Half-Marathon Recap: The Music

I have weird rules for when I will listen to music while running.

  • If the run is 5k or less: no music.
  • If the run is 10k or less and outside: no music.
  • If the run is 10k or less and on a treadmill: a podcast or tv show/movie.
  • If the run is longer than 10k: music!

It’s all about focus. If I’m out for a short run, the music is a negative distraction. I want to concentrate on the run and push myself. Those mid-range runs require some distraction when on a treadmill, but I still find the music a nuisance. I’ve been having some luck with podcasts (Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!) and movies (last month, my gym was showing Pride and Prejudice, swoon). Baseball, football, and hockey games are also good on the treadmill.

As I got into the longer distances while training for the half-marathon, though, music shifted and served a different purpose. It became background noise that I could tune into at will and then easily push back again. Because it was a long, slow and steady run, I didn’t need constant energy from the music, but it was really nice to have it when I wanted it.

Over the last several weeks, I cultivated a nearly perfect running playlist. I was looking forward to just hitting shuffle and then reviewing my Spotify history afterwards to review and annotate my “half-marathon playlist.” How fun it was going to be to list out those songs and times and match that up against my RunKeeper race data!

Of course, Spotify has removed this feature from their Android app. All I can do now is cherry-pick a few songs I remember and highlight some of my favorites. (You can find the full playlist here.)

  • “Wake Me Up” has been on my running playlists for several months. The pickups in the chorus are excellent for sprinting intervals.
  • “Wonderland” is just an incredibly fun song and Natalia Kills is awesome.
  • “I Want it All” is basically my “song of the summer” and always provides an extra burst of energy.
  • “XO” is ridiculously slow for a running playlist but I happen to be a slow runner and I love this song.
  • “Turn Down for What” is a terrible song that was playing before JCB and I started our 5k race in April so it injects good memories into the run.
  • “Jealous (I Ain’t With It)” is, I hear, a contender for “song of the summer” but mostly it’s super catchy, fun, and I had a great time at the concert. It was super to have this push me through the second trip over the Mass Ave bridge.
  • “Lo Hecho Está Hecho” has an amazing beat and Shakira is a goddess. This song also reminds me of Zi-Cardio at MaZi Dance Fitness and makes me smile.
  • Lorde’s “Ribs” is also terribly slow for running, but it just works for me.
  • “Stronger – A-Trak Remix” is basically the most perfect remix of this song possible and I could probably just run to this on loop for three hours.
  • I put Whitney’s “How Will I Know” on this list on a whim and it paid off big time. It came on around mile 10 and it was such a fun song to have, totally put me in a different head space.
  • Beyonce’s “Countdown” was, completely by chance, playing as I sprinted to the finish line. I couldn’t have planned that better, if I had planned it!

I am going to try to embrace music on my tempo runs more often. It was really fun to have it and I think it would be nice if I could find a way to have that option more often. So, I’m building a summer 5k training playlist. What do you suggest I put on it?

Take Two: Run a Faster 5k

Running has not yet been a competition sport for me. Some runners feel like they’re competing with themselves when they push to a new distance or a new time, but I don’t feel that way. I feel a little bit of something to prove on race day, but training hasn’t ever felt like that for me. I run primarily for the feeling when I’m done, that elusive runner’s high, and the pride that came with completing longer distances.

Lauren Fleshman’s article in June’s Runner’s World has me fired up though. Fleshman is a professional runner, who first came to my attention through her sponsor, Oiselle. In her piece, she challenges our commonly held belief that the runner challenges herself by running further distances. I know that feeling! All I could think about mere hours after the half-marathon was what would be next: Well, now that you’ve run a half – when are you going to run the full thing?

Fleshman talks up the competitive nature of shorter races. The 5k race, she writes, “is freaking awesome,” and her arguments are compelling. It’s not a question of if you’ll finish, but how fast can you run the race. It’s not as time-consuming to train for the 5k and you can race more often. Consistent and shorter runs are better for overall health than long distance training, as well. And, ultimately the most persuasive for me, there is less risk of injury.

