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Marathon Inspiration

Today is September 15, and I am two weeks away from the starting line. Before I started running, I had always heard that runners are really friendly people, and I have found that that is more than true. The runners I have met both in person and online are always more than willing to help out, share advice, and encourage me (even when they don’t know they are doing so, sometimes!).

As I get closer to my big day, I want to steep myself in the community of running, and the best and most exciting way for me was to really interact with some of the runners who have inspired me. Today, I’m not going to speak very much in this blog. Instead, I’m going let those runners talk. I asked some of them specific questions based on what I know about their running history and tendencies. I asked them to tell me about their first marathon. I asked for advice. And I got it. I hope the following comments—from running bloggers, a friend from high school, and even an Olympic marathoner—inspire you like they already have me.

First, I’ll tell you a little about each runner featured in this post. Then you can click the name to jump to that person’s comments, or just scroll down.


Kevin at 5ksAndCabernets: Kevin lives in hot Texas, is currently training for his third marathon, and he’s run loads of races. Kevin has run some really rough races and training runs, and I enjoy reading his posts because he seems to be very dedicated to analyzing his runs, their successes and failures. I need to do that more. (Kevin also treats readers to both cute and soul-bearing posts about his adorable son. As a parent-to-be eventually, I love the insight into a parent’s mind.)

Topher at I’ll Run for Donuts: I like the combination of humor and running, but food, humor, and running?! Does it get any better? Topher runs so Plus, Topher is a native of my beloved Kansas City.

FrayedLaces: FrayedLaces is, in my book, pretty amazing. She started running and ran her first marathon despite a serious medical malady (read her comments below for details), then, a mere 8 months later, ran a marathon when she was planning on doing a 10k and ended up placing 3nd out of the women.

LifeStudent: LifeStudent was the first running blogger that I started reading last year. She was in the thick of marathon training, also for the first time, and I loved how real her blog always was. She also writes about her love for food—cupcakes specifically (are we seeing a trend here?)—her cute dog Wrigley. She even introduced me to SomeEcards.com!

Mac: Mac and I have been friends since we were in band together in high school. We took research class together and Mac taught me to solve the Rubik’s Cube. In 2001, Mac ran the Marine Corp Marathon along with a bus full of his West Point colleagues, and he shares his experience in this blog. Since then, he’s run a half-marathon, and is currently serving our nation, making the world safer for runners and non-runners alike.

Vanilla at Half-Fast: Vanilla’s funny! Funny and running is a good mix in my book. He writes poems, offers dating advice, and even searched for an arch nemesis (there was a battle for the ages, but did he ever find one?). He’s even a very special guest author on the Complete Running Network.

Zuzana Tomas: She realized she was a runner while watching Rosa Mota win the 1988 Olympic marathon in Seoul, and now she herself is Slovak Olympic marathoner extraordinaire. She has run 5 marathons, most recently competing in the Beijing Olympic marathon on August 17. It wasn’t her easiest race, but she finished, and I, along with many other people, believed in her and am proud of her.

New Additions!

Beth: My best friend since the 4th grade, Beth was much like me: Not an athlete until the college years. (In fact, Beth is the reason I realized I could run a marathon!)
Brandi: Brandi and Beth are friends and pretty much trained together for the 2003 Chicago Marathon.


Kevin at 5ksandcabernets

You’re a wine drinker and I’m a beer drinker (who is, coincidentally, living in Bierland!). Did you ever drink the few nights/week before a marathon? Do you advise it? What about drinking afterward? What do you recommend? During training for my first marathon in 2005, I would drink wine two nights a week, the night after I did my long run and the next night. (I ran long on Fridays, so my drinking would be Friday and Saturday night.)

In training for my second marathon, in 2007, I drank three to four nights a week until the final week, when I drank just once – six days out.
Even though I ran more mileage in 2007, I had a better marathon experience and faster time in 2005. I’m not so sure it was just the drinking that made things worse, but there you have it.

What do I drink and what do I recommend? I drink red wine. Love the red wine. Cabs, Syrahs, Zins. Yummy. How much should you drink before or after your marathon training? You know, I’ll give you the advice that I was once given: Running is an experiment of one. What may work for me may not work for you and vice versa. [Love this advice!]

You’re a veteran marathon runner. Any race advice for this novice? My race advice? Take it easy the first half. After all the training and your taper, you will feel pretty good on marathon day. You’ll feel so good that morning that if you were running any other race that day, you’d no doubt PR. But you aren’t running any other race. You are running, well, you know what you are running. Since this is your first marathon, run the first half at the same speed as you ran your training runs. See how you feel at the halfway point and pick it up a little bit if you feel better. If you are still feeling good by mile 20 or 21, pick it up even more if you can. But if not, hold back or drop your time. Things will get hairy late in the race and if you go out to fast, you may not have enough in your tank to make your time, or, gawd forbid, finish the race.

Topher at I’ll Run for Donuts

There is a Dunkin’ Donuts at kilometer 34. As the eminent running blogging donut lover, do you recommend that I stop for a maple-frosted cake donut (my personal favorite), or should I just persuade my loving husband to hand one off to me as I pass? Should you suggest the latter, I think my husband might need some persuading. Any tips in that area? What? Are you seriously asking that question? Of course you have to go into the shop yourself! None of this “Mr. Man, would you hold a donut for me while I run 34K (however far that is)?” No no no. You have to carry some cash and slip off the course to get your own donut. I’m thinking about doing the same at the LaMar’s Donuts on the KC Marathon Route (since there aren’t any Dunkins in KC). In fact, you need to convince someone in line to buy your donut since you’re running a marathon. You should save your money for other things, like chocolate.

