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Pre-Race Thoughts

Tomorrow morning I will run the MORE Magazine Women’s Half Marathon for the 5th time. I think it’ll be half marathon #15 but I may have missed one or two in my counting…
I love this race. It’s usually a beautiful spring day in Central Park and tomorrow’s weather forecast is consistent with that history (the year before my first time running this race the weather was awful with rain and cold). I have PR’ed this race 3 out of 4 years that I ran it. And I had high hopes of getting another PR this year when I registered. Then winter happened…
Anyone who lives on Planet Earth is probably aware that this was a particularly cold and snowy winter. To save money I quit my expensive gym in December and didn’t join an inexpensive gym until the winter was almost over. The treadmill in my basement died and would have cost almost as much as a new treadmill to repair. While I know many people who were able to get outside and run in single digit degree weather, I was not one of them.
This winter also represented a huge transition in my personal life. Life is full of change and we can go with the flow or get stuck in our own thinking. The last 6 months have required me to learn how to move forward and find a new normal for myself. It hasn’t been an easy time and there have been lots of ups and downs. The future is coming and I think I’m finally getting ready to meet it head-on. Change is hard and that impacted my motivation and my drive. “Now is the winter of our discontent” could definitely apply to this past winter. But I also found this quote, “No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.” And with the coming of spring I am re-finding my mojo.
My training has not been ideal. After finishing the Dopey Challenge in January, I basically didn’t run for almost 2 months. My come-back has been spotty. I managed one run over 10 miles – a really pleasant 12.5 milers on a lovely new trail (for me) 2 weeks ago. I used a conservative run 15 sec/walk 30 sec ratio and finished with a 13 min/mile average pace. I felt good afterwards and felt hugely encouraged. I have done a few runs on hilly courses but haven’t done the hill training necessary to kick butt on this hilly course. I have done no speed work. And barely got in my mid-week maintenance runs. But I will finish.
My strategy for this race is to start slowly and conservatively. I know I can easily maintain a 13 min/mile pace because I did it in training. So I will start around 12:30 min/mile and see how I’m feeling. I’m planning the same super conservative ratio – probably run 15 sec/walk 30 sec – for the race. This will work really well on the hills. Instead of walking up the BIG hill in Harlem, I can run for 15 sec without trashing my legs or bringing up my heart rate too much. Hopefully on the second lap I’ll feel good enough to pick up the pace a bit.
I love racing. The adrenaline rush. The feeling of camaraderie amongst the participants. The support of the spectators. The joy of crossing the finish line. I’m hoping that re-claiming that feeling will get me ready to start training again. I want to work on speed for shorter distance races over the summer before tackling another half marathon over Labor Day weekend.
Tomorrow is the first day of the future…

2015 Disney World 10K

One day after running the 5k, my alarm went off even earlier for me to run the 10k. After dragging my Night Owl 10 year old out of bed, we were off to the monorail for a slightly warmer trip to the same starting area. Luckily the Epcot monorail was running this time and our trip was easy. The temperatures were at least 10 degrees warmer and lacking the brisk winds from the previous day’s race. We stayed in the same tent from the previous day until it was time for some group meet-ups.
Unfortunately for my introverted son there was only one other elementary school child in the group (and she was a girl!) so he was stuck with the adults. We were lucky to be in a starting corral with some friends of mine from Team Shenanigans and I was grateful that they helped to entertain Nathaniel.
I had chosen a conservative run 30 sec/walk 60 sec for this race because Nate had never really run further than 4 miles. I was really worried about him going out too fast and crashing and burning towards the end. About 0.5 miles into the race he asked me if we could go faster and I wisely suggested that we waited until at least the 5k mark before speeding up.
Mile 1
I gave Nate the option of stopping for some character photos but he declined. He told me that he wanted a “real” finish time for the race. I didn’t give the same choice to the younger two children for the 5k because I was worried about not finishing.
Mile 2
The first half of this race is on roads outside of Epcot. There were some fun characters out. Elsa and Anna were on an overpass with “snow” coming down onto us. We saw several character stops with decent lines of people waiting. I learned during this part of the race that Nathaniel likes to sprint for 30 seconds and then walk at snail’s pace for 60 seconds. This meant that he would get way in front of me on the run intervals and then I’d catch up and pass him during the walk. As we reached the mile 3 mark (which came out too blurry to share), Nate started complaining about feeling light-headed. I gave him some Clif Bloks and he perked right up.
Once in World Showcase we were able to have some fun. In honor of Nate’s drum playing with Joe Weeks during the Wine & Dine 5k, we took a picture in the African outpost with the drums.
Our time was well within the limits so we started having a bit more fun.
(Random family with mile 4 marker)
Nothing like watching the sunrise from World Showcase!
We made a much-needed pit stop in Morocco. After seeing long lines for the restrooms in Germany, I was worried about losing too much time in the bathroom. Luckily the bathrooms in Morocco were nearly empty and we were quickly on our way. I think the lesson is that the bathrooms in the first part of World Showcase have long lines but if you can wait until the end of World Showcase, there are no lines at all!
As we were getting ready to exit World Showcase for the Boardwalk, we decided to increase our intervals slightly. I changed us to run 30 sec/walk 45 sec. A special treat awaiting us at the Boardwalk! A group of running friends formed a cheering squad and it was amazing to get lots of hugs from some familiar faces!!!!
Nate was starting to lose steam a bit at this point in the race but we were in the home stretch. As we passed the Beach Club we met a mother and daughter running together. They were so impressed with Nate running a 10k at age 10 and I think the compliment really energized him. We re-entered Epcot and Nate’s energy levels increased. He was even hurdling over orange cones!
As we approached the finish line, my dear friend Rich was ready to text Race Announcer, Rudy, Novotny, that we were coming. We were thrilled to hear our names as we finished! Another friend Fast Eddie got some photos of us finishing.
I was very proud of Nate’s accomplishment!
And I think he was proud of himself, too!!!!
A big thank you to our amazing friends who were cheering at the finish line!
Running 6.2 miles at age 10 is certainly a challenge. Nate was an awesome running partner. He never complained even when it was hard and he was really fun.

