Picking The Right Race

There are a lot of factors that go into choosing the best race and there are definitely a lot of races to choose from.  Once upon a time my husband and I spent a spring going to a different race each weekend all over the East Coast.  It was so much fun sitting around doing research every week and looking for spots in upstate New York, Connecticut and New Jersey.  Along the way we found some really great races that we swore we would do again and a lot of duds that went straight to the never again list.

Among the main factors you need to consider are your race goals, budget, and mood.

Budget:  Some races can be pretty pricey.  But the cost of a race goes way beyond just the entry fees.  While some marathons come with a huge sticker price others are located in remote areas and that can drive the price of hotel rooms sky high.  For example, Rock registered for Grandma’s Marathon this summer.  The race itself is rather inexpensive for a full marathon but Duluth Minnesota doesn’t have a ton of hotels in the area.  Imagine our shock this winter when we were trying to find a room and the average cost per night was nearly $300 with a two night stay required.

So if you are on a tight budget you might want to consider a closer race that charges a higher fee but is easier to find a place to stay.  We also found out that a local college offers dorm rooms for the marathon at a much cheaper price.  So make sure you do your research.  Sometimes a more costly race that doesn’t require a flight or long car ride can also save you money in the long run.

Your Race Goals:  This is a big one and requires that you do some research in advance.  If you are looking to set a new PR or qualify for Boston you might want to consider opting out of one of the major marathons.  Chicago is known for its flat and fast course.  However, there are over 45,000 participants and the time it might take you to get out of your corral and through a crowd might cost you minutes you might not have to spare.

On the other hand, the marathon I used to qualify for Boston was a rather lonely one.  I had a blast but it was an out and back on a rail trail which didn’t allow for much crowd support.  This race was also held in a small town in Northern Michigan, once again not helping with the crowd factor.  By the last six miles I was alone on the road and didn’t see many people along the path cheering, not the best mood or morale booster.

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This is a time when a medium sized race in a smaller city might just be perfect.  Places like Indianapolis, Minneapolis, Phoenix and the New Jersey Marathon are known for being great medium sized races for meeting your goals.  When I look for a new race I often go to www.runningintheusa.com and search by states that are in my area or where I will be.  I then narrow it down by month and distance to find a perfect fit for me.  Then I Google the races I find most interesting to read some reviews and get a better idea of what to expect on the course.  Both good and bad reviews help to eliminate races that have factors I might find annoying.

Mood:  Are you looking for a super fun race or something serious?  Sometimes a themed race can be appealing if you are looking for a little excitement or motivation on the course.  Races known for having bands playing throughout can make the miles fly by.  And sometimes knowing there is a free beer and a medal at the end can help push you through.

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Do you need a big crowd to help cheer you on?  Or perhaps you like the road to yourself.

I personally love small town races.  I love finding small towns that I have never visited and joining their local event.  The general vibe is so fun and everyone is there to have a good time.  We once finished a local 10k that ended with a raffle drawing in a backyard.  The race also finished at their local rummage sale.  We grabbed a drink and wandered the sales.  I even won my age group and received a hand carved wooden foot on a leather string.  Pretty cool!

But if you are someone who needs other runners to motivate you and push you this wouldn’t be the event for you.  And sometimes it is nice to mix it up.  Trail runs can make the miles fly by and other times they can be incredibly aggravating (aka the time we ran a race up a mountain).

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Do your research:  Get online and do some searches.  You will be amazed at all of the fun races that are out there just waiting for you to sign up.  Ask around or read reviews so that you know what to expect ahead of time.  If you know a race is great but lacks fuel on the course, you can be prepared instead of infuriated.  Hopefully you will find some of those little known gems I have come across over the years!

What is your favorite race?  Have a special unknown one you think other runners might love?

If You Run It You Are A Winner

Hello from chilly Chicago!  We returned this weekend and it feels great.  Remember that tiny apartment we were in there?  Well I feel like I came home to a mansion, all two bedrooms of it!  It’s the little things…..

A few weeks ago when we returned to New York City right after the Chicago Marathon, I was still buzzing from coaching over one hundred runners.  My husband, on the other hand, was bummed about his race and already seeking revenge by looking for another.  If you didn’t see that post he was killing it up until mile 18.  We crossed paths around mile 10 and he was on par to break his 3:35 race goal.  Sometime after mile 18 he called me to let me know that something happened to his IT band he was going to have to walk the rest of the race.

When we returned to NYC many of our students asked him if he won his race.  He would laugh and say no.  One older student kept pressing and asking him how he did.  He jokingly said that he probably finished around 29.000th.  We both started laughing and the girl responded with, “So you lost?” My husband had a funny and sweet response but I started to feel a bit defensive.  Of course I knew she was a preteen and didn’t understand but my immediate response was, “Any one who runs and finishes a marathon is a true winner.”  It came out of my mouth so fast that even I was a bit surprised by my words.  I got chills….I inspired myself with those words.

I had to take a pic of this huge pre-NYC marathon shake out run.

I had to take a pic of this huge pre-NYC marathon shake out run.

But it is true.  Running isn’t easy.  In fact it can be quite miserable.  It can definitely suck at times.  It can feel painful, it does weird things to your body, you smell bad, strange places start bleeding on you,, there’s blisters….the list is endless.  But what it gives back to you makes every moment so worth it.  When you make the effort and take the time to train for and make a race, any race happen, you are truly a winner.

I once heard an elite runner talk about how difficult the last few miles of the race are and I was quite taken by what he said.  The reason was, that is just how I feel at the end of a race.  We both feel the same things near the finish.  He just happens to feel them earlier than I do and he is done way before me.  Everyone struggles during races and especially marathons.  They are meant to take you to the brink.  It is part of the challenge that we chose to face.  Regardless of when you cross the finish line, you pushed yourself and overcame those struggles.  That makes you a winner.

