One Lovely Blog Award

It is always nice to get a shout out from a fellow blogger.  I got the awesome surprise of being nominated for a blog award from MostlyHealthyLiving.  This is known as a friendly way to get to know your fellow bloggers and I just love the idea and appreciate the sweet sentiment.  By the way, go check out her blog.  It is great and she is an awesome girl.  She is also running a marathon for the Canadian Cancer Society and you know I love supporting charity runners.

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As the rules go I have to:

1.  Thank and link back to the blogger who nominated me.

2.  Share 7 things about myself (and try not to bore you too much).

3.  Nominate 15 other bloggers and comment on their blog to let them know.

1.  In honor of my fellow blogger I have to share my history with Canada.  As a former competitive figure skater, my coach lived in Canada and I was from Michigan.  My parents were incredibly kind enough to drive me two and a half hours each way, several times a week, to train with my coach.  At one point when we were looking at training centers for me to move to I almost ended up in Canada.  My parents were also approached by a figure skating judge who suggested they allow a Canadian family to adopt me so that I could compete as a Canadian citizen.  Skating is a crazy world!

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Seriously, that hair!

2.  I received a scholarship into the honors program of a Law School and opted to teach sports instead.  I think my parents nearly killed me at first (can you blame them?!).  Actually for my first 3 years of college (yes I said first 3) I was a premed/pre-dental major.  I basically got through all of my prerequisite math and science courses before deciding that law school was where I would find my destiny.  At what was pretty much the last moment, I changed majors to Political Science, got myself into law school and then decided that wasn’t for me either.  Yikes!  So I have a B.A. in Political Science and not much use for it.  Sigh.

3.  I am a horrible dancer.  You would think that a former figure skater would know how to groove.  But sadly, that is where my coordination ends.  I think that all of the years of having to do choreographed moves set to the timing of the music left me too worried about what my body is doing at any moment and what the music is doing.  In fact, I was a bridesmaid last year in my good friend’s wedding.  When the wedding party was announced for their first dance I was shocked and a bit freaked out to hear that the music was fast and not a nice slow tune.  When I started dancing with the groomsman he gave me the funniest, “You must be kidding!” look.  When I walked back over to Rock he said, “That was awkward!”  It was hilarious!

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4.  I can step outside on a cloudy day for five minutes and come back in with tan lines.  This is a bit of a joke with my husband because he is half Irish and half Polish and tan he does not.  But when we go on vacation the sun just finds me.  I can come home from a run with the craziest tan lines.

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5.  I’ve never played a team sport and it shows.  I spent my life as a figure skater and runner.  I refer to track as a team sport and it cracks Rock up.  My teamwork skills leave a lot to be desired and my Type A personality doesn’t help the situation any.  I don’t like having to rely on others to get things done and prefer to always be in control.  Add in the fact that I can’t catch or throw (yes I can do a triple salchow but I can’t throw a ball) and it is a pretty bad situation.

6.  I grew up in a very small town with only two stop lights.  I grew up in a small town in Northern Michigan and in high school I moved away to the big city of Indianapolis.  I decided then that small town living wasn’t for me and swore I would never go back.  I loved the city and ended up moving to NYC for college and later stayed for work.  But something about the Midwest and small town living has a special place in my heart.  Rock and I now have a little vacation home up there and wish we could be up there even more than we are able.  I love spending time in the water, running on the rural roads and trails, and spending time in the woods where I grew up.  Never say never!

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7.  Today is Rock’s birthday, but don’t tell him I said anything ;)   My husband is one of the kindest and most modest people there is around.  He would never announce it is his birthday and we usually don’t get too festive for these days.  But this is the perfect time for me to tell you just how awesome this guy is.  He is my best friend, my business partner, and running buddy.  We’ve done races of every distance together, including a marathon.  And did you know that he is a certified running coach as well?  He has always been supportive of anything I have ever done, be it a race or a new job.  And I can tell you with great confidence that he is going to be an amazing father.  I rarely get the chance to brag about this guy, but he really is 100% awesome.  Happy birthday Rock!

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Here are a few of my favorite blogs that I would like to tag for this award.  Go check them out!