2015 Walt Disney World 5k

On Thursday, January 8th I woke up at 3am and quickly got myself dressed in race clothes. Soon after I found myself waking up my 6 year old son and my 8 year old daughter and getting them dressed in running gear. My weather app on my phone said it was 46F outside but predicted it would get colder. In the weeks leading up to the race, we had carefully planned cute outfits. Jessica and I were going to dress as matching Elsa’s – matching capes and all – and Zachary as Bumblebee from the Transformers. Unfortunately a cold snap in Florida meant dressing for warmth before cuteness.
We hopped on the monorail from our lovely Villa over to the Ticket and Transportation Center where we were sad to learn that the Epcot monorail was stopped. We waited in the cold wind for Disney to send over bus transportation. Eventually a Disney bus (one of the typical theme park buses, not a race transportation bus) arrived and we were happily on our way to the start.
One downside to running Disney races with younger children is that you have to get to the starting line very far in advance. I’m sure for a typical local 5k you can arrive soon before the race starts. But at Disney the huge race size and complicated logistics mean that you are there at least 60-90 minutes before race start. Add cold and windy weather. Super early morning starts. And it’s easy to have some unhappy children.
We were lucky to hear from a friend that there was room in an unused massage tent for people to wait out of the wind. The tent wasn’t heated but since it was filled with people and relatively wind-proof (if people would remember to close the darn door behind them!), it was still a welcome reprieve from the cold wind. We were starting in Corral E so I wasn’t in a huge hurry to get to the starting area so we waited inside as long as possible. It did mean missing any runDisney team meet-ups but it was more important to keep my children from being miserable.
We finally headed towards the starting area and I encouraged my children to use the porta-potty before getting to the corral. They were reluctant but fortunately agreed. As we were waiting in line for a bathroom, corral A started. Luckily for the 5k the corrals are only a short walk and we were in the corral when corral B was released.
Another downside to the Disney 5k is that there is a relatively long time lag between starting corrals. With children I have always started in a late corral and many people have already finished the race before we started. This, combined with the cold wind and the early hour, meant that my 6 year old was ready to give up the race before we even started. With some coaxing and a reminder of the cool medal he would be getting, he agreed to wait it out.
The children and I had chosen a run 30 sec/walk 60 sec strategy for the race. We had practiced at a run 15 sec/walk 60 sec interval but I thought the race-day adrenaline would win out. Jessica was given her own run/walk timer in case she got frustrated with Zachary’s slow pace but she decided to stay with us the whole time.
Zachary has mild cerebral palsy and didn’t walk until age 2. Physical activity remains difficult for him although his disability is subtle and wouldn’t be noticed by a casual observer. The early hour and long wait to start had made him a bit cranky and he got fairly whiny early in the race. We had a difficult race during Wine & Dine Weekend (Mickey’s Jingle Jungle 5k) with lots of whining and he had promised this time would be different. I gently reminded him of his promise (ok, it might not have been very gently). After expressing some anger and frustration at me, he soon changed his tune and decided that we were going to have fun.
We passed the 1 mile mark before entering Epcot and by the first water station, Zachary had apologized for being crabby. He soon invented a fun game where we had to jump over any lines in the sidewalk and we started singing and dancing our way around World Showcase. We were a little disappointed as we were belting out “Let it Go” along with Demi Lovato and the music started to skip and have problems. But mostly we just had fun.
Here we are singing along….
The course then heads into Future World. Jessica loved running by Nemo where she was yelling “Mine. Mine. Mine” along with the seagulls. We came around by the iconic “golf ball” before heading to the finish line.
Zachary is trying to catch up!
One of the amazing things about running Disney over and over again is the special people that you get to know. For me a huge highlight of this trip was meeting famed runDisney race announcer, Rudy Novotny, at the Race Expo. I told him a bit about my kids running the 5k and especially about Zachary’s disability. My friend was waiting for us at the finish line with instructions to text Rudy as we were getting close. My kids were thrilled to get a special shout-out from Rudy as they were finishing! Definitely a highlight of the race!
I was SO proud of my kids for finishing with big smiles on their faces!
I think the Disney World 5k is a really fun race. I’m not sure it’s worth the HUGE price tag now attached to it but I’m glad that my children have had the opportunity to run this race. While we didn’t stop for character photos along the course, we still enjoyed seeing the characters. My best advice for this event is to HAVE FUN!

