If you told me 6 years ago that I would be writing about my running journey, I probably would have laughed at you. I am not a runner, never have been a runner. When I was working in the city as a personal trainer, I ran the Race to Wrigley 5K and the Shamrock Shuffle 8K. I didn’t really train for either race. I would just hop on the treadmill at work once in a while. It was fun, I was youngish, and I hadn’t been diagnosed with arthritis yet. I did Crossfit for a while, but it was too tough on my shoulders. Kettlebells was my next workout love, but I didn’t have the strength in my wrists to stick with it. When I started walking and jogging with a baby stroller and the dog, I found it wasn’t too as bad on my lower body joints as the other exercise modalities had been on my upper body joints.
In 2015, a friend and I were talking about the Ragnar Relay Chicago 2016 race. It is now the Ragnar Midwest Road race, they have even reversed the course and don’t run in Chicago itself anymore. It was summer and I decided 10 months was an appropriate amount of time to prepare. I started listening to podcasts as I hit the road. Along the way, I found 10 friends, plus Nicole to join my team. Actually, we had to replace several runners along the way, and we recruited 2 people to be our dedicated drivers. It was a stressful process as a first timer. It didn’t stop Nicole and I to continue running a new Ragnar every year, I highly recommend the whole experience. So far, we have also done So Cal, Nashville, and we did Reach the Beach as an ultra with 6 runners on 6 legs.
As I started planning out my training, I realized that the Chicago Hot Chocolate 2015 was a perfect time for me to try a 15K race. I ran that race in crossfit nanos with whatever outfit I pulled out of my closet the nite before. Luckily, it was my first year so I was in a later corral for my start time. It also wasn’t a very cold race day. I had been diagnosed with osteoarthritis in my knees, and big toe, as well as psoriatic arthritis in my back. Unfortunately, I hadn’t really developed a good regime to control the arthritis yet. My right knee was flared up by about mile 7. If you have ever done the Hot Chocolate in Chicago, the last couple miles has a couple of uphill stretches. Those weren’t my issue, the going down the hill after I went up that gave my knee fits. I realized I would have to train with more hills, to make sure my leg muscles were strong enough to handle running downhill.
After the race, I did switch to Nike Frees for my running. I liked the minimal support of the nanos, but I needed a more flexible sole. Nike Frees were my go to for a couple of years. I have since switched to Vibrams for most my runs. You may have heard Vibrams referred to as the 5 finger shoes, as the shoes separate the toes. The women’s V-run is the ones I run in. Vibram makes wool socks, which are great for the colder fall and spring days. In the winter, I have found that the separation of my toes is too much to keep my feet warm, even with wool socks. This means in the winter months, I go back to my Nike frees. The ones I have this year don’t have laces, which has been a game changer for me. My Vibrams don’t have laces either, and needing to take gloves off to tie my shoes was always such a hassle. I will say that I went from the nanos directly to the Nike Free. The transition to Vibrams was a process. Like running a quarter or half mile loop by my house, stopping at home to change, and then finishing my run. I have seen that you should take 10 weeks to transition to running in Vibrams. I did it closer to 8 weeks, but I was already wearing minimalist shoes. I did take about 6 months to transition to wearing them all day, and not just for running.
Clothes Make a Difference
When I started running, I had tank tops and capris for the summer. Then I wore thermal shirt with a hoodie and 2 pairs of pants in the winter. I also had a couple of supportive bras. If they were dirty, I wore 2 of my less supportive bras. When I started dancing with L-Theory Collective, I had to purchase some new biker type shorts. Talk about game changer on my runs. I had been running in typical running shorts, while my legs are not big, the longer cut was so much more comfortable. Now, you are most likely to find me in my Athleta shorts and athletic tank tops during the summer. Athleta also makes amazing cold temp pants, I am partial to the Rainier tight. There may be multiple pairs and colors in my drawer. I also wear a cold weather base layer now, as opposed to the thermal shirts. Don’t get me wrong, thermal is warm, but they are not wicking any sweat away. Speaking of wicking sweat away, they make undies for that too, and Under Armor is my go to for them. I mentioned earlier, I have some smart wool socks that I wear when it’s cold. If it is wet and cold, I prefer a pair of thin compression socks with regular athletic socks on top. This way, my feet stay a little drier. When I’m in my Vibrams, I have some athletic toe socks and some wool toe socks, depending on the weather. The shoes are machine washable, and have some venting holes on top. I go out in no socks if it is raining and warm.
Support for the Girls
Yes, I labeled this so boys can scroll to the next heading. I was talking with a friend recently about how different each person’s body is shaped, and even doing the same exercise as someone else does not give you the same shape as them. If you have ever seen me in person, you know I have some chicken legs. My legs and butt are the first thing to decrease in size when my weight goes down. For the most part, my chest never changes size. My chest is a very full D cup, however my ribcage girth keeps my band size a small. When I first started my working out journey with weight loss, I was wearing a Playtex 18 hour bra (the one that came in the box at JC Pennys) with a sports bra that didn’t have individual cup coverage on top. The first one held them up and separate, the second one offered a little compression. I have a few different ones that are so much better now. A couple of my favorite brands/types are the Victoria Secret Knockout Maximum Support Front Close and the Athleta Glory 2.0.
