Category Archives: Articles

First Marathon: What Went Wrong

Science at workOne of the things I have enjoyed most about having run a marathon is how much I learned along the way. I am very aware that I have barely scratched the surface of most topics related to running and training and I find it encouraging that there is always something new to learn about the sport. Part of running is science and understanding how the body works and how all the muscles work together, and part of running simply personal and figuring out what works best for you.


Considering I was able to finish the marathon, I think it’s safe to say that not that much went wrong, but there are certainly some lessons learned from this first experience and some things I will do different next time. I’ve mentioned before that my running friend and I took a 16-week plan and crammed it into nine weeks. Definitely lesson number one. Continue reading

First Marathon: What Went Right

ba_marathonWhen I decided I wanted to run a marathon it was last October and I was only slightly enamored with the idea. Knowing that I might get serious about it, I continued to run through November and December but only put in 9-12 miles a week, maybe a little more on warmer days. By the end of December I had committed myself to the March 1st marathon and my running friend and I decided we would officialy start training January 3rd.

The only problem was that the training plan we picked out was a 16-week plan and we had nine weeks to prepare. Although you might not consider that as something that went right in the process, my point is that we found a training plan, adapted it to work for our schedules, and stuck to it. I wrote in my calendar the mileage that needed to be completed each day so that it was a constant reminder to me of what I needed to do. If I ran more or less on any given day, I would edit the mileage in my planner so I could adjust accordingly on the next run. The night before any run I would double check the weather as well as my route so that I would be prepared for what the next morning would entail. I don’t think there is any way I could have successfully completed a marathon if I just ran willy nilly leading up to the race. Continue reading

Cold-Free: Running as Preventive Medicine

Common ColdI believe it is not just coincidence that I have made it through this entire 2009 winter without a cold. I don’t typically get sick to begin with (knocking on wood now) and the last time I had a sore throat and stuffed up noise was just after the Christmas holidays. My big goal for this past winter was to run through it, and November and December were months I used to get used to running in the cold. I was outside for 3-4 mile runs three times a week. I had been mentally preparing to start true marathon training after New Years and so my first few runs of 2009 were indeed with a runny nose, but it didn’t last long. I have been sniffle-free this winter while everyone around me has had the flu, the common cold, aches and pains, and I believe I have running to thank for keeping my immune system strong. Continue reading

Marathon Diet Debate

DebateThere is no question that individual runnersĀ  and athletes will find the diet, routine, and training that works best for their own goals, pace, and body type. An interesting debate on Complete Running leads me to believe that there are two ends to the “what to eat and how to fuel” spectrum and the rest of us fall somewhere in the middle. Seven-time marathoner, Mark Iocchelli, argues the less is more angle to fueling up for running and depends solely on his body’s pre-stored glycogen and a few swigs of water to power through long runs and marathons.

Iocchelli’s standpoint is strongly argued by Steve “Runner” Walker, a 19-time marathoner who treats each marathon as an “experiment of one,” a mindset that I can relate to. Each race is slightly different and you learn from each one what works best for you from food to shoes to pace, etc. I found Steve’s spaceship analogy a little over the top, but his basic argument is that less is not enough when it comes to fueling up for long runs. Since we do not normally go out and just run 26.2 miles our bodies are not prepared to fuel us accordingly on a whim. It takes training but also, according to Steve, replenishment of fuel stored to avoid hitting the wall during a long run.

Thomas Bubendorfer rounds out the debate with more of a nutritional focus and I think helps set the tone that defining your marathon, training, or overall healthy diet will depend on many of your own personal goals and preferences. What camp do you fall in: fuel-free or fill ‘er up?

I look forward to learning from my own first marathon what routines work and don’t work, but I can safely tell you this–I know I will be downing at least one pack of Gu and plenty of water along the way.

Marathon Week: What to Eat?

Food pyramidWhether training for a marathon, a triathlon, a 5K, or nothing at all it’s always worthwhile to set healthy eating goals. I would like to tackle the much larger topic of healthy eating over a series of posts and here will be focusing on what the best practices are with regard to meals for the final week before a marathon.

For the past nine weeks I have been averaging somewhere between 30 and 35 miles of running each week and the calories burned during those sessions adds up. On my longest runs, my Polar watch said I burned about 1800 calories so I can fully expect that running a full 26.2 miles will burn at least 2000 calories. I thought a good starting point for this post would be to learn how many calories I should be consuming. According to a basic Caloric Needs Calculator, I need around 1900 calories a day.