As 2015 rapidly approaches and 2014 comes to a conclusion, it’s time to reflect on my year of running. This year was filled with big changes in my life and in many ways my running reflected those changes. January, 2014 was my 4th year running in the Disney World Marathon Weekend (my 3rd year running the full marathon that weekend). It was also my first experience with group running. I ran the marathon with a group of 11 incredible people, most of whom I didn’t know before the race. As I look back I’m still not sure how I was invited to run with this amazing group of runners but I am certainly grateful for the invitation. I truly believe that this race will always remain a pivotal experience in my life – both running and otherwise. Life-long friendships were forged and strengthened that day.
From there I went on to run my 4th More Magazine Women’s Half Marathon in April. I have PR’ed this race 3 of the 4 years that I’ve run it. Although my target was sub-2:20, I was pleased with my new PR of 2:24:41. I love the vibe of this women’s-only race and saw several friends at the event. It will always be one of my favorite non-Disney races. I also PR’ed the women’s-only Mini 10K in June. I didn’t do well with the heat and humidity and was disappointed in my finish time. I will continue to work towards a sub-1 hour 10k.
The summer brought travel – to Madison, WI for my brother’s wedding and then France to visit my other brother. Travel is disruptive to my training, especially since I took 3 children by myself to Madison. I did have the opportunity to run the streets of Paris at dawn and then to run with my brother in the French countryside. Both were memorable experiences.
I ran a fun but very hot 20k in New Haven on Labor Day. Not a fast race but certainly a fun one. That led into my intense training for the Hartford Marathon. I had originally signed up for this race following the excitement of the Disney Marathon in January. Many of my co-conspirators from that race had promised to run Hartford in October. Unfortunately life has a funny way of happening and only 2 of us ended up running the full marathon (and a few more doing the half marathon). Despite difficult weather conditions – cold and raining – I managed an almost 25 minute PR. My time of 5:07:31 was not the sub-5 hour that I had dreamed of achieving (I knew going into the race that I didn’t have a sub-5 hour in me – yet!) but was very satisfying. I was blessed with supportive “race chasers” to cheer me on at various points during the race and several other running friends sending text messages of support. The post-race festivities were very enjoyable with a fun group to celebrate with food and drinks.
After Hartford my training has truly fallen off. As I transition through so many changes in my personal life, it is hard to prioritize running right now. And honestly I miss it. I ran the Miami Beach Halloween Half while in Miami for a work conference. A running highlight was finishing Mickey’s Jingle Jungle 5k with all three of my children holding my hands. And the I swam through the Wine & Dine Half Marathon. This was truly disappointing to me as I had looked forward to this event for so long. I hope to be able to run again when it isn’t pouring rain!
Luckily the weather for the inaugural JG13.1 in Atlanta, GA was ideal. What an amazing weekend of friendships – both new and old! The whole weekend was a celebration of running and of Jeff Galloway’s amazing contributions to running. Through my friendship with the Extra Mile Podcast, I was invited to a private meet with Jeff. While it is always a thrill and inspiration to talk to Jeff, the real benefit of the meet was getting to spend time with all of the Extra Milers who I knew only through the podcast and social media. I am also lucky enough to have local running friends who gave whirlwind tour of Atlanta. The race itself was quite hilly but lovely. We weren’t running for a PR but still managed to finish in 2:25 – just 19 seconds off of my PR. I’m not sure I’ll be able to journey to Atlanta next year right before Christmas but I can honestly say this is a great race.
Now I’m finishing up my training for my first (and likely only) Dopey Challenge in January. As I look over my training for the past 3 months I see that I have missed many mid-week runs. My long runs have been cut short. The mojo just hasn’t been there. I’ve been physically and mentally exhausted recently and I need to find my inner strength again. I’m hoping that 2015 brings back my love for training. I’m still hoping to achieve my sub-2 hour half, not likely in 2015 but I think I could do sub-2 hours, and eventually a sub-5 hour full (again, not in 2015 but some day). I had hoped for 1000 miles this year and will fall quite short of that goal. Maybe next year I can achieve that. After Dopey I have no races on my schedule. I need to really think about what I want to run next year and plan the schedule. I’m looking forward to new beginnings and new experiences.

