My family is harassing me – in a loving way, of course — because I announced my plans to run another marathon this spring.
“But you said . . . . “ and “I specifically remember you stating . . . “ and “What about your hip?” and . . . “Are you crazy?”
I swore off this 26.2-mile event in October 2011 as I crossed the finish line of my third marathon. I was running Chicago, hoping to get a personal record, hoping to maybe even hit that 4-hour marathon goal. Instead, I added time, going 4:38:35. And I was miserable for the entire second half of that race. I said a lot of things, and one of them was “I am never doing this again.”
I kept my promise and haven’t done a full marathon since that time. But I love running, and I’ve done shorter distances – a half, a few 5k’s. I even took 3rd place in my age group in a Make Tracks for the Zoo 5k in 2012. Mostly, though, I’ve gotten slower and my running distance has decreased. Those are hard words for a proud runner to type.
Lately, I have begun to feel the marathon bug again — that itch to go further; do more; challenge myself again. I’m growing bored with my current exercise routine.
When I run errands on a Saturday morning and see someone running, I fondly remember my marathon training days.
I remember the feeling I get in my chest when I’m breathing hard but steady for a long period of time. I remember how much I like the feelings that follow a long run – mentally, a sense of accomplishment and overall well-being; physically, a general heightening of the senses, expanded lungs, strong heart, fatigued muscles that have enabled your body to thoroughly expend all its energy. The mental and physical combine to create a buzz.
I don’t miss the pain, however – the limp when I get up in the morning; the pain in my hip while I drive; the ache that radiates from my glute, down my hamstring and sometimes around to the front of my knee.
I was having doubts about whether I could do it.
Then I happened across Fleet Feet’s training program.
I’ve never had a professional running coach. I ran my first marathon with a charity and trained myself for my second and third. I’ve run most of my life, but never with a coach.
Professional Marathon Coaching
Fleet Feet has professional coaches. And scientific V02 Max assessment “takes the guesswork out of training by analyzing an athlete’s oxygen consumption while they run . . . The collected data defines their heart rate training zones so they can maximize their training efficiency and minimize their risk of overtraining.”
And they have a functional movement test that identifies tightness and weaknesses.
And a training program that includes individualized training, twice-weekly runs with pace groups and speed work, a professional head coach, mentors, classes, support.
So I’m doing it. But this time, I’m going to do it with support. I am over-the-moon excited because I’ve got a program! Being a goal-oriented, project-focused individual, having a program is perfect for me. And having a program backed up with science is even better.
Brandi Barbre, Fleet Feet’s training director, conducted my V02 Max test and went over my results with me. She’s designing a plan that will include a recommendation for the pace group I should start in for my marathon training, which begins in January. She identified my anaerobic threshold and is going to have me train under that threshold. More on that later. It’s all very “science-y.”
Tim Cary, Fleet Feet’s head coach, did my functional movement assessment. Then, he showed me some individualized exercises and foam rolling techniques to improve my movement, reduce my tightness and improve my running. My favorite line from him: “The best foam roller is the one you’ll use.’’
One of the biggest “ah ha” moments of my work with Tim was this: my quads, rather than my hamstrings, are tight. I’ve been stretching my hamstrings for a couple of years now, trying to reduce the pain I feel in them when I run. Tim showed me that my tight quads are pulling my hips forward, putting an arch in my lower back and keeping my hamstrings in constant state of extension. I didn’t really believe him until he had me use the foam roller on my quads – yowza. That lit me up. They are tight, indeed!
Trust the Process
Now the hard part – I have to trust the process. Isn’t that always the hard part!!? Whether it’s a move toward healthier eating like the Whole30, or embarking on a journey to write a novel, or re-learning how to run, it’s hard to let go of what you’ve always done and trust something else.
Brandi wants me to do a couple of “field tests” where I stay within a heart rate zone that is below my anaerobic threshold, and then report back to her what my pace on one of the runs and my distance on another. Staying in this heart rate zone means I have to run really slow. REALLY. SLOW.
I’m not fast, but I’m proud. I’m going to have to ask my ego to get out of the way here and trust that Brandi knows what she’s doing. She explained it all to me and like I said, it’s very “science-y.” When I’m comfortable that I completely understand it myself, I’ll write about it in more detail.
For now, I am going to do what she says. And I’m going to train with the pace group that she recommends. And I’m going to try to find my foam roller, because I think the best foam roller is the one that you pull out of storage and use.
I’m super excited about this training program. If you are looking to start running, return to running or improve your running, Fleet Feet offers a bunch of training programs including:
- Trail running
- Speed School
- Youth Running
They also offer lots of free running opportunities. You can find out more about those here.