Could you give me some race advice or something you’ve learned while training for your first marathon? Oh, this is so hard to narrow down to a few words. I’m such an expert on what not to do that I don’t even know where to start. I suppose the freshest thing is to keep running. As you know, I took an entire week off to eat birthday cake and practice tapering. Dumb. I’ve figured out that even if it’s a short two or three mile run, running at least every other day is important to maintain my running fitness level. I’ve read multiple places that speed isn’t important in one’s first marathon, but endurance is king. I’ve stuck with that and not worried as much about running fast, but learning to maintain a comfortable, consistent pace over a long distance. I’ve also had to figure out balance. To stick to the plan 100% would have caused problems since life happens. I’ve had to miss some runs, I’ve had to rearrange my running schedule by either running really early or really late in the day. I promised my family that although this is an important goal for me it would not interfere with any family time. Oh, and find humor in the pain. That’s really come in handy as I come closer to the 20 mile mark. Blisters and chaffing can be funny.


Congrats on your first marathon coming up! I hope it is an amazing experience—you’ll never forget your first! Make sure to enjoy every moment of it, and party like a rockstar when it is all over.

So… on to your questions:

You finished your first marathon even though you ran what were, before the starting gun, stress fractures in your pelvis into full on broken bones. Even though I don’t plan on “aspiring” to that level of endurance and dedication, I expect to face some pain during my first marathon. How did you get through that pain to the finish line? Well, to my credit, I didn’t know I had stress fractures going into my marathon. I thought it was a pulled groin, and was too stubborn to go to the doctor. I figured I worked too hard to not run the marathon. [Linden’s Note: I’m stubborn too.] I even remember saying “Hey, if I hurt my groin so bad that I can’t walk for the next two weeks, it will be worth it.” Well, I was right… almost. I was crutch-bound for 1 month and sans running for 3. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

Even though you won’t have to suffer a cracking pelvis during your marathon, you will experience some suffering. That’s what makes the challenge of a marathon so enticing. Expect the first 10 miles to be fun and exhilarating, the next 10 to be somewhat of a challenge, and the last 6.2 to be pure hell. Well, not exactly, but every muscle and brain cell will be screaming at you to stop. The best thing to do is just to focus on all the hard work you have put in, and focus on putting one foot in front of the other. When I ran my last marathon (not the broken pelvis one), I started getting tunnel vision and cramping around mile 22. I just sort of reasoned with myself that the marathon is suppose to be a challenge, and that I CAN get through this. I pulled my hat down low over my eyes so I wouldn’t see how much more I had yet to run. Instead, I focused on each step. Each step I took got me closer to the finish, closer to having a successful marathon under my belt, and closer to the massage table, fridge full of beer, and giant post-race BBQ.

You’ve now run two marathons. Could you give some race advice to this first timer?
Slow down and enjoy it. I wish I had done that with my first. Because I was in agony, my mind blacked out the majority of the race. So, instead of having that glorious first-timer feeling, I have a huge void. Also, at the finish… raise those arms high, baby, and smile! Going into the race, just be as prepared as you can. Don’t eat anything funky the night before (I actually eat very little for dinner the night before since I tend to have GI issues) and be prepared to have to take some pit stops. Also, make sure you hydrate well. If you’ve been training with a fuel belt, use it in the race. Your first marathon should be all about finishing comfortably and happy. Oh, don’t forget to be liberal with the BodyGlide or Vaseline! And wear sunblock, but don’t put any on your forehead or above your eyes. Otherwise it will drip in your eyes, no matter how waterproof it claims to be.

Hope this helps! GOOD LUCK!

[FrayedLaces just posted her third marathon race report, the Maui Marathon on September 13.]

LifeStudent at A Marathon Leap

I woke up one morning with the vision of “becoming a runner”. And if I was going to be a runner, I figured I should go all out. I decided I would run the Chicago Marathon, and as a non-runner 26.2 miles was quite a lofty goal.

My first training run, a 3-miler, was one of the hardest things I had done in a long while. For my first running attempt I found the motions foreign, and though I spent hours on the elliptical I struggled for air as I slowly moved toward my 3-mile goal. At the end of the run I was sure I had accepted quite the challenge, and it was one I was not positive that I would be able to meet.

As months went by and the mileage increased, each long run was challenging but never impossible. In fact, as my training progressed I was amazed by how relatively “easy” these distances were. Through my training I learned that I could accomplish any feat. I also learned about hydration, form, running shoes and gear. I was so confident in myself and the training and knowledge that I had accumulated over my 6 months with Team in Training that I never doubted I would complete 26.2 on 10.6.07. And that’s where I was wrong…

I woke up on Sunday, October 6, filled with excitement and anticipation. I was ready! My friends and I gathered when it was still the dark and took our time using the restrooms, stretching, and participating in excited chatter. Before long it was race time and we found ourselves at the starting line.

Many already know the outcome of the 2007 Chicago Marathon, so I will not repeat the details. I’m not going to lie—IT WAS HOT! As we stood around waiting for the race to start I was glad I wore a hat (something I rarely did in training) to protect my head from the sun and to keep sweat off my face. Though I was hot, I never once thought the heat would be an issue. Many of my training runs were done in high temps. In addition, it was 90+ degrees for two of my longer races that summer.

I began the race with confidence but did eventually start to panic (much like everyone else). What caused the change? The first time I had any water was at the THIRD water station—almost 6 miles into the race. I skipped the first station (which is pretty customary in a marathon) and found the second station deserted upon arrival. Not having water until mile 6, I knew I was in trouble. I had been sweating at a high rate was already dehydrated. By the 8th mile, runners were begging spectators for water and faces began to show signs of panic. By mile 13 I was dazed, cramping, and primarily walking.

