Seeing the smile on someone else's face or hearing the joy in her/his voice provides me with the greatest reward.
When I decided to become a running coach, I made this decision based on wanting to help people find the joy in running that I have experienced. Too many people think of running as a punishment, and in many ways, society has taught us this. Many coaches in other sports use running as a punishment for messing up or not performing well. This has even resulted in t-shirts being made that read "My sport is your sport's punishment."
What most people don't realize, however, is that nothing could be further from the truth. Running can be one of the most freeing experiences. It can take away the all the day's stress. It can give time to yourself to think. It can help you make new friends with similar interests, and so much more ...
Don't get me wrong, however, running is not always easy. Sometimes you simply don't feel like it, and you have to convince yourself to go. But in the end rarely does anyone say, "I really wish that I had stayed home instead of going for a run."
One of my jobs as a coach is to help people achieve this, and there is nothing better than seeing this transformation in our clients.
A perfect example of this is a client (and now a friend) who wanted to find motivation to train through the winter and to run a winter half marathon. I started to work with him one-on-one after he had been through a few Runner's Alley's training groups. We ran together and trained a couple times a week over a 12 week period. During that time, we worked on several issues, including running form, running hills and training in winter conditions.
Over the course of training for the half marathon, what happened was not simply that our client became a better runner, but he also began to embrace running and to enjoy running. At one point, we were running hills, and I provided him some coaching on how to become a better hill runner. He began to incorporate this training, and he immediately noticed the difference. He became a more confident and happier runner. There were several of these occasions, and he still reminds me of these when we run together today.
Recently I decided to go on a run for a couple hours on a Sunday morning at Mount Agamenticus in York, Maine, and he decided to come along. This wasn't a coaching run. It was simply a training run on the trails (since I run both road and trail races). He had expessed hesitancy about running the trails before, but he decided to join in and give it a chance.
The trails at Mount Agamenticus can be challenging at times. There is climbing and technical single track mixed with non-technical double track trails. Our run started off with a climb up Mount A followed by a descent and some rolling hills around the mountain.
After a couple hours, we ended back at the parking lot. And he had really enjoyed the run and the challenges that it had brought. Once again, it was great to see the smile on his face and to have introduced him to a new aspect of running.
Zosha Training can do the same for you, regardless of what you're looking to accomplish. Let us introduce you to new experiences and show you the joys of running!
Now, let's run!
A friend told me about the Eastern States 20 Mile Race last last year. After reviewing my upcoming training and race calendar, it seemed that the March 24 date would work well in my preparation for the Delaware Marathon on May 12. Both my friend and I signed up, and this would become my first ever 20 mile run.
My intention going into the run was to use it as a long slow run training day. I expected that I would run around a 9:15-9:30 pace and that it would take me about three hours and ten minutes to complete. However, I broke my training plan a little bit. I have been following the Hansons Marathon Method for my training program. This program is one of running on constantly tired legs so that you are prepared for the last miles in the marathon when most runners are hitting the infamous “wall”. For this race, I decided that I would back off my training miles a little bit (not really a full taper), so that I would be able to run on fresh legs.
Now back to the race. This was the 18th running of the Eastern States 20 Miler. It is race that traditionally starts in Kittery, Maine, just across the border from Portsmouth, NH, and runs to the Massachusetts border mostly along coastal Route 1A. Due to a new bridge being built, however, last year’s race and this year’s race both started at Portsmouth High School with a little loop through Portsmouth to add on some mileage. The weather was perfect … in the mid-40s and sunny with a light breeze.
The race is a relatively low key and loosely organized event. There were 444 runners who finished the 20 miler. There is also a half marathon that starts at the same time farther down the course, and there were 309 runners who finished the half marathon. Many of the 20 mile runners use this race as a prep race for the Boston marathon, and there were many people wearing their blue and gold BAA gear.