Suzlyfe

LakeShoreRunner

Single-trackedMind

PirateBobcat

TonofWorms

Run Salt Run

FitnessMeetsFrosting

I thought they said RUM

BlackDogRunsDisney

Wasn’tJustTheWineTalking

HellyOnTheRun

OneMotherOfADay

HalfDietitianHalfHuman

Have a great weekend!

It’s Not Always A Race

This is a funny thing for me to post considering how incredibly competitive I can be at times and for all of the years that I nagged Rock to speed up on our leisurely runs.  Sorry Rock!

The other day he came home from a hot and windy 22 mile training run.  Ah, nothing feels as good as finishing that last big long run in your training plan (except sleeping in, which is what I did).  Sure he has a few more long runs to go before the marathon, but the biggest is out of the way

He did this run all around NYC and spent a good portion of it in hilly Central Park.  Later in the day he was telling me that as he pushed to get through those final miles he noticed people passing him at times.  Neither of us are super speedy but we do carry a decent pace and tend to be the ones passing more often than getting passed.  He found it discouraging at times but had to remind himself that he was doing 22 miles and odds were that people passing him were doing a much shorter run.

I’ve been known to let my ego get the best of me and speed up in Central Park or get caught up in a friendly “push” for a few miles.  But recently when I went to pass someone and he gave me a nod and tried to out pace me I waved him off and said, “I’m too pregnant for that.”  Now that got a sideways glance!

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We runners often spend a lot of our time “training” for something.  This is of course great because I believe it keeps us motivated and gives us something to look forward to.  But we need to keep in mind that not every run is a race and sometimes we need to just relax and enjoy our time out on the road or the trail.  Constantly worrying about getting faster or being the fastest is a sure fire way to slowly drain the love out of our sport.

We need to remember that long slow runs are necessary for improving as runners.  The long slow run is an essential training tool for becoming a stronger runner.  These runs are meant to be done at a pace of 30 seconds up to even a minute per mile slower than your normal pace.  The time on your feet and the extra time with an increased heart rate improves your cardiovascular endurance.  All of this is essential for handling longer runs and endurance events.

Slow runs play a part of training just as fast runs do.  Sure fast runs help to improve speed.  But those slow or “easy” paced runs also are necessary training tools.  Easy runs can help you recover a day or two after your long runs and help “shake out” the lactic acid.  Take a look at any training plan and you will see these sporadically placed throughout the week to help you recover or prepare for a longer run.

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It is important to get back to why you fell in love with running in the first place.  Odds are you didn’t lace up your shoes the first time and try to run the fastest three miles you possibly could.  If you did that, there’s a good chance you hated it and said you would never run again.  Most of us start out for various reasons usually centered around getting in shape or finding a new way to enjoy the outdoors.  As we improve or feel more comfortable our pace increases, as does the distance.  At some point we often start to push ourselves to become better runners and thus begins the speedier runs.

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There is something wonderful about going back to your running grassroots.  Forget the pace.  Heck, forget the GPS or pacing app, and just go for a run.  It is a liberating feeling and you might even discover that your pace speeds up without your even trying.  More importantly, you will enjoy just going for a run.  Just like the good old days!

Pregnancy and Running- Second Trimester

And just like that we are in out of the second trimester.  It is hard to believe but we passed the 26 week mark this past weekend.  Time is seriously flying by!

I managed to continue running throughout my second trimester, including pacing a 5k and coaching 75+ runners for a half marathon.  In fact, I marked my 25th week with 16, albeit slow, miles during that half marathon.

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The second trimester was fun.  Different, but fun.  Early on it became evident that it was not going to be nearly as easy as the first trimester.  As much as I have approached this pregnancy with the mindset that I was not going to be lazy or let it change my running too much, there were certain limitations that came with the past few months.

The biggest change (sorry if it’s TMI) came in the form of my bladder.  Baby Olive, our nickname for the baby since we don’t know what we are having, decided to prop itself right on my bladder very early into the second trimester.  This was especially difficult when half marathon training started in late February through March because we ran on the Lakefront Path and the bathrooms were all closed.  There were some hectic mad dashes to area hospitals (where they were kind enough to let us runners use their facilities) along the runs to make a pit stop.  As a coach it was frustrating because I didn’t want to leave my runners alone on the path.  But I will assume this is great training for parenting where I will have limited amounts of time to make a run for the bathroom.