Just before mile 16 a volunteer yelled to passing runners that the “race was cancelled”. She was the only one saying anything and most people didn’t hear her. I noticed some people were walking, but most were still running, so I continued. Murmurs started within the crowd and I began to hear more mentions of the word “cancelled”. At 16.5 miles the course was diverted from the scheduled route. Police barricaded the street—but they stood silent as runners passed. Many were still running, perhaps not noticing the diversion or perhaps just refusing to acknowledge it. Not a single person provided any official information until we were herded back into Grant Park 2.12 miles later and were congratulated on our participation in a “fun run” over the loud speakers.

It was a bitter end to six long months of training. Runners were confused, many were crying, and many were angry. The majority felt that race organizers had betrayed them through insufficient support along the course and inadequate communication as the event turned chaotic. In the weeks and months to follow the race organizers never accepted any blame in the “marathon meltdown” and often chastised new and novice runners. Fueled by anger I thought about the time I wasted during those six months and how race organizers had personally screwed me.

It took a couple of weeks to cool off (and wise up). I registered for the December 07 Las Vegas Marathon. Together with many from the group I trained with I successfully completed my first marathon. In addition, we had an awesome time in Vegas… one that I will never forget. While the Chicago Marathon is an experience that has strongly impacted me, the Las Vegas Marathon was my “first”. I will never forget either event, each holds a place me beyond words I can place on the blogosphere.


Here is what I remember about the Marine Corps Marathon:

I boarded a bus at West Point to take me to Washington the day prior. There were perhaps a hundred of us. I don’t know exactly how many. We were dropped at some motel in DC, I believe, nothing special. I remember walking quite some distance to get dinner. For dinner, my friends and I purchased large plates of pasta and then ordered out for another pizza when we got back. We wanted to ensure our systems were loaded with carbohydrates when we woke the next morning.

When I woke up race day, I remember mostly that we were making fun of each other, my roommates and I. We stumbled onto the bus where we were driven to a staging area. It was uncomfortably cold. While we waited on the bus, a jar of Vaseline circulated… I had to have it explained to me what it was for. I had never run so far before. There were also band aids available. I applied band aids and Vaseline to all the correct locations.

The race started with us all corralled into gates. They were arranged by speed, though I don’t recall which speed I chose. I remember it being very crowded.

Once we started running, people were taking off clothes. There were hundreds of sweat shirts, sock hats, things like that littering the first two miles of the course. Also, in the cold, there were people off the sides of the course everywhere urinating after having run less than half a mile.

The rest of the race was just good fun. I took a camera and took lots of pictures. At mile marker 13 there were energy gels available to us. I had about a dozen of them. Whereas, for a while, I was afraid I might have inadvertently destroyed my pancreas, I never walled. I, instead, was jittery with energy most of the rest of the race. I don’t know what it’s like to hit the “wall” but I am glad I didn’t. I understand it’s not a good thing. [Hmm… a promising strategy…]

After the race, we all walked around for about 30 minutes to try to stretch out. Then we got back on the bus and rode for several hours.
Though I recall some stiffness resulting from getting straight on a bus after the race, the big things I remember discovering once I got back to school were 1) My knees were in horrible pain that made it very difficult to climb stairs. The pain only lasted until I went to bed, they weren’t bad the next day. and 2) Several of my toe nails fell off or partially fell off. I had some straight ugly feet after the marathon.
Besides that, it was a great experience. I had a blast and I want to run another. Hopefully I’ll do so soon with my girlfriend when I get home from this war.

Vanilla (Ian) at Half-fast

I, like you, have a favorite running hat. And like you, it has sweat stains like tree rings. I saw that you debated whether to wear it in your big face off against Viper, but I need to know how to make that crucial decision. Any advice? In determining whether or not to wear a hat, you’ll need to consider the expected weather conditions. I wear my hat when it’s going to be sunny in lieu of sunscreen because I burn quicker than a hippy’s draft card. I don’t like to run in sunscreen because it makes me sweat more and stings like crazy when it gets in my eyes. If only they’d test that stuff on innocent little bunnies first (kidding!). If it’s going to be really hot, then I don’t wear the hat because I figure (wildly unfounded scientific speculation ahead) that you lose a lot of body heat through your head and the hat prevents this from happening. It is imperative that you be able to cool down if you want to run well and run long. To recap, don’t wear a hat if it’s going to be hot, but do wear one if it’s going to be sunny. Also you can wear it if it’s going to be overcast but then it’s just for looks, not for function. Of course, these things are all secondary to the most important issue you need to consider, which is what does your hat say about you? Does it say “I’m a Red Sox fan,” which is always appropriate, or does it say “someone gave me this free Microsoft Vista hat at a convention and I’m not cool enough to realize I shouldn’t wear it in public,” which is something you’ll want to avoid. [Hmm… my running hat is a Dr. Pepper hat I got by drinking 23 Dr. Pepper 1-liter bottles and mailing in the labels. I’m good with that.]

I know you haven’t run a marathon yet (no hard feelings, nor I am trying to one-up you, I promise), but could you give me some race advice? This is only my fourth race and you’ve run lots. I don’t know that I’d say that I’m experienced. I think I’ve run eleven races, roughly. They didn’t all start out roughly, but they all ended roughly. Be prepared for the fact that you’ll have to dig deep in the later stages. Make sure you know what your race strategy is and don’t abandon it. I speak as one who is experienced in creating Teflon race strategies; I never stick to them. In the early miles you’ll probably be feeling pretty good and you’ll be tempted to think you should speed up, but don’t do it, it will cost you in the long run. (In the long run, get it? These are the jokes people, they don’t get any better.) Generally speaking, we runners know what we’re capable of. We have a good estimation of how fast we can run the race, but then we start running and we feel like world beaters. The runner’s ego kicks in and says “maybe you were wrong, maybe you can totally run a 3:30 marathon,” and you fall for it hook, line and sinker, despite the fact that you’ve been training for a 4:30 marathon. [According to McMillan’s Running Calculator, I’ve been training for a 5:30! I really wanna hit exactly 5 hours, so we’ll see how it goes.]