Let’s start off with logistics. There is no course map or directions published on the race’s website, and we received an email with a Word document with directions for the course about a week before the race. An actual course map and an elevation map would have been very helpful for many of us running the race. Personally, I like to plan and strategize while reviewing a map. Just for reference, it is a relatively flat course with some rolling hills. My Garmin showed 255 in elevation gain and 318 feet in elevation loss.
Since this was a point-to-point race and not a loop, there were buses provided for an extra $5 that runners could use to get to the start line (leaving from a meeting point in Hampton, NH) and returned to Hampton for the post-race activities. I didn’t use the bus or the bag drop. I carpooled to the start with some friends and then my family was waiting for me at the finish line. so I can’t comment on how that worked. Nor did I go to the post-race activities.
There was no pre-race bib pick-up. When we got to the high school, we got in line in the cafeteria and got our race shirts and bibs. The first thing that we noticed was that there was no chip on the bib, so this race was going to be “old school”. Given the fact that this is promoted as a Boston Marathon prep race, I thought that this was a bit odd.
With 15 minutes until the start, we decided to head the start line. The problem with this is that there was no clear indication of where the start line was located. After talking among ourselves, we guessed where it would be. As we were just about to start, someone from the race came out with a bullhorn and said that the start time would be delayed by 10 minutes because the police were not in place yet along the course.
After waiting around a little longer, we headed to the start line. We were waiting for the start and all of sudden noticed that people were starting to run. There were no pre-announcements/warnings so that we could get into our starting positions. And thus is began.
There were a smattering of police officers and volunteers along the course to guide us along the way. In terms of actual race markings, there were none. Nor were there any mile markers or pace clocks along the route. In many parts of the race, it seemed that we were all just on a big group run and that it wasn’t an organized event. The most disturbing part was the fact that we weren’t very well protected from traffic for most of the course. Since the race goes along the coast and it was a nice spring day, there was a fair amount of traffic passing by (sometimes much too close for comfort). At times, there were also disrespectful drivers angrily honking their horns at us as we ran the course.
So how did I do? As I mentioned above, I was originally planning on a 9:15-9:30 pace. I started running with a friend expecting that we’d be at a similar pace. However, we had both agreed that if one of us want to run faster that it would be OK and that each of us should run our own race to the best of our abilities.
I started off much faster than expected (which usually isn’t a good thing, especially on a long run). However, I felt good and kept it going. When I would look at my Garmin, I was typically running somewhere between a 8:30 and 8:45 pace. I was pleased with this and decided to keep it going.
I continued to push on at this pace, and I did start to feel the effects of starting a little too fast around mile 17. However, I kept on pushing and ignored the voices in my head that were telling me that I should think about stopping. A quick shot of GU Roctane helped overcome some of those voices. I managed to stay well hydrated with water and watered down Hammer gel as well as nourished with some GU Chomps, as well as the that extremely helpful packet of GU Roctane toward the end.
Along the way, I was cheered on by friends, family and a smattering of people watching the race along the route, which was a great help. As I was approaching the finish line, I was greeted by wife and daughters. My daughters decided to jump in and run along with me for a bit, which was an incredible way to end a long, hard run.
I crossed the finish line at 2:58:38, giving me an official pace of 8:56. My Garmin had me completing 20.28 miles with a 2:59:09 time (and an 8:50 pace).
At the finish line, they were marking down bib numbers and handwriting finish times. We were given a finisher’s medal (the first time that the race has given out medals) and handed a bottle of water. There was a table with some protein drinks and water, but that was it for any post-race support.
Based on the level of organization, it is hard to believe that this was it’s 18th running. However, it was a great experience along a beautiful route, and I would definitely consider running it again.
This was my first time running the Great Bay Half Marathon. I had heard about the hilly course, and I did drive most of the course prior to the race so I had the opportunity to check it out for myself.
I’ll talk a little more about the course further along, but let’s get to the basics. I originally had not intended to run this race this year; however, after the cancellation of the Half at the Hamptons in February due to the weather, we were given the opportunity to run this race for a discount so I took advantage of it.