A runner’s gratitude

Today, on the Eve before Thanksgiving, is a day for thinking about gratitude. Running has brought so many positive things into my life and this is a time to reflect on how much I have changed because of running.

I am grateful for the ability to run. My body doesn’t feel good every day. Not every run is a good run. But I am so lucky that I am physically able to run. I can run 26.2 miles without injury. I have had injuries along the way – stress fracture in my foot, various minor injuries and minor illnesses – but nothing that affected my ability to run for more than a few weeks. Every time I don’t want to run or my run is difficult, I need to remember how blessed I am to be able to hit the road. So many people have been denied the opportunity to run and I need to remember that it is a gift.

I am grateful for my family – both my biological family and my running family. My mother, may she rest in peace, was my biggest running fan. Not a week went by without her asking about my training. Not a blog post was written that she didn’t read. She watched me run my first race and my first marathon. My dad and my siblings continue to cheer for me. I had the opportunity to run a few miles with my older brother while I was in France this past summer. My sister and her husband (who is a Boston qualifier) always check on me before and after big races. My other brother and his wife (ok, mostly my awesome sister-in-law) are always posting about my races (usually something about the early hour and the bad weather…). My other sister-in-law asks about my running all of the time. My dad and his girlfriend are joining me in Disney in January to help with the kids so I can run with Dopey Challenge. Amazing support from my biological family!

My running family is truly a gift from God. The friendships that I have formed through the running community have changed my life. People who have never met me in person will text me or message me to check on me. I get text messages during long runs and races from people who might not even recognize me on the street. And when life gets difficult, I can’t imagine a better group of friends. Supportive, encouraging, unparalleled. During Mickey’s Jingle Jungle 5k the other weekend, 2 friends who had never met my children helped me by running most of the race with them. And then one of my friends made sure that I was able to finish the 5k with all 3 of my children holding my hands. I am grateful for friendships that know no limits and the ability to share running with my children. In January I had the joy of running with a group for 26.2 miles (plus a bit extra due to on course antics and fun). I still can’t believe I was invited to join such an amazing group of people for that race. Running with friends is a life-changing experience and I will forever be thankful.

I am grateful for the feelings that running brings. Some days running brings escapism. Some days running brings clarity. Some days running brings invincibility. Some days running just lets me cry until I don’t feel sad anymore. And that’s just training runs. Races bring excitement and adrenaline. And crossing that finish line brings a sense of accomplishment second to none. Exhilaration. Pride. Joy.

Although I have struggled a bit to get out the door recently, running has been an amazing addition to my life. It’s sometimes hard to remember that I only started running in early 2010. What a gift I’ve been given!

Running and Perfectionism

Hi! My name’s Amanda and I’m a recovering perfectionist….
I have been a life-long perfectionist. Growing up I was a good student and a hard-core gymnast. I started competing at age 7 and stopped after my freshman year of college. Few sports breed perfectionism as much as gymnastics (ice skating and diving come to mind as well as certain positions – like pitchers and goalies – in team sports). Every competition you are judged on how perfect your performance is. And every week we were judged by how much we weighed. Perfectionist in training.
I was a high-achieving high school kid who participated in too many activities while still getting near-perfect grades. I played varsity sports during the year and raced sailboats all summer (I won girls’ champs of Long Island Sound at age 16). I followed that with acceptance into a high-achieving Ivy League University. Our sailing team qualified for nationals my junior year of college. From there I went to a high-achieving medical school where I was once again a perfectionist. When it came time to choose a field of medicine, I chose one of the most competitive with one of the longest residencies. And then I had to further sub-specialize and do 2 additional years of training. During that time I had the first 2 of my 3 children and I lived alone with 2 children in Baltimore while I finished my medical training.

I think it’s pretty clear that I have a chronic case of perfectionism.

As a perfectionist I tend to shy away from things that are new for me (not in terms of travel but more in terms of trying new sports or activities). I like to know that I’m going to be good at something before I try. I guess I’ve always been very outcome oriented. As long as the final grade is good, the process didn’t matter so much. (Maybe that’s why I pulled so many last minute all-nighters in college, huh?) So when I signed up for my first half marathon – when I could barely run a mile at the time – it was definitely a change for me.

