Brandon Mercado is one of the kids on the Spanish River Cross Country and Track teams that I’ve truly enjoyed coaching. He is not only a dedicated runner, but a great, kind and respectful kid. He and his best friend Ramiro Melendez or “Romo” that I have also gotten to know this year have been working toward a huge goal – an 1800 mile run from Florida to Michigan. Their story is inspirational and I am proud to be a witness to it.
Please find a fantastic article from the Palm Beach Post, which features the boys, their mentor Brian Thomas and much more! Enjoy and thanks to the Palm Beach Post and Willie Howard for writing such a worthy piece.
Two former Okeeheelee Middle School students, their track coach and three other members of the Road Warriors running team are preparing to run 1,800 miles from Greenacres to Michigan in June to raise money for colon cancer patients.
The two former Okeeheelee Middle students, Brandon Mercado and Ramiro Melendez, persuaded their coach and science teacher, Brian Thomas, to organize the long-distance run after hearing of a charity run from Michigan to St. Augustine that Thomas did in 2002.
Mercado and Melendez have since become competitive runners for their high school teams. Both are graduating this month, one of Thomas’ prerequisites for participating in the multi-state run.
“We stuck with it and showed him passion,” said Mercado, 18, who ran track and cross country for Spanish River High School and wants to become a physical therapist.
The other members of the Road Warriors team are Stephanie Schreiber, Thomas’ friend from Michigan; Ricky Montez of Palm Beach Gardens; and Mattie Maley of Lantana.
Thomas and members of the Road Warriors team will present their story to the Wellness Promotion Task Force at 3:30 p.m. Thursday at the Palm Beach County School District headquarters .
“This shows how passionate teachers influence our children,” said Paula Triana, co-chair of the Wellness Promotion Task Force. “He goes above and beyond.”
Okeeheelee Middle Principal David Samore said Thomas and other male teachers serve as mentors for boys at the school through a program called Bridges.
“There is no question in my mind that Brian Thomas is a life-changer for some kids,” Samore said. “This is a man who will put himself out there if the cause is a worthy effort.”
The Road Warriors plan to begin their run at Okeeheelee Middle on the morning of June 9.
They’re using their website, roadwarriorscorp.org, to raise money for the 1,800-mile trip and for the Colon Cancer Alliance, which uses donations to help patients with expenses as well as prevention awareness.
So far, they’ve raised $7,500 from private donations and the sale of T-shirts and wrist bands.
Running as a relay team, the Road Warriors plan to average 80 miles a day while moving north through eight states to their destination in Thomas’ hometown of Lake Orion, Mich.
They hope to arrive by June 30 and will post updates on Facebook along the way.
Okeeheelee Middle student Tyler Monsour is selling bracelets and donating a portion of the proceeds to the Road Warriors – an example of the ripple effect the run is having on Okeeheelee students.
Mercado and Melendez – who ran for Palm Beach Central – chose to support the colon cancer organization with donations raised through the long-distance run after seeing Okeeheelee Middle librarian Julie Greene recover from stage-3 colon cancer and start running half-marathons six months later.
“Brian and his young Road Warriors were always there with messages that helped me through training for my first half marathons,” Greene wrote in a letter on the Road Warriors’ website. “When I found out they planned on running from Florida to Michigan to raise money for colon cancer, I was honored.”
Wow. It’s an amazing feeling to be back! It’s been 12 years since I was at the Florida High School Track & Field State Championships and it is great to be back! The energy of the fans and crowd, the friendliness of the officials, the enthusiasm of the parents and coaches, and of course the impressiveness and drive of the athletes is unmatched in my mind.
I am of course back now in a different position than I was 12 years ago but enjoying the experience nonetheless. Last time I was an athlete. In 1999, a two-time state champion in the 1600 and 3200 meter races; in 2000, a defending state champion (I didn’t repeat but did okay in the final races, medaling in both). This time around I am a coach. Coach to a high school senior, Nick, who is competing in tonight’s large school division 3200 meter race.
