2018 Marine Corps Marathon training blog

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2018 Marine Corps Marathon training blog Live

WTOP's Sarah Beth Hensley shares her Marine Corps Marathon training journey.

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    Run with purpose, finish with pride

     

     

    I’m not a crier -- but I was moved to tears at this year’s Marine Corps Marathon.

    I crossed the finish line with my best time yet in my six marathons, and I was overwhelmed by my emotions. I was elated, exhausted and humbled. I breathlessly shuffled along after finishing the race, greeted by lines of Marines who told me “congratulations,” and offered me high-fives and handshakes.

    All I did was run a lot; they do so much more.

    My voice shook, and my chin quivered as I moved through the chute of Marines. When one put a medal around my neck, I lost it. I said “thank you” through sobs.

    I trained hard for this race. I sacrificed a lot: I got up early on weekends, put in a lot of miles before and after work, I skipped fun things I would have rather done to make time to work out. But as I finished, I realized that our servicemen and servicewomen make the true sacrifices. Their involvement in the Marine Corps Marathon truly makes the race remarkable.

    Race recap:

    The weather for this race was perfection! It was a tad chilly to start, but I was shedding layers early.

    On race morning I was happy and focused. I didn’t have a specific time goal – but had a general time I was hoping to achieve. After a disappointing race last year, I had some tactics I’d hoped to employ to run a smarter race. Overall, I knew my goal for the marathon was singular: to have fun. If I’m not having fun doing this, why bother?

    Well – mission accomplished.

    I had a blast! And in addition to that, I beat my personal record by more than 20 minutes. Also, it was with a negative split, which means completing the second half of a race faster than the first half. At mile 20, I actually thought to myself, "I get to run 6 more miles."

    I attribute the good race to several things: proper training, diet and rest; focus and good weather; and not to be understated, the support from friends, coworkers, family and my spouse. I’m lucky to have those who came out to cheer for me and support me, too.

    A finish that moves me to tears is rare, but I think a testament to how spectacular this race is run. It’s fun, inspiring and gives a face to the Marine Corps.

    I must admit, I already can’t wait to run again next year.

    Congratulations to all Marine Corps Marathon runners! You have a lot to be proud of. Let me know how you did and what's next on your race calendar. But for now, relax, indulge, stretch and rest – I know I am. Mission accomplished!

    Miss any of WTOP's coverage? Check out our Marine Corps Marathon page with photos, details about the day and a follow up about how runners spotlighted on WTOP finished.

     
    You’ve done well, MCM. Real well. Now rest and recover. There’s always another hill to climb. Oorah!
    I ❤️ running! I had the best time at the Marine Corps Marathon — and crushed my PR! I’m six marathons in and already can’t wait for the next! #runwiththemarineswww.instagram.com
    TRAFFIC ALERT: The Marine Corps Marathon starts soon. Here's what to expect from traffic, Metro and parking. wtop.com/marine-corps-m…

    Walking toward the start ... ya know, what’s another mile at this point? #RunWithTheMarines https://pbs.twimg.com/media/Dqlup0FUcAEO_Kq.jpg

    Heading to the race! Traffic is non existent on the way to the starting line. Yes!

    Breakfast time! This is pretty much the exact same thing I eat before every long run ... if it ain’t broke! #RunWithTheMarines https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DqlXqnwWoAA3oiB.jpg

    Today’s the day!

    Bon appetit! ⁦@CodyHouse ⁩ is a culinary master with this chicken parm! #RunWithTheMarines https://pbs.twimg.com/media/Dqjcj1kXcAAQZ65.jpg

    Flat Sarah Beth for the @Marine_Marathon ! (Or at least until I change my mind a few more times...) #RunWithTheMarines https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DqjPTGwWkAAYOyQ.jpg

    Showing off those new @Marine_Marathon shirts with my brother-in-law @peterdwright . I’m so excited for him to run his first MCM! #RunWithTheMarines https://pbs.twimg.com/media/Dqig0RuXQAEi-gQ.jpg

    Mission ready! (Also how awesome is my “103.5” @Marine_Marathon bib??? Repping @WTOP this weekend!) #RunWithTheMarines #MCM18 https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DqiNjpJXQAUv8jw.jpg

    ACPD is ready to kickoff @Marine_Marathon weekend! Officer Stone and Sgt. Rims are escorting the MCM kids run at th… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…

    Big crowd at the @Marine_Marathon expo this afternoon. So much energy ahead of the race! #RunWithTheMarines #MCM18 https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DqiMNHUX0AE_C4l.jpg

    I spoke with Al after this moment, and the benevolent 79-year-old said traveling and events such as reunions and graduations took precedent in his schedule this year, preventing him from putting in the training miles.
    What a running career, Al! The @Marine_Marathon has now retired number “43” in his honor — the bib he would have worn had he run this year.

