I ran a half marathon a couple weeks ago. The first one by myself – the first race, really, without a friend – in a long time. I don’t know when a half marathon became a training run for me. I don’t know that I like that feeling. 13.1 miles is FAR. 13.1 miles is an accomplishment. 13.1 miles is something to be proud of. Don’t get me wrong. That St. Patty’s Day half marathon wasn’t easy. I ran faster than I thought I would – faster than my goal – especially the first half of the race. Then, I turned around on the out-and-back course to spend 6.5 miles running into a 10-14 mph headwind. (Who needs hills when you have a headwind??)

Even though I was proud of myself (and the fact that I got my 2nd best time ever), I kept thinking about all the longer runs I have in my near future. It diminished the feeling of accomplishment. Clearly, this is not the fault of the race or its organizers – this is a mental challenge for me: how do I stay in the present enough to feel accomplished while also using these accomplishments to build confidence that I can do more?

Now, I’ve gone head-first into my training for the Super Fast Half and Marathon in June. This is my preamble to the Dopey Challenge – an effort to see where I am in my training and fitness. And, frankly, an effort to give myself a confidence boost. If I can do a marathon and a half back-to-back, then I should be able to add a 5K and 10K on the days before. Right?

For my last few long races (half and full marathon distances), I’ve used one of the training programs on the Garmin website. The training plans had speed-work, but also focuses on time, rather than distance, for the long runs. When I ran the marathon in November, I discovered that my long training runs probably weren’t long enough in distance because I was going at an easy pace (as instructed), but not far enough to feel comfortable with the marathon distance.

This time around, I found Coach Jenny’s Training online. She has a bunch of training plans, but I really liked that she has specific plans for the Disney races. I’m starting with her Goofy training plan (that’s the Half + Full Marathon training plan) and will move on to her Dopey plan if all goes well in June. The key to these plans is to simulate the back-to-back runs on a regular basis. So, I will spend this spring running on Saturday and doubling that distance on Sunday. Wish me luck!

Running With Friends

It has been a while since I updated my training journey here.

A couple of weeks ago, I had the honor of running with my dear friend in her 2nd half marathon adventure & in honor of a milestone birthday. We spent the weekend celebrating her, running our way through town for 13.1 miles, then celebrating her more. We were surrounded by friends in the race, on the route, at the finish, and on social media.

As we ran and celebrated, it occurred to me that running with friends is a whole thing. It is a completely different thing than solo training runs. So, for this installment, I will explore the differences: pros and cons, from my perspective.

Running Alone:
I find running to be a form of meditation. It is my time to let my mind wander, to think through all the complicated things in my life, and to let my brain work so hard and so long that it works everything out and can be silent.

I also enjoy the time my long runs give me to catch up on podcasts and music. I get to feel productive and all caught up on pop culture by the end of one of those runs.

When I run on my treadmill at home, I get to watch the news or cheesy television: my choice.

The thing about running alone is, I get to spend all that time with myself, go at my own pace, and settle into whatever mindset works for the day.

Running with Friends:
When running with my friends, there is little time for meditation while running. But there’s plenty of time to work out all your issues: we just do it out loud when we run together. There’s no listening to music or podcasts, no getting lost in your own head, no getting distracted by media of any kind.

Running with my friends is an exercise in breath work, laughter, and catching up on everything we’ve missed since the last time. It is fun; it is satisfying; it is often the best way to make a long run go quickly.

So I sit here and ask myself: What is your favorite way to run? Alone or with friends. Like many things in my life, I don’t want to choose. I like it both ways.

I will say this: just as we choose our clothing for the weather so we stay warm (or cool) and comfortable and safe, we should run with others – or alone – as best fits our needs at the moment. If you need company and the support or input of those dear friends: run with them! If you need time to work out your feelings or make your shopping list or finish Serial: take time alone and run!

Cross Training

I have a love-hate relationship with cross training. It is one of those things that I know I need more of, but struggle to find the motivation or time in my larger work-life-training schedule.

For example, I have a training schedule this week that has me running every day. How do I fit in meaningful cross training in a normal week that also includes work, family, and community involvement?

Finding the time is one thing, but the biggest hurdle for me is a mental one – and one of trust in the purpose and effectiveness of the effort. How do I include productive cross training without negatively impacting my daily running regimen?

Last week I took a bootcamp-style class at a local gym. I was simultaneously proud of my body’s ability to do all those weighted squats in the moment and fearful of the physical implications later – would I be able to walk the next day?? It turned out, walking the next several days was hard
(T observed that I looked a bit like Jar Jar Binks as I walked
liltingly through the house for a couple days). Running was actually easier than walking and I kept to my running schedule, but I definitely lost speed on those runs.

Certainly, my continued use of my legs and devotion to my running practice (even if slower than I’d prefer) helped me recover. Also, certainly, I continued to build muscle. I couldĀ feel the strength built in my knees and hips as my muscles healed.

This week, I took a different strength training class – one probably more appropriate for being this far into my training program (with the half marathon less than 2 weeks away). I feel it today, but it isn’t enough to slow me down or keep me from running.

I know these classes are imperative to prevent injury and increase strength. Yet, I continue to struggle to incorporate cross training into my larger running schedule. But I’m trying, which is the best I can do.