Marathon Preparation – what to do now

img_7073Marathon season is in full swing. Whether you are preparing for your first marathon, your one-hundredth marathon, or a goal personal best, there are a few things you should start to practice and plan NOW so that race day goes smoothly!

  • Finalize accommodations. Race weekend can become stressful. You will naturally be a bit anxious or excited. Having your plans for the weekend – including where you are going to eat, stay and how you will get to/from the race ironed out now will equal minimal chance for added stress on race weekend.
  • Practice in what you’ll wear. Everything from your shoes to your hat – wear your “race outfit” for a few long runs. This will minimize the risk of blisters, chafing, overheating, or simply annoying or uncomfortable race-day issues. If you plan to buy new shoes for your marathon, buy them and break them in on a few long runs in the weeks leading up to the big day.
  • Practice how you will fuel on race day. Everything from what you’ll eat the night before and morning of to how often you will refuel with water or GU on the course. Leaving nutrition to chance is a good way to guarantee you’ll take a tour of the porta-potties mid-race.
  • Start looking at your race course and elevation. Make note of landmarks, turns, water stations, and other useful points on the course. You don’t want to feel “lost” on race day. Know the course, and you’ll be prepared for success.
  • Set a few race-day goals. It’s impossible to predict what will happen with 26.2 miles of running, and setting one ambitious best-case scenario goal may set you up for a whole lot of heart ache. A few goals means you may have fall-back goals you can still achieve if the star’s don’t align.
  • Look at your training paces and come to terms with your strengths and weaknesses. Runners who know themselves often have a better chance of handling the tough moments and getting back on track. Revisiting your training should also give you some confidence. The proof is in the numbers, and so try not to doubt your training while you taper.
  • If you are going to have friends/family cheering on the race course, discuss ahead of time exactly where they will be. It takes a lot of energy to search a crowded block while trying to stick to your paces. Knowing they will be on the northwest corner of Chestnut Street, wearing blue and holding a sign is a million times easier than looking for someone “at the intersection of Chestnut Street.”
  • Make clear and definitive plans for what to do and how to get home, to the hotel, or to find family post-race. Be realistic and give yourself extra time. Marathoners move notoriously slow post-race.

No matter how your race weekend goes, try to have some fun and relax. There is always something positive to take away and learn from every race. If things don’t go your way, at least you know you were prepared. That should narrow the possibilities for making the same mistake twice – and hopefully you’ll have a kick ass race and will cross the finish line with a smile from ear to ear, feeling awesome.

The F Word (Failure)

A snap shot of my Ultra. So ill at this point.

A snap shot of my Ultra. So ill at this point.

This week I want to talk about failure. I think it’s safe to say that most of us have experienced some sense of the word in our lives. In terms of fitness and weight loss, “failure” is the F word that plagues most of our minds. Many people are so scared of failing at a goal that they never start. Having failed many times at things, I can tell you that it’s not so scary once you embrace that little F word and make it into something positive.

The last week or so, I have referred to my Ultra on July 19/20th as a “failure.’ Why? Because it was. I didn’t achieve my goal of 100 miles. However, I also know I pushed further than before, and that “failure” is sometimes objective. I suppose when you fail at an Ultra, and still mange to run over 75 miles, everyone around you still thinks that’s super-human awesome. While I don’t really see it that way, I understand that my achievement was still something the average person cannot do. Therefore, I have taken that “failure” and somehow decided to own it as mine.

The same is true for past races, ones where I tanked during a race and a time goal slipped away. Weight loss failure a few years ago plagued me and defined my sense of self. When I looked in the mirror, I saw a fat, worthless failure, who couldn’t succeed at the simple task of dropping some body fat. Was I ever really fat or worthless? No, I don’t think so now. But then I did. Every time I “failed” at a diet or workout plan, I labeled myself as weak. When you tell yourself you are weak, you believe it. At some point, something snapped for me and I realized that I wasn’t weak, and my knowledge of nutrition, fitness and health were WAY off base. I was also too caught up in what I thought I needed to look like, thanks to time spent reading beauty magazines and watching too much E! News. Once I finally said “fuck it!” and made choices around my happiness, I stopped sweating my failure and started to see it as something else – BEING HUMAN.

