Friday, June 22, 2012

HRG Runner Profile: Meet Allison!

Allison Keeping (aka @allirond) is another runner who I've never met, but we've encouraged each other along the way on Twitter. She graciously agreed to participate in my HRG Runner Profile series. Perhaps one day I'll actually get to meet all of my Twitter running friends - who's game?

In the meantime, let me introduce you to Allison, today's HRG Runner Profile!

HRG: How long have you been running?

AK: Started running casually late  in the summer of 2008! Its always been a part of my life since both of my parents are long distance runners.

HRG: How and why did you start?

AK: Started casually running in the summer to lose some university weight (30+ pounds) that I had gained in the two years previous. When I got back to university I kept it up, running around 30 minutes 2-3 times a week on the treadmill at the gym. The first time I ran 45 minutes I realized that I was actually starting to like it! So I started "training" for my first half marathon :)

HRG: Favourite part of running?

AK: There are a million things about running that I love: the satisfaction of completing a run, the thrill of feeling strong and fast during a run, the amazing feeling that you get when you finish a long run (the exhuastion combined with the happiness). Being able to set and work towards running goals. The motivation you feel when you sign up for a race. Being able to share it with others.

HRG: Least favourite part of running?

AK: The injuries that come along with it. There is nothing more frustrating than wanting to go out for a run and not being able to.

HRG:  Favourite time of year/weather to run in?

AK: September/October. I definitely like running in warmer weather compared to cooler. Anywhere between 10-20 degrees, sunny and not windy! I dont mind running in the winter/cold but the season just lasts so damn long.

HRG: Favourite distance to run?

AK: 16km is my favourite long run distance to run. Long enough to feel satisfied but not too long that you are physicially exhausted and have to stay in bed all day.

HRG: Favourite route (training or race) to run?

AK: Favourite Route: Spring Garden, Commons, Quinpool, Oxford, Almon, Young, Agricola, back Gottigen and around the Citadel and home!

HRG: How do you keep motivated?

AK: What keeps me motivated is my love of running. I've been off serious training for the past 4 months due to injury so I'm grateful for every run Im able to accomplish. I've really developed a new sense of appreciation for it since I've had to stop. What I know for sure: If I'm physically able to run, I run. If I don't run, I'm wasting a gift.

HRG: Best pre-race meal?

AK: Pretty standard: usually toast and peanut butter with a banana and a big glass of water. Sometimes I have coffee but usually I just stick with water.

HRG: Best post-race meal?

AK: Coffee...right away. Then depending on the time of day, I think a nice hearty brunch is the best way to refuel: eggs benedict, homefries, fruit cup, toast and peanut butter....maybe a milkshake gets involved at some point. If it's a bit later: beer and nachos...super healthy food obviously.

HRG: Tips or words of wisdom for new runners?

AK: Take it slow and keep with it. Its not going to feel great your first few times out there but it is worth it for that first really good run. And sign up for a race for instant motivation! Its the best way to stay committed to something (especially if you have to pay to sign up!).

HRG: Thanks, Allison!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

What to expect from a marathon training program

Dear running friends,

It's been awhile since my last blog post, I know! Bad Halifax Runner Girl!

Although I haven't blogged much, that doesn't mean I haven't been running. Since running the Hypothermic Half Marathon last February, I've kept up my training and ran the Bluenose Half in May. Not my best time (in fact, my worst), but I'll blog about that at some other point and share some of the lessons learned during that race.

In the meantime, I'm kicking things off again as I begin training for my third marathon this fall. And since I've been told that it takes at least five full marathons under your belt before you really get a sense of this distance, I've decided to sign up for my third Running Room marathon clinic. And this time, it's being coached by my friend and running mentor, Wendy, and the 4:15 pace group is being led by Andrea!

As this will be my third marathon clinic and my sixth Running Room clinic overall, I thought I would share some of the reasons why I think clinics are so invaluable if you're trying a new distance for the first time, or trying to improve your time.