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Beware the belly!

I opted for the gym a lot in the past few months because the weather was so up and down between warm days and cold ones and the wind was something fierce for several weeks.  But it was also nice to have the option to hop off of the treadmill at any moment and make a run for the bathroom (sometimes after every mile….ugh!).

On the mileage front, I was able to maintain my same mileage and my doctor was totally on board with this.  Every time I have an appointment I make sure we are still okay to continue running and she has given me the go ahead without any hesitation.  My pacing has continued to stay approximately a minute per mile slower than my average pace and I can tell that as my belly continues to get bigger it will probably begin to slow even more.  For someone who is rather competitive and usually concerned about pacing, I have to say that this is no big deal and I have learned to enjoy the slower pace.  Being able to stick with my daily 7-8 mile runs and get a longer one in on the weekend is still pretty awesome.  I will take that over speed anytime!

Besides the running clothes getting tighter the only other major change I have noticed is cramping.  Holy calf cramping!  Rock and I were apart for five weeks while he was in NYC for work and I was in Chicago coaching runners and skaters.  He came back two weekends ago to do the half marathon with Team Momentum.  The first night he was there I woke up around 4 a.m. with killer calf cramping.  I tried grabbing my toes to pull them back and I couldn’t reach.  The pain shot up through my hamstring and I wanted to scream but we had three house guests sleeping at our place and a puppy outside of our bedroom.  I jumped out of bed and was hobbling around trying to get rid of the cramp.  I was unable to talk and I am pretty sure Rock woke up and thought I was going into labor.  It was a horrible wake up; funny now but horrible then.

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My biggest craving these days is fruit.

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Sigh…..and Slurpees!

Sadly, these calf cramping wake ups have become a new norm.  All of the books say to exercise more and drink more to avoid this problem but I think I am pretty good about doing both!

How is your running going?  Anyone else run through their second trimester?

Setting Realistic Goals

I love this time of year.  Besides the fact that the leaves are finally on the trees, you can smell the freshly mowed grass everywhere, and shorts are back in my running wardrobe, this is also the start of racing season.  Spring and summer get us all in the mood to run more and races can be found on just about every weekend.  Right now I am in NYC for a few weeks and you can even find weekday evening races too!

This is also the start of marathon season.  I have started hearing from a lot of athletes who are looking to run a summer or fall half or full marathon.  Nothing gets me more excited than sitting down with an athlete and mapping out a plan of action for their first, second, or perhaps even 20th marathon.  I really mean it when I say that having an endurance race to train for over the next few months is the perfect prescription to ensure you have an incredible summer.

When I sit down with athletes I often ask them several questions about their running history.  I want to know how many races they have done at various distances and what their results were.  I also need to know what their goals are besides finishing a race.  As you know from reading this blog, I am a big fan of Goal Setting.  It helps to keep us motivated and also maps out a plan of action for upcoming events.  Without a goal in mind we can be running blindly during training without a real direction to head for.

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There are of course all sorts of goals.  It is absolutely reasonable for first timers at a new distance to have a goal of simply finishing.  Many people hope to run the entire course without taking walk breaks.  The goal of not hitting the dreaded wall is a great one and requires that you focus on finding a reasonable pace along with a fueling plan that keeps you moving.

Time goals are excellent as well.  I think for first timers at new distances this can be tricky and you need to be careful that you don’t raise the bar too high.  The other difficult task with this is not using a previous race time from too long ago or a distance that is too short to reasonably measure a predictable goal pace.

I have been working with a lot of runners lately and there seems to be one goal that rings familiar with many athletes.  “I want to qualify for Boston.”  This is an absolutely fantastic goal and a pivotal one for many of us runners.  It is important to remember however that the BAA sets the bar high, especially for men.  Unfortunately, for many people I work with, their previous race times are often very far off from what is needed for Boston. I hate to be a bubble burster and I never want to be negative Coach Sarah.  Whatever your goals are, I am happy to help you reach them.  But I think it is important to keep a few factors in mind when you set race goals:

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Cutting slivers off is easier than chunks sometimes.  First of all, this rule does not count for dessert.  You should always cut chunks off of dessert rather than slivers.  But when you take previous race times, it is important to remember that finish times often shave off in slivers.  That is not to say that I haven’t had a marathoner improve his PR by 30 minutes or more.  That can absolutely happen, but it is not always the norm.

