When Running Gets Lonely it’s Okay to Have ‘Imaginary’ Training Partners

If you’re a runner suffering from a bit of Suri Cruise syndrome and you don’t have any friends to run with, do what I do and make some up.
fast women
Actually, I got an email from one of my AWESOME Team Cait runners taking part in the September Miles Madness Challenge that completely made my morning, “Thanks for the enthusiastic welcome, I’m actually really excited. I’m always looking for someone to run with (who shares the same schedule, yeah right!) and now I feel like I’m part of a whole team… I’ve already run 2 extra times in the last 4 days and am feeling extra light today as a result!!”

Running is the best sport but let’s be honest it is hard business, no way around it. It takes an insane amount of self-motivation and more often than not is a mental battle as much as it is a physical one. There are days when those miles feel a lot harder than they should or when your desire to get out the door may be more on the ebb than the flow; however, all of those days are worth the runs that feel magical. Or the PR’s that feel so painful you cross the line and know you definitely reached down deeper than you ever had before. Oh us runner and our sick, twisted love affair with self-torture.

Having other runners to help bare the pacing burden for workouts, even just to share the same track or run alongside you, can make a world of difference. Even for those long runs, should two runners go 14 miles in near silence, it’s hardly lonely and it could be argued that those two runners were in fact closer during that time than two friends yammering away over a cafe latte. [Kramer shout-out to anyone who got that!]
trail runner
There are times a runners seeks the solitude of miles done alone and there are times they crave the company. Instances when a runner looking to get the best from themselves is compelled to find competition, the burning desire to seek a mate who can kick their butts in the best way possible.

For the times one’s self-motivation starts to wane, the temptation to blow off a run when they really shouldn’t, having accountability to someone, or someones, can act as the push int the right direction.

Why what this runner’s email meant so much to me was because it epitomized what Ashley and I had hoped to do at the onset of the challenge: inspire and motivate people to get out there and get ‘er done! It’s never too late to join the September Miles Madness fun, I’ll keep you all posted with updates and the prize pot will continue to grow too!

Flesh and blood real-life running partners, cyber teammates, or imaginary people…whatever works for you. So if you have to imagine your running partners helping pull you along, by all means. Just be sure to set the post-run refuel table with extra plates ala a Suri tea party.

1) If you have committed to a friend or a group that you’re going to go running does that impact your motivation to follow through?

2) If you don’t have real life friends to run with, do you find support in an online community venue or through reading blogs?

3) If you’re running alone, do you ever imagine there are others around you? Be honest! [You can revisit my post on racing your shadow HERE.]
Straight up, if I’m running a hard workout sometimes I even pretend there is a double ‘me.’ Wait, don’t commit me yet, let me explain. If say I’m doing a tempo on the same route I usually do, I pretend there is the ‘me’ that ran one of my faster times and I want to beat that version of me. When I pass each mile marker I check in and see who’s winning. Okay, now you can still commit me to the cuckoo’s nest now if you want. ;)

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Women’s Running is a Hot Topic: Female empowerment, surging numbers, record controversy, and exclusive races

Women’s running has come a long way. The evidence of this is all around us; no longer is it a spectacle to see a woman running on the street donning short shorts and sweating, not glowing, full on sweating. Women are allowed to run in all the same events as men, even take to the starting alongside them in some cases, and our times keep creeping lower and lower.
woman runner
This topic is abuzz recently on a few fronts: the case of what is recognized as an official Women’s World Records if the time is run in a mixed race, the gender gap between elite times and mortal runners’ times, and the overall boom in women’s running. Janae, The Hungry Runner Girl, just did a post on that last one today as it was covered in this article on Running USA.