What is the most important race day preparation that I need to be certain to take care of? According to my mother, it would be to make sure that you wear a clean pair of underwear without any holes, just in case the paramedics treating you need to disrobe you. [My mom would probably agree!] I’m not sure if it’s more disturbing that she would plan that far ahead, or that there are paramedics who are checking out your skivvies instead of, you know, stopping the gushing blood. Either way, you can’t afford to think like that. What are you doing thinking about paramedics treating you on your big day? That’s just begging for failure. No, the most important thing you can do to prepare for your race is to remember to put on your bib and timing chip. Really your bib and timing chip are the only necessary things you need to race. Everything else you can do without, but they won’t let you run without your bib, plus the paramedics can ID you a lot easier from your race number.

Zuzana Tomas

My first marathon was actually my favorite one. It was the only marathon in which I managed to do a negative split, which means I ran the first half (which was a downhill) a lot slower than the second half (1:26 and 1:21:45). It was great to feel stronger and stronger as the race went on. I got too ambitious in my second race, setting a PR in the half-marathon in 1:16:57 and paid for it big time in the end (see more discussion of the conservative initial pacing bellow). It is interesting how real the first marathon stays for you—if I close my eyes I can still see the course and feel the atmosphere… I guess the build up to it is so intensive that it makes the experience very memorable.

I will offer three pieces of advice-one on marathon training, one on racing, and one on recovery. A lot of people train for the marathon the way they trained in college for 5k races, only they bring up their mileage and do a long run. I think it is important in one’s marathon preparation to do more marathon-specific workouts, such as marathon pace runs (running at the marathon pace for up to 13-15 miles), doing a lot of not-too-fast repeats with very short rest (e.g. up to 20x1000m with 1 minute rest). I think this approach helps one not only to prepare best physically, but you also know mentally that you can handle the marathon having done so much marathon pacing in your training. (Don’t panic here if your approach has been different—few people train this way, but it has worked wonders for me. Perhaps, it is something you may choose to try in the future.)

As for the actual racing, I’d like to share the advice of my former coach, Brian Appel. He once said that “a marathon is a 20-mile run and a 10k race”. In other words, there is just no starting too fast in a marathon as it will always catch up with you. You must feel like you are running within your (marathon) comfort zone during the first 30-32 kilometers and then go as hard as your body allows you to. While perhaps such a conservative approach is not for everyone, it is, I believe, effective for most runners. You can look up splits of the top ten marathon runners at any major marathon and you will find that their first few miles are always a lot faster than their average time, meaning, they tend to slow down considerably in the last 10k of the race. I would imagine that the splits of a majority of less competitive runners would probably also show a considerable slowing down in the second part of the marathon. By holding back the pace a little in the first twenty miles while appropriately fueling your body with fluids (preferably not just water, but something containing enough sodium) and gels, you will feel stronger in the last quarter of the race. It is a lot more empowering to be catching up to people ahead of you and passing them then being passed.

Finally, not many people prepare you for how to deal with the post-marathon emotions. Whether you end up having a good race or a bad race, you may find yourself feeling quite down. This should not be too surprising because your marathon has been such a big goal for such a long time and suddenly it’s all over which can result in feeling a little empty. Different strategies work for different people. What helps me is to take a day to reflect on the race, but then it’s necessary to move on and not dwell on the race too much. This does not mean you should start training right away. In fact, you should give your body the break it deserves (I take two weeks off completely, then start running every other day). What I mean, is mentally refocus on the next goal. This could be a marathon or a 5k or a triathlon or whatever will “do it for you”. Write up a plan leading up to the next race. Even if you may not be able to start training for it for a while, it will give you something to look forward to and work toward.

New Additions!

Beth at Teco/Teca

Running the Chicago Marathon in 2003 was one of the greatest achievements of my life, and one of the most fulfilling experiences from beginning (training Day 1, 18 weeks out) to end (crossing over the Finish Line).

While there are many stories to recount during the marathon, my memories center more strongly on how I felt emotionally during the race. I recall how proud I felt to even attempt such a feat, and even better about seeing it to its completion. Before training for the marathon, I did not consider myself “athletic” or as an “athlete” even in the most generous of descriptions. Running was so against who my self-identity was, I did not even tell my family (also non-athletes) until I was over 75% into the training because I was afraid of their legitimately surprised response: “But Beth, you aren’t a runner!” or I was afraid that I would tell myself that very same thing, and then come to the defeated acceptance that I was in fact not a runner, not athletic, after all.

As it turned out, I am a runner, and it was not until I was in the middle of the marathon that I realized that running was a part of my identity.

My very strongest memory is not just of crossing the finish line, but the final mile and next few hours. I was exhausted physically, but mentally I was manic. I had done the unthinkable! The unfathomable! The incredible! I had run a marathon! I was moved to tears multiple times from the moment my eyes saw the finish line and my dream was playing out as I had visualized it over and over again. When I was done, I was emotionally overcome with a mixture of pride, relief, and accomplishment.

The race represented much more than pounding out 26.2 miles. It redefined Who I Am. I doubt you will find any runner who will tell you differently about their first marathon.

My advice to you, Linden? Enjoy every minute of it! Running a good race physically is important, but enjoying yourself is more so. Don’t be afraid to cheer other runners on and talk with strangers along the way. Reflect on everything it took to get you to this point in your life, and revel in the accomplishment you set out to do, and that you did it on your own. No one runs those miles for you in the end, and when you are done, no one can take it away that You are a marathoner. :)


I am not a runner. October 14, 2003 I completed the Chicago Marathon. It was not fast. It was not pretty. I did not hold pace with the best of the best. I finished and proved to myself that I could reach any goal that I set.