My running resume at this point is certainly respectable. I’ve run 4 full marathons and 10 half marathons. I’ve completed one Goofy Challenge. I have 2 more full marathons and 3 half marathons on my race calendar, which includes the Dopey Challenge in January. I haven’t finished every race pretty but I have finished every race. For Disney races my times tend to be average while for local races I tend to be in the bottom 1/4 of runners. I’ve improved over time – I’ve taken 20+ minutes off my half marathon time and about 25 minutes off my full marathon time. While I’ve slowly gotten faster, I’m certainly not a fast runner. And it’s unlikely that I’ll ever be considered a fast runner.

I’m friends with some fast runners. My work partner can easily finish a half marathon in the 1:45 range (my PR in just under 2:25). She recently placed 2nd in her age group at a 4 mile race. Her pace per mile average is faster than my fastest mile. I’m friends with someone who has qualified for Boston and placed/won his age group several times. Who could run the entire Goofy Challenge in less time than it would take me to finish a marathon. And even though I respect their ability and work ethic, I’m not sure they get more benefit from running than I do.

Let me explain.

Running has helped me re-think my perfectionist tendencies. I’m never going to win a race. I’m unlikely to ever place in my age group (unless I just outlive everyone). So what makes me get up at 4am in 30F weather to complete a 5 hour training run? And that’s the funny thing about running. So much of the benefit comes from the process. There is a sense of pride and satisfaction that comes from getting your badass self up in the pre-dawn hours to run for longer than most people could fathom. Something peaceful about watching dawn break as you reach the 10 mile mark and there isn’t a soul to be seen. A stillness and calm that washes over me in the early mornings. I know that I don’t *have* to be there. Nobody is making me do it. But even if I never crossed another finish line,  knowing that I can get my body to run 20 miles even when all logic tells me to stop creates a sense of strength, of invincibility.  And even without the elusive runner’s high, the sense of accomplishment lasts forever.

I learn something about myself on every single training run I do. Some days I just learn how to clear my head of the daily noise. Some days I learn that my body won’t always be able to do exactly what I want it to do. Other days I learn that I can sometimes exceed my expectations. I learn how my body works. Or how my body doesn’t work. But mostly I’ve learned that I have more mental strength than I ever imagined. I’ve learned that through sheer stubbornness and will-power I can achieve the unimaginable.

And then there’s the feeling of race day. There are so many factors that can’t be controlled. How you feel that day. What the weather is like. And not every race goes the way that I hope. In June I was well-trained for my 10k but the heat and humidity took a toll and I finished slower than I hoped. Was that a failure? Absolutely not. I put in the time and effort to train and did the best of my ability that day. And while I hope to PR my next marathon, I also know that there will be factors that I can’t control. Regardless of how I finish I know that I can be proud of the process. I have prepared for the race and followed my plan.

The most amazing thing about my running experience is how it has carried into my every day life. Jeff Galloway has been quoted as saying,  “The marathon is one of those experiences that people tell me allows them the confidence to be able to do a lot of other things in their life that they thought they could never do.” This is so true for me. I have projects going on at work that I never believed I could do. I’m making changes in my life that require strength that I didn’t know I had. I have new-found faith in myself. Belief that YES I CAN. Because someone who can’t do things also wouldn’t be able to get up at 5am and run for 6 hours (which is tomorrow’s plan).

Running has helped this perfectionist see that it’s not about the outcome, it’s not the destination that matters. What matters most in life is the journey. And I plan to enjoy every moment of my journey to the next finish line.