There is no question that there is a difference between women’s and men’s running; we can’t ignore the obvious and we shouldn’t. Some are glowing positives, I’m the first to be a proud runnerchick, but there are also some not so awesome aspects. That said, there are some not so awesome things I’d think of being a guy runner; I’m sorry I like the option of running in bunhuggers, but if I saw a guy in one I’d fork my eye out. ;)
woman runner
Obvious differences between training girls:
* Times:
Genetics give guys the advantage, no way around it; even though we can close the gap, guys are able to run faster just because of that extra testosterone.
* Volume: Women generally run lower miles overall then men if they are training for the same event; I don’t think it’s because womens’ bodies can’t always handle the workload necessarily but because men can usually cover a mile at a faster pace than women if you added up the total amount of time actually spent running the difference between the two numbers would be less. There are still women who crank out the miles, Paula Radcliffe, Kara Goucher, Shalane Flanagan all run upwards of 100 miles a week; though their male counterparts (Dathan Ritzenhein, Meb Keflezighi) do too and may sneak in some higher numbers too.
* Group dynamics: Females can be catty. I know, hate me for saying it, and not ALL women are but if you’re a girl you know what I mean. Guys tend to be a little more lax, low-key and if they have an issue they’ll just say it to your face, hash it out, and get over it. Girls go the more passive-aggressive route or hold a grudge. Training a group of women is a tall order; mostly it’s a matter of getting that perfect group where all the women get along and genuinely aren’t into the whole ‘catty crap’. This is possible, I’ve been in groups where the synergy works; that said I’ve been in groups where it doesn’t and this is a coach’s nightmare.
* Iron and Calcium: Females are more likely to experience anemia, low iron, so it’s extra important for them to be sure their levels are maintained. The same goes for calcium to ensure their bone density is not diminished which leads to an ugly road and frequent stress fractures. This ties into of course the whole female triad issue: anemia, low bone density, and lost menstrual cycles.

The Runnerdude Factor:

If you’re a fast female it can be easy to just slip into a group of guys, if they are man enough to not pull an ego trip, and this can be of huge benefit to your own training. Training with guys faster than you, where they can help pace and pull you along, is something I always enjoyed. The other thing is, because you’re not actually competing against them, there is usually less pressure…if that makes sense. On the one hand it is awesome to beat the most guys you can in the group so it’s motivating, but then even though there are ones you can’t catch it’s not the ‘same’ as being in a group where other women (your competition) is kicking your butt. If that makes sense; for this reason sometimes women have found it easier on their psyche to train with a group of guys rather than other fast girls.

The Case for Runnerchicks United:

That said, there is still something special to be gained by training with some other women of similar abilities. When you do find that friend who you jive with it IS lots of fun and you can both push each other to new levels in training. Girl talk and bonding with a peer of the same gender is rewarding on the friendship level too. There are also some women who prefer to meet up with their ‘sole sisters’ for the the purpose of those friendships alone; they know that women can understand a few issues more-so than other guys would. whatever floats your boat and keeps you running.
tinkerbell running
Women Only Races:

Now there are races that are only open to women and really capitalize on that female power thing. I’m sort of torn though on how I feel about that; isn’t it kind of just reverse gender discrimination? I mean I’m ALL FOR empowering girls and women to get out and get active, but do we have to do that by discluding the men? If there was a race that went out of its way to keep women out, wouldn’t there be a big uproar about it? Oh, wait, that did happen and was ongoing until a female had had enough and just ran the Boston Marathon even though it wasn’t allowed…

I always liked racing with the guys, if for no other reason than to chick them...hehe. I knew in the end that having more fast competition usually meant faster times and a better performance from myself; so I was game. I suppose it all comes down to what your goal going into the race is and your own perspective on things.

Either way, the more people we can rope into this whole running thing the better…soon us crazy runners who crave those miles will outnumber the ‘normal’ people and then who knows what will happen!
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Speaking of runnerchicks and chicking, it’s the final days to pre-order your Get Chicking shirt and help start the movement! Check it out people. :)
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1) Are you a runnerchick or a runnerdude? What’s one difference you think of running as it applies to your gender?

2) Running group dynamics and gender mentality, do you think it’s easier to run in a womens’ group, guys’ group, or mixed group?

3) Women’s only races, what is your opinion on them? What do you think would happen if there was a guys only race?

4) Best thing about being a runner of the gender you are?
All I’ll say is I’ve seen guys running in spandex and I really can’t imagine running as a guy could be as comfortable, if you catch my drift.

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Are You Lonesome Tonight: Running solo, with a partner or in a group

Who do you run with? Are you a solo ace, a partner in a dynamic duo or do you feel naked without a slew of other runners around you? Most likely you fall somewhere in between.
forest runner
When people ask me who I run with and I respond, “Well, mostly by myself,” they either look at me like there must be something wrong with me for others not to want to run with me or they start spouting suggestions for running partners or groups for me to join up with. Sort of like I’m the misplaced kid at the cafeteria and it is their kind act to swoop in and save me from alienation.

While I certainly appreciate their kind gestures and suggestions, the thing is that sometimes I actually like just running by myself, or me and my treadmill. You see, I’m kind of picky when it comes to running partners; it’s tough to find the perfect fit, sort of like the quest for the perfect running shoe.

