There is always room for improvement no matter what you are trying to accomplish. How does the saying go, “Don’t rest on your laurels?” My running style, form, performance, and pace have significantly improved over the past 6 years. Chicago 2005 4:44:04 a 10:50 pace, Philadelphia 2006 4:03:24 a 9:17 pace, Louisville Mini Marathon 2007 1:33:19 a 7:07 pace, and Columbus 2010 3:38:46 an 8:20 pace. I have not stopped PRing (person record) which keeps me running. I know the time will come when I can no longer push for a faster pace. When I started running it was for fun, something to do. During the Chicago Marathon I stopped and took photographs, I called my friends along the way, I even sent a few text messages, I talked to locals, and hi-fived many of the spectators. Chicago was about the experience and the accomplishment of finish a marathon. Once I knew I could finish and feel great, I wanted to run a 4 hour marathon. I came pretty damn close in Philadelphia. During the Philly marathon I ran alongside an older gentleman (he was in his 80’s). He provided many tips for training and race day. I was so engaged in his words and form I lost complete track of time and the fact we were nearing the finish of the race. I was in shock, a man my grandpa’s age was running with great form and ease. I don’t remember his name but his face will never fade from my memory. He is my motivation to continue running until I can no longer run. I ran in a couple of races in between Philly and the Louisville mini. I knew from my training my pace was improving. I took 2nd in my age group, it was an extremely proud moment. My hard work was paying off. It really showed in Columbus 2010. I was coming off of having a child and dealing with a broken ankle. My training was not where it needed to be for Columbus. I knew I wanted to qualify for Boston but I did not know how realistic the goal was. A broken ankle and running do not exactly go hand in hand. I religiously rehabbed and pushed through runs. To aid me in qualifying I registered with Clif Pacers. I knew I would to have others around me pushing towards the same goal. If it was not for the Clif Pacer I am not sure I would have qualified. As we approached the finish line the young girl pacer turned to me and said, “You are going to BOSTON! Now cross that finish line!” Tears filled my eyes, I had done the unthinkable.
I do not follow standard training programs because of work and life (plus, I feel you have to be a rocket scientist to read most training programs). I began Googling and reading about improving pace. Every program included tempo runs and track workouts. I can handle tempo and Farlick runs, they are pretty simple to understand, but the track workouts are over my head. I think in miles not in meters. I also had a hard time finding a track I could utilize. I scratch all the track workouts and take to the park. I run as fast as I can from one point to the next (normally the destination is a tree or a light post). I try to make these burst last about 30 seconds followed by a 1 minute rest and then repeat as many times as I can. I never have an exact plan of attack when I hit the road running. I listen to my body and go from there. I hate speed work, I’d rather run for miles and miles. It seems to leaves me dizzy and tired. It is exhausting! I force myself to partake every once and a while. I also implement Tabata workouts (20 seconds on and 10 seconds off repeat 8 times). If I wake up too late to get a good morning run in, I hit our ally and do a Tabata workout. It is tough but quick and I don’t have to feel guilty about not running. I enjoy running hill repeats as well. They are amazing for your legs and booty! It is like doing 100+ squats in a day. I use to dread hills, I liked flat easy courses. Now I embrace them! They are challenging while making me a better all around runner. There is a college campus near our home which I love running. It has a decent downhill followed by an immediate uphill. It is a great way to engage my hamstrings and quads in one workout. I often repeat both the routes. There is no rhyme or reason to my running method. I run what I feel like running that particular day. Saturday’s are often planned out because they are my long run. I have to coordinate a babysitter and estimate how long it will take to run X amount of time.
I have worked hard on improving my form by reading many books offering ideas to increase efficiency. I use to swing my arms from side to side which caused my hips to rotate and my stride to be off. Don’t laugh, but I have spend a lot of time in front of a mirror swinging my arms in a forward motion chanting, “Chin to pocket.” By forcing my arms to swing forward and not side to side I am conserving a great deal of energy (which comes in handy at the end of a race). Before Columbus I began working on my foot strike. I use to be a heel striker and now I strike with the fore front of my foot. Imagine bouncing up and down from your heels, it’s almost impossible. However bouncing up and down from your toes is easy and natural (much like jumping rope). I have graduated into this form of running. I would run a mile heel striking and then run a half of mile fore foot striking. At first my legs ached but after a while I could no long strike my heel without pain. I believe this has increased my pace a great deal. I also started paying attention to my body placement. I noticed I stood up right almost pulling my body backwards, now I slightly lean forward. In focusing on my form I forgot about running, it made it easier for me to cover greater distances.
Running is a gradual process for most. There are the few natural great runners but most of us, “normal” people, have to work on our running form. It does not happen overnight but it will over time. Start small and simple and push for the sky. I use to think the, “sky” was Boston and I am slowly realizing it is just the beginning. I am not fast but I am full of determination and do not quit. I want to know I can go further than the next person. Marathons are growing each year, the over crowdedness is becoming overwhelming with less prestige for the average runner. The Ultra is echoing through my head all day and night. I am chomping at the bit with excitement. The moment I cross the Boston finish line I am focused on my next endeavor.