    Days after a phone interview with Kathrine Switzer and Roger Robinson for a @WTOP story — I got to officially meet them at the @Marine_Marathon dinner! What inspirations! https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DqexgQ7WsAAI-98.jpg

    Honored for the opportunity to contribute to @ABC2020 's report on the Wint murder trial, airing tonight at 10p. The… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…
    A big thanks to my amazing colleagues who actually let me be part of their podcast ​and nerd out about running! Give it a listen!

    What Marine Corps Marathon spectators need to know

    Heading out to cheer on runners in the Marine Corps Marathon? Here are some of the things to consider and a map of the best places to watch: 
     

    Marine Corps Marathon spectators: Best places to watch runners and what to leave at home | WTOP

    WTOPCheering on a Marine Corps Marathon runner? Check out the best places to watch, some tips about rooting on a runner and a list of things you can’t bring.

    ‘Never too old to be an athlete’: Husband and wife running icons join Marine Corps Marathon weekend

    Running is about putting one foot in front of the other, no matter your age, say Kathrine Switzer and Roger Robinson — a husband and wife team known to many as royalty in the running world.

    “You’re never too old to be an athlete, you’re never too old to try. You’re never too big or too slow or too out of shape to put on a pair of sneakers and start moving,” Switzer said. “And the more you move, the better your health is going to be.”

    The couple, who once rooted for Marine Corps Marathon runners when they lived in Vienna, Virginia, is returning as celebrity guests for the 2019 race weekend. They will be at the expo at the Gaylord Resort and Conference Center, speaking, selling and signing their most recent books, as well as the Carbo Dining In event the evening before the race.

    This year, they are bringing a message of perseverance and resilience that transcends the sport.

    Read more from my interviews with Switzer and Robinson:

    ‘Never too old to be an athlete’: Husband and wife running icons join Marine Corps Marathon weekend | WTOP

    WTOPKathrine Switzer was the first woman to officially run the Boston Marathon — and was nearly tackled to the ground in the process. Her husband, Roger Robinson is a running journalist with an impressive record in masters running. The pair says as they age, their passion for running doesn’t fade, and it’s all about putting one foot in front of the other.

     

    Sharing a few pictures from my training time while at a work conference in Florida last week ... sigh ... to be warm again...
     

    Tips for using the bathroom during the Marine Corps Marathon

    (Thinkstock)
     
    Let’s face it: when you gotta go, you gotta go -- and having to go to the bathroom during a marathon is almost inevitable.
     
    It’s something most runners don’t really like to talk about (some would say it stinks), but having to make a pit stop at a porta potty before, during or after a race is a reality. To make your experience less … well ... crappy, I got some facts, figures and tips about going to the bathroom at the Marine Corps Marathon.
     
    Marine Corps Marathon Operations Manager Bret Schmidt said there are just shy of 800 portable toilets for the marathon and its other weekend events. A majority of them -- 239 -- are at the MCM Kids Run. That’s good news for parents of the weak-bladdered youngsters attending the Saturday one-mile fun-run event.
     
    There are 184 porta potties at the race’s start line for when nature calls; 100 at the finish line and 195 at the finish festival area. Others are dispersed along the course and at water points, Schmidt said. One fun fact: After water point 4 (along the southbound lanes of Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway), the number of porta johns decreases due to runner demands, he added.
     
    The portable toilets will be zip-tied shut and won’t open until late Saturday night prior to the event, although a select number of them will be in place starting on Tuesday, Oct. 23, to assist with set-up and the start and finish areas, Schmidt said. 
     
    That point has a bit of a controversial history. In 2010, then-Comedy Central personalities Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert hosted a rally on the National Mall the day before the marathon. The rallies, in need of porta johns, asked if the marathon would share theirs already stationed along the same roads. Race Director Rick Nealis declined. Nealis had ordered 800 portable toilets — a big portion of the available toilets in this area and padlocked them so rally-goers couldn’t use them, the New York Times reported.
     