The race is largely through the back roads of Newmarket, NH. Newmarket is a quaint New Hampshire town with a population of just over 8,000 people located in the southeastern part of the state. Since I don’t live that far away, I went to Newmarket High School on Saturday to pick up my race bib and t-shirt. This was well organized, and I was in and out very quickly.
On Sunday, my wife and daughters dropped me off as they headed over to the water station at mile 4.5 to help out the volunteers from the Coastal Athletic Association (there were five water stations throughout the course). I arrived just over an hour before start time. There was music being played, announcements being made and plenty of bathroom facilities available. The race also provided complementary bag check service since the finish line was down the road from the start line. Overall, everything was very well organized and was a welcoming experience.
The race starts on the edge of downtown and goes through a residential neighborhood before heading out of town. There is a small hill at the beginning, but nothing to be too concerned about. After heading out of town, we turned onto Dame Road, which starts off as a paved road through a residential neighborhood. This road then transitions into a hard-packed dirt road for about 3-4 miles. It is also on this road that the rolling hills became a regular part of the course.
After leaving the dirt road around mile 6, we turned back out on to the pavement and the more significant climbs and descents. Up until this point, I had been running with a friend and training partner at around an 8:44 pace. With the hills, however, I decided to dig in and up the pace. For the remainder of the race, I ran an 8:00 or just under 8:00 pace and felt great. Along this part of the course, the views began to open onto Great Bay, which was a great distraction.
Once we got closer to town, we did a quick out and back through a residential neighborhood. The most surprising part of this course is that on the map it appears that it will be quick out and back. When running it, however, it is much longer than expected. Upon leaving this neighborhood, there are a few more rolling hills and ends with one last bump up before turning into the downhill to the finish line.
At this point, I was still feeling great, so I decided to add a little kick into the finish line. Passing people going into the finish always feels great. I crossed the finish line with a net time of 1:50:02 and a pace of 8:24. This gave me a new half marathon PR by more than 1:10/mile place (I completed the Seacoast Half Marathon in November with a 9:37 pace).
The volunteers and police did an incredible job keep the streets safe and relatively traffic free. The course was well marked, and all the volunteers at the water stations were incredibly friendly and provided great support. In addition, there were pockets of musicians along the course playing instruments and singing. At one point, there also was a group of belly dancers performing. All this just was a bonus above and beyond any expectations for a half marathon.
This was definitely an enjoyable experience at a great race. I highly recommend that anyone looking to add a spring half marathon to their schedule next spring should sign up for theGreat Bay Half Marathon next April.
The Delaware Marathon took place on May 12 (Mother’s Day), 2013, in Wilmington, Delaware. The race is actually the Delaware Marathon Running Festival, which is made up of the marathon, a half marathon, and 8 person marathon relay and a 4 person marathon relay. Overall, just over 3,000 runners register for all of these events. The marathon itself has a small field, which just under 600 runners crossing the finish line this year.
This was my first marathon, so I didn’t have any expectations beyond my experiences with local half marathons. This also means that the Delaware Marathon had the opportunity to set the bar by which I will measure marathons in the future. So, let’s get to it!
I registered for the marathon in January (I’m one of those people who likes to plan ahead and commit so that I’m locked in). Once I was registered, I joined the Delaware Marathon Facebook group, which would become my main form of interaction with the race organizers, fellow marathoners and half-marathoners as well as those who had run this marathon in the past.
To my delight, the Facebook group was very active. The interactions were both informative and fun. The race organizers were very active in the group, and more importantly, they were very responsive. Many times there were responses to questions and concerns within minutes of a post. When there were concerns that may have been unique to an individual or to a small group of individuals, the race organizer offered to do whatever they could to accomodate these concerns.
The insights provided from Facebook made me realize that I made a good choice for my first marathon. I had originally been concerned about running such a small marathon since there would be less support, less cheering fans, and so on. However, the personal attention and care to details that was provided by everyone involved in this marathon clearly showed through. In addition, hearing from people who had previously run it about what a great experience it was was very encouraging.