The experience and energy of the atmosphere here is the same – it’s excitement, it’s passion and it’s great athletics that I’m honored to be a part of! It truly makes you want to be better, work harder, and race more. I personally think this meet is going to serve as a great kick-off for a long summer of training and mileage. Because if seeing one female athlete (high school senior) race and WIN the 1600, 800 and 3200 (in amazing times) all in one night doesn’t get your heart pumping and wanting to compete, run, and win…than few other things will!
You can meet some of these same athletes at FLRunners.com, and see their amazing races, post-race interviews, etc. I think you’ll be motivated to be the best athlete you can be just the same…
I am a big fan of massages. I go for them pretty regularly – well at least I try to. I know I should go more and am told that by my masseuse each time I show up. The knots in my back and shoulders seem to get worse and I am reminded that de-stressing, more water, stretching and more regular massages are the only answers. Each time I smile and promise I will schedule more but it is tough to get there with such a busy schedule. I mean it’s not like I don’t want to go! If I had my way – I’d be on the massage table at least twice a week!
But back to the purpose of this post. Lots of massage locations are offering special packages and discounts for summer and specifically Mother’s Day. So regardless if you are a mom or not, take advantage and get one! I personally recommend the amazing massage team at the Boynton Beach Chiropractic & Sports Rehabilitation Institute. I’ve had personal experience there and the experience was fantastic and most importantly RELAXING! They are offering 25% off hour-long massages just in time for Mother’s Day so call the office today and purchase one for you or the “mom” in your life. They are located in the Canyon Town Center shopping area in West Boynton Beach (Boynton Beach Blvd, just west of the Turnpike). The office number is 561-364-4111 and the website is DrDavidRudnick.com. Tell them I sent you!
And if you still need a reason to go for a massage, check out this great article written by Madeline Vann, MPH for EveryDayHealth.com:
Massage And Emotional Wellness
Massage can provide stress relief for just about anyone, from preterm babies to the elderly. Yet the benefits of massage go beyond stress relief. Moderate-pressure massage for as little as 15 minutes may offer relief from depression, anger, and anxiety.
“It’s never fun to let stress bring you to your breaking point! Just as we take our cars in for regular tune-ups, we too need maintenance,” says massage therapist Kristen Sykora, LMT, owner of Harmony Healthcare Associates and Hands Down Physical Arts, Inc. in Wantagh, NY. “Massage therapy decreases the amount of stress in the body by [relaxing] muscles, flushing out the waste products from the muscles, and increasing the ‘feel-good’ hormones.”
Massage Therapy and Stress Relief: Emotional Health Benefits
If you’ve been in the hands of a good massage therapist, you already know how your body responds with stress relief. But the physiological response goes deeper than blissful relaxation.
“Massage therapy can improve a person’s emotional health by reducing stress and stress hormones; by increasing serotonin and thereby reducing depression and pain; and by enhancing immune function and thereby reducing bacterial and viral illnesses,” explains Tiffany Field, PhD, director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine in Miami, Fla.
Field’s research team has shown that massage relieves stress for preterm infants in the neonatal intensive care unit. Three 15-minute full-body massages each day for five days lead to a significant reduction in stress-related behaviors in this vulnerable population. Massage has also been shown to help preterm babies gain weight faster.
Research has also shown that:
Six 30-minute massages over a two-week period can ease pain and improve mood among people with advanced cancer.
Massage can help reduce depression in both children and pregnant women. As little as 15 minutes of massage on a regular basis may be beneficial to mood.
Massage therapy is helpful for trauma victims. “Aside from physical pain, victims of trauma, past or present, will often hold memories of such events in their muscle tissues. By receiving massage from a trained professional, one can get back in touch with their body and be able to access the held emotions,” says Sykora.
Massage is not just a way to gain stress relief — you can reduce many of the other unpleasant emotions in your life as well. “Many studies show that massage therapy reduces negative mood states like depression, anxiety, and anger and their associated stress hormones,” says Field.