Deciding on a whim that it would be a “fun” thing to do, a college friend and I researched training schedules, read tips on distance running and registered for a marathon six months away. After our first two mile run, I realized that the “fun” in this endeavor was debatable. Four and a half months into my training I had developed a stress fracture in my foot, bilateral tendonitis in my knees and was advised to stop running by my orthopedist. More frustrating than the advice was the fact that I couldn’t run. I tried but my body did not cooperate. I continued my training by swimming laps and weight lifting. The morning of the run, I realized as I laced up my tennis shoes that I had not ran over two miles in six weeks, but I was determined to finish what I had started. I knew I would have to do this on my own. I would not be able to keep the same pace as my training partner and so, I started in the back of the pack of forty thousand people, praying that my body would hold up for the next 26.2 miles. It did. 5 hours, 43 minutes and 43 seconds later I crossed the finish line. That is not a time to broadcast or brag about to runners. The good news is that I am not a runner. I now only run 2-3 miles at a time and am usually motivated by the sense of necessity rather than that of enjoyment. Regardless, I can take that experience and remind myself that as long as I remain committed to my goal, put the effort in and believe in my ability to achieve, I will be successful. I am not a runner; I am a finisher.

“If you want to be happy, set a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy, and inspires your hopes.” Andrew Carnegie

My goal is to be a phenomenal pediatrician. I love children. I am intrigued by the way they grow; the way they learn; the way they love. While running does not come to me naturally, I was created to interact with kids. Like finishing a marathon, my pursuit of excellence will not be an easy task. It will require dedication, sacrifice, an ability to learn from mistakes, perseverance and time. I believe whole-heartedly that the role of the pediatrician in a child’s life is not only to maintain health, but also to promote wellness and education, ensure safety, and serve as a role model. Professionally, I can find no greater calling. Personally, I can imagine no greater joy.

1-mile Virtual Race Report

Even though I just started my taper, I decided to take part in Reid’s 1-mile virtual race to support him trying to set a sub-5-minute mile (which he did! Read about it here). My virtual race was pretty good. I did lots of warm up (3 1/2 miles of it) and plenty of cool down as well (6.5 miles of it).

Prior to this mile, my best time on the mile was 8:24. My only goal for this race was to meet or beat that time. Let me give you my race report, and then I’ll tell you if I met that goal.

It was a beautiful day here in middle Germany. The threat of rain meant the sky was overcast and the temperatures cool with a slight breeze. Since my biggest goal right now is to cross that finish line in Berlin, I did my mile race on our normal running route in the Stadtwald Giessen (instead of on a track) during a training run for The Big One, so I can’t be 100% sure that I ran exactly 1600 meters or 5,280 feet, but we’re pretty sure of the distance–within 10 feet, I’d say.

Rob and I started at the same time, and I had intended to keep pace with him for at least 100 meters, but he smoked me! I realized I couldn’t cover ground as fast as he, so with a “Goodness, you’re fast!” from he, he took off.

I focused on my breathing and got lost in its rhythm, feet pounding in time. Racing past the trees, around the familiar curves of our route through the forest, I pushed and pushed. After half a mile, I felt like it should have been over. But it wasn’t.

I had to work harder now; my body wanted to slow down. A biker passed going up the hill, so a quick smile and eye contact, and then face forward again. “Breathing, left right left right. Where am I? How far? There’s the intersection before the end. The clearing and the pile of cut wood before the final curve. Blue shirt! Rob’s waiting. How long has he been finished? Push, go, keep going.”

And I’m done! Rob announces my time as I pass him: 8 minutes and 19 seconds! “What was your time?” I ask him. He finished in 6:17–his fastest mile time so far. It was a good virtual race!

We walked and drank our mineral waters until we got to the next intersection, where we had left fresh bottles on our way up. We dropped our empty bottles, took the left down the Blue Arrow, and started our “cool down” run.

Total distance: 11 miles

Total run time: 2:07:23 (11:36 pace)

Virtual Mile Official Time: 8:19

Rob’s Virtual Mile Official Time: 6:17

Berlin Marathon Training in Stadtwald Giessen: 4 Weeks Out

Last week I had quite the runner’s high: 3 mid-week runs at great paces and a virtually spotless 20-mile run. This week, all that came crashing down. After my 12 miler on Wednesday, I had a blister on my ankle caused by deterioration in my shoes. They are unwearable. The run on Friday in my first running shoes (am I really on only my second pair of running shoes?!) was painful, and I ended up running/walking the 5 miler on Saturday and walking only on Sunday. It was depressing, especially since I am so close to The Big One.

But I have hope for the coming week. I found new shoes at ZBSports (thanks, Lifestudent) today and I’ll get them in a couple weeks. I’m icing the places that bother me and taking an NSAID daily. I will run this race.

The weekly schedule will start to get a little wonky from here on out–no long runs on the weekends, but during the week–because we’re going to Virginia so I can do some research for my dissertation and we’ve adjusted all of our runs so that nothing too long happens right before I have to spend 8 hours on a cramped plane. With all that being said, let’s move on to the report of this dismal week that I shall not dwell on any longer!

Wednesday, 27 Aug 2008

run type: long run
route: Seltersweg to the end of Stadtwald Giessen, down to the Blue Arrow, out to Watzenborn-Steinberg, back to the railroad tracks, out a 1/2 mile, back home
feeling: :|
time: 2:26:48
distance: 12 miles
pace per mile: 12:12
additional notes: I took gels at 4 and 8 miles. I had a very sharp pain in my left foot pad which started in the last 1.2 miles, and it hurt bad again once I took off my shoes at home. I don’t like the sound of that. The first three miles sucked! Walked 4 1/2 minutes in those first three miles and only 3 more minutes in the last 9 miles, including one 2-minute gel walk. Read more about this run by clicking here (When You Don’t Want To, You Gotta).

