Saturday, December 16, 2017

Runners Support Each Other...

Running groups are like a family. Typically close knit, with a variety of unique personalities. Some members are closer than others (whether that's because of pace or similarities in training that facilitate different bonds developing, or just like-mindedness). Some members see/run with each other more often. And some members show up on occasion (for that "seasonal" group run) and then aren't seen again until next season. At times, just like with family, the running group dynamics become... dysfunctional tense. And ideally that period of tension is short lived because at the end of the day we're a "running family" right?

Over the course of my short (i.e. 4 year) running life I've run with a variety of different groups and I've also run solo. There are pros and cons to both group and solo runs, but the one thing I love about group runs is that the miles go by faster and I finish feeling stronger...

Bigger running groups have different pace options and so those groups definitely have the ability to make runners of all levels feel welcome. That can sometimes be harder with smaller groups. Which means that if you run with a small group it's important to be intentional about not isolating anyone or making anyone feel like they:
1. Don't belong because they run at a different pace
2. Don't belong because they are training for a different race
3. Don't belong because they don't run with the group all the time
4. Don't belong because they want to do different mileage

I could go on, but the point is we should not make people who want to run feel like they don't belong, or shouldn't run with our running group because their plans/goals/abilities differ from our own. As members of a broader running community we should encourage and embrace everyone who wants to run and try to facilitate each of us reaching our running goals (as best as we possibly can).

I'm dealing with some of these challenges in the group that I run with right now. And I'm pretty transparent about my life and my feelings so I recently felt like I had to comment/post a reminder that we (as a group) need to be accommodating to all the group members. To say the least, it wasn't taken well by everyone...

I'm probably overly sensitive to the need to make everyone feel welcome because there have been times when I've felt like I wasn't good enough, or fast enough, or had enough endurance to keep up/fit in. And I will acknowledge the fact that I completely control whether or not I will allow a passing comment or an exchanged glance affect how I feel or whether or not I run. But, at the same time, I deal with enough insecurities (actually I have a lot of insecurities) and running is a "safe place" for me. So when I'm out on a group run I don't want to feel like those insecurities are surfacing. And when some of my insecurities are related to running, that's definitely the last thing I want to feel.
Runners support each other

Unlike bigger groups, small running groups have to be even more careful to avoid the pitfalls of isolating others because... karma. I'm kidding, because it's just not the right thing to do. So if everyone has different mileage goals, then plan runs that have loops or an "out & back" option. If everyone has a different pace, an out & back option is especially accommodating. Another option is to schedule different start times for different mileage/pace goals. Regardless of the option the group chooses, it's important to ensure that the plan takes everyone into consideration (or at the very least, if you can't accommodate all, then accommodate most of the group).

This morning, I did a 6 mile loop, as part of a "let's try to accommodate most of our training" group run...

Mimi (in the picture with me) was doing her final really long run in preparation for Dopey, and graciously broke her run into 6-6-6-4 mile loops so that I could do 6 (first loop), another runner could do 12 (middle loops), and another runner could do 10 (last two loops). Of course, it's mutually beneficial because Mimi gets a change of company and pace with each of us that did different loops with her, and the rest of us get our desired mileage completed. This is how running groups should work. Ideally, we should find a way to work with each other in supporting each other's goals. It won't always fall into place nicely. Sometimes a runner may need to break off/turn back early, or continue to do more mileage after the group run is over. But the spirit of encouragement should be at the forefront... and when it is running groups shine.

Do you run with a running group?

If yes, how does your group accommodate runners of different levels?

If no, why do you prefer to run solo?

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Run For Tomorrow...

This morning I completed my 22nd half at the Rotary Run For Tomorrow Half Marathon...

This "race" was less of a race and more of a training run as part of my general Pittsburgh Marathon training plan. So with that in mind, my goal was to finish the distance using intervals that pushed my endurance -- run 1/2 mile: walk 1 minute...

The race average temperature was cold (but perfect for running)...

And people were decked out in their sweaters and mittens from the beginning...

The course doesn't have many any sights to see. It's essentially 13.1 miles of neighborhood streets. But it's pretty flat and simple so if you wanted to aim for a PR you could. But if you like lots of attractions on your half marathon route this is not the race for you. Since this was basically a training run for me I just focused on my intervals and breathing, and then distracted myself with music for the last 3 miles of the course. My earbuds aren't working so I was playing the music on my phone speaker which may have annoyed a few of the runners as they passed me or as I passed them. But, the distraction was what I needed after 10 miles of only my thoughts and breathing to keep me company. 

Once I was done I took a few "yes I was here and earned this medal" pictures...
... and then headed back home to change out of my cold and wet running gear.

So here's the thing about using races as training runs... you get a lot of on course support (water stations and porta potties (if you need it) etc.) but you also need to stay focused on the fact that it's a training run. It's easy to submit to the temptation to race it as people pass you by, but that can be dangerous if you're not properly trained. 

Although this was half marathon #22 for me, my legs (and lungs) are really not in tiptop half marathon shape right now. After Berlin I essentially started my training over and I've pushed it along by incorporating races into my schedule (which has proven to be the best way to keep me motivated for training). But even though I've been trying to push myself, and training has been ok so far, I'm still far from where I need to be pace & endurance-wise. I am really happy about my intervals today though. I'm working my way up to running 1 mile: walking 1 minute, and that will be my goal interval (with hopefully a consistent sub-12 min pace) for 2018.

I have a race next weekend to close out the year and then I will spend most of the holiday period cross training and keeping my baseline mileage up while I prepare for all that 2018 has in store for my running life.

How was your weekend? Any races?

Have you thought about your 2018 goals yet?

Do you use shorter races as training runs when preparing for longer distance events?

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Kicking Off My Pittsburgh Marathon Training...

This training week started off with a 4 mile run on Tuesday and ended with a 10 mile run this morning. My training plan for Pittsburgh includes 4 days of running + 2 days of cross training & 1 day of rest. I nailed the 4 days of running part, but my 2 days of cross training were converted to 2 days of "rest". Tomorrow is supposed to be a rest day but we'll see what the morning holds.

Until then, I'm just going to focus on this week's runs and the fact that I was able to get through them all...

(not really the pace I'm aiming for but hopefully that will get better on future runs)

While I'm super excited about completing my runs and the start of my Pittsburgh Marathon training, nothing was more exciting than finding out I was selected to be an official blogger for the marathon!!!

I'm honored to be a part of this esteemed group of bloggers and I'm really looking forward to blogging for the marathon. Pittsburgh happens to be in May (my birthday month) which makes it extra special for me. It will be a birthday present to myself and I plan to train hard for it so that when I cross the finish line I can cross it smiling (not crying like I did for Berlin & New York). Deep down I really want to PR in Pittsburgh (so that's goal A), but I'll also be happy with a sub-6 hour marathon finish time (since both NY and Berlin were over 6 hours and I really don't want that to be a trend)...
(source: somewhere on IG) 

What's next on your race calendar?

How is training going?

What exciting things are you doing this weekend?