There may be days when you don't feel like running, and other days where the run feels super easy. Days when your legs feel like lead, and others where you're feeling super confident. But here are five things you can expect from a marathon training program, based on my experience.

5 things you can expect from a running training program:
1. A training schedule that works

If you look at the training schedule for your running class or clinic for the first time, it may seem a little overwhelming - all these numbers in columns, and things like "tempo," "Fartlek" (I know, what the heck is a Fartlek, right?), "speed" and the dreaded, "hills."

But most training schedules - whether Running Room or otherwise - are designed to make sure that if you stick to them, you cros that finish line upright and smiling. Over the course of weeks, they'll build a solid base of strength and endurance, through the mix of various tempo, speed, hill or long runs.

As your instructor will explain to you, you can probably afford to swap out one run a week with cross-training. But otherwise, trust the training - these folks know what they're talking about.

2. A running mentor...or two...or three...

Of course, there may be the occasional clinic that happens to be led by some poor soul who's agreed to do it because no one else stepped up to the plate. But of all the classes  I've taken, most of them were led by an experienced runner who could provide his/her experience and insight, whether on the course, or off. And while they were great leaders during the clinic, I've also found that I've maintained contact with a few of them even after the program finished and they've continued to be available to answer my questions or provide encouragement if I happen to run into them at a race.

In addition, most of the clinic leaders I've had have also been down-to-earth, genuine people who shared their struggles and experiences even from when they started as beginner runners. But some of my running mentors have also been fellow clinic members, many of whom have run several races but just like the feeling of fellowship that comes with a clinic.

3. A solid knowledge base

These days, there is no shortage of information about running to be found on the internet, if you're willing and/or able to do the research. But every clinic I've signed up for has also brought in a variety of experts on a range of subjects, such as cross-training, nutrition, sports psychology, stretching and more.

Sure, there have been the occasional overlaps between sessions where I felt I'd already heard something before, but for the most part, a lot of the knowledge and understanding I have about my own running has been from sitting in clinic sessions in the evenings and listening to these experts explain the way our bodies work when they are put under the stresses of running long distances. And somehow, some of that knowledge has stuck so that now I understand my own body better and can apply some of the lessons learned to my runs.

4. A source of inspiration

One of the most inspirational speakers I've ever heard speak about running wasn't a pro runner. In fact, he usually sticks to the back of the pack. But when James, a fellow runner from Halifax, was invited to speak about his experience training for his first half marathon in Colorado, I left the evening feeling inspired and energized. His emphasis was not about running your fastest time or being an elite athlete, but instead about enjoying the experience and celebrating your commitment to the training program. Throughout the years, I've met other inspirational runners through the clinics I've attended, and have often carried their stories with me on race day.

And inspiration doesn't only come from guest speakers - it also comes from sharing the trials and tribulations of an 18-week program with other fellow runners who are taking on the same challenge as you are. Each runner will have to face their own challenges - whether major or minor - at some point in those 18 weeks, and often it's those struggles and successes that become the source of even more inspiration.

Having trained for races on my own and in a clinic setting, I can also say that there's something about training with a group in a clinic format that also encourages me - inspires me - to push myself that much harder.

5. Friendships

Let's face it - commiting to a training program means that you're going to spend lots of time with the fellow runners in the class or clinic. And there's nothing better for distracting you from that long Sunday run than chatting away with fellow runners. Over the course of weeks, you soon find that you're learning more and more about the group. You're also sharing in each other's highs and lows, and soon become a strong support network for each other. Often times, the friends you make on the running course can understand the trials and tribulations of running much more than any non-runner ever can.

So, that's it from me for this week, running friends. But as the weeks progress and we count them down to race day, I plan to keep blogging about the highs, mediums, lows...and highs again...of my progress until I get to that starting line.

Until next time, may your feet be fleet, the wind in your hair and the hills flat.