Massage Therapy and Stress Relief: Finding a Massage Therapist
Most massage therapists can provide the kind of massage you will need to help with depression, anger, anxiety, and stress relief. “Moderate pressure is the key factor for massage therapy to be effective. Any type of massage therapist who uses moderate pressure should be able to help with mood management,” says Field.
“We often go through our day without any recognition of how our bodies are responding to the stress we experience,” says Sykora, who advises regular massage sessions as well as a meditation practice for optimal stress management. “Massage treatments give us a time-out in order for us to access the deeper layers of our well-being, allowing the therapist to unwind the holding patterns in our tissues.”
So don’t be afraid to indulge in a massage every now and then — it’s good for your emotional well-being and your physical health.
Wondering what the most common injury that I see these days on our high school running team? Shin splints! Almost everyone goes through them at some point – some much worse than others and some facing the pain for a much longer time period than others. The “shin splint” has also, a result, become the catch-all term for lower leg pain that occurs below the knee either on the front outside part of the leg (anterior shin splints) or the inside of the leg (medial shin splints).
The question is why and how to prevent/lessen them once they’ve hit.
I’ll start out with the why:
A primary culprit causing shin splints is a sudden increase in distance or intensity of a workout schedule. This increase in muscle work can be associated with inflammation of the lower leg muscles, those muscles used in lifting the foot (the motion during which the foot pivots toward the tibia). Such a situation can be aggravated by a tendency to pronate the foot (roll it excessively inward onto the arch). Also, a tight Achilles tendon or weak ankle muscles are also often implicated in the development of shin splints. (This is another reason that slow mileage build-up is so important for the body.
So what do do with your shins once you are feeling the pain?
Ice your shins to reduce the inflammation (or pain)! The best way, we’ve found, is getting small dixie cups and filling them with water; putting them in the freezer and once frozen take them out, rip off the lip of the cup and run the frozen cups up and down your shins for 10 minutes each. Take a break and do it again. Some people will say to stop running – but this option is unfortunately not possible for all of us! As an athlete, you need to decide how bad the pain is and whether you can push through or not. Injuring yourself worse is not a good option either.
Gently stretch your Achilles if you have medial shin splints, and your calves if you have anterior shin splints. Also, try this stretch for your shins: Kneel on a carpeted floor, legs and feet together and toes pointed directly back. Then slowly sit back onto your calves and heels, pushing your ankles into the floor until you feel tension in the muscles of your shin. Hold for 10 to 12 seconds, relax and repeat.
In a sitting position, trace the alphabet on the floor with your toes. Do this with each leg. Or alternate walking on your heels for 30 seconds with 30 seconds of regular walking. Repeat four times. These exercises are good for both recovery and prevention. Try to do them three times a day.
If you continue running, wrap your leg before you go out. Use either tape or an Ace bandage, starting just above the ankle and continuing to just below the knee. Keep wrapping your leg until the pain goes away, which usually takes three to six weeks. Other options – if the pain is excruciating – are: cross-training for a while to let your shin heal. Swim, run in the pool or ride a bike. (See my post on pool running.)
When you return to running, increase your mileage slowly. As I said, the cause of shin splints if often increasing your mileage too quickly.
Also, make sure you wear the correct running shoes for your foot type specifically, over pronators should wear motion-control shoes. Severe overpronators may need orthotics.
Have two pairs of shoes and alternate wearing them to vary the stresses on your legs.
Avoid hills and excessively hard surfaces until shin pain goes away completely, then re-introduce them gradually to prevent a recurrence.
If you are prone to developing shin splints, stretch your calves and Achilles regularly as a preventive measure.
I recently read an advertisement for a new diet program and thought I had to share…
As a runner or athlete, you know that every extra pound you carry costs time, wastes energy, stresses your joints, and affects your performance.
And you know that “dieting” doesn’t help much, either. Diets only leave you feeling weaker by starving your body of vital energy and choking off the nutrients you need for muscle growth and training improvement.