Now, I’ve certainly found some awesome training partners and groups, where I felt I’d found a little niche. Trust me, when it comes to hard workouts, having others there creates the ideal environment to thrive; they can push you and if you want to get faster a sure way to do that is to train with people who are better than you.

But here is why I’m picky, and it’s nothing against any runners who don’t share my same mindset, we all have different ideas of what constitutes the perfect running buddy fit and what their goals are to get out of said run.
friends running
* The stoplight dally. If I’m approaching a light I’m going to do everything within my power to NOT have to stop due to traffic if I can safely avoid it. I’ve had people running with me beg to slow down in an effort to purposely miss the light and then have to wait for the go-ahead. This is an automatic disqualification and I’ll check you later buddy, but I’m going to make this light.

* The watch negotiator. I’ve also run with people who want to keep the watch running during a break (ie: stoplight, bathroom run, etc.)…in what time zone would this be acceptable? If we aren’t moving we aren’t running and the watch won’t be either.

* The close enough. I’m outed as a bit of an OCD runner, I know that, but if the coach has the run instructed to be 45 minutes then I’m going to run the full 45…most likely at least 30 seconds more just to ‘be safe.’ Hehe. You can think I’m crazy if we come back from our planned loop and it’s only been 43 minutes and I decide to circle the parking lot for that extra 2 minutes, you can join if you like, but on some level you’ve got to understand my line of reasoning.

The thing is, it usually comes down to the motivation factor or the ‘seriousness’ of the other runner or group. I believe training and running should be fun, it can be a blast when it’s not brutally excruciating (haha), but I’m not out to pick daises either. Sure, I’m not competing, but I still like the feeling of a decent run.

That said, I’m not a social pariah and not adverse to company on a run, I’m not a runner snob, it’s hard to explain. Sometimes I’m in the mood to just keep the run as ‘me’ time and it’s nothing personal to anyone else. Other times I can’t WAIT to meet up with my favorite running buddy so we can catch-up and gab, those miles seem to fly by sometimes. If I’m going out for a hard workout 99% of the time I want some company. In high school I ran a lot with my mom, we actually didn’t talk most of the time (she actually liked to wear headphones and go the music route) and that was actually fine with me. Because even in those silences I feel I bonded more with her in those daily miles than most other kids at my school.

Some people need company to stay motivated and the thought of being stuck with just themselves and the miles isn’t all that appealing. In the end, whatever works for you is great. (I did another post onwhat makes for the best running group environment.) I guess I’m just a bit of a picky runner, I know what makes for the perfect partner fit and when I find that I am also respectful to make sure I’m able to reciprocate that same ‘running code standards’ the other person has.

1) What do most of your runs look like, are the solo, with a partner, a few people, or a group? What is your ideal running situation?

2) Pluses, you feel, of running solo?
Even in groups, I know there are some runners who like to do some of their runs by themselves for whatever reasons. Sometimes they know that doing their easy runs alone ensures they are able to keep to the pace that allows them to recover.

3) Benefits of group runs, or running with others?
I think for training purposes having others to meet up, that share your same level of commitment and goals, is tremendously beneficial for lots of reasons. One being the obvious, you can all push each other to excel.

4) What’s an automatic disqualification in your mind for a running partner?
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And a Wee Bit ‘O Luck to Ya…

Yes, Happy Saint Patrick’s Day! I could also say St. Patty’s Day but every time I do it makes me think there should really be a Happy York Peppermint Patty’s Day somewhere around here too. ;)
leprechaun runner
I hope you’ve all been having a great one and doing a little celebrating yourself. I’m not a drinker, so if you are feel free to have my leftover beers. I do love everything green, though, and you could find me noshing on some green chocolate chip pancakes. (My dad used to make those for us when I was a kid on St. Patty’s Day.)

It’s a fact that my all-time favorite color is lime green and so let’s hear it for a few more oh-so cliched Irish holiday inspired items:

* Don’t steal my lucky shamrock. Do you believe in luck? Do you have little trinkets, rituals, or things you swear to others you know don’t really bring you luck but you have them/do them anyways just because, well, it couldn’t hurt? Hey, I own up to the fact that whenever I see a clock reading 11:11 I make a wish to myself. ;)

* Leaping Leprechauns! Those little guys have springs on their legs, or maybe they have just been doing a ton of plyometrics. ;) I HATE doing those plyo’s, this girl can’t jump, but they work wonders for your speed. So get to jumping like a wee, green man!

