.

I also recommend checking out the race site and route before the actual race. I know this isn't always possible to do physically in person. But if you can check out a race route, either in person or online, before the actual race, you have a better idea of what to expect come race day. Here's a training tip: do this in the beginning of your training, if possible. That way you can develop your training plan around your route. Have a hilly route? Do some hill training. No tree cover on the route? Be sure you train out in the open of the sun so you can get used to it. You get the idea.

I think that, ultimately, you have to tell yourself that you're ready. You've done the training and put in the work. You have to be confident in that. Tell yourself over and over that you've done the work, you're ready, and this is the prize. Getting through the training, waking up early, eating well, etc., that's the hard part. The race is easy.

How do you deal with nerves before a race? Feel free to comment or email (jenn@coachjenn.com) and I'll share your thoughts.

Happy running!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Welcome!

I created this blog to serve as a forum for the running community. I hope to post many articles about not only the technical aspects of running, but how running fits into life. Sometimes running is something that has to be fit into a person's life; sometimes a person's life and activities have to fit into his or her running. It's a balance, and a delicate one at that. As a runner, a full-time writer and running coach, wife of a triathlete, and the mother of a 3-year old, finding the balance between life and running is often difficult. But it isn't impossible.

I chose "Run Your Victory Lap" as the title of my blog because that's what I feel is the prize for all of our hard work: the victory lap. It could be something that takes weeks, even months, to prepare for such as a race, but it could also be your everyday run. It's the prize we get for lacing up our shoes. I am thankful to be a runner. I feel privileged that I can call myself a runner. And every run, regardless of its importance, is my victory lap.

Happy running!