Run a Race!

10358729_796133213815647_6984393093090976025_nI am a big fan or runners hopping into races during their training for a big goal. While the races need to be carefully timed and chosen, they are a fun way to mix up training, assess current fitness, and practice race morning routines. For many of my athletes, we’ll sue a short race in place of a speed workout. If you are itching to sign up for some races, and are wondering how to choose and how to structure your season, I am sharing a few tips with you below:

  • Choose a distance that benefits your goal race. For example, a speedy 5K can be a great workout for a runner heading to a 10K-Half Marathon race. A 5K may not be a huge asset to a marathoner unless some additional mileage is added to the day. Then again, if you are a marathoner who struggles with committing to speed workouts on your own, a 5K may be your excuse to get in speed. A half marathon, when scheduled appropriately, can be the perfect quality long run for someone in the throes of marathon training. I would race a Half Marathon no closer to a marathon than 3-4 weeks out.
  • Pick a course you like, or that offers benefit to your big goals. For example, a fast and flat 10K may be the perfect fitness assessment and speed workout for someone targeting a flat Half Marathon. A hilly Half Marathon would be perfect for preparing for a hilly marathon, like NYC Marathon.
  • Be sure to adjust your schedule that week for your race, especially if you are swapping a short and speedy race for a long run. For example, I hopped into a 5K this past Sunday as a speed workout. I usually do a speed run twice per week – Monday and Thursday, so this week I am not running speed work again until Thursday, and won’t be running long since this is a taper week for Boston. But Boston isn’t my goal race, so I am only giving myself a mini taper and focusing on the speed workouts, in preparation for my goal race a few weeks away.
  • Set goals that make sense. It’s a little unrealistic to set the goal of crushing every race – especially the ones you are using as a workout or assessment. Set a goal that makes sense and supports your big goal. For example, you may set the goal or even pacing, and learning to not be pulled by folks around you. This weekend, I set the goal of a negative-split 5K. This forced me to settle into the very hilly first mile and then shave away time in mile 2 and 3. Maybe practice fueling on your feet, using new gear, running without music – the goal doesn’t have to be time related.
  • Have fun. If this isn’t your goal race, there is no reason to take it too seriously. Yes, training races can be painful, hard, and sometimes terrible. But learn something from it, have a laugh and move on. Save that intensity and focus for the big goals. If running and racing isn’t fun, most of us shouldn’t be doing it.
  • If you live in a city like NYC, most races attract thousands of runners. Even little 4-milers in Central Park can draw 7000 runners. It’s really nice change to go hop into a small race sponsored by a small organization. You will have far less runners (easily the low hundreds, and sometimes less than 100 runners!), and you may have the opportunity to be a hot-shot and place in your age group or overall. Those little boosts of confidence can go a long way.

With Spring weather here, there will be races hosted all over the place every weekend between now and October. Enjoy them! And if you are traveling, do a little research and hop into the local race. It’s a great way to enjoy a new place, and get in some quality miles.

5 Tips for Running Etiquette and Safety

DSC_0154It’s the time of the year where runners are slowly coming out of hibernation, and folks perhaps new to running are joining the mix. Welcome – I think we are a pretty awesome group of people. In hopes to keep everyone happy and safe, I am outlining some guidelines for being a courteous and safe runner. After all, you may be sharing the road or track with lots of other runners, pedestrians or cars. Let’s all do our part to have a great season outside.

  1. When running on the road, always run against traffic – the opposite of what cyclists do. This way you can see oncoming cars. This is especially important if you are running on a road without a sidewalk or much of a shoulder. Be sure to also wear bright colors or reflective gear. You want folks driving to see you. While running/car accidents are fairly rare, they do happen and often end in critical injury or fatality.

  2. Share your space. Go run with your friends, but be aware that running 2-4 people across on a path is rude and inconsiderate to other runners. Share the road and be aware of how much space you are taking up – especially if you live and train in a city or a shared space with tourists and cyclists.

  3. Before spitting or blowing a snot rocket (gross but part of running!), LOOK to make sure you aren’t going to assault someone with your bodily fluids. This may seem like a no-brainer in a race, but be aware on training runs too.

  4. Use proper track etiquette. Always run counterclockwise, warmup/cool down in the outer lanes and save lane 1 and lane 2 for speed work. Be aware of your space and listen for runners coming up behind you. You should only use your running shoes on the track – no bikes, strollers, scooters, Rollerblade and wagons. (Yes, I’ve seen all of those before.)

  5. When on a bike/run path, stay to your far right side. This is both for your safety and consideration for cyclists. Stay right, pass on the left. If you need to pass a slower runner/walker, always check to make sure a cyclist or runner isn’t coming up behind you.

Many new runners feel intimidated to go out and join the fun, or are tempted to never try a new route. Relax, be safe and courteous, and go have some adventures. One of the best things about running is it can take you to new neighborhoods, paths, views and experiences. Go explore!

The Benefit of a Race

img_7093If you are looking for a goal, a new challenge, a reason to hit the gym or lace up your shoes, or to try something new – sign up for a race. I promise you that you won’t regret it. Races come in all shapes and sizes, themes, times of day, days of the week – the possibilities are endless.

Okay, so perhaps you are not convinced. Maybe you don’t consider yourself a runner. Perhaps you are worries you’ll be the last person across the finish line. It’s possible you assume all runners look like Olympians and are concerned looking like a human being will make you the laughing-stock of the race.

I get it. Remember, I didn’t race for years because I had those same fears. Instead I’d run on my own as I pleased, but I sometimes struggled with motivation, and I rarely pushed myself for pace or a goal other than to go outside and clock some miles. I didn’t see myself as a runner, but rather a person who happened to run. My first race changed my perspective in a hugely positive way, and it can for you too!

Here’s the truth and some tips:

Runners come in all shapes and size.

Walkers are more and more welcome at races these days, so you will probably not be last.

No one will laugh and point – in fact, you’ll be shocked at how many strangers will cheer for you!

No matter how fast, crossing the finish line will feel awesome.

Sign up with some friends and go to brunch after the race to celebrate your achievement – food always tastes better after a run!

You’ll feel a new sense of accomplishment.

Start with a 5K and go from there. There’s no need to take on something epic too soon.

Bring a camera and take some photos. You’ll start to see yourself as a stronger, more capable person. The photos don’t lie!

Make your own race-day goal. It could be to set a new personal record, have fun the whole time, high-five every child cheering, thank every volunteer, help a friend achieve their goal, wear a costume, enjoy a new running playlist – the possibilities are endless!

No matter what your reasons or plan, a race can be just the thing to reignite your healthy habits, start new ones, or simply have some good, clean fun.

Bonus: local 5Ks are usually very inexpensive, intimate, and often benefit a local organization, charity or cause.


National Running Day!

Today is National Running Day! I encourage everyone to go outside and run. You don’t have to run far or fast – a few blocks is better than nothing. Bring a friend, spouse, or the kids! it’s a day to celebrate fitness, fresh air, and taking a little time away from our computers and favorite television shows and to enjoy the long summer days! Happy running!