* Corned beef and cabbage, say what? I’m not a big corned beef fan, I do like cabbage. But don’t shy away from all red meats if you do like them because they have iron, which is super important for runners! If you don’t like red meats (guilty) then seek out other iron rich foods…hey, spinach is a leafy green that contains a lot of iron. It could be cut into the shape of a clover too…maybe. Teehee.
prankster
* Pranksters! I wish I were really good at pulling off great pranks and such but I am so gullible that I usually end up being the one pranked. That said I use sarcasm like it’s going out of style and plenty of times people think I’m being serious and sometimes that gets me in a wee bit ‘o trouble.

* Spuds! I am in love with the spud, I’ll take me my fair share of potatoes and then some. My favorite is probably a big ‘ol baked potato loaded with chicken, broccoli…and actually cottage cheese. Is that last one weird? I don’t care, I like it. And for you skin haters…you’re missing out, the skin of the potato contains nearly all of the awesome vitamins and nutrients found in the potato…so choke the skin down if you have to. Jk.

* Friends and merry, good times. You picture people celebrating St. Patty’s Day and you think of parties, people, and good times. I’m all for that…whether you are a fellow sweat obsessed runner or not, you can be my friend. :)
skate boarder
Have a wonderful Saint Patrick’s Day and I think I’m going to talk to someone about instituting a York Peppermint Patty’s Day too! ;) (naturally then, we’ll need a Junior Mints Day…just saying.)

1) What did you/are you doing for St. Patty’s Day?

2) What is your favorite St. Patty’s themed item?

3) Do you believe in ‘luck’ or do you have a lucky item/ritual?

4) Do you like potatoes? Are you a fan of corned beef and cabbage? How do you make sure you get enough iron? Pick any of those and answer…hehe.

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More Than a Sport: How running changes lives and gives hope to Ugandan orphans

I truly believe that running is much more powerful than merely a sport or, dare I even say, a hobby. It holds the power to transform lives, instill lessons for nearly all other areas of life, it connects people, and is my first choice of feel good drugs. (The Hungry Runner Girl just did an excellent post today about endorphins and running.)
happy rainbow
Running has impacted my own life quite a bit, it’s taken me places, it’s introduced me to people, it’s to the point where I know if I weren’t a runner I’d be a completely different person.

* Running instilled in me a new kind of work ethic and dedication. True, I’m a Type A kind of person and tend to me rather self-motivated but I know that running helped me take that drive and really apply it. Running will test you with so many bumps and bruises along the way that if you can outlast those other things comparatively seem easier.

* Running showed me there can be fun in the trials. Anything worth working for is going to make you, well, work for it. But with running, even the most excruciating of workouts are oddly ‘fun’ whether it’s because of your training partners or the twisted kind of satisfaction of feeling the rush of kicking your own butt.

* Running gave me hope and light. After my car accident I faced the possibility of a completely different life, one that potentially was without even walking. In my bones I knew I was a runner and that it was WORTH working and doing anything I could to get back to it again. If the doctors didn’t think it was possible, that’s okay, I did.

* Running’s a common ground. I feel connected to people the second I find out they are runners…it’s an insta-friend in the same community.
mad runner
I’m a nasty beast without my dose of endorphins from running, and if I’m injured then I at least have to do some kind of cross-training. Even on those days where I don’t feel like it, I force those first few minutes and keep going. Sometimes it’s only the first mile that stinks, sometimes the whole run isn’t exactly a glowing walk on sunshine, but when I’m done I always feel better.

Another story that proves running is much more than a sport. I met Julius Achon back in 2004 when we were both runners in the Nike Oregon Project. Julius is hilarious in so many ways but if you knew his past you’d be further amazed by his genial manner and quick smile. He escaped tumultuous Uganda to run on a college scholarship here in the US. He went on to win multiple NCAA titles and set records at George Mason University and then to run professionally.

Source
Had he not been a runner he would have been killed, that is a fact. He was captured by the Rebels in Uganda and was only released because they found out he was a fast runner and may bring pride to his country. He and Eloise Wellings (another dear friend and one of the selfless individuals I know; she is a professional and World Class distance runner from Australia) have set up the Love Mercy Foundation to improve the lives of those still living in Uganda.

Please read their story and help out if you can, it is truly inspiring. (There is also a Facebook page you can ‘like’.) Running to them, and those countless individuals in Uganda, is much more than a sport it is a lifeline and ray of hope.

I am a runner and know what it means to me, what does running mean to you?