New Haven 20K and Update

So it’s been nearly 5 months since I’ve written a blog post. Life has a funny way of getting in the way of blogging. And sometimes life gets in the way of running, too. May was a rough month. A work conference in Orlando in May with late nights and early mornings led to some time off to recover from a sinus infections. I PR’ed the Oakley Women’s 10k in June but struggled with the humidity a bit. Luckily it was a nice summer for training and my plan was only a bit derailed by some more travel-related illness in August.
On Labor Day (Monday, September 1st) I ran the New Haven 20k race. My training schedule called for a 26 mile training run that weekend. I ran on Saturday and made it to 16 miles before stopping. I just wasn’t feeling great and I knew I had 12.4 miles ahead of me on Monday.
Labor Day weather reports called for a hot and humid race. Unfortunately some unexpected changes in my on-call schedule meant that I was taking emergency phone calls the night before the race until nearly midnight.
The drive to New Haven was easy and the parking garage was only a few blocks from the race. The starting area had tons of port-a-potties. The day started with children’s races, the 20k, and a 5k. There were no official corrals but some signs with suggested race paces. I was planning a slow run/walk so started all the way in the back of the pack.
After the National Anthem was sung, we were off! Using 30/30 run/walk intervals I quickly found myself at the very back of the pack. While this was somewhat discouraging, I figured with the heat and humidity I wouldn’t be all the way in the back for long. One thing that was immediately apparent and surprising to me was how many locals were sitting outside to cheer for us. There were also several bands playing starting by mile 2. These were clearly local bands but they were very inspiring and enjoyable.
There were many water stops along the course with local groups and families handed out beverages. I tried to take water from the smallest child I could find at each stop. There were locals with sprinklers set up to cool us off because the weather was brutal. The starting temperature was 71F with 90% humidity. Yuck!
I can’t emphasize enough the cheer and support we got from the residents. It was really fun to see people hanging out on their lawns and offering support to the runners. I will say that around mile 6 I wasn’t feeling great. The heat and humidity were getting to me. I’m definitely NOT a hot weather runner. But the atmosphere was so positive that I powered through.
Around mile 9-10 was a lovely, shaded downhill that lasted quite a long while. That really lifted my spirits and helped carry me to the finish. I saw some people really struggling towards the end but I was able to power through. While my finish time of 2:31:08 (12:19 pace) isn’t going to win any awards, it was a rewarding experience. The long-sleeved tech shirt is great and the medal was lovely.
After the finish there was plenty of food, even for the back of the packers. The entry fee included 2 free beers at the finish but the kegs were starting to kick by the time the later finishers got there. The after party was definitely a nice event and probably worth the entry fee alone.
This race is definitely a good event. Unfortunately Labor Day weather in Connecticut is usually quite warm so I’m not sure I would do this race again.
Next up on my race calendar is the Hartford Marathon in October….

Anyone who reads my blog – or reads anything about my training – knows that I’ve been a dedicated devotee of the Jeff Galloway run/walk/run method. As someone who started running relatively late in life (around age 38), I found that run/walk has helped me finish endurance events with minimal injury. While some beginning running programs like the Couch to 5K use run/walk as a bridge to running continuously, Jeff Galloway firmly believes that the run/walk method can benefit almost anyone who wants to continue running until age 100. He also believes, in most cases, that taking walk breaks from the beginning of a run will actually speed the runner up rather than causing a slower overall pace. His belief is based on many years of coaching runners to the finish line and seeing an improvement in finish times when run/walk is used versus running continuously.

So what’s the catch?

Despite the popularity of run/walk within the runDisney community, there are many runners who see run/walk as “cheating” or as a bridge from the couch to running continuously. As I’ve started experimenting with heart rate based training, I’ve had 2 different coaches tell me that I have to stop using run/walk now that I’m a marathoner. My strength coach (who I generally love and is a marathoner herself) told me to just go out a run 10 miles continuously for my next long run (please note that I usually use run 30 sec/walk 30 sec or run 40 sec/walk 20 sec intervals for my long runs). Another heart rate based coach told me that there is NO way he will allow me to take walk breaks during my upcoming 10K. Interestingly neither person asked me how I feel about run/walk or what my goals were. The assumption is that if I want to get faster, I need to stop taking walk breaks.

During a recent submission to The Extra Mile Podcast (which is produced by my amazing friend Kevin who is one of the kindest people I know), I spoke of my training angst caused by these recent attacks on run/walk. Adding fuel to the fire are a few friends who are quite openly anti-run/walk (it’s predictable that at least one of them will post that I should just run my upcoming 10K continuously regardless of my training or how I actually feel about it) and a family member who has confessed that he finds run/walk to be a little bit like cheating and something that he can’t imagine actually using himself (I’m withholding names to spare the not-so-innocent but I will say this person ran track 50 years ago but has never done endurance events). I know my Extra Mile friend Kevin is very intrigued by this question about run/walk and plans to explore it further.

I know my angst has led to discussions amongst my running friends and amongst listeners to the Extra Mile Podcast. Just today I was fortunate enough to listen to a super interesting podcast – The Seeker – which explored my question. I’m downloading at least one other running podcast that also addressed my run/walk angst (Just Norm is the podcast).  I am certain that there are other runners who struggle with run/walk as a concept and question whether or not it is right for them.

So where do I stand?

It’s still a fluid issue for me because I haven’t firmly settled on my running goals which makes it hard for me to take sides.

Part of me continues to feel frustrated that I’m not a faster runner. I grew up as a competitive athlete (not a runner). I was competing in gymnast from at least age 7. I graduated high school with 9 varsity letters. I raced sailboats, competed in diving over the summer, and was a passable tennis player. I’ve never really been a couch potato even when I was really actively participating in sports. So why can’t I run faster than back of the pack? In my heart I don’t believe it’s a run/walk problem. I conceptually like heart rate training but believe it could be combined with run/walk and still be effective. The Seeker podcaster James mentioned something in an email exchange today about how less than 1% of the U.S. population finishes a marathon in a given year so that makes me faster than 99.5% of the U.S. even if I don’t finish faster than a few other runners on the course. Good point but still not entirely satisfying. I think that losing a few pounds and added a few extra miles per week might help me speed up. And I’m continuing strength training and hoping to add more cross-trianing to further help things along.