In addition to the Facebook group, the race organizers mailed out a nice packet with an overview of the Wilmington area and things to do and see while in the area. Even though I only planned on driving down the day before, running on Sunday and driving back the same day, it was very nice to have this information.
The support continued with a few detailed emails days before the marathon to make sure that we had all the information that we needed.
The expo was held on Saturday, May 11, from 11:00 to 4:00 in Tubman Park. I woke up very early on Saturday morning and drove just over 6 hours, arriving just before the expo started. When I arrived, there already were people gathering (other than all the volunteers and race organizers who were working hard to put together all the final touches for the marathon on the following day).
The expo itself was very small (which is to be expected from an event this size) with packet and swag pick-up and a few vendors. One of the vendors to note, however, was New Balance. They were selling custom Delaware Marathon and Half Marathon shirts that had the names of all the runners for each event on the back. I did shell out the extra money to get this shirt in addition to my Delaware Marathon shirt that was part of the swag. I even ended up with the added benefit that my name is the first name on one of the columns, so it’s easy to find!
Even though the expo was small, the race organizers did a great job of getting the community involved by offering some kids’ activities. There was a fun run, Zumba and Simon Says, jump ropes, hula hoops and tug of war. All these activities brought a great sense of fun to the event, and it was great to see all the kids outside and being active. The events ended right around noon and most of the crowd dissipated. Just after this, I met my friend and training partner, who had driven down from NH the previous day. He picked up his packet and swag and then we headed back to our hotels to rest for the marathon. I stayed at one of the recommended hotels in Wilmington, and I was not disappointed.
After a night of tossing and turning, I got up around 3:30 AM to start to prepare myself for the 7:00 AM start. I had a Vegan sports protein bar as well as a Clif Mojo bar and started to hydrate. I took a quick shower and got ready. There were two shuttle buses scheduled to pick runners up and bring them to the start line. However, I decided to drive to the start line so that I could hit the road after the race.
Because I was ready and I didn’t want to sit around a hotel room, I drove to Tubman Park and arrived at the start line just after 5:00 AM. There already were some runners when I got there, and the numbers started to increase soon after. For a few minutes, there was a very light run shower, but the rain quickly went away and gave way to the sun. The weather forecast was for partly cloudy skies and temperatures in the low 60′s. It was a great day to run. The marathon started at 7:00, the half marathon at 7:05 and the relays at 7:20.
I had not driven the course, so I did not know exactly what to expect other than what I read from the race’s website as well as from the comments about the course on Facebook. The course is a double loop, so halfway through you know what to expect for the rest of the race. This can be both a blessing and a curse. Sometimes I prefer not to know what’s coming up so that my mind is not dwelling upon it. Other times, however, it’s helpful so that you can gauge your efforts accordingly.
The course is mostly through the streets of Wilmington, but there are parts of the course that go across a wooden and brick riverwalk, through the paved paths of Brandywine Park as well as a wooden foot bridge. There are also two significant hills of note. The one to be most aware of is strategically placed at mile 12 and 25. It is a mile incline and you feel every step of it.
Overall, it’s a great course. It’s not a flat, fast course, but at the same time, it is not an extremely hilly course that drains you of everything you have.
Having said that, how did I do? At a quick glance, I did not meet my expectations (I was hoping for a sub-4:00 time and maybe even sub-3:45). In the grand scheme of things, I exceeded what my expectations should have been with a 4:55 finish. Now let me explain.
Just about four weeks prior to the marathon, I was at the end of a 20-mile run when a pain in my ankle flared up and made me immediately stop running. I hobbled back to my car, rested for a day or two and then decided to go to the doctor to have my ankle examined. I was diagnosed with peroneal tendonitis. The doctor told me not to run for at least a week and even then not to run very much.
I tried running after a week, but I still couldn’t do so without significant pain (plus my ankle was still visibly swollen). For all intents and purposes, I did not run at all (a total of 6 miles) in the four weeks leading up to the marathon. I spent some time on the stationary bike and elliptical machine to try to stay in shape, but that really is not a substitute for running.