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Rules of the Run: Being a Good Running Buddy and Team Dynamics

Make the most of your training partners, don’t piss them off. Yesterday I talked about the friendships that can formbetween running partners and teammates; if you’re spending enough time training together you certainly hope you get along with each other!

happy dancer

Nope...not everyone's going to love everyone else...even if you're a happy dancer. (Art Credit: Cait Chock)

But let’s be frank, in reality not everyone is going to like everyone else…it’s the truth. Even the nicest person in the world may not be best friends with everyone. Sometimes it’s not that you guys don’t exactly dislike each other but just don’t have personalities that mesh well. It’s okay, so long as things don’t get ugly and impact your training in a negative way. Extra drama on the track is not a good thing.

How to lose friends really fast on the track:

* Constantly one-stepping your partner in every single run. In a group there will always be dynamics involved and the faster guys will typically be in the front. That’s okay, but what I’m talking about is if there is just one person who always has to be just a bit ahead of everyone else. Fix it: Sometimes this isn’t intentional and the runner doesn’t mean to slight their partners, so speaking up or saying something is the first thing to do. You can do it jokingly, “Hey there speedy, you keep one-stepping me.” If that doesn’t work, maybe just don’t run with them for awhile until they get the message. If you’re on a team here it’s a little trickier…so tread carefully.

* Racing in workouts. Having partners for tough workouts are usually preferable: they help share the pacing duties, tow you along when you’re feeling tired, push you just a little bit harder, and the company is nice. But, what can really kill a team is if every workout is a full-on race…we know the difference and it’s when egos start to get involved. Fix it: As hard as it is, if your teammate is racing, just let them go, try to be the bigger person. If you (and if you’re on a team, if all of you guys) get sucked in, in the end you’ll only be hurting yourselves and your long term performances.

track race

(Art Credit: Chock/Leung Art)


* Complaining…all…the…time. Yes, we all have days where we’re sore, tired, and may not be all too jazzed to be busting out 400 repeats, it happens. But constantly complaining or being negative is toxic because it drags everyone else down and in a sport that is so mental it effects the workouts. Going into each run dreading it is not going to win you point in the motivational factor and you’ll be more likely to not put in your best effort. Fix it: Cut the baggage. Haha…if you can, steer clear of the negative talker or at least distance yourself from them. If you can’t get away, just don’t feed into it…instead say something in a positive tone like, “Okay guys, let’s go now…time to warm-up…let’s get it done!”

* The rebel without a cause. Sometimes there is that person that just decides they are going to do whatever they are going to do regardless of the ‘planned workout’ or what you want to do. If you’re on a team this would be the person looking to miss runs, slack off, or argue with the coach about the workout. Usually this person thinks they know best and find it their duty to tell you why and hopefully get you to do the same. Fix it: Avoid this person…they really don’t know what they’re doing…just let them do their own thing and ignore them.

* The chick factor.
I’m going to use this term to refer to catty ‘Mean Girls’ type of behavior; and hey, guys can be offenders too! ;) We know not everyone will get along but some groups get really ugly and you all know what I mean. Sadly in cases like this it usually comes down to getting a third party involved or ousting a particular negative person out of the group…coaches hate dealing with this. Fix it: Can’t we all just get along? No, okay…let’s get a new group.

Now, this isn’t to say that an offender shouldn’t be allowed to amend their ways and regain your ‘good side.’ It’s a matter of what the offense is, the situation, and how genuinely sorry they are. From experience, once a one-stepper not always a one-stepper, so do cut runners some slack. ;)

Groups we love!

Finding the ideal, blissful running group or partner can be tough. Being brutally honest I’ve tended to gravitate towards guys because there is usually less drama…BUT get the right kind of runnerchicks together and you can have magic because I’ve also been really lucky in finding some really awesome runnerchicks…so like I said it’s all just about finding the right, drama-free fit.

1) What do you look for in a training partner, group, or team?

2) What some things or traits that really grind on you when it comes to running partners or group dynamics?

3) Ever been guilty of not so cool behavior and changed your ways?

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Runners Rock and Camaraderie

One of the great things about our sport is the sense of belonging and camaraderie. How many times have you found out a person is a runner and it doesn’t matter if they are a total stranger or not, you instantly feel a connection? You ‘get’ them and they ‘get’ you.
guy running
People sometimes think that running really isn’t all the much of a team sport. More-so in track where it could be certainly argued it’s more individual; but that’s really not the case because even though you ARE out there and performing as an individual you aren’t really alone. Even if you don’t belong to an actual team or worrying about a team scoring, you are a member of the team of runners.