The other problem for me is that I need running to be fun. This may be surprisingly to some but I lead an incredibly stressful life. I’m a surgeon. wife, and mother of 3 children. Work can be very stressful and parenting can be very stressful. Running is what I do for fun. I’m never going to earn a living as a runner. As long as running is a hobby, it needs to be fun. Focusing solely on speed takes some of the joy out of running. My solution has been to run a lot of races for fun and with friends and only focus on a few time goal races. If I’m taking over 6.5 hours to finish the Disney Marathon, then I’m obviously not worried about speed. On the other hand I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun runner. I finished the NYC Marathon well over an hour faster than Disney and yet I felt disappointed and let down after that race. Following Disney I had a runner’s high for weeks and weeks. Big difference. If time goal racing makes me stressed and sad and running races with friends makes me happy, maybe that’s my answer (I don’t think ALL time goal racing makes me stressed and sad and I really did enjoy the MORE half marathon recently.).

What’s my plan?
I signed up for another 6 months of ecoaching with Jeff Galloway. My fall race calendar is busy and I finish it off with the Dopey Challenge in January. From October 11th until mid January I am running two 5Ks, one 10K, 3 half marathons, and 2 full marathons. I need to be healthy and I did to enjoy running. All of those races will be run with friends and, with the possible exception of the Hartford Marathon at the beginning of that stretch, none will be time goal races. 

As for my June 10K? I still don’t know. Jeff Galloway has me doing speed work for a time goal and I will likely stick to whatever plan he suggests. Tomorrow will include 400M repeats (probably on a treadmill due to terrible weather) instead of heart rate training. We’ll see how the plan works. I’m still a believer to Jeff’s training for now and I’m going to commit myself to his plan.

Sometime between finishing the NYC Marathon in early November and running the Disney Marathon in January, I realized that it wasn’t reasonable to run 2 full marathons for time goals in a 9 week period. I made the decision to run the Disney Marathon for fun (which was a GREAT decision) and to put off speed work and time goals until my spring half marathon. I’ve long felt frustrated that I’m not a faster runner and was hoping that some speed training would help me improve in time for the More Magazine Women’s Half on April 13th.

The winter of 2014 will certainly be remembered as a bad one and there’s no doubt that this impacted my training. Instead of doing track work I had to rely on the treadmill as our local track was buried in snow for months. I wasn’t sure how my treadmill dependent-training would translate to the very hilly course in Central Park. And then, of course, the weather predictions for the race included a high temperature in the 70’s. 

Race day morning was sunny and just a touch chilly. I wore a running skirt with compression socks and then my Super Girl tech shirt with arm warmers. I had brought a mylar heat wrap for pre-race warmth but decided to leave it in the car. I found a parking spot on Broadway and 69th Street (which made me giggle like a 14 year old because, why not?) and then walked a few blocks over to the starting area. I had enough time to wait in a gigantic line for the only toilets with indoor plumbing in the area and luckily convinced my friend Kim to come wait with me. Another “virtual” friend (who is now a “real” friend), Christine,  stopped by to say good luck as she headed to the start area. We had a funny moment in the bathroom line when a woman asked to please be allowed to cut the line because she was singing the National Anthem and was needed on the stage immediately. (For the record I thought she did an amazing job singing!)

Kim and I headed to the “poo brown” starting corral. The last corral in these larger NYRR races is always brown and another running friend, Beth, always calls it “poo brown.” I’ve adopted it. Kim and I weren’t there particularly early so we started mid to late in the brown corral. I think in the future I would make more of an effort to get to the corral earlier because I spent the first 2 miles weaving around walkers (I do run/walk so I honestly don’t mean that in a judgmental way). NYRR has the opposite problem as runDisney. Disney used to lump anyone with a sub-2 hour half marathon into Corral A which was frustrating for the 1:30 half marathoners who are quite a bit faster than the 1:59 half marathoners. NYRR lumps all of the 11+ min/mile people together. This race had a 4 hour time limit which meant that I finished more than 1:30 faster than many of my corral-mates. 

My arm sleeves came off by mile 1. The crowding at the start definitely impacted my race as my 1st two miles were my slowest two and they weren’t particularly hilly. After mile 2 the crowds opened up a bit but then you have the Harlem Hills to counteract that.  With the except of the BIG hill, my pace per mile pretty much got faster as the race went on. Mile 13th was the fastest mile of the race with a 10:30 min/mile pace. And I definitely felt like I put everything I had into the last few miles. One of the fun things about doing 2+ loops around the park is that the elite runners lap you during the race. It was amazing to see Deena Kastor – a 41 year old mother – with an impressive lead as she set a course record. What an amazing athlete! I also ran into (figuratively, not literally!) several other runDisney friends on the race course which was so much fun.