Look, it took me two full weeks to recover from my half-marathon. The race was simply too hard on my body. While this is likely overwhelmingly due to under-training, there is something just punishing about running for two hours and forty minutes. (If I were faster, maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad…) And that recovery was painful and time consuming. Walking slower (some may call it “hobbling” around the city), so much icing and resting. Today, 17 days later, is the first day I did any real running since the race.

It was a great run though – just look at that view!

Of course, the half-marathon was worth it. I don’t regret any of it and I will do it again. But maybe running can be more fun that it has been in the last few months. If there’s any way to it, I think Fleshman’s advice will get me there: find the competition in the 5k.

What are your running goals? Any upcoming races?

Half-Marathon Recap and Reflections

I’ve been running for a year. That’s really it, just one year.  My first run was in May of last year, 3.16 miles in 34:28. I regularly use RunKeeper, and I was surprised to see that I have only gone out on 53 runs in the last year. My races have been few: a handful of 5ks, two 10ks, and, as of May 25th, one half-marathon. I headed into this year’s Boston’s Run to Remember already pretty proud of myself: to go from a 5k to 13.1 miles in a year, a year which included no running between November and March at that, was something to celebrate. And the race was really just that: a celebration.

A very tough and at times painful celebration. This was not an easy race for me. I don’t expect anything of this distance to ever be “easy” for me, but I certainly learned some lessons this year that will hopefully make the next half-marathon easier.

1. Follow your training plan. I used this Hal Higdon half-marathon training plan, with a couple tweaks from my trainer. Most weeks, I shuffled runs around. Or had extra rest days. Or skipped my rest day. I ignored speed work almost completely. The only thing I did semi-faithfully was build up my distance by hitting my 5, 6, 7, 8, and 10 mile runs.

After my 10 mile run, I was hurting. I was unsure if I was going to be able to run the half. My whole taper week was RICE-ing my (likely) tendinitis and extra yoga classes. I felt very pessimistic about how my body would hold up during the half-marathon and those worries were realized around mile 11 on race day. Indeed, it wasn’t even halfway through the race when my left knee began to bother me, and by the last few miles, my left ankle and right knee joined in.

I actually ran the last two miles more quickly than the previous six though — definitely because I knew the next time I stopped, I was not going to be able to start again. So I wouldn’t be stopping until the finish line!

Next time, I will do better. I will give myself more time to train more slowly for a longer-distance race. Training plans are there for a reason, and building up mileage slowly is a critical aspect of training for most of us. Be patient.

2. Nutrition matters. Every trainer and athlete has some version of this saying: you can’t out-train a poor diet. I completely believe this to be true now. I was perhaps skeptical before; I did not faithfully adhere to this tenet. I will never train for a long-distance race again without making this a visible part of my plan.

Reflecting on how hard this all was, training and the race both, has made diet considerations a matter of practicality actually. Eating for fuel has become more of a natural consideration in my life. Did I have ice cream on vacation in Bar Harbor? Of course. Is it a daily indulgence? No.

3. Go into the race with a goal and a plan. My goal and plan were the same for this first race, actually: to only walk through water stations. It’s pretty typical for a new runner’s goal to be to simply finish, especially when tackling new distances. However, this plan-goal’s specificity gave me something on which to focus my race. There were also ten water stations, fairly evenly spaced, in this race; this plan then guaranteed short bursts of intense focus followed by brief reprieves.

I also carried with me a super-secret pie-in-the-sky goal of running the race in 2:30:00. To do that, I would need to run with just under an 11:30 mile pace, which was about thirty seconds faster than my long runs had been in training. I used my RunKeeper app during the race, and according to that, ran 13.82 miles (wide race!) in 2:42:30, for an average pace of 11:46 per mile. My official time was 2:40:55 over 13.1 miles for an average pace of 12:17 per mile.

Look, honestly, I’m taking that RunKeeper data and sticking that in my brain.