What’s worse: With diets, you run the risk of undernourishing your body and losing muscle along with fat. So what’s the answer?
Burn off excess fat, get lean and finally get to your RACING weight.
The ad happens to be for a new book by a Triathlete selling his nutrition program…It goes on to ask, could 5 or 10 lbs be standing in the way of your personal best?
WELL, the book brings up a good question and something that’s important for all athletes and especially runners. In high school, prior to my junior year, I never thought about weight. As Coach Rothman said, do the workouts, eat well and the weight will be at what it needs to be. It seemed so easy then. Junior year, however, I started packing on the pounds. I was growing up you could say. All of a sudden, I found that I needed to pay attention to what I was eating. No more sharing pints of Ben & Jerry’s with one of my teammates in the local Publix parking lot after every long run. It was during the winter of my junior year – between cross country and track – that I got my eating schedule under control. I was on a nutritional program that told me what and when to eat. It was a perfect balance of carbs, protein, fats, etc. I was eating enough that I felt energetic, yet not too much so I kept my body lean. Later on the in the spring, I ended up winning the Florida 6A Track & Field 1600m and 3200m State Championships. So you could say the program worked.
But was it easy from there? No, I definitely went through phases again through my senior year and through college of eating too much again, and then eating too little. My energy was low and my races suffered; or I was carrying an extra few too many pounds and my races suffered. The balance is tough for a lot of us. I am the first to admit it, and that’s why a program that tells you what and when to eat has always been ideal for me. It ensures that I am not eating too much and that I am most importantly not restricting too much! It also allows me to live my life and not worry about what I am eating and if I had too little or too much. Because who wants to spend their life thinking about what’s next on the menu?
Now, 12 years later since that junior year of high school, I am back on a program and enjoying it once again. I am seeing the results and I am feeling good. If you or someone in your life needs that guidance, I recommend the AdvoCare program. It’s a complete nutritional and eating plan that keeps you on schedule and on target to be strong and lean. More details here.
It’s been raining in South Florida for what feels like four days straight! And many of us refuse to be kept inside (or on a treadmill) for so many days in a row…So we go out there and run in the rain! Our clothing and shoes end up soaked (as do we)! And drying most of our belongings is pretty straightforward…right? Well, not so with our sneakers/running shoes. How do you correctly dry your running shoes after they’ve been soaked in the rain?!
Well there is a right way (see below) and a wrong way (throwing them in the dryer at high heat and hoping they don’t melt or shrink!). Here is the correct way:
Take your shoes off.
Take the insoles out (orthodics too if you use them) and stuff the shoes with newspaper. (Make sure the shoes are filled with the paper but don’t stuff in so much that you change the shape of the shoe!).
Place shoes in a warm, dry area with circulating air (near a vent, dryer, etc.) or out in the sun – as long as the rain has stopped! Back in the day, when you could fit your shoes under the refridgerator – this was a good option. Not sure you can still do that with most new kitchens.
Change the newspaper after an hour or so – and maybe a couple hours after that, depending on how wet the paper gets. (Most likely will have to do this consistently until your next run – 24 or so hours later.
This is another good reason why we should all have at least two pairs of running shoes that we alternate. It’s good overall they say…and of course for reasons like this.
Of course, if all of this work is too much for you…and you live in a really wet climate where you are constantly drying your running shoes, you may want to invest in a “shoe dryer.” Yes they have them…Here is one recommended option! The Peet Shoe Dryer
And here are some important notes I pulled out of it.
Using sophisticated technologies to examine the workings of individual neurons — and the makeup of brain matter itself — scientists in just the past few months have discovered that exercise appears to build a brain that resists physical shrinkage and enhance cognitive flexibility. Exercise, the latest neuroscience suggests, does more to bolster thinking than thinking does.