Being human means we are capable of awesome things. Don’t believe me? Then you haven’t tried. Really, truly tried. Being human also means we fail. Why are we all so scared of failing and therefore being human? Why do we put so much pressure on ourselves to be this ideal person? I don’t know about you, but that kind of pressure will make most of us crack.

So if you are sitting there, reading my blog and feeling incapable of getting off the couch and going for a walk, a run, to the gym, or to clean out your kitchen of all your junk “feel better” food, I have news for you – you are not alone. And here’s some more news – you will never succeed if you don’t try. True, you will also never fail, but aren’t you already failing by passively not being proactive in your life?

In college, I remember one of my choral directors told us to sing with confidence. It’s better to make a huge mistake and own it than to passively “sing” your part. Go big or go home. If you make a mistake, you’ll learn from it and realize that note needs to be corrected. But if you get it right, it will not only be the correct pitch, it will have your breath, diction and voice all working the way the composer intended – creating something beautiful.

Don’t be scared to fail. Failure makes us stronger. You’ll never know how strong, fast, smart, beautiful or fit you may be unless you try. That goes for everything in life.

Back on My Feet 24-Hour Race Video

Running Safety Tips

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!

Report from the Trenches: Broad Street Run 10-Miler

imagesOn my 5-year anniversary of my first race ever, I headed back to where it all started – the Philadelphia Broad Street Run. This 10-mile race was my first, and I have gone back every year. It’s silly to think that I have only been part of race culture for five short years. Those years have been packed with so many growing pains, knowledge, growth, and a love affair with road racing that won’t quit.

I remember how for years I ran, but never entered a race. I would run 20-30 mile weeks, simply to clear my head, sweat out stress, and feel good. I liked it. I don’t know how fast I’d run, and I have a rough idea on distance, but I was by no means the runner I am today. Like my journey, I am sure many of you have grown as athletes and human beings by leaps and bounds over the last five years. It’s really quite amazing to process that.

While my plan for this year’s Broad Street Run was to train my butt off and work to finally crack the 65 minute mark (my last two Broad Street Runs were 65:XX), this winter’s weather, being sick over and over, and my coaching load shut down that goal. I was slightly disappointed, as I love the opportunity to compete against myself. But pacing runners in races and long runs, and a terrible winter simply meant I had a winter filled with easy distance miles, not track repeats or tempo runs. 

I decided the next best thing was to run the race with someone special. Luckily, I had a ton of special people running the race this year. Miracle of miracles, via lottery, my brother, friend and boyfriend all got spots. Since Alex and Chris (friend and boyfriend) were of similar pace and planned to run together, I decided I would run with my brother. At his first Broad Street Run in 2013, he ran about a 1:22 on barely any training. 

I should mention here and now that while I love my brother, James, dearly; he is one of those people who always excels. He was the kid who wouldn’t study or would do his homework on the bus, and get straight A’s. Plus he was always cast as the lead in school plays, and a talented basketball player – and it all came easily to him. As his older sister who had to work for her good grades and extra curricular activities, I sometimes found this annoying. Now I find it amazing. 

In true James fashion, he once again barely trained for the Broad Street Run. It’s not that he didn’t care or didn’t want to, but it wasn’t a priority. I told him we’d get him a PR of at least a sub-1:20. I knew that even if he were just in the shape he was last year, I could push him enough for that goal. And again, in true James fashion, he blew his current PR out of the water and ran a sub-1:12, on barely any training. 

Race morning was cool, and it looked like rain. Still, we all agreed that cool and rainy was probably better than the 85 degree morning I had on that same course five years earlier. James and I said goodbye to Chris and Alex, and they walked to the green corral. James and I walked towards the starting line, and into the purple corral. It’s amazing to me that the race is now 40,000 runners. One of the things I love about Broad Street is that it truly is a Philadelphian’s race. Most of the runners live in Philly or the suburbs, and it’s often an event friends do together, tailgating for the Phillie’s game is a popular post-race choice. There are some runners who travel into town, but I’d say this race is as Philadelphia as you can get. I like it. 