Friday, 28 Aug 2008

run type: training run
route: same as last week’s 10 miler
feeling: :|
time: 2:00:00
distance: 10 miles
pace per mile: 12:00
additional notes: My Pearl Izumis are out–the plastic heel support has broken through and gave me a blister. I ran in the Sauconys today instead and I never really felt like I found a comfortable gait. I took a PowerBar Gel at 4 miles. Started the run with a sharp pain in my right hip/groin area for the first 1/3 mile or so, then that went away. But my left quad got to where it hurt REALLY bad three times, so I had to stop and stretch it several times. Not the best run.

Saturday, 30 Aug 2008

run type:
route: Seltersweg to the 1-mile marker in Stadtwald Giessen and back
feeling: :|
time: 1:15:00
distance: 5 miles
pace per mile: 15:00
additional notes: I don’t really know what to do about that sharp pain my hip/groin, so instead of completely resting, I ran 1/2 mile, then walked 1/2 mile. My right knee hurt some too. Don’t be getting an injury now, body!!

Sunday, 31 Aug 2008

run type: not a run. I only walked.
route: Around Giessen
feeling: :|
time: 1:20:00
distance: ? miles
pace per mile: Probably about 4?
additional notes: We walked around and ran a couple errands. Tried to walk quickly so that we’d get our heart rates up.


Total Weekly Mileage: 22 miles running (at least 27 including walking)
Total Minutes: 267 minutes running, 155 minutes walking
Overall Mileage: 327.7 miles
Overall Time: 67.03 hours

Join Me in a 1-mile Virtual Race!

1-Mile Virtual Race

1-Mile Virtual Race

Thanks to Nitmos and Non-runner Nancy, I just found out about Life Strides’ upcoming 1-mile virtual race. It takes place next week, September 1 through 7, and while Life Strides is hoping all the momentum of a virtual race will help him break the 5-minute mile, but thankfully he says that “all you have to do is run 1 mile as fast or as slow as you want.” Good! Because I don’t want to screw up marathon training by going for a record here and pulling or straining something to beat my best mile time (8:24). But I’ll strive for under 9:30. And then I’ll go run 4 more miles so that I get in my training runs for the week. Fair enough?

Now my challenge to my readers. I know there are lots of runners with friends who are also runners who read this blog. Will you join me? Post a comment and let me know you’re in! Then be sure to comment on Life Strides’ post, which is your virtual race registration.

After all, it’s always Easier With Friends!

After All These Miles, I Must Say Goodbye

Close up on the broken shoes

Close up on the broken shoes

Not cool. Very not cool. Tuesday, at the end of a tough but mentally rewarding 12-mile run, I noticed a rubbed-raw blister right under my right ankle bone. A quick shoe inspection and I found the culprit:
That puppy might look innocent, but man! It was vicious to my ankle. I got to the corner of Seltersweg where we normally begin running and realized that it wasn’t going to work. I turned my little self around and went to get the shoes that carried me through my first attempt at marathon training and through stops 1 and 2 of our road to the marathon, my Sauconys. Here’s my favorite shot of those, just for old-time’s sake.

Road to the Marathon Feet: 10k (that's me on your left)

Road to the Marathon Feet: 10k (that

So here I am, living in Super Expensive Shoe Land*, 4 weeks out from my marathon, 20 and 12 milers in my very near future, and my running shoes, my dearest companions and most necessary accessory over the last 455 miles of marathon training pooped out on me.

Now, the Sauconys were okay. Not great, but okay. I never really felt like I got settled into a comfortable gait. I don’t know if this was caused by the shoes or what, but my left quad did something it has never done before. It hurt! I had to stop to stretch it three times. I also walked a couple other times because other parts were hurting, but none like that quad. It actually made me want to quit and just walk home. But I ain’t doin that in the marathon. I’ll just push through it like I did today. (This wasn’t supposed to be a running log post, but here’s the skinny: Even with all the walking and pain, I picked up the pace during the last half-mile and sprinted the last two 10ths to finish the 10 miles in exactly 12-minute miles: 2 hours flat.)

The Pearl Izumis

The Pearl Izumis

So what now? I thought that I could wait until after the marathon to buy new shoes–I mean, why change a winning horse in mid-stream? I emailed the newest running store in Springfield** last week to see if they had my shoes in my size and no response, but I’ve also been shopping eBay and Amazon, I have finally decided to go with a Saucony shoe this time around. The Pearl Izumis just don’t seem to be as durable as the Sauconys. I really would like to try some of the other big names, like Brooks and Mizuno, plus Rob has been lovin’ his Nike Frees, but this is not, I repeat not the time for stepping out on a limb. Good bye, Pearl Izumi SynchroFloats. You served me well.


*Not only can we not find real running shoes for less than €110 (that’s $162, folks!) in any stores in Gießen, but eBay.de doesn’t have my shoes at all.
**Thanks to Sarah (via Other Sarah) who told me about Starting Block. I am pretty dedicated to Ridge Runner Sports***, but they don’t sell Pearl Izumis, and their Saucony prices aren’t competitive with the likes of eBay and Amazon.
***Sarah, I think I just found your next project, should you ever retake that one class where you had to redesign a web site.

When You Don’t Want To, You Gotta

Today’s 12-mile run almost didn’t happen. I already didn’t run yesterday because I had an upset stomach since after the 20 miler on Sunday (but I’ll be making that one up tomorrow). I just wasn’t feeling like running today, but I’m 31 days out from my marathon and skipping a run so close to my first ever 26-point-frickin-2 mile run just doesn’t sound good. Plus, I had FrayedLaces’ mantra in my head (see #2), so I laced up my Pearl Izumis and hit the road.