    “I understand that they were having problems ordering Porta Potties, that they might have to go as far as Baltimore to get them, but I just didn’t want to share,” he told the Times. It was worth it to make sure that “my runners won’t run out of toilet paper,” he said.

    The marathon and its weekend events continue to be rather strict about those porta johns -- but it’s all to make sure runners have the resources they need -- clean(ish) toilets and paper -- for race day.
     
    And don’t worry, runners. Schmidt said porta johns “should not run out of toilet paper.” Each is equipped with six rolls.
     
    Schmidt shared his tips for using the porta potties at the race:
    • Best to get to the porta johns early. The earlier a runner is, the cleaner the unit will be. Also, there area shorter wait times for runners who arrive early. 
    • No need to bring your own toilet paper, each unit is fully stocked with six rolls. This is plenty of toilet paper and will be enough. 
    • Note the units in Runners Village. These will have less of a line then at the corrals. 
    • When in doubt, ask a supporting Marine where the closest unit is on the course. They will know and be able to point runners in the right direction. 
    • Please respect our National Parks by using one of the nearly 800 porta johns available to all runners and spectators.

    Return of the run commute, part 2

    Traffic got you down? Metro making you mad? Bus have you blue? Try the run commute!
     
    Run commuting is an excellent option for those looking to add some miles and skip the hassle of a more traditional commute. 
     
    I’ve been run commuting with much more frequency this year. My work hours have shifted in the past month to an earlier start time. That means I’m setting my alarm much earlier than in the past. So gone are the days when I saunter to the gym or casually go on a longer run if I felt up to it. Now if I want to work out in the morning, I have to be very intentional with my time.

    Evening exercise it tough for me, too. I’m too hungry, too tired, too distracted.
     
    My Metro commute is a certainty, however. I live 5 miles away from the Glass-Enclosed Nerve Center, so I can run home from work and the distance is feasible. Also, the run commute forces me to run a fixed distance – if I slack off, I don’t get home. 

    While I’d love to run to work in the morning, my office doesn’t have a shower. I like my coworkers too much to force them to sit next to an unshowered Sarah Beth all day.
     
    The number of commuting trips via running increased by 51 percent in 2017, and the number of people reporting that they commute by running at least occasionally went up 43 percent in that year, according to Strava’s 2017 Year in Sport report.
     
    While Strava didn’t find D.C. to be one of the most popular cities for run commuting, the region may be picking up speed. A recent Washington Post story looked into how Metro’s track work has influenced some people to lace up their running shoes and run commute. 
     
    Last year, I talked about how I run commute and offered some tips. While those still stand, I’ve learned a lot with another year of run commuting on my feet. Here are some of my recent tips, but be sure to check out my previous post for the foundation. 
    • Organize and plan. Long before the run commute, plan out what you will need that day. If you need certain clothes, a laptop or paperwork, make sure you bring them a day ahead of the run. Also, don’t pack more than you need on run commute days. You’ll thank yourself if you have to leave it behind or schlep it during a run.
    • Be flexible. At least a handful of times this summer, it was pouring rain when I walked out the door for my run commute. My run is ruined! Maybe not, I found. If weather gets in the way, try running to the nearest Metro, leaving electronics behind or embracing a soggy run. However, if weather is dangerous or its not realistic to run home in the run, it's OK to call the whole thing off and run commute another day. Monitoring the forecast is an important part of the planning process that can’t be ignored.
    • Be safe. Whether you’re running in the morning or the evening, make sure you’re paying attention to other commuters, busy roadways and hazards. Also, bright clothes and reflective gear is a must if the sun is coming up or going down. You want to be seen by cyclists, drivers and other runners. But on that same note …
    • Someone you know may see you – and that’s fine. I used to sneak around, hoping my coworkers wouldn’t see me in my running gear. I don’t like to be the center of attention and someone walking around in gym shorts and running shoes can be a jarring sight in the newsroom. Also, run commuting in the neighborhood of my office means some people I may know could see me running home, all sweaty and gross. I've grown up since then. Now I figure “who cares?” People may see me – and that’s fine. It’s part of my life and who I am. And maybe it can show someone else that running to or from work is something they can do too!
    Do you run commute? How far do you go, and what works for you? Let me know!
    Thursday morning's sunrise was just too beautiful to not capture it during my run.
    It was a beautiful weekend for a long run! There was finally no humidity and some sunshine!
     
    How did your weekend run go?