In the corral, James and I chatted as we tried to stay warm. I told him to not push the first mile, and to wait for the crowds to thin. Wasting time weaving around runners would add distance and expend energy, taking away from the benefit of a flat and fast course. Again, in true James fashion, this guy aced the notion of a negative split. Our first and slowest mile clocked a 7:34, and James told me he would be happy if we averaged 7:30s. Our miles slowly picked up pace as we went. As we passed the Temple University campus and the marching band, a spring in our step took us quickly towards City Hall. You can see City Hall from miles away. I told James that we’d pass City Hall after the 5-mile mark, so we should settle and not burn out until we hit the halfway mark. Our pace still continued to speed up, but because James didn’t look or sound like he was working very hard, I didn’t pull him back very much. 

Around the 7-8 mile mark, James said his legs were beginning to tighten up. Did this slow his pace? Nope. At this point we were running 6:55-7:05 miles. I was simply in awe at how someone who has run maybe a dozen times since January could run 10 miles at this pace without feeling terrible, gasping for air, or getting injured. Who is this kid?!? Our last mile was our fastest, a 6:41. Ironically, I was winded at the end. My allergies made the last few miles hard on my breathing, and so when James took off at the end I was left to watch the tree tattoo on his back a few steps ahead of me. James had crushed his previous PR by over 10 minutes. On barely any training. Ridiculous. 

At the finish, we grabbed refreshments and our medals, and waited for Chris and Alex at the family meeting area. James pointed out the many different gaits and running forms we saw on the course. I laughed, as I totally knew what he was talking about. The more you run, the more you notice things like running form. 

I told James that I wondered what kind of time he could clock if he actually trained. I think he could whoop my butt and run 60-65 minutes – maybe faster. I am in awe. Again, knowing how hard I’ve had to work for certain race times, watching him pull off a time many runners out there that day didn’t have a prayer in achieving, probably while training – its amazing. As his big sister, I am super proud. As a coach, I would very much love the opportunity to coach him one year and see what would happen. However, in true James form, he’s probably too busy with other things (he does work a lot!) and will probably still go back and set a new PR in 2015. 

As for me, I absolutely love pacing someone to a PR. Hopefully next year will be the year I go after that sub-65 minute finish. I know if I work hard, and weather cooperates on race day, its there. I know it is. I just need to make it happen.

Bad Bandits

2014bostonAt the 2014 Boston Marathon, history was made. If you haven’t heard, American Meb Keflezighi won the Boston Marathon. He is the first American male to win the iconic marathon since 1983. I should probably mention that is was also a few weeks shy of his 39th birthday. The female race ended with the first three women beating the current course record – with Rita Jeptoo smashing the course record by almost 2 minutes. It was a great day for America and for the sport of marathoning. I know I was a ball of emotions as I watched live coverage of the race on my laptop, screaming for Meb to run faster over the last few miles as his pursuers closed the gap, coffee mug in hand.

In the wake of a beautiful race day, news hit the running community of many accounts of people duplicating race bibs and running the Boston Marathon by cheating. Bandits (runners who unofficially run a marathon, often by hopping in without a race bib), have been part of road race culture for a very long time. The Boston Marathon is famous for its bandits. However, with this being the first Boston Marathon after the 2013 bombings, security was planned to be heightened and bandits were strongly discouraged. Registered runners were not allowed to check bags for post-race, and the entire course to Boston was protected like never before. When stories broke of folks stealing bibs by printing them off of photos runners posted on social media of their official race bibs, the reaction was hardly positive. In an attempt to not get into the self entitlement and selfishness of folks who decide the rules do not apply to them, let me put on my coaching hat for a second….