The first three miles sucked. I plodded along, turning my watch from stopwatch to the time so I wouldn’t feel that pressure. I reasoned with myself: Maybe I could just run the 7 I was supposed to do yesterday (but I just went to the store and bought gels for today); or the 10 we’re scheduled to do on Friday. Maybe I’ll just walk whenever I need to, at least getting the mileage in for the day. That’s better than not running, right?

Then something I just read popped into my head. Amy over at Runner’s Lounge posted last week on managing the middle miles (which I also blogged about), and some of her advice was to “Run for a week, but completely unassociated with my event.” So I just told myself that this run is not for training. It’s because I love to run. The only part that was going to be “training” was taking my gels every 4 miles.

It was mentally rough, and some pain was shooting up and down my right leg, hip to ankle. So I walked three times, for a total of 3 1/2 minutes within the first 3 miles.

And then something happened at mile 3. I don’t know what it was, but it just got easier. And that was half-way up The Hill! Here are some nuggets from today’s run.

  • Saw a runner mom with a gentle hand on her son’s back, pushing him on his bike up The Hill. There are several places I call “recovery areas” with are relatively flat, and she’d take her hand off until The Hill started again. Precious.
  • Saw a red lizard, and it excited me because David just posted a picture on Facebook of him and a cool Horned Lizard, and thought it would be cool to see a lizard of my own. But it was just a leaf laying the right way so it looked like a lizard. :(
  • Right as I come out of the forest near Watzenborn-Steinberg, I run past a huge row of double-stacked hay rolls. When I run past them, the smell reminds me of the times we spent in Gerster with Mom’s family, on Uncle Harve and Aunt Oleva’s farm, Traveler, Billy Jo teaching me to ride a 4-wheeler.
  • And a not-so-happy nugget: A very sharp pain hit my left foot with about a mile left. I took a minute to rub it and stretch it, then I ran carefully. When I got home and took off my shoes, it hurt really bad. I’ve got it wrapped right now. Let’s hope it doesn’t progress any further.

Tuesdays with Linden’s Favorite Links | 26 August 2008

This week’s list is a little short. I found a funny headline, a runner’s prayer, and foods I should be eating. Enjoy!

I’m only sharing this link from my home-town newspaper because the title cracks me up. So the friends’ head is going to be the consultant, huh? Which friend? and what about the body?
Funny! Thanks to Kevin who mentioned this Runner’s prayer in his latest blog post. I have needed this prayer in the last few months. It’s a great reminder of the good and bad of running.
Most of the items on this list are a little… weird, but I think I could incorporate some of them into my diet. I recently discovered that I like beets.

Berlin Marathon Training in Stadtwald Giessen: 5 Weeks Out

This week was really good! I don’t know if it’s because I had two full days of rest between last weeks admittedly “short” long run (13 miles), or if I was just pushing myself extra hard for some reason, but my mid-week runs were all done at a pace of less than 12-minute miles.

Another reason that this was a good week? A huge milestone: I ran 20 miles, at one time, wasn’t hurting the whole time, and I could still walk afterward! I can do another 6.2 miles on top of that, right? You bet!

I do still have some, uh, “issues” to figure out. Like how to avoid or deal with the stinkier side of running. See the notes on the 20 mile for more detail, but this is your warning…

Tuesday, 2008

run type: training run
route: Seltersweg to the 1-mile marker in Stadtwald Giessen and back
feeling: :)
time: 56:18
distance: 5 miles
pace per mile: 11:18
additional notes: That pace includes 1 minute of walking to work out some inside hip (groin) pain, but I made up for it by really pushed the last mile or so (even passed a guy!) for a pretty strong time, my best in probably a month! It was overcast so I didn’t wear my sunglasses today* and it made me friendlier

Wednesday, 2008

run type: training run
route: Seltersweg to the 1-mile marker in Stadtwald Giessen, down to the Blue Arrow, out to the… uh, I don’t remember….
feeling: :)
time: 1:59.38
distance: 10 miles
pace per mile: 11:54
additional notes: I took PowerBar gels at 4 and 7.5ish miles. I had to walk 7 times: five 1-minute and one 90 second ease-the-pain walks, plus one 2-minute walk for a gel (I ran through the last gel). Plus I had to take a pit stop. That means when I was running, I was running.

Thursday, 2008

run type: training run
route: Seltersweg to the 1-mile marker in Stadtwald Giessen
feeling: :)
time: 54:59
distance: 5 miles
pace per mile: 11:00
additional notes: When I run slower, I notice the pain more. When I run faster, I just focus on my breathing. There’s pain, but I don’t notice it.

Sunday, 2008

run type: long run
route: Seltersweg to 2-mile marker in Stadtwald Giessen, down to the Blue Arrow, out to Watzenborn-Steinberg, back to the railroad tracks and straight on the Hut Route to the Witch’s Hut and back to the Blue Arrow, back out to Watzenborn-Steinberg, back to the railroad tracks, straight on the Hut Route to the 1/2-mile marker, and home!
feeling: :)
time: 4:15.54
distance: 20 miles
pace per mile: 12:48
additional notes: I would call this a shitty run**. I really wanted to do this in less than 4 hours, but it just wasn’t meant to be. I walked twice for a total of 2 1/2 minutes and took a pit stop within the first 2 miles (that darn hill!), but pretty much ran the rest of the time. Took gels every 4 miles. I only walked through the 8-mile gel and ran through all the rest. The time killer for this run was, well, the runs. Hit me at about mile 14 and then again at 16. Really, not cool. I think I might have to try droppin’ the E***.