Your competitor knows what it takes to put in the miles and the training, they know that you’re hurting just like they are, and they know exactly what it’s like to be in your shoes…because to a certain degree they are. Certainly they want to beat you, but they have to respect and at least understand you.

Outside of actual races runners tend to be incredibly personable and gregarious…if I do say so we are some pretty down to earth and cool folks. Sure, we’re weird, we’re geeky in many ways, we could talk lost toe nails, war stories, Nip Guards, and GI distress like it’s nothing.

Perhaps we have to have a sense of humor to balance out the insane desire to get up, do the same repetitive action again and again, and at times punish our legs like none other.
friends running
Runners can make for the best of friends, spend enough long runs and interval sessions with someone and you’ll probably wind up knowing more about them than anyone else…or at least understand them unlike others. There is something that happens in those unsaid moments in the middle of long runs, in the last few excruciating repeats, in those runs done in torrential downpours and gale force winds, and in the jittery pre-race warm-ups.

Runners ‘get’ it.

1) Were you on track and cross country teams through school or any other places?

2) Are many of your friends runners or are you pretty much the only one? (It’s totally cool, I love my non-running friends too!)

3) Do you sort of feel like you instantly like a stranger more when you find out they are a runner?
Umm…guilty! :)

4) In blogging I get this, do you feel like you know a virtual stranger really well because they are a fellow runner and you can relate to them?
Yup…crazy, I think I’m getting more virtual than real life friends. ;)

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To Run Faster, Find People Faster Than You

“One of the fastest ways to improve is to train with someone better than you.” So is written by Matt Carpenter on is site. True words from one of the greats.
Matt Carpenter
Source
In case you don’t know who Matt Carpenter is, a quick background would include the terms: ‘The Lung’, ‘Pikes Peak Legend’, ‘Trail Running Dominance’, and ‘Ultra Running Anomaly’. The man has won the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon a total of 18 times and holds the course record for both. His is especially adept at altitude racing and running, hence ‘The Lung’ moniker attributed to his ability at hypoxic running. Currently he lives in Boulder, CO and still has an ongoing love affair with trails.

Interesting though, that while he lives near ample miles of beautiful trails he busts out two of his hardest workouts per week in his garage. On his $10,000 treadmill no less. I can’t delve too much into the treadmill bit just yet, it’s in working on some magazine articles that I ventured down it to begin with, but Carpenter’s reasoning for sticking to the ‘mill are quite simple, “It does not care what the weather is like, what time of day it is or even how I feel. Without exception my best seasons come after I spend the winter running with ‘Q’ on Tuesdays and Thursdays.”

‘Q’ is capable of humming along at 3 minutes 20 second per mile even at a 25% grade. Carpenter has tripped too many treadmills in the past so he invested, he won’t need to worry about such things with ‘Q’.

If you want to get better, you have to be pushed by someone (or something) better than you. You have to be pulled along when you’re hurting, you have to be dragged along through the pits of pain, hang on, and keep going. Then come back for more. Why do you think racers enlist rabbits or pacers? Or athletes will seek out groups where they will be at the back of the pack?

The Africans are different from US athletes in that they all train together. Here we may have a smattering of groups but it’s not like it is over there. They get up, run together, eat, rest, run again…repeat. Together they train (and suffer), together they improve.

In a great article on Kara Goucher at RunBlogRun, she is quoted, “When I’m with a group of women, they don’t care if I’ve been up all night. They’re hitting the pace, and I’m going to get left behind if I don’t have the pace.” This is in explanation of a recent coaching change where her newest training partners are Shalane Flanagan and Lisa Uhl. Heading into the US Olympic Marathon Trials, two of the favorites are training partners. You can bet they push each other to be their best.

It works on all levels; you don’t have to be an elite runner to benefit from being at the back of the training pack. So find runners, seek them out.
running buddies
* Running time warp. If you’re graduated from high school, don’t be shy, go talk to a local team’s coach. When I was in high school we had a few awesome adults come out there and sweat out our interval sessions with us. Trust me, you could be surprised at how much fun it is taking a trip back to high school…runners are generally less annoying than typical ‘mean girls’ and they won’t make you sing Justin Bieber tunes. (maybe)

* Running clubs. Go to a running shoe store and ask if there are any local running clubs; many meet up during the week outside of going to races. Honestly, if that isn’t an option just ask the running shoe people at the store…I’m sure they can help you out.