    Things I wish I'd known about running a marathon

    This year's Marine Corps Marathon will be my sixth marathon. All of the races have taught me that things don't seem to get any easier with each passing marathon. Still, I've learned a lot since my first marathon in 2013.

    While I'm no expert, I may know just enough to help other people starting their marathon journeys look ahead at what can make their experiences easier, more enjoyable and rewarding. Here are 10 things I wish I'd known about running a marathon and the training that leads up to it:

    1) Set realistic goals. First time marathoners should set goals, sure, but make sure you set sensible ones. For example, I recommend people who are running their first marathon aim to "finish in the upright position." Go out there, listen to your body, trust your training, walk when you need to -- all without the pressure of having to meet a certain time goal on your first try. A ballpark time goal is a great idea based on your training runs, but you should be proud to finish the distance your first try; don't get too hung up on times otherwise.

    2) Get the right gear. Make sure you invest in shoes, shorts, socks, shirts, etc., that can help you get through the race and feel good. It's especially important to make sure you have a good pair of running shoes (or two). (Check out my guide for when to buy a new pair of running shoes here). Testing out your gear is equally important. Don't wait until race day to wear new shoes or a new pair of shorts. Which leads me to my next point ...

    3) Use long runs as a test. Your 15-20-mile runs are a great time to break in shoes, test out clothes and figure out what foods and drinks agree with you. Treat some of your long runs just as you would race day: get up early, eat and drink what you would before the race, wear your race outfit and eat and drink what you would along the course. It's an opportunity to see how your timing is getting ready and eating, and, I find, it makes me less anxious on race day if I've already had a trial round. Overall, try to limit trying new things on race day.

    4) Lean on friends and running groups. You don't have to train alone. A running group or friend can help training go by faster and give you some company on runs that can last hours. Also, you can scout for a companion for race day who can help push and encourage you.

    5) Listen to your body. Running a marathon isn't easy, and there will be some pain that comes along with it. But that doesn't mean you should ignore what your body is trying to tell you. It's OK to give yourself some days off if you're hurting or burnt out, walk when you need to during runs, cut runs short if something is wrong, eat that piece of pizza or ice cream if you're craving it. Being driven and focused is great, but knowing your body and listening to what it has to say can help you in the long run.

    6) Rest on your rest days. It's tempting to want to push yourself and get in an extra training day or two, but resist the urge. Rest days can be just as important as some of the running days and can give your body the break it needs. I learned this one early on. I hated to take some days off and would try to sneak in shorter exercises on my off days, but ultimately it can lead to burn out and injuries that just aren't worth it.

    7) Trust your training. It can be easy to second-guess that you can run a marathon, but YOU CAN! If you've put in the time, you will be able to do it! Your body knows to how run these miles, you've trained for hours, you've visualized your success -- now go for it!

    8) Recite your mantra. Come up with something to inspire you and instill confidence you may need along the way. It's corny, but mine is, "You can do this, Sarah Beth!" It's just what I need to remind myself when I'm feeling tired, deflated or sore. Other suggestions: “I believe in myself” or “I am ready.”

    9) Push through until the end. The last 6 miles of a marathon are tough ... like really tough. Running a marathon is as much a physical battle as it is a mental one. During my first marathon I ran behind a person with a T-shirt that said something to the effect of "The first 10 miles are strength, the second 10 miles are mental and the last 6 miles are heart." That phrase has resonated with me years later because I know I can make it through 20 miles, but the last 6 miles are truly difficult. Every step feels like an internal fight: My feet know they need to keep going, and my mind is begging me to stop. Go in knowing those last few miles are going to be painful ... but again, YOU CAN DO IT!

    10) Have fun. Remember that this is something you signed up to do! While it's not going to be easy, it's something you're meant to enjoy and finish with a sense of accomplishment. Smile, laugh, look around and appreciate what you're body is capable of!
     

    Healthcare on the run: Marine Corps Marathon’s medical response a yearround planning mission

    The Marine Corps Marathon's runners may start the race with times to beat, goals in mind or plans to just finish 26.2 miles. But few runners think they'll be sidelined during the race by an injury or ailment.
     
    That's according to Shelly Weinstein, who oversees medical operations for the race. I spoke with her about the roughly 1,000 volunteers who help carry out the race's medical response plan and staff the 14 tents along the course.
     
    “I don’t think any participant really thinks they are going to end up at an aid station, let alone sick or going to the hospital that night. So I think this group of volunteers that we have is just very proud to take care of them, and they take their job incredibly serious, but they have fun. People have made friendships out of this,” she added.
     