My previous half marathon PR had been at the 2013 More Magazine Half Marathon one year ago. I finished in 2:25:31. As I was approaching the finish line I knew that my time was pretty close to last year’s but I wasn’t sure in which direction. For some reason as I approached the finish line I had convinced myself that last year’s PR was 2:24:41 ( I have no idea where that came from – runner’s math?) and that I was going to finish within seconds of that time. Perhaps prophetically that was my exact finish time and also a new PR. I still haven’t achieved a half marathon pace per mile below 11 min/mile which was my A goal. A new PR is still a new PR and I have shiny new medal to add to the collection.

I was able to watch my friend Kim finish the race is an amazing new PR for her. Super excited and proud of her! It was great fun to hang out with her and Christine for a while after the race. This is one of the many reasons that I pay to run 2+ loops of Central Park every year. Good friends. Good vibes. Fun race. It’s definitely more expensive than some other local half marathons but I love what it has to offer.

Pre-Race MORE Half, 2014

There is a Henry Ford quote that has been popping up on social media, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.” I worry that perhaps this quote will become prophetic regarding tomorrow’s race.

When I first started running – about 5 years ago – I had no concept of speed. I was training for my first half marathon, mostly on a treadmill in my basement. My B goal was to cross the finish line (preferably within the 3:30 time limit of the race) and my A goal was to finish under 3 hours. I had no race experience to help me predict my likely finish time and had only done a small number of runs outdoors. I set a pace on the treadmill based on nothing better than a random guess and used that pace for training purposes. I finished that race somewhere in the 2:45 range (I think around 2:46 but I don’t remember exactly) and was thrilled to shatter my sub-3 hour goal.

The downside to having finished a race is that I now had a target to beat. I quickly realized a few things: I needed a decent training plan, I was setting the treadmill at too-slow a pace, and I needed to run more outdoors in “real life” conditions. Over the next 3 years I managed to take about 21 minutes off my half marathon time. The last half marathon I actually ran for time was exactly one year ago at the MORE Magazine Half Marathon where I set my current PR (Personal Best).

My first race represents a sort of Eden-esque time. I was thrilled to be racing. Even more thrilled to be racing at Disney. And very pleased with my finish time which was significantly better than I realized I could run. Unfortunately my naive state of satisfaction with my performance was quickly destroyed when I ran the MORE Magazine Half as my second race. I beat my time at Disney but quickly learned that Disney races produce slow finish times and a mid-pack finish at Disney put me firmly in the back in a New York Road Runners’ race. With this realization came the desire to get faster.

I haven’t actually raced a half marathon since one year ago. The only half marathon I ran between then and now was in October in the heart of my NYC Marathon training. I ran the race at training pace in order to PR at the NYC Marathon. Following that I ran the Disney Marathon for fun before re-starting more serious training. I decided after the NYC Marathon (which despite a solid PR was not a great race for me), that I would focus my attention on a faster half marathon this spring.

Starting in December I added speed work to my running schedule and then in early March adding strength training and heart rate training. Unfortunately some of my efforts were derailed by the terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad winter we had. I found it impossible to convince myself to run outdoors at 4:30 in the morning when it was pitch-black, 10 degrees, windy, and icy/snowy. I didn’t miss any training runs but I found myself, once again, training primarily on the treadmill. I’ve had a few outdoor runs, including a 15 miler and an impressive track session of 14 x 800m repeats, but the majority of this training cycle has involved a treadmill. My one attempted tempo run took place on a Sunday afternoon about 24 hours after a challenging strength training session and following a day of running around from one child’s activity to the next. It was a confidence-blowing disaster.

Which leads me to my dilemma. I, honestly, don’t know what I’m capable of running tomorrow. Will this be my 2:20 half marathon that I’ve been hoping to achieve? Or, similar to my recent tempo run, an unequivocal disaster of low energy and slow pace? Will the 14 x 800m repeats be predictive of a fast (for me) race? Or will the hills of Harlem kick my butt since I haven’t done as much hill work as I had intended? I wish I could go into tomorrow’s race with a sense of confidence that I know what I can do but I honestly have no idea.

So what’s the game plan? I’m going to pretend like I have to the training to leave it out on the course. With a generous 4 hour time limit, I can walk the last half of the race and still finish. I’m hoping for 11:30 min/mile until I pass the first big hill and then increase the pace a bit until the second hill before trying to turn it up another notch or two. This might be a recipe for disaster but I guess I won’t know until I try!


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