* Treadmill befriend. Like Carpenter explained, the treadmill really doesn’t care if you’re hurting, it won’t back off unless you physically make it. I’ve come to like tempo runs on the treadmill because you can just zone out and not worry about the splits, they are taken care of.
alberto salazar
If you want to improve, often times it takes being the little fish in a big pond and then rising the ranks. What you DO have to be careful about, and I am going to stress this a lot: RESPECT YOUR RECOVERY DAYS!!! Was that clear enough? To build your fitness and strength you have to tear your muscles down with hard workouts, but you then have to allow them time to recover and rebuild.

That means if you have to run all your easy days by yourself so you’re not tempted to run too hard, do it. The most important aspect of getting faster is being able to hit your hard days…the runs in between are just getting time on the legs, recovering, and getting in the cardio. Don’t tire yourself out on the easy days. You have to strive to get better but also remember you must walk the fine line between pushing and NOT racing in every workout.

“One of the fastest ways to improve is to train with someone better than you.” So is written by Matt Carpenter on is site. True words from one of the greats.

1) Do you run by yourself, train with a team, meet with a group? Do you meet only for hard days?

2) How about treadmill running; have you tried any workouts on there or do you like the track, the garmin, heart rate monitor? What keeps you accountable and pushing?

3) Would you rather be the fastest person in the group or team or at the back/mid-pack?
I like to have other people faster than me. If you’ve ‘outgrown’ one group, maybe it’s time to move up to another and re-introduce yourself to the back of another pack? ;)

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When Life Throws junk Your Way…

“Live for the unexpected.” Whoever said that I’m sure wasn’t rolling along the freeway and BAM had their tire blow out…if that had been the case I think their choice of word may have been more along the lines of, “F***” (eeerrr, I mean, “Fudge”…anyone who thought of A Christmas Story just now gets bonus points.)
sad runner
The thing is, life can be awesome and grant you the highest of highs, but it can also offer up some pretty extreme blows. The thing is, and although when you’re in the midst of a low it’s nearly impossible to pull yourself out of ‘yourself’ and remember this: we all go through junk, crap, shiznit…so you are not alone. Misery loves company, right?

Okay, the point of this post is NOT to be a downer, so wait for it because I do have a reason for this bleak intro and even tie it into running. One thing we love about running is that it is ever constant, it doesn’t change much. You can always count on a mile being a mile, a minute run is a minute run…even if you’d wish you’d covered more distance in that minute than you did. The times are non-negotiable, as are the distances…it’s very clear-cut, black and white. One reason I enjoy this sport is you can’t argue with the outcome…you win if you cross the line first, there aren’t any politics involved such as in gymnastics and scoring sports. You break tape = you win.

Life is NOT a constant. It throws you for loops, lippy-dippies, and the like. When life’s craziness collides with running that’s when things can get interesting. Personal case study: when life deals out say, an injury or a sickness, and it derails the ever-constant running (ie: missed runs) it royally cheeses me off, “Hey, Running, I thought you were a constant and I could depend on you…what in the heck?!”
racers at track
But running and life go hand in hand; and such is the case with everyone. This plays out in affecting our sport in a variety of ways: when athletes line up for the gun to a degree they are all equals despite what their PR’s are. Why? Because of life. We have no idea what’s going on ‘behind the scenes’ and what they are dealing with…coming off of an injury, a flu, a change of coach, or another huge life stressor.

People can discount or ‘poo-poo’ at how much life stress can derail training plans and say that if it affects your running than you are just mentally weak…but that is a fallacy. Running is very mental and humans are creatures of emotion; while the better athletes may be able to more adeptly channel those, or compartmentalize, better than others that doesn’t mean they aren’t human in the end.

Why do I bring this up? A lot of reasons. One, because to put it out there that if you’re dealing with a life loopy and it derails your constant running, it’s okay to be cheesed off, but know that you’re not alone and that in the end the low will come back up, but to do that you have to keep your head up and keep plugging away. “Stay the Course.”

Second, remember that if your running performances are dipping and you don’t know WHY look to the obvious of course (resting, recovering, nutrition, sleeping, etc) but also look to life stressors. Have you moved, had a ton of deadlines stressing you out, a death in the family…you can’t ignore these and think they are no part of the equation. Factor that in, I’m not saying to skip the runs or workouts, but perhaps adjust them or adjust the times you want to hit…heck, chuck the watch and just go off of effort…give yourself some slack. (I hardly ever say that so when I do I mean it…haha.)
woman running
Finally, there can be a lot of negativity in our sport. Message boards can be toxic, as can outside observers who have no idea what is going on. As they say, “It’s WAY easier to look at these professional runners, or any other runner for that matter, and add in your two cents…but I’d like to see any of these nay-sayers get out there and race.” I’ll say it like this, “Spike up or shut up.”