I went back in forth my head many times whether or not I should defer my entry until 2014. However, I just couldn’t let myself do that. On race day, my ankle was feeling good (although I wasn’t sure how it would feel once I actually started running, not to mention how it might feel well into a marathon). I made the fatal mistake of starting off at a pace as if I had continued to train for the previous four weeks.
About eight miles in, I realized that not running recently had taken it’s toll on me. I had the cardiovascular capacity, but my legs were not going to cooperate. At the half marathon mark, I was still on pace for a sub-4:00 marathon, but I also knew that this wouldn’t last either. I started to slow, and I eventually began to walk too. I spent the rest of the marathon alternating between running and walking. Thus, I ended up with 4:55 time.
The nice part is that my walking also gave me the opportunity to meet some great people along the way who were also fighting their own battles to get to the finish line. And, in the end, I still finished the marathon ahead of 163 other runners. Given the circumstances, I was still pleased with myself when I ran across the finish line and received my first marathon finisher’s medal. There will be many opportunities to learn my lessons from this race and to improve.
Overall, this was a great experience and a great race to run. I was hesitant about running a small marathon, but the support from before, during and after the marathon was incredible. I didn’t mention it above, but there were water stops close to every two miles so there wasn’t a need to carry your own water.
If you are a looking for a nice, low-key marathon to run (whether you’re an experienced marathoner or a first-timer), I definitely would recommend the Delaware Marathon.
The eighth running of the Pineland Trail Running Festival took place on May 25 and 26 in New Gloucester, Maine. The festival is comprised of a series of trail races. On Saturday, a 5K, barefoot 5K, 5K canicross and a 10K took place. On Sunday, the 50 mile, 50K and 25K races were held.
I signed up for the 50K, which would be my first ultramarathon. From everything that I read, Pineland Trail Running Festival would be a good entry point. The trails are wide and non-technical, but there are still challenging, but runnable hills. My only concern was that it was scheduled two weeks after my first marathon.
One of the biggest wildcards going into the race was what the weather would turn out to be. Memorial Day weekend in New England can be cool and rainy or it can be hot and muggy. The week leading up to the race was pretty rainy. We received notification from the race director that when the first course marking were put out on Wednesday that the course was wet and the grass (part of the course crosses through mowed farm fields) was slippery so that we should plan on having wet feet for the duration of the run. But the rain only continued from there, and on Saturday, it rained all day through the 5Ks and the 10K. Plus temperatures were getting lower and lower. The projected temperature for start time was the low to mid-40s with a high for the day in the low to mid-50s. Some places in northern New England actually got snow over the weekend.
When I went to bed on Saturday night, I went to sleep with the assumption that we would be running through mud and that we’d be running in the rain for the duration of the race. I also knew that this was going to be a slow day for me. If you read my Delaware Marathon race report, you’ll recall that I was recovering from peroneal tendonitis (my ankle) for the four weeks before the marathon, so I had not run for those last four weeks leading up to the marathon. For the two weeks in between the marathon, I had managed to squeeze in a few runs and had run a total of about 21 miles (some of them on pretty dead legs). So my goal for the day was not to get a DNF and to enjoy it the best that I could. Beyond that, I threw out all my previous expectations that I had when I initially registered for the race.
So now I had to figure out how to prepare for the race with no experiences to draw from and no friends who are ultrarunners to talk to. Luckily, I had discovered Ultra Runner Podcast months ago and had been listening (and relistening to) it obsessively. [As a side note, I was originally looking for a fall race, but it was this response on March 3 from Eric or Scott of URP that made me choose something sooner: "Nice job on jumping into this wacky sport. I'd always recommend choosing an event sooner than that, but that's me."] Based on the interviews with nutritionist Sunny Blende and my marathon experience, I felt like I had a pretty good sense of what I would need nutrition-wise to be successful. My biggest concern was that I knew that my feet would be very wet and that I was concerned about blistering and tearing up my feet. Eric and Scott had interviewed Dr. David Hannaford (a sports podiatrist and ultraunner), who had recommended John Vonhof’s book Fixing Your Feet: Injury Prevention and Treatments for Athletes, which I had bought. So I spent some time reading his recommendations (one of which was a coating of Desitin Maximum Strength Original Paste).