Do NOT run bandit. If a race has rules, follow them. Simple. If you cannot play by the rules, don’t play.Yes, its totally unfortunate and sucks that if you purchase a race bib and months later cannot run the race that your bib must go to waste and your entrance fee goes up in smoke. Sure, your buddy could use your bib if you can’t, right? But what does it matter who is running if you aren’t going to win? Look, I get it. I’ve been that runner who couldn’t use her race bib because of an injury. I’ve also been offered friend’s race bibs when injury gets in the way of their race. Its tempting to accept it, but so far I have never taken another runner’s bib. It may sound silly that a bib that may cost $70-$250 will go to waste, but once again – rules are rules.

Here are reasons to NOT bandit/steal bibs:

  • Safety. Every bib has an identity attached to it and emergency contact and medical info. If you run bandit and something happens to you, no one will know who to call, or if you are diabetic or are on blood pressure medication. If you steal someone else’s bib and something happens to you, that person’s emergency contact will be contacted. You may say “I’m healthy so who cares?” Okay, fine. Do you know how many “healthy people” DNF because of dehydration, cramping, injury, fainting, cardiac arrest, etc? Don’t assume you won’t be part of that list at some point. I know I have. And if something crazy like the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings happens again, none of us can assume we are going to be the lucky ones.
  • Consideration. Rules are rules. If you want to run a race, enter it officially like everybody else. It’s unfair to everyone lined up beside you who PAID good money to run that race. That money goes towards permits to shut down roads, race-day equipment, refreshments on the course, race medals, medical support, and more. You are stealing from everyone around you if you run bandit. If you are simply too poor to run a race (I get it, some of them are VERY expensive!), sign up for a charity and raise money. If you raise the amount of money required by your charity, you won’t need to put a single dollar of your own towards race fees.
  • Fueling. Race organizers plan to support the amount of registered runners. Period. Sure, there is some wiggle room, as they often try to overshoot the numbers to make sure they are over prepared. But if you steal a bib and run bandit, you are a person the race director wasn’t counting. If you think its okay, do you think you are alone? Nope. There are far more self-entitled bandits out there than anyone has taken the time to track down and count. Have you ever run a race where they run out of water or Gatorade? Or race medals or mylar sheets? Guess what, it sucks. If you bandit, your actions may mean a runner behind you won’t have the supplies they paid for and are expecting at the water station. When you are dehydrated and tired, the WORST thing is getting to a station that has run out of supplies. You want to cry. What gives YOU the right to take that from the runner behind you? That runner has probably trained hard for this race, paid their entrance fees, and played by the rules.
  • Ethics. Look, we all have different moral codes. We’re human. But I would like to think that we as a running community can all agree that PEDS, cheating, and running bandit are all wrong. If we don’t hold ourselves to those simple standards, how can we be happy with ourselves? How can we feel that we truly accomplished something great? I don’t think anyone with a moral code who stole bibs, finished the Boston Marathon, and claimed their medal can ever really feel good about that race, can they? Perhaps I am wrong, but I don’t think the race would have the same meaning to me as qualifying or running for a meaningful charity, and doing it the way the race rules state.

It is my hope that more and more races will allow official bib transfers, which are starting to happen in some popular races. Race directors realize that runners cannot always use their bibs, and official transfers means the original runner can get their money back and the new runner will have their information (including emergency info) on record. However, this isn’t common practice for all races, so read the fine print if you are debating signing up for a race months down the road.

Perhaps because the Boston Marathon is a very special race, requiring its participants to qualify or run for charity, that bandits left an even more sour than normal taste in everyone’s mouth. it’s a race that avid runners spend years trying to qualify for. Its the closest thing many of us will ever see to the magic of the Olympics or the Olympic Trials. It is a race that so many runners put blood, sweat and tears into getting to, that printing out a bib someone else posted online seems so incredibly wrong. Of course its really not more wrong than cheating your way into any other marathon, or is it? I suppose that’s up for debate. Regardless of reason, the bandits in this year’s Boston struck a chord.