I don’t need to step on a little podium, and I’m sorry…I have friends that race at a high level and are constantly under scrutiny. I’m a person who doesn’t really care if you hate on me, but bad talk my family or friends and it riles me up. :P Instead of bagging on people for a performance that an anonymous unknown deems is ‘below’ them, how about cheering them on for overcoming some ‘life junk’ and getting excited to see them bust it out of the gates next time?

There I’m done…sorry, this was a bit more of a multi-tangent post so maybe you’re still here, maybe not. In closing, take the loopies that mess with our adorably constant running world and know that in the end you WILL get back to the land of safe, black and white numbers…you’ll just have to work for it. ;)

1) How do you handle ‘life stress’ are you the kind of person who turns to running more or less?
Definitely more. If something is driving me crazy or even making me feel sad I’ll turn to a nice run…if I have a good run I feel like I’ve accomplished something.

2) How do you compartmentalize; if there are other stressors but you have a big race, how do you manage that?
Hmm…when I was racing I was pretty good at just shutting down and focusing on the race regardless. Usually I’m excited to race and just go…plus, back to the first question, running makes me feel better so I use that to help.

3) There are always negative people who want to tear down people at the top; on the internet it is worsened by the anonymity. Why all the hate…discuss?

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Check Me Out on RunningTimes.Com Yo…And Some Vicarious Running

Weekends…let’s roll out the races. Can I just say I’m afflicted by more than a little runner-envy, I wish my darn foot would cooperate and release me from elliptical purgatory…just saying. ;)
man on elliptical
Enough of that though, I’m thankful that I can at least cross-train, and maybe we can all get a vicarious speed fix from what some other awesome harriers are up to. If you’re a high-schooler and don’t live under a rock I’m sure you know that the Footlocker National Cross Country Championships were today down in San Diego, CA. I was lucky enough to go my junior year and I will say they make you feel like rockstars…for anyone who wasn’t a qualifier this year and not a senior, don’t give up and trust me, use it as a carrot for motivation to work your tail off to make it next year. :)

For the ‘adult’ set there were the USATF Cross Country Club Nationals up in Seattle, WA and I have to say I was really excited to see that Brie Felnagle won this year. I watched her race at the Nike Oregon/Washington Border Clash her senior year of high school and she is one of those runners who makes it looks effortless. She’s got some wheels and usually more of a 1500 meter gal on the track. In the guys’ race Jonathan Grey came out the winner but recently turned pro, Matt Centrowitz, took fourth. As I’m sure every good track nerd knows this kid is coming off of a mind-blowing track season, taking Bronze in the 1500 meters at this past World Champs. As a collegiate for the University of Oregon he was our fastest American…that has to sting, Lagat.
cross country shoes
Tomorrow I’m already putting my cheering pants on for Kara Goucher, Shalane Flanagan and Lisa Koll (Uhl) in the Miami Beach Half Marathon tomorrow. I’ll further be sending positive vibes to Simon Bairu and Tim Nelson, also members of the Nike Oregon Track Club. Of course anyone and everyone who’s racing good luck, I’m not playing favorites. :)

Speaking of races, I know it is really common for people who finish a race that they’ve been shooting for and thinking of for months and months and to react as such: excitement…and then coming off of the high feeling as if, “okay, now what?” It’s called post-race anti-climacticism (okay, guilty, I made that up), but sometimes people express feeling even a little depressed or like they have nothing else to shoot for or motivate them to run.

Well, if you want my two cents, I’ve written it all up here online at Running Times: ‘Stuck in Waiting: Staying motivated through the lull between season’ so you can wander on over there if you’d like. To tide you over I’ll say this:

*if you need a race to motivate you to run, that’s okay, just find one and sign up for it.
*if you just did, say, a marathon and feel like, “been there, done that” challenge yourself with a totally different goal. Maybe work on speed and try to get a fast 5k out of yourself…and vica versa.
*everyone has dips in motivation, so don’t feel like a ‘bad runner’ because of it…in the article there are tips to get you through that
girl runner
That’s it for this runnerchick tonight! Congrats to any and all racers of today and GOOD LUCK to those of tomorrow…remember, I’m vicariously getting my miles from your feet…just saying. ;)

1) Did you do and cross country races recently or in the past? Do you prefer cross country or trail courses, track races, or road races?

2) What’s a tip you have for getting yourself through a lapse in motivation?

3) Did you race this weekend or have one tomorrow?

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