Doing a little math (not at all my strong suit), knowing I will burn 2000 calories on Sunday, if I want to maintain my current weight that means this week I should try to consume an extra 285 calories per day bringing my daily intake to 2185. Had I started thinking about my training diet when I started training, I probably would have followed the rule of thumb to add about 100 calories for every mile to my daily diet. Unfortunately, you can’t just randomly add calories; it’s important to know what layers of the food pyramid those calories should be coming from. If I had my way they’d all come from the tip top fats, sweets, and dairy categories. suggests that 65% of calories should come from good, complex carbohydrates, 10% from low fat and lean proteins, 20-25% from unsaturated fats and all balanced with plenty of vitamins, calcium, and iron. Carbohydrates provide the glycogen necessary to fuel the body through a long run so it seems that if I build up the glycogen stored in my body the week before I will have sufficient fuel to burn on race day.

Unfortunately (or perhaps, fortunately) I am not a calorie counter. I simply eat until I’m full and often until I’m just about stuffed. I like food, what can I say? I also know from experience and from research that it’s not smart to vary the diet too much before race day. The body gets used to processing certain foods and I have no intention of messing with that system before my first marathon. I would, however, like to identify the best balanced diet with the foods I normally eat and with the food already in my kitchen though there are plenty of good marathon recipes out there. Any special recipes or best foods you want to share?

I believe in writing this that I have figured out that my own personal marathon week diet needs to be the right percentages of the food pyramid with types of food my body is already used to. I will err on the side of adding more carbs and do my best to make sure they are complex carbs like cereal, oatmeal, wheat bread, pasta, carrots, and apples. I will also use the day before the run to “carb load” and I admit I’m looking forward to it!

And for future training, I’ll start my diet off at the beginning.

Running Questions: Knee Know-How

Running and StretchingAt the end of a long run, the legs are inevitably tired which is to be expected. I understand the important role that the knees play in running and that they certainly carry a lot of the body’s weight and movement. Doing core exercises and strengthening and stretching the pelvis, hips, and legs will help the knees and legs remain strong during a run. Without a strong core to keep the body in a nice straight line while running, your knees will bear the brunt of any sideways movement of the body and you’ll feel the pain later.

I’m pretty cognizant of my form while running but I know that I’m not nearly as consistent as I’d like to be. Like anything, establishing and maintaining proper running form takes practice. I feel as though I have a pretty straight gait and that I’m not too wobbly while running so I believe my knees are not being asked to do much more than their normal functions. However, at the end of a long run, all I want to do is stretch my knees somehow. When I squat up and down that seems to help, but I don’t know that it’s actually stretching anything. Going up and down stairs after a long run is often a chore. I have to go slow and hold the handrails. The pain doesn’t last long but it sure is uncomfortable.

After doing some researching, talking to doctor friends, reading other blogs, forums, and articles about various types of knee pain I have self-diagnosed my knee pain to be related to my Iliotibial (IT) Band, which means it is not knee pain at all. Continue reading

Training Log Reviews

Tracking Training ProgressI have been a long-time subscriber to SELF Magazine and kept back issues for more years than I would like to admit. I’ve seen the magazine change and evolve and always found something in its pages that interested me throughout my teenage years where I just wanted to be inspired to my college dieting years to my adult years of focusing on healthy fitness. To no fault of SELF (sorry SELF), I have been letting my subscription run out in favor of reading Runner’s World, running websites, and blogs which appeal directly to my current goals.

For several consecutive years, I was always inspired to participate in the SELF Challenge though I hate to admit I never fully finished. I did, however, become addicted to the magazine’s many online tools and always enjoyed entering my weekly exercise into my online log that would then calculate calories burned and track progress. Continue reading

Running Questions: A Long Run Fuel Recipe

long_run_fuelFor the last few weeks I have been dabbling lightly with the best pre-run routine for long Sunday runs. I’m acutely aware of the need to fuel up before heading out but I’ve also become more in tune with the amount of time it takes for my body to wake up and go through its own routines.

I’ve tried drinking coffee, not drinking coffee, not having breakfast, having light breakfast, and drinking lots of water regardless of the rest of the routine. I believe I’ve finally found something that works (thanks in part to the oatmeal suggestion from @crossn81). Part of the trick to the long run recipe is to start the day before.

Knowing ahead of time that I would be burning well over 1,000 calories on my 20 mile run, I let myself indulge a little on Saturday. In addition to high fiber banana bread for breakfast and a well-endowed PBJ sandwich for lunch with sides of carrots and dip plus a granola bar, I enjoyed some mid-afternoon hot chocolate to fulfill a sugar craving and also keep the calories flowing. Dinner was high in protein and veggies with chicken stir-fry and I downed a bowl of kettle corn popcorn while watching a chick flick later. Saturday also including drinking lots of water. The rest of the recipe? Continue reading