Generally speaking, you will need to plan on doing a lot of speed work to improve a race time by a large amount.  Other factors such as improved fitness level, weight loss, and experience will also help increase your odds of making a big leap.

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You can’t take a 5k pace and multiply it by 8 to get a marathon time.  This happens A LOT!  And sadly, this will lead to very unreasonable expectations.  You can take a 5k result to get a general idea of a 10k prediction and the same rings true for a half marathon vs. a full marathon.  But they do not completely translate by doubling the numbers.  It is highly unlikely that you will run your half marathon pace for a full marathon.  You are much better off using a race prediction calculator.  Plug in your most recent race time and it will give you a reasonable idea of where you would finish under similar course conditions.  This will not however factor in weather or terrain changes.

This is my favorite Race Time Predictor.

If you aren’t currently running a pace that is somewhat near a BQ pace during a 5k or even 10k, it will be extremely difficult to run that pace for 26.2 miles.  This is the hardest one for me as a coach to have to share with you.  I get many athletes who give me a decent 5k time and then say they want to qualify for Boston.  The problem is, running a 7:30 pace for a 5k and needing a 7:04 pace to BQ are very, very different things.  A 5k is a sprint for us endurance runners.  Sadly, maintaining your 5k pace alone would be nearly impossible for 20+ miles.

A training plan is a guide to help your body learn to handle the mileage and improve your pace over 16-20 weeks.  It is not however a miracle worker.  Be honest with yourself when you look at goal paces and make sure you really think about just how long 26.2 miles is to sustain that pace for.

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Don’t be afraid to change your goals.  Sometimes we get half way through training and realize that what we originally set out for might not come to fruition.  That’s okay and it is totally fine to readjust your plan.  Honestly, it is better to go into a race with realistic goals than to set yourself up for failure.  Nothing is more frustrating that getting 2 miles into a half marathon and realizing you are nowhere near where you want to be.  Goals are not set in stone and there is nothing wrong with making some game changes along the way.

Humid, Busy, and “Momentous”!

Happy Monday.  What a weekend!  I am so excited for the week to begin and be able to get some rest.  No joke!

This weekend was half marathon weekend for 75+ MDA Team Momentum members who trained for the Michelob Ultra Chicago Spring 13.1 race.  It was a chilly and rough winter and the weather did a total 180º for the event.

Friday was exciting because my Rock flew in from NYC.  He had been gone for a few weeks for work and I missed him a lot.  My cousin also came into Chicago as a member of Team Momentum to do her first ever half marathon.  We also had a few other team members come and stay with us.  It was a full house to say the least.

Saturday we started the day off with a BBQ.  Rock’s student Zach was also in town from NYC to run the half and we had him along with family and friends over.  I also surprised Rock with an early surprise birthday celebration.  He was definitely shocked!

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The evening ended with our Team Dinner.  If you have never participated in a race through a charity this is something that really sets the tone for your event.  The dinner was held at the Hard Rock Hotel and they hosted a lovely meal for our group.  There were some really great inspirational speakers to get everyone excited to run the next day and many athletes were recognized for their hard work and fundraising.  It really is a wonderful way to celebrate, meet the rest of your team, and get pumped up for the big day.

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Speaking of big day, it started nice and early at 4:00am.  After some pre-race bagels and coffee we were out the door to the race venue.  Set in the Park at Lakeshore East, we had a perfect spot to get prepped.  Team Momentum was the official charity of this race, and our runners were treated to some great perks including our own tent and port-a-potties before we got started.  Any runner will tell you that is well worth joining a team for those perks alone!

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And then the race got started.  To say the weather was tough would be a huge understatement.  As we waited in corrals it seemed a bit chilly but as soon as the gun went off we were met with tons of humidity and a bit of drizzle.  The course was an out and back along Lake Michigan (hello amazing views!) and the wind was in our faces on the way out.  We were all looking forward to the wind at our backs on the return but we all forgot that the lack of wind would make those humidity levels really feel exceptionally harsh.

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Just hanging out in the corral with the team.

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Zach and Rock representing the team well on the course.