I have mostly had longish hair. When it was shorter, I would use a headband to hold it back. The scrunchii kid ones had good grippers to keep my fly aways in place. With longer hair, I prefer braids. My go to is pig tail braids, and sometimes I do a single braid. In the hot months, it feels better to have less hair on my neck, and I don’t always like the headache from a pony tail. The braid also helps in all weather to control the amount of knots I get as I run. I have had several gators for way longer than I knew their name. I like to fold them as ear warmer/headband style when its a little chilly. I also like them on my forehead when I need to wear a headlamp. If I’m running a little slower, it is super windy, or it is below 20 degrees, I prefer a hat. I have three I rotate through, one is from Fabletics, one the Shamrock Shuffle race, and the third is from the Hot Chocolate race. When it is windy or chilly, I also wear the gator as such. I pull it up just under my eyes and tuck it into my shirt, even my mock turtle neck base layer shirts.
One of my favorite sayings is, Don’t quit when you are tired, stop when you are finished. That really resonates with me because our brain does try to tell us that we can’t keep going, but really we can! In 2015, I was listening to podcasts as I ran. It was a great way to take in some new knowledge and kind of distract me from that fact I was running. As I started running more than walking or jogging, I realized I was struggling to keep a good pace. Some podcast hosts spoke slow enough that I found I could listen to them at 1.5 speed. Their speaking cadence increased, which in turn increased my speed. When I was running on a heart rate training plan, I was able to listen to audiobooks and podcasts. If my training is based on speed or time, I turn on some music with a quicker beat instead.
Many people are extrinsically motivated. They are best motivated and held to achieving goals when the accountability is someone other than themselves. I am very much intrinsically motivated, the goal must be my idea and I must be accountable to myself. Due to this, joining a running group or having a running partner is not what keeps me on track. I love running with others, especially when they push me to run further or faster. It’s just that signing myself up for a race and creating my own training plan gets me to go out and run more than knowing my team is logging miles. If you are more extrinsically motivated, I encourage you to find a running group. I belong to both Moms Run This Town and the ZOOMA Run Club. I have met up with MRTT for in person training and we have participated in some fun challenges. With ZOOMA, the organizer posts weekly themes and daily challenges to keep everyone engaged. Make sure you are setting yourself up for success when it comes to internal and external motivation.
Going the Distance
I have ran one 13.1 mile race and two 13.1 mile training runs. Which doesn’t really quantify me as a distance runner. My race experience was mostly 5Ks. I was looking for a new fitness challenge, so when Nicole mentioned the Ragnar Relay, I loved the idea. With a team of 12 for the 200ish mile race, each runner has 14-26 miles, over 3 legs. As I mentioned above, I didn’t get a push to maintain my pace because my teammates were in the van waiting for me. I had to dig a little deeper, I was proving myself to myself. I like having a playlist of “hype songs” to listen to when the going gets tough in a race. Songs like Pink!’s Raise Your Glass and Black Eyed Peas Boom Boom Pow both have rotation space in that playlist. When it comes to finishing strong, I respond to the adrenaline of race day. I love the energy and excitement at a start line, even when I know I am not going to place as a finisher. Even when I ran 12 minute mile training runs at 4 am, as I listened to audiobooks, I would still race at a sub 10 minute mile pace. Every day will never have that race day feeling though. I don’t have any stats or research, but I know my meditation practice has helped me in my running. The practice of meditation is not emptying the mind, but more of acknowledging thoughts without dwelling on them. When I am in the middle of a rough run, it’s not that the run becomes amazing, but I can acknowledge the suck and move on from it. Get lost in my music, focus on my breathing, or count my steps.
I first started running and walking at intervals that felt comfortable. Eventually, I followed a couch to 5K program. Next, I moved to the couch to 10K program. Polar offers running programs to follow, so then I started working on the polar programs. It focuses on heart rate training. I did a 10K program, then a half marathon. After that, I created my own training plan, still utilizing heart rate training. For almost a year now, I have been working on improving my speed. Last year was some distance, and some speed work, just making sure I made time to run. I would firm up my mileage around virtual races. In October, I participated in a 120 mile virtual race around Hawaii. We had 6 weeks or so to complete the distance. It overlapped with a 100 mile challenge between Thanksgiving and Christmas that I participated in. I ended the year having done 4 virtual ragnars and over 450 miles on the year. For 2021, my plan is a little different. My goal is 750 miles ran this year, so I am shooting for at least 3 miles a day, 5 days a week, for 50 weeks. This will give me the opportunity to create the habit of more consistently running. As spring comes back around, I will adjust my goal to include races or fastest mile. Some background, I currently am running anywhere from a 9:50 to a 10:20 mile speed, so I am by no means a speed demon.
Running Must Haves
I have spoken before about how I don’t run with anything but my phone. For better or worse, I am do not like running with water. I will say that running Ragnar Chicago was a problem when I had to do a long leg, in burning 90 plus degree midday sun and sticky humidity without a running water bottle. I just ran with a regular bottle in my hand, and it was super cumbersome. Hydration is key, and I do make sure to pre hydrate before race day, or even a long training run day. The sloshing in my belly just doesn’t feel good while I run. I do like having chapstick on me, at all times. Nothing worse than lips feeling chapped, wind burnt, or sun burnt as you’re running. I did eventually start wearing a barefoot belt, so I could stash my phone, chapstick, and occasionally gloves. When I trained for the half marathon, I bought a belt that had a spot to hold 2 little water bottles. Most days, I don’t even bring the bottles. It needs to be really hot and a long run for me to bother. Kleenex is helpful in the winter, and now I always bring a mask with me, just in case. If you’re running at dusk, dawn, or middle of the night, in addition to a reflective vest, I love my Night Runner 270 shoe lights. I wear sunglasses more days than not, and I have been very happy with the Goodr brand. They are light weight and don’t normally fog. When I have my gator on, I do change how I put the glasses on my head, so that they don’t fog too bad.
If you are already someone who runs, I’d love to hear what you would add has been important on your journey. If you are thinking about running, what do you think was most helpful here?