I still consider myself a new runner and, as such, I am still figuring out how to both push myself and pace myself, trying to find that sweet spot of running a steady, “fast” race. I feel pretty good about my pacing in this race though; it seems to fall into a few chunks of steady running:

half-marathon splitsThis race was a success, a very important mark on my life’s timeline.

I set my goal to run this race late in 2013, when I hadn’t been running much and felt like I needed something to work towards. But I only signed up for the race after my job ended. Having this race to focus on, to train for, was an important part of my year. 2014 will always be the year I ran my first half-marathon.

Isn’t it wonderful to have something so grand be this year’s main memory? That’s what running gives me, and I’ll always be grateful for it.

First You Run a Slower 5k

Late in July, I picked a new three-month project: Run a Faster 5k. Reminder: the time to beat is 33:15; the goal is sub-30.

The day after I wrote that post, Liz, Jaclyn and I ran the Urban Raid 5k here in Boston. Admittedly, it’s very trendy in running right now: Tough Mudder, Warrior Dash, etc. I know, I know – but we had so much fun! Trendy things are popular for a reason – people like it! Liz and I had been working with Clayton at Healthworks Fitness between May and July, training for the obstacle aspect of this race. (Ok, that was a really good excuse to work out with a friend and with a great trainer!) We had already seen an improvement in the gym, so we were excited to test out if we were actually stronger “in real life.”

This race was really just a playground for adults. There were various hurdles obstacles, monkey bars, a cargo net climb (overlooking the harbor), rope climb, and the finishers wall. I would get out there and do that every weekend – except for the $50 average price tag on these events. Yikes!

Liz, me, and Jaclyn after the Urban Raid 5k.
Liz, me, and Jaclyn after the Urban Raid 5k.

Doing this race with Liz and Jaclyn (who I actually first met the morning of the race) was so nice – what a great group we were. I am definitely the slowest of the three, and unsurprisingly that made me feel incredibly guilty at first. Sure, it’s fun to run a race like this with your friends, but who wants their time impacted by someone slower? It wasn’t like that at all though – they were great cheerleaders and teammates. I can’t wait to take up a notch with them next year! We definitely have designs on the Warrior Dash race.

It’s a month later now though, and I’ve went out for a few runs (just 4). I have not really committed to this “get faster” thing in the way I thought I would. I didn’t run at all for three weeks after that 5k!

August Runs

  • 8/17, Vermont. Distance – 2.99 mi, Time – 34:45.
  • 8/24, Esplanade (Boston). Distance – 4.06 mi, Time – 50:33.
  • 8/25, Seaport (Boston). Distance – 2.83 mi, Time – 31:48.
  • 8/28, Marathon Sports Run Club. Distance – 3.66 mi, Time – 43:04.

But it’s ok! I needed a bit of a break. No big deal. Liz and I went to Marathon Sports run club last week and ran a slow 3.5 together. While it was slow and we were not pushing ourselves really at all (we were able to chat the entire time), it was definitely the first run of many this fall. It just felt like the beginning again, you know?

I’m still looking for an official, chip-timed 5k to run in late October or early November. I have signed up for a December 5k, but that is basically just a holiday-themed party. It absolutely will not fit into this plan – we have a team name; there will be costumes; there will be beer.

But… I signed up for another 10k, in October! My running plan for the next six weeks is essentially focused on distance then. It would be nice if those 6 miles felt a little easier this time around. In addition to running, I’ll keep training with Jason, try to fit in 2 spin classes per week. And I’m going to add in one evening yoga class per week for September as well.

So, each week I go out for 3 runs – one long run, one tempo run, and one set of speed work (usually on the treadmill). In order to also prioritize getting faster, my long runs will incorporate that attention as well: running one mile at my best pace, resting, and repeating for the full distance. Tempo runs will be treated as race day runs – the full distance at race pace. Speed work will continue to be the drudgery of training for a race, the type of running you need a playlist to get through and quickly uses up your entire day’s supply of grit and perseverance (which is why I do speed work on Fridays).