Humidity, in my opinion, is one of the most difficult factors to deal with on a run.  You really can’t control the conditions and it definitely zaps your energy levels.  These conditions are always a great reminder to listen to your body and do what is best for you, and of course hydrate at every aid station you find and maybe even at water fountains too!  It takes a tough athlete to push through those conditions all the way to the finish and I am proud to say that each and every one of our athletes made it to the end.

As a coach I really love these events.  I was given coach’s access to the course which allowed me to comfortably move back and forth without any issues.  Again, awesome being the official charity partner!  Near the end of the day I was able to help athletes get all the way to the finish line and head right back out on the course to find more team members and do it all over again.  Being able to skip any hurdles about entering a race course really makes this much easier to do and the rough weather conditions made this even more valuable.

Rock was also on the course with our buddy Zach and as soon as he finished he came back and helped coach other runners.  Together we teamed up and finished a really successful race.  By noon I had completed 16 miles of running, not bad for 25 weeks into pregnancy!  It is days like those that make me feel incredibly lucky to have Rock in my life.  He’s not just my husband or best friend, he is also my running partner in crime and when it comes to work we are fortunate that we do it every day together and we do it really well.  When I saw him back out on the course to help me it was a huge relief.  We make a great team.

Today I have to give a huge shout out to all of the MDA Team Momentum members who completed this race.  A big congrats to my cousin Carrie for completing her first and for 14 year old Zach who finished his 4th half marathon.  What a superb group of people all around.

Also, a huge thanks to Lifetime Fitness for hosting a great event complete with beer and pancakes at the finish.  They certainly know how to keep a group of tired and sweaty runners happy.  They also hosted MDA Team Momentum in such a great way from inviting our ambassadors to be emcees at the event to sharing our mission with every participant.  They even came out and made an appearance at our team dinner despite all the craziness of race set up.  What a fun day!

Rock and I ended our day with a delicious Chicago pizza from Lou Malnati’s.  As you can see, there is a reason we never order this stuff.  We ate the whole thing at once.  And then later Louie and I went out for frozen yogurt and he of course got his own serving.  What a way to end a perfect weekend.

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Did you race this weekend?  Does the humidity drive you crazy too?

The Dishes Don’t Do Themselves….Nor Does Your Workout

Once upon a time I used to be a messy girl.  If you know me now this is hard to believe.  These days I love cleaning and can’t stand the bed not being made as soon as I get out in the morning or doing the dishes as soon as I am done with a meal.  But back in the day my bedroom at home was a disaster and I used to think my mom purposely made it a mess when I wasn’t there.  I hated cleaning anything and found it to be a huge chore.

And then I got my very own first apartment and things suddenly changed.  I quickly learned that when you are done with the dishes it is much easier to do them right away instead of letting them sit.  If you wait, it becomes mentally more tedious to get yourself to stand at the sink and take care of the issue and the longer you wait the harder the grime sets in.

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The same goes with exercise and running in particular.  The reason I bring this up is that the other day I was at the gym and after my nice little run I ended up in the locker room alone with a girl who was on her cell phone (which also is a huge pet peeve of mine….leave the phone for after the gym!).  This girl was young and she was complaining to whoever was on the other side of the line that she didn’t want to work out, so she was calling them to kill some time.  After the call ended she sat on a bench and played with her nails and stared at her phone.  Then she got up and got in her locker and put on lip gloss and then waited some more.

I couldn’t have been in the locker room for more than 15 minutes total, but she was there the whole time.  In my head I was thinking that had she just gone and done whatever she had to take care of for the day she would have been done with 15 minutes of her workout already.

As I have gotten older time has become more and more valuable to me.  And wasting time means less time at the end of the day to sit down and relax or to spend with my husband. Sure it makes me rush from one thing to another at times but it keeps me from dawdling in between tasks.

The truth is that I don’t always want to work out either and this is what I do for a living.  I coach runners and figure skaters and train athletes on a daily basis.  I live for exercise in all sorts of forms.  And some days it takes everything in me to go get a run in.  Sure I’d rather take a nap or sit on the couch and watch The Chew (ever notice my life also revolves around food?!).  But I also know that the longer I wait to do a workout, the harder it is to get started and the more precious time I have wasted.  Fortunately I also have a husband who trains athletes and is a runner and we often use each other to keep ourselves motivated.  On days when I don’t want to run he pushes me to get it over with.  Sometimes I might say I will do it later and he reminds me that later in the day I am dragging and it will just be more of a pain to get that run in.