*** Now, there are always grey areas and exceptions to rules. Here’s how to handle those areas in a way that protects your safety and doesn’t take (much) away from everyone else out there:

  • If you buy/transfer a bib from someone unofficially, (NOT stealing a photo of a bib off the internet!!!), wear a Road ID in case you need medical or safety help. Remember, the bib will have the official runner’s emergency info attached to it. Also, write on the back of the bib your own info. List any important info and write clearly.
  • If you are unofficially using a bib from a friend/transfer, for God’s sake make sure you are NOT going to win an award (top finish, age group or otherwise), and that you are NOT qualifying the original registered runner for Boston or Olympic Trials.
  • If you are hopping into a race to pace a friend for a few miles, DO NOT take any of the refreshments on the course. It’s common practice for a buddy or a coach to hop in during those tough miles, but taking away from paid participants is wrong. Be sure to hop OUT before getting to the finish line. (Due to security post-Boston 2013, it may be difficult to do this in the major big-city races.)

To me, running and races is about becoming a better person and a better athlete. Putting challenges in front of myself and working hard to rise to said challenge. Cheating is a sour, ugly, awful toxin that poisons this sport. If you couldn’t get a spot in a race for whatever reason, there will always be next year. be a grownup, and play by the rules. I guess if you wondered what my thoughts are on bandit runners, now you know.

New Website and New Offerings

img_6984-editGreetings runners and fitness enthusiasts! As you can see, “Coach Corky Runs” got something of a face-lift over the weekend. I hope you like the new website. A few more things will be added and changed in the next week or so. Feel free to bop around it and give me some feedback. Something you want me to add? Something that’s hard to find? Something you love? I welcome your comments!

I’m planning to add more to my “resources” tab, with links to sports doctors, massage therapists, local running stores, etc. So if YOU offer a service geared toward athletes, send me an email and we can talk about adding your link to my “resources” page!

A tab with links to all of my publications will be added.

I’ll be adding more “news” about my own upcoming goals and training, fitness modeling work, and my clients’ recent achievements!

As Spring is finally starting to slowly show her face here in NYC, Coach Corky is offering group classes! For more info, see the tab at the bottom of the page. I don’t know about you, but I am REALLY excited about that one!

You can also anticipate a few guest blog entries from one of my runners, as she’s preparing for her first marathon! I know she has a lot to share, and unlike many of my athletes, she lives 1500 miles away! She also happens to be my little sister. I think her perspective on running, things she’s learned and tips she can share will be especially beneficial for newbies and folks thinking about their first marathon! I am incredibly proud of how far she’s come in the last year of running, and she hasn’t even hit the marathon starting line yet.

I am *hoping* to start working on a book – but don’t hold me to it. I’m so busy running around that it might not be finished for a few years. I am also thinking about working on a podcast or weekly/biweekly vlogs. I’d love to share more info with all of you, and have on some amazing guest speakers!

Happy running!

Coach Corky

Tackling Track Etiquette, Rules, and Benefits

Coach086-460x306Running coaches and experienced runners have a few weapons of choice for improving running. Luckily, some of these tools benefit all runners, veteran and novice alike. One of my favorite weapons of choice: track work.

Okay, so you may be assuming that only track athletes belong on the track. You know who they are. They are strong, powerful and confident. They make many of us look and feel like tortoises. You might think if you aren’t a sprinter that there is no reason to ever set foot on a track. You may not even know how to use a track, or wonder about track etiquette. Never fear, I have some basic track rules, tips, reasons why you should use the track, and more!

Regardless of running experience, reasons you run, or race goals (if any), running fast once per week benefits all runners. Running hard calls to action fast-twitch muscles, spikes metabolism, increases cardiovascular strength, and often improves running form. Running fast is also FUN. Yes, its hard, but feeling like you are flying, even if the track athlete next to you whizzes by with ease, will make you feel accomplished, strong, and badass at the end of your workout. Plus, over time you will see incredible improvement in running performance in every road distance from the mile to the marathon.