I know reading and talking about running is, at best, tedious for non-runners, so here’s a reward for making it to the end. My running playlist for the last two weeks is one of the more perfect (for me) playlists I’ve put together. Highlights include:

Ellie Goulding — “Burn”

M.I.A. — “Bad Girls”

Jay-Z — “Dirt Off Your Shoulder”

Jay-Z, Rihanna, Kanye West — “Run This Town”

I’m working on September’s running playlist – what music are you running to?

Run a Faster 5k

Last night, I ran my first 5k.

Ok, last night I ran in my first 5k raceI have run 3.1 miles in one outing before. But not that many times…

Previous 5k-ish runs:

  • 5/11, in Wisconsin. Distance – 3.16 mi. Time – 34:28
  • 5/19, Sunday morning run along the river. Distance – 3.38 mi. Time – 39:11
  • 5/22, my first Marathon Sports Run Group outing. Distance – 3.5 mi. Time 38: 12
  • 5/29, Marathon Sports Run Group. Distance – 3.45 mi. Time – 39:00
  • 6/5, Marathon Sports Run Group. Distance – 3.43 mi. Time – 38:15

My runs typically got longer in June because on June 30th, a great group of friends and I ran the City Sports Back in the Day 10k in Porter Square. (So I was training!) This was such an incredible experience for me. My Healthworks trainer, Jason, created this amazing running plan for me to follow in June and I pretty much stuck with it. I put in all this hard work and then at the end of the month was able to run 6.2 miles! That’s the longest distance I’ve ever run! And do you know how incredible it is to see your friends standing around the halfway mark with an encouraging sign, a bottle of water, and high fives all around? (Indescribably incredible!) This was definitely one of my top five highlights for the year, absolutely.

Some of us ran, some of us cheered, but we all conquered!
Some of us ran, some of us cheered, but we all conquered!

Oh, I ran those 6.2 miles in 1:12:35. I’ll take it.

So this tangent leads us back to last night. Now that I’ve run a 10k, I know I can run a 5k, no problem. So I signed up for the Camp Harbor View Harborthon 5k. (It’s another workout fundraiser!) The race was great – organized so well, great volunteers, beautiful location. There was an incredible group of sponsors for this race (lots of delicious post-race craft beer and food from b.good) and an awesome group of runners. The group was smaller this year due to the rain — maybe just two or three hundred people, but that just made us so much more awesome!

Camp Harbor View began in 2007 as a summer camp for Boston teens (ages 11-14). The founders began with an initial goal of raising $10 million over 25 years, and have already raised $46 million! I’m so glad I powered through the rain deterrent and went out there – here’s another organization I’m ready to really invest some time in to support. A handful of the campers were there volunteering, and every “thank you for running” I heard was a little pinch to the heart. Real people benefit from the fact that I ran a race yesterday – and that you supported that effort. In just a few days of fundraising, my friends and family contributed $265 to this wonderful cause (you can still donate here until 8/1). That feels better than any post-run endorphin-rush. Thank you all so much!

So, I can add another run to the list above.

  • July 25th, Camp Harbor View Harborthon 5k. Distance – 3.1 mi. Time – 33:15

Last night’s pace was 10:43, which is the best pace I’ve had since I started running again in May. This is just barely true though. I went on a 5.5 mi run on 6/19 that had a 10:45 pace – so I know I can do better with only 3.1 miles. This race serves as my baseline for my next three-month project: Run a Faster 5k. I’ll spend the next three months focusing on cutting time off my pace for this distance. Then, I’ll run another official 5k in late October or early November to compare. Lucky me – I have a trainer who runs who can help me really push through this.

My goal is to run that three-months-from-now 5k with a 9:30 pace. (I’ll have to sign up for something without too many hills!) I’ll write periodically about the training plan I’m using, how my runs are going, and any other interesting races I participate in (I do have a few coming up). I have been using RunKeeper to track my runs. It’s been great to see those comparisons, but it will be really great to actually write about those runs and be able to compare them on something besides a pace level.

Check back for updates!