Total Weekly Mileage: 40 miles
Total Minutes: 486 minutes
Overall Mileage: 300.7 miles
Overall Time: 61.33 hours
*I always wear my sunglasses. They’re like my superhero goggles.
**And I mean that literally, not figuratively. If you want figurative, I’m going with “cloudy.”
***Just in case you don’t read Nitmos’s post, “E” here refers to Ex-Lax, not acid.

Go Sarah!

Everyone go over and cheer on Sarah! Leave her some comments on her blog or on her Facebook profile. Tomorrow she runs her first triathlon, the Tiger Tri. She’ll swim 300 meters, transition, then a 12 mile bike, then a second transition, and then she’s off to her 3.1 mile (5k) run!

Sarah has been training long and hard for 10 weeks and the big day is finally here. She’s need all our encouragement right now!

Go Sarah! We’re all cheering for you! I believe in you and I know you are going to make a great showing at your very first triathlon!

Take it and Run Thursday: Middle Miles

This is my first time to hit these “middle miles” and so far they are being good to me. It was the early part of the training when I wasn’t using PowerGels correctly and drinking enough water during the runs when it was hard for me. But I still get a little a lot weak in the knees thinking about me, me!, running more than 13 miles. I ran 17 two weekends ago, and on Sunday, I’m running my first 20 miler ever. And Runner’s Lounge wants to know how I am managing?

I read all the running blogs I can the day before and the day of my long run. Heading about other runners’ struggles and how they are coping, reading about amazing successes inspires me and makes me want to run. So today, in honor of Take It and Run Thursday and the running bloggers who probably don’t know they’re helping me, I’m going to share their sites with you.


Kevin in Texas posts regularly about running, his adorable son, and occasionally, writing. Kevin and I both started training for our upcoming marathons at about the same time (he’s running the White Rock Lake Marathon in December), so we’ve been encouraging each other during the training. Kevin in a lot faster than me, and it is inspiring to read about his efforts to continue improving his speed while training for his marathon. (I’ve promised myself that I’ll do some speed training once I’ve completed The Big One.)

Run, Zuzana, Run

I’ve mentioned Zuzana Tomas, Olympic marathoner, several times in the past few weeks, but she deserve mention again on this list. Tomas shared her pre-race jitters so honestly on her blog, and coming from a frickin’ Olympian! they helped me to realize that even really awesome runners have the same butterflies that I do. Her marathon wasn’t easy, thanks to a hamstring cramp, but I still found strength from her account of pushing through that pain to cross the finish line after 26.2 miles in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Now when I’m experiencing pain, I draw from Tomas’s example of mental and physical strength and push through.


FrayedLaces in Hawaii has done some pretty amazing things, like finishing a marathon after bringing her fractured pelvis to a full-on broken one during the marathon, like planning on running a 10-mile race and instead running a marathon on a volcano (and taking 3rd place out of the women!). She’s fast and has determination. Just like with Tomas, when I’m hurting (and don’t think it isn’t anything broken or seriously strained), I think exotic Hawaiian thoughts, leis, running on volcanoes and find strength. Plus, I’ve hopefully learned an important lesson from FrayedLaces: take serious pain seriously and have it checked out or spend some serious time on crutches.

I’ll Run for Donuts

Topher in the Kansas City area (where I grew up!) likes running and donuts! One of the main reasons I started running and doing for longer distances is the food: When you run 10 miles, you can afford a few extra calories without seeing it on the hips. Topher is also training for his first marathon, the Kansas City Marathon in October. Since he hasn’t run a marathon before, Topher is hitting the same type of milestones I am, plus, his blog is funny. (And since I keep forgetting to show you this, Toper, check out this picture I took for you while in Berlin!)


Even though Vanilla hasn’t actually run a marathon yet, Vanilla inspires me more through his humor. Vanilla makes me laugh with every blog post. Even the witty repartee between Vanilla, Nitmos, and Viper makes me giggle at my computer screen. Here are a few of my favorite Vanilla posts.
The 9 Types of Runs: Runs to shoot for and runs to avoid
Pick-up Lines for Runners: Need a date and looking for a fit man or woman? This post is sure to help.
The Dual Runner Family: Marriage advice and playing the race card from Vanilla? Who woulda thunk it?
Set Bowels to Liquefy I love a good poop joke, and Vanilla certainly delivers. Plus, lately, running has been giving me the runs, so this is hitting extra close to home.

Morgan Gets Thin

For some reason, running with the goal of losing weight has never been a big motivator for me. I always ran with a race goal or a clothing-size goal. But when we moved to Germany, I lost 10 pounds before I even realized they were gone. It wasn’t running related, just a change in lifestyle. And that’s what Morgan in Kansas City has done. She used to be “the big girl” but one day decided she didn’t want that title anymore. Since May 1, 2007, she “started eating less, eating better, and moving more” and lost 100 pounds! In her blog, she charts her struggles with food, struggles which I also share, allbeit on a lesser degree. I have always known that I don’t eat like I should for reasons other than being hungry, control most often being the main item missing from my plate, so it is reassuring to read of someone else with that struggle.

More than I am reassured by my shared struggle with food (although hers is much more difficult), I am inspired by her resolve. She shares the dark, unsuccessful days, but also continues to report the successes.

Sarah Jo Austin

Sarah is my running partner. Well, she was my running partner when we lived on the same continent. And on Saturday, she will compete in her first triathlon. Sarah’s dedication and passion for running has always rubbed off on me and it continues to do so over the miles through her blog, the comments she leaves on mine, and emails. I couldn’t do it without her.

I can’t end this post without mentioning that there are so many other friends and family who continually encourage me through emails, Facebook, and Twitter; it’s not only these bloggers who keep me going when the going itself is rough. It amazes and moves me that people all over the world, most of whom I’ve never met, touch my life and keep me running when the going gets tough, steep, or painful.