The schedule for Sunday was the 50M would start at 6:00 AM, the 50K at 8:00 AM and the 25K at 10:00 AM. Since I live just over an hour’s drive away, I woke up early Sunday morning and prepped myself. In addition to the standard preparations of Band-aids to prevent nipple chafing and Vaseline to prevent chafing elsewhere, I applied a layer of BodyGlide liquid powder to my feet followed by a generous coating of Desitin. I then slid into a pair of Injinji toe socks (my sock of choice for long runs) and put on my New Balance MT110 trail shoes (this would be by far my longest run in these shoes so I hoped for the best). I then hopped into the car and drove north, arriving around 6:40. Thankfully the rain had stopped and it seemed like it would be a cool, overcast day for the race.
Once I arrived, I picked up my bib and t-shirt. I then began the waiting game (which is always the worst part of the day). Slowly, more and more runners began to show up (there were 206 finishers for this event). Finally, it was time to start. We were called to the start line for a quick briefing, and then we were off.
It wasn’t long before we got to see the trail conditions that we would have to deal with for the rest of the course. The course is two 25K loops, so after our first loop we’d pretty much know what to expect for the second half of the race. Within the first mile, we were already ankle deep in mud and puddles, and it was clear that there wasn’t going to be any way to avoid it (no running around the edges to avoid them, etc.). It was time to accept the conditions and to embrace them the best that we could.
At times, the mud would pose some significant challenges, especially on the downhills where it was more like skiing than running. Even if I hadn’t set aside any pace expectations prior to the start, it was very evident that today would not be a day to expect a PR.
At the beginning, I felt pretty good, slippery mud and some pretty deep puddles along the course were definitely taking their toll on me. This was compounded by the fact that the course has a fair amount of ups and downs (see the elevation profile below from my Garmin, which also showed an overall elevation gain of 2,270 feet and elevation loss of 2,267 feet). Going into the race, I had made the decision that I would walk any significant hills (at least for the first loop) to save some energy for the second half. So I followed that strategy and trudged forward.
Overall, most of the way through the first loop, I was feeling pretty good. It was at that point, I heard another runner behind me greet me by name. It turned out that I knew another one of the runners. She was running the race with a friend, so I ran with them for the rest of the first loop and the beginning of the second loop. They appeared at a time when I needed a little bit of push, so I was very thankful to have them there. Part way through the second loop, however, I dropped back and continued the rest of the way on my own.
Just under six and a half hours later, I was nearing the finish line. When I was approaching the end, I was greeted by the cheering of my wife and youngest daughter who had drive up to cheer me on after my wife had run a 5K earlier in the day near home. Once again, it was that extra push that I really needed. I crossed the finish line at 6:34 (134 out of 206). Given the trail conditions, the fact that I had run my first marathon two weeks prior and that fact that I was coming off an injury that had prevented me from running for four weeks, I was pleased with my results.
Overall, this was a great event that I would recommend to anyone in the Northeast. Here are some of the reasons why:
- Wide, runnable trails — I never felt like runners were blocking me and I couldn’t get by (even in the beginning)
- Well organized — I have no complaints from registration through completion
- Good number of aid stations that were well stocked (although it would have been great if they had gels so I didn’t have to carry any)
- Well maintained trails
- Hilly, but the hills were manageable (especially if it hadn’t been so muddy)
- Cool cowbell and a nice water bottle for the finishers
- T-shirts, hats, etc. were optional so that registration fees could remain reasonable
- Many “repeat” runners who had run the event in previous years, which is always a good indication of an event worth running
Like many other ultrarunners, I spent the few hours of the race thinking that this would probably be my first and only ultramarathon. Now that it’s a day later, however, I’m sitting here writing this report thinking about the possibility of my next event. I’ve already registered for a fall marathon, isn’t it time to register for a fall ultra too?