A team of researchers led by Justin S. Rhodes, a psychology professor at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois, gathered four groups of mice and set them into four distinct living arrangements. Group 1: sensual and gustatory plenty; Group 2: sensual and gustatory plenty PLUS avenues/vehicles to exercise; Group 3: empty space just standard food, etc.; and Group 4: no sensual and gustatory plenty, but ability/vehicles to exercise. And in the end? It turned out that the toys and tastes, no matter how stimulating, had not improved the animals’ brains. Only one thing mattered: whether they had a running wheel! Now that’s persuasive!
And here is why: Exercise though seems to slow or reverse the brain’s physical decay, much as it does with muscles.
I should add the article included much more information about the creation of new brain cells, etc. and whether this is happening…and the debate over they type of exercise needed (walking, jogging, running). Regardless, it’s another reason for us all to lace up those shoes and get out there running!
As mentioned in the Diet and Health section, I decided two weeks ago to get my eating schedule under better control, clean up my food (less oils, fats, sugars) in and effort to improve my skin/reduce acne breakouts, and improve my energy levels with less coffee and more vitamins! I started the AdvoCare 24-Day Challenge after it was recommended by numerous friends and business colleagues and promised I’d share updates on how the program was treating me. Well here is my first update – on day 11 of the program and right after the first 10-day cleanse:
The first ten days went by very quickly and I felt satisfied. I did not have any coffee (for those of you that know me – this is a huge win in itself!); stocked up my fridge with organic vegetables, fruits and meats (chicken, eggs and salmon): and felt pretty comfortable following it all. After a few days – you get used to the schedule of when to have foods, vitamins, supplements, etc. and it becomes the norm.
My exercise routine remained the same as it was prior to the start of the AdvoCare 24-Day Challenge. (I will add that I ran a comfortable 65 quarter on the track half-way through the 10-days but I can’t really attribute that to the diet!)
I lost a total of 5 lbs; 5 inches on my belly; and a quarter inch on my hips. I was in pretty good shape before so didn’t have a lot to lose but I can 100% see my abs better – which is always a trouble spot for me. I need to get my body fat percentage measured again so that I can report that accurately.
And here is the proof! (Please ignore the awful tan lines from running!)
Let me know if you want to also try out the 24-Day Program as I’m a new distributor! Or visit my AdvoCare website here.
With my big 30th Birthday coming up tomorrow…I thought it was appropriate to write a blog post on running and aging and how they actually do go together. And it’s what gives me hope as I continue to train and compete. I mean there has to be something to look forward to, right? So here it is:
According to experts, female long distance runners typically peak in their late 20s and early 30s. See exhibit A:
At the 2008 NYC marathon there were 41 elite women. There average age was 33, Two thirds were 30 or older and nearly a half were 35 and older. Some of the famous names were Paula Radcliffe 34, the eventful winner, Gete Wami 33 and Catherine Ndereba 36, the fourth place finisher.
And it is not just NYC marathon, just look at this list of 2008 marathon winners;
2008 Beijing Olympic marathon- Constantina Tomescu of Romania, 38 Years young.
2008 Berlin Marathon – Irina Mikitenko, 36 years young.
2008 Chicago marathon – Lidiya Grigoryeva, 34 years young.
Most recently, the 2012 Marathon Olympic Trials in Houston, TX results:
First Place: Shalane Flanagan (age 30)
Second: Desiree Davila (age 28)
Third: Kara Goucher (age 33) — also a mom
I’ve also heard that women often peak post child birth. The questions then become: Are women peaking in these longer distances because of age or because we typically are not competing in such long distance races (as the half and full marathons) until post college and therefore are naturally older? And are they improving post child birth because of some endorphin released in to the system, because we can handle pain better, or just because women are often having babies around this age? Well, I went out on a search for these answers and more and learned some in the process.
According to RunningTips101.com expert resource Coach Rick Rothman, “Most of the time, endurance athletes peak ten years after they begin.” (This would make sense as many of us start freshman year of high school, which would put you at 14 or 15 years old.) He adds: “Many times, women tend to start running later in life (not always). But, there are many factors; it’s too much of a generalization to say women peak in there 30’s.”