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Like those dishes, running and exercise are much easier if you just get it over with when it is time to do it.  So what do you do when you don’t feel motivated?

Use the 5 minute rule.  Promise yourself that you just have to do 5 minutes and if it still stinks you can quit.  Odds are that once you get started you will just want to finish what you previously had planned.

Just put the clothes on and make them fun.  Have some workout clothes you love to wear.  If you feel good in them, it is a lot more fun to get started.  Once you make the effort to get dressed it is a lot easier to get out the door.

Find something you love.  If you enjoy a certain workout you are much more likely to do it.  Find a class you enjoy or an instructor that makes you look forward to going to the gym.

Mix it up.  When I have to hit the treadmill I always do intervals.  They make the workout go by much faster.  Doing intervals or fartlek workouts keeps your routine from getting stuck in a rut.  You can do this with just about any workout.

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What do you like to do to keep yourself motivated?

A Sport With Something For Everyone

The other day I was running with a friend and we were chatting about her progress in the past year.  She has sped her pace up about a minute per mile on long runs, which is no small feat.  I said that I was super proud of her and the transition she has made into a “runner.”  She is currently training for her fourth half marathon and she is doing her second full this fall.  Talk about impressive!

She told me that what really helped her, besides using a training plan and training with a group, was the fact that running is a sport that anyone of any ability can join and take up at any age.  With other sports, unless you did it as a kid or in high school, you kind of missed the boat or are way behind the rest.  But running is an activity we are all capable of starting at any age and hopefully continue to do as we get older.  I love reading articles about ladies and men who pick up running in their sixties and continue to win their age groups well into their 80’s or sometimes even in their 90’s.  As a figure skating coach I can certainly tell you I don’t ever see that happen on the ice.

The other great thing about this sport is we create our own barriers and we set our own bars.  We are the only ones who can determine whether we can or cannot do a half or full marathon.  No one (well, perhaps besides your doctor) can tell you that you are not capable of that.  There are training plans created for every level of athlete and nothing short of an injury can keep you from achieving your goals.

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I love the fact that races are created with every level in mind.  Sure, the Boston Marathon and Olympic Marathon Trials are usually meant for elite runners.  But go check out any other race of just about any distance and you will see runners and walkers of all levels welcomed with open arms.  There is room in this sport for athletes of every level and pace.

My friend was telling me about her experience last summer when her family went to cheer on her dad at his Ironman.  Long after her dad completed his race they went back around midnight to watch the final finishers.  Here she said were the most inspirational finishers.  People struggled and practically crawled in the early hours of the morning; after many hours in the water, on the bike and on their feet.  This was where the crowds gathered and cheered the loudest because watching your peers push themselves to the limit is the ultimate inspiration.

A few weeks ago I helped pace a Team Momentum member for a 5k.  It was a fun experience as she hit her new PR.  After we gathered our things and headed out I went and grabbed our dog Louie and walked back over to check out the festivities.  I just happened to walk back as the final finisher was completing her race an hour after the gun went off.  It would be easy to think that you would just walk past and not give a second thought about that lone runner out there.  But that was so far from the truth.  Louie and I slowly followed her as she struggled that last quarter of a mile.  We cheered and so did the crowds and a mentor ran onto the course to give her a hug and encourage her to keep going.  The announcer chimed in over the loud speaker and the electricity of the race picked back up like it was the beginning all over again.

It might have been the pregnancy hormones but I shed a few tears as I watched this woman complete her first 5k.  She trained with a local running group that works with athletes of all levels.  They offer training from marathons to 5k’s and she was part of their first time running track.  The recognition and praise she received from everyone was just as grand as that of the first finisher.

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There is nothing fake about this attitude toward the last finisher.  There is no fake welcome to the beginner runners who show up to run groups.  Unless you meet a seriously grumpy, bad running apple you will find that most runners are thrilled to see newbies join our sport.  We love talking about running and the more people we have to incessantly chat your ear off about the latest shoe model or our favorite fuel type, the better.  That is something I can really stand behind.

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