Hopefully I have peaked your curiosity, and you now want to know any rules for using the track. Great. Here are some basic tips:

  • Run counter-clockwise. Everyone on the track should be going in the same direction.
  • Share the space.
  • Most outdoor tracks are 400 meters once around, if run in Lane 1. Many indoor tracks are 200 meters.
  • Lane 1 (the inner lane), is often the speed lane. If you are running hard, feel free to hop in lane 1. If you are taking a recovery lap, warming up, or cooling down, be courteous and move into the outer-most lane. Just be sure to check over your shoulder before changing lanes.
  • If you are in Lane 1 and need to pass a runner who is also in Lane 1, you can choose to go around them by cutting into Lane 2, or you can try to stay in Lane 1 and yell “Lane 1″ or “Track!.” If the runner you are gaining on hears you and knows track etiquette, they will move out of your way and into Lane 2 so that you don’t have to work hard to pass them.
  • If you are in Lane 1 and hear someone shout “Track!” or “Lane 1″ behind you, glance over your shoulder and move out of their way into lane 2 so they can pass you. Then move back into Lane 1.
  • Do not walk or take recovery jogs in Lane 1, as you’ll probably be in the way of someone doing speedy repeats.
  • Do feel free to tell other runners that they look strong.
  • If your track doesn’t have a water fountain, bringing a water bottle and dropping it somewhere along the track is a good solution.
  • Many tracks have restroom facilities. Some may also have lockers.
  • If you prefer to be on the track when it’s least crowded, avoid “after school hours,” when many school teams will be using the track for practice.
  • Most tracks are open to the public. If you use a track on a school campus, look into if there are any hours the track is not open to the public.
  • Do go to the track with a workout plan. Going to the track and winging it will leave you without much focus.

Runners new to track workouts don’t know what they should be doing on the track. I suggest only going to the track once per week, for your speed session. If you go to the track for all of your training, you will feel like a mindless hamster. You will also fall into a rut. Keep the track for those hard workouts, where you leave all distractions behind and simply focus on the track.

As a coach, I tailor my track workouts to my runners and their race goals. However, you can certainly make up your own workouts! Some popular track workouts: 8X400, 8X800, 4X1200, 3X1600 – you can mix and match and combine all kinds of variations. A general guideline: if your goal is speed and shorter distances (for example, a 5K race), 400s are a great distance for repeats. If you are gearing up for a Half Marathon or Marathon, 800s-1600s will benefit your training.

What the above examples mean in non-track terms: 8X400 @ 5K race pace = run 400 meter repeats 8 times at your goal 5K race pace, with a recovery between each repeat. The recovery times are up to you, but it’s usually beneficial to recover for half the distance of the repeat (in this case, 200 meters), at a SUPER easy jog.

Or say you decide to run 2X400, 2X1200, 2X400 @10K race pace in a workout – that would mean you’d recover with 200s between the 400 repeats, and 600s between the 1200 repeats. Once again, you can mix and match as you choose, depending on your strengths, weaknesses, and goals.

It’s always important to warmup and cool down when hitting the track. While running hard is fun and great for your training, you need to be careful and make sure to not go from 0-60 without waking up your legs. Take your warmup and cool down at super easy paces, in the outside lane.

If you are still intimidated to try out the track, bring a running buddy. Not only will your nerves calm, but you will both probably work harder if you are running together and pushing each other. So find a buddy, bite the bullet, and head to your local track. You’ll realize after your first workout that it really isn’t so scary, and its a training weapon that just might lead to some big person bests this season!

“HOW TO START RUNNING NOW: 7 TIPS TO GET YOU ON YOUR WAY”

img_6834-editA few weeks ago I was interviewed for Bustle.com‘s article on tips for getting started with running.

I thought some of you may perhaps benefit from some of the questions I answered.

If you are new to running, perhaps you have found other tricks and tips that have worked for you! While we are all different, it’s important to always begin slowly and to build mileage gradually. Before you know it, you’ll be running harder and further than before!

Have a tip I didn’t mention in the article? Please share it with the class in the comments!