The first time my husband ran a marathon he didn’t know what to expect.  It was hard and at mile 20 he had to truly dig deep for those last few miles.  But he did it and he ran it faster than he ever imagined.  He worked incredibly hard to get there and he was filled with pride.  The second time he ran a marathon he again worked very hard, he had big goals and he made a great effort.  Unexpected things happened along the way that changed his plans and altered his goal.  As he pushed through and made his way to the finish it was a different hurdle to reach the end that time.  But he finished and the fact that he didn’t give up made him a true champion.  Both of those marathons were great efforts and both times he came out a winner.

I was so inspired by this huge 5K the morning before the marathon.  I loved seeing family members running to support their loved one's doing the marathon the next day.

I was so inspired by this huge 5K the morning before the marathon. I loved seeing family members running to support their loved one’s doing the marathon the next day.

For many of us, running doesn’t feel like it comes naturally.  It is a daily struggle for us.  It presents mental and physical challenges and this is part of the reason I love running.  It makes you a stronger person from the inside out.  Whether you are running a 5K or an ultramarathon, you are a winner for getting out of that door each day and getting your run on.

Congratulations to all of the runners who laced up and ran this past weekend.  Congrats to anyone who raced a 5K, 10K, half marathon or a full.  Of course a big congrats goes out to everyone who ran that windy NYC marathon course.  Yikes!

A big shout out goes to my girl Amy at FitnessMeetsFrosting.  She just ran her first marathon.  She is awesome go check her out and leave her a big congrats!

Happy Belated Halloween!

Happy Belated Halloween!

 

Lies, Lies, Lies

Happy Monday!  I hope you all had a great weekend.  Yesterday I got to do one of my favorite things, stroll around the city and listen to “Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me.” I’ve said this before but this radio show is one of my favorites. I get into the news quizzes and answer questions out loud without realizing it and I probably look like a nut walking around laughing to myself.

I was pleasantly surprised yesterday when one of the quiz questions happened to be about running. The question was, “In the interest of runner’s safety, the Baltimore Marathon has banned spectators from doing what at this weekend’s race?”

The answer is something that I had recently mentioned to my husband. What is the most annoying thing that you should never say to a person running in a race? Never, ever shout, “You are almost there.”

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Yes the marathon had requested that spectators not shout those words. They wanted to help keep the runners from sprinting towards the end too early.

Peter Sagal is the host of this show and is an experienced marathoner. Here is what he had to say about this: “At all the big marathons, and I’ve experienced this, thousands of spectators line the streets supporting the runners. And we love this – they support the runners by shouting obvious lies at them. They yell things like “almost there” when you’ve got 10 miles to go. They yell “looking good” because the truth is ‘Dear God seek medical attention now,’ is not encouraging.”

I was laughing pretty hard at this and replayed it for my husband when he arrived home.

This past summer he trained for the Chicago Marathon. He worked pretty hard and was looking forward to trying to beat his time from over a year ago. For the previous race we both had trained really well and went in hoping to finish under 4 hours. We both surpassed anything we expected and finished nearly a half hour under our goal. I was so excited for him to run Chicago because he had trained well and was looking great. I saw him on the course at mile 10 and he was running strong.

As I was running with my athletes and helping them along the course he called me. I thought for sure he was calling to tell me that he finished. Instead he called to let me know that at mile 18 something popped in his hip flexor and he was really struggling. He was going to finish but would have to walk the rest of the race and didn’t want me to worry.

I was heart broken for him. It was so frustrating to work that hard and get that close to the finish and have a surprise injury like that come out of nowhere. He had never had ANY issues with his hip flexor. But as is the nature the marathon, you never know what will happen out there.  So he walked the rest of the race…or should I say he hobbled.

Chicago has incredible amenities along its course. There are 20 aid stations that span 2 blocks each. Each aid station also has medics and massage therapists. Every time he approached an aid station medics would come to him and ask if he was okay. Most were very helpful and once they knew it was nothing threatening they would offer him some Biofreeze or Tylenol and send him on his way.

But at a few aid stations he encountered medics who would shout, “Keep going.  You’re almost there.” He said that it happened first at mile 20 and he found it so frustrating. He wasn’t even close and at the rate he was going it felt like forever until the finish. One medic at mile 25 yelled, “You’re almost there you have less than a mile.” He wanted to shout at him and tell him he had OVER a mile to go.

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The night before the marathon I spoke with the athletes on our team and reminded them that one of the most important things that you can do during any race and especially a marathon is stay in the moment. Stay in the mile you are currently in and don’t worry about the next one or 10 miles from now. One runner later told me she used that as her mantra and would think, “22, 22, 22,” and then, “23, 23, 23.”

I know, and we all know, that the spectators are a huge part of what makes the marathon doable for us. They pull us through some really hard parts of the race when we really need to dig deep. But when someone tells you that you only have one more mile to run I want to ask them to run the mile with me. Most non-runners find a mile to be the longest thing they have ever had to endure. Usually they start asking me how far they have gone just a quarter of the way in.

While I appreciate the Baltimore Marathon’s efforts to keep spectators from shouting such frustrating words, I also find it quite amusing. All I can think is that some frustrated former marathoner was definitely behind that idea.

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What do you think of this?  Good idea?  Silly idea?  What would be the best sign you could see on the course?  Personally, food and drinks motivate me 🙂

A special congrats to our friend Angie who did the Avon Walk For Breast Cancer this past weekend.  Talk about endurance!  She walked 26.2 miles on Saturday and 13.1 on Sunday for this great cause.