According to Physiology of Sport & Exercise, 2nd Edition: “In general, maximal muscle strength peaks between the ages of 25 and 35. Beyond that age range, the ability to lift weight declines at a steady rate of about 1.8% per year. Of course, as with other measurements of human performance, individual strength varies considerably.” This strength peak has to correlate to running.
Another outlet explained the following: “The physical peak for most humans, in most sports, is between 25 and 35 years of age; during this peak period, the well-conditioned athlete can create a confluence of muscular strength, peak cardiovascular and oxygen transport, speed and reaction time, and mental capabilities (including the ability to deal with competitive pressures), all bound together by a desire to succeed.” I like that answer – and can 100% relate to it. As an athlete, discipline and maturity make training and competing much easier. The emotional baggage that I feel kept me from “peaking” in my high school and college years, I personally feel has since disipated. To the point that I often look back wishing I could tell myself to relax, not worry so much, and just go out there and run. I can recall Coach Rothman telling me that before a big cross country race my senior year of high school. He said “Go out there and just run, have fun.” He had a few jokes in there that I’ll leave out for now!
More interesting insight that I found from Advameg, Inc.: “For sports in which strength (both muscular strength and bone density), oxygen uptake, and cardiovascular efficiency are vital to success, the aging process may be slowed, though never halted or reversed. Since 1950, the average age of world champion distance runners in the 3-mi (5,000 m) races through to the 26-mi marathons (42.2 km) ranges between 28 and 32 years of age. From this peak of ability, runners will continue to perform at levels close to their personal best into their late 30s and early 40s; performance then declines at a rate of approximately 2% per year through age 80. Swimming, which like running places a premium on cardiovascular strength, shows a similar regression from best performance times as an athlete ages. The success of female swimmers at early ages (there have been numerous Olympic gold medals and world records set by female swimmers under the age of 20) is related to both the earlier physical maturation of female athletes, as well as the physical dynamics of the female swimmer in the water; the progressive decline in the performance of female swimmers due to age is similar to that of male swimmers. Consistent with these physiological constants, the oldest gold medalist in the history of all Olympic track and field events was Patrick McDonald, an American hammer thrower, who won the 1920 competition at age 42. The oldest Olympic track champion in the 1,500-m race was 31-year-old Albert Hill of Kenya, in 1988. Female competitors have the added variables of prospective pregnancy and child-rearing, which will remove the athlete from intense training and competition for an often-significant period. Childbirth may also change the physical shape of a female athlete, particularly in a widening of the pelvis, which may impact subsequent athletic performance.”
Which of course brings us to childbirth. Does it help or hurt female runners? As I noted earlier, third place 2012 USA Marathon Trials finisher Kara Goucher has a new baby. A great article in Time Out Chicago Kids touched on this subject:
“Research shows that there may be physiological benefits to having kids, from a tapering effect that allows chronic injuries to heal up during pregnancy to a surge in the hormone relaxin—which loosens pelvic and cervical joints for delivery, and hangs around the body after childbirth, possibly making a woman’s gait longer, smoother and more efficient. Also, pregnancy increases your blood volume, says Jim Pivarnik, Ph.D., a professor of kinesiology at Michigan State University who has studied pregnant athletes. As blood volume rises, so does red blood cell count, improving a woman’s efficiency at utilizing oxygen—which means running faster at the same effort. The problem is that all of these effects are hard to measure. (Obviously, researchers aren’t thrilled with the idea of turning preggos into lab rats.) Pivarnik estimates that any residual blood-volume benefit has diminished by about eight weeks postpartum. And you’d be hard-pressed to find a woman—even at the elite level—who’d race that soon after having a child. When it comes down to it, labor may make the most difference. Enduring hours of contractions and delivery—and sometimes C-section recovery to boot—may raise women’s pain threshold. Lincoln Square resident Jessi Merecki, a 38-year-old mom of two, says slashing 92 minutes off her pre-kiddos marathon best was due to “a combination of mental toughness from being a parent and physical toughness from childbirth.” She’s on to something, according to Pivarnik. “I would hypothesize that if being a mom is any help [to running], most of it would be mental,” he says. “Active moms may find that they’re more efficient and focused in training because they have so much more on their plates. It’s like that Yogi Berra saying, ‘90 percent of this is half mental.’ ” Read the full article here.
Post 30? Does the improvement continue?
According to RunningForFitness.org, “From the 30s onwards, a number of physical changes take place in the average person’s body. Aerobic capacity decreases, muscle mass reduces, muscle elasticity reduces, lung elasticity declines, bone density reduces, the metabolism slows, body fat increases and the immune system becomes weaker. These changes will have an adverse impact on running performance. The fall in aerobic capacity, reduced stride length, reduced leg strength, and reduced ability to store energy all contribute to deterioration in performance. In general, it is thought that running speeds over any distance deteriorate by about 1% a year from a peak at some point in the 30s; and we appear to lose aerobic capacity at about 9-10% a decade.”
Now of course that doesn’t mean older individuals can’t run…we’ve all seen the skinny, old guy in the bun huggers at the local 5K and 10K races and he seems to be doing alright. It just means that we shouldn’t expect to see many 50, 60, 70 year old marathon winners. Or better yet, expect it from ourselves. However, at age 30 there is still plenty of time for me (I hope)…and I believe I’m just hitting my 30-year-old peak marathon stride!
I just returned from a late night track meet in Coral Springs. While there I had a lengthy conversation with a parent about his daughter and how to get her moving faster. As he said, she’s been putting in the time and effort and running the distance asked of her. How do we get her faster? Not faster in terms of sprinting, but faster in her mile, two-mile and 5K races. And this I believe is a pretty common question for runners of all ages and levels. “How do you improve your pace in races? How do you drop from a 28 minute 5K runner to a 25 minute 5K runner? And/or a 22 minute 5K runner to a 19 minute 5K racer? The answer is pretty simple. Pick up your training pace!
It seems pretty simple and it in fact is. Pick up your training pace and your race pace will in turn follow. Get your body used to running 8 minute miles for distance runs and racing at a 7 or 7:30 pace will be a breeze! Now is it that simple to pick up your training pace? Of course not or everyone would do it. It takes discipline, want and some pain in the beginning. You are going to need to go beyond the comfort zone. Find a running partner, teammate, whomever, that is faster than you during training runs and stay with them. Don’t let them leave you, don’t fall behind, because by you sticking with them, you are in essence training your body to handle faster paces – during training and most importantly racing.
When I started running in high school, I was very lucky. I joined a team where there were five older girls who ran together as a pack for every single distance run. And they didn’t run as a slow pack; they were moving! I, the new freshman, wanted to stay up with them. Call it embarrassment, a need to prove myself, whatever…but I stayed up with them. At first it was impossible…but I gradually stayed on their shoulders, tucked behind their pack for longer and longer distances, until I stayed with them for entire runs day after day. And that is what allowed me to improve my times so rapidly. Would it have been easier to watch them run off together and leave me behind jogging at my own pace? Sure, but then I would have been stuck in that comfort zone forever.
I advise runners all the time to put in the effort to stay with the “faster” pack – whether it be a training run or race. Because eventually, if you try it enough, you’ll soon be a part of that pack. A more recent example is my training this past year. In the fall, I primarily ran with the girls team at an okay pace. The guys team always seemed way ahead. After the girls did not qualify to states in cross country, I was forced to run with the guys. And I struggled for the first few days. It was a whole new (and much faster) pace. But after about a week, it got easier and eventually became my new pace. A month or so later – during a weekend training run – staying up with the boys for an 8-miler felt like nothing! It was also during this time that I dropped both my half marathon time and my 5K race time (finally breaking 20 minutes after being stuck in the 20s and 21s for much of the fall road racing season)!
The aim of the game: Train your body to withstand a faster pace. And training, racing, everything will get easier!
More information on picking up your pace while running available here.