    The goal is always to get runners back on the course — and the medical teams do it well: More than 98 percent of the runners finish the race, Weinstein said.
     
    “Most of our runners, if they start, they are going to finish, and we will do everything we can to safely let them continue to finish the race,” she said.
     
    Read more about the medical plan, what volunteers at the tents are equipped to do and how it all comes together on WTOP.com:
    Keeping the Marine Corps Marathon’s medical team ready requires year-round planning
    Dr. Charles Stubin and the medical team with whom he worked during the 2017 race. This year's event will mark the 10th year Stubin has worked at a medical tent. (Courtesy Dr. Charles Stubin)
     

    Coaches share running safety tips

    Running safety is always important, but the recent death of a woman fatally stabbed during a run in D.C.'s Logan Circle is a reminder of some of the things runners should always keep in mind when they head out.
     
    Even the most experienced runners have to keep safety in mind, said Julie Sapper and Lisa Reichmann, co-founders of the running coaching company Run Farther and Faster.
     
    One of the most important things runners can do is run in a group or with someone else, Sapper said.
     
    “Running with other folks is an automatic protective mechanism that allows people not only to feel safer, but they actually are safer,” Sapper said, adding that when runners aren’t able to run in a group, they might choose to run in a busier, more populated place, such as a track.
     
    Runners should be wise about the gear they bring, too. Don’t leave the house without a fully charged cellphone, Reichmann recommended.
     
    “Not only for personal safety to use if you are in danger yourself, but if you come across a runner or a pedestrian or a car or someone else who needs help, having a fully charged cellphone with you is really important,” Reichmann said.
     
    Read more of their tips on WTOP.com:
    (Getty Images/iStockphoto/jacoblund)
     
     

    Tips to prevent 'runner's knee' and other common running injuries


    Aches and pains associated with runner's knee plague many runners. "Runner's knee" is a catchall term for numerous conditions that cause knee pain, and many have felt its effects.

    Injuries suck. They can knock the wind out of a promising training season, or prevent racing entirely. I've coped with Iliotibial Band Syndrome, (aka IT Syndome), which has sidelined me in the past.

    As a runner vulnerable to knee pain of my own, I had some questions about runner's knee as well as other common running injuries. I turned to Dr. Wiemi Douoguih, medical director of MedStar Sports Medicine, who shared tips for spotting runner's knee, identifying its causes and preventing it.

    Read in on WTOP.com:

    Marathon training: What to eat during long runs

    I think a lot about eating -- especially when I'm running. As I crank up the mileage, I dream of pizza, yearn for cake and ruminate over where I can get a burger.
     
    I know that those aren't the best things to fuel my body during a long run, and they certainly don't pack well either.
     
    While I've ruled out chowing down on some things during my runs, I still had questions about what the best types of foods to eat during longer runs and when it should be eaten.
     
    I turned to Andrea Goergen, a clinical dietitian at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, who helped answer my questions and gave me some tips about eating during long runs.
     
    Read in on WTOP.com:
    (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File)
     

    Training plan woes

     
    We are about two months out from the Marine Corps Marathon! And the race draws closer, it's vital to stay on top of training plans.
     
    Unfortunately, I'm not wild about my training plan. This year, I'm kind of working off of a "Frankenstein" training plan that combines parts that work for me and my life, and the training plan built by Olympian Jeff Galloway. I like the Galloway plan generally; his marathon training plans for the Walt Disney World marathon are hugely helpful (and free), so I've leaned on them for most races I've ever done.
     
    However, this year I opted for a more demanding version of the plan that aims to shave off time. Let me say this: I'm up for a challenge, but perhaps not up to the mileage. Its longest run is 29 miles. That's right, 2-9. Uhhhh, what? Last time I checked, a marathon is 26.2 miles. Anything more than that distance seems pretty loony tunes.
     
    So needless to say, I'm shaving off some mileage during the longer runs. An upcoming run calls for 26 miles -- which to me means 20-something and calling it a day. I think that's pretty good pre-marathon no matter what!
     
    I do like that this training plan incorporates some speed work. I've been doing some mile repeats, a taxing experience, but a welcome change up, too.
     
    Still, I stress about my training plan and worry I'm over training, or fret that I am not running enough. I wonder, are my long runs too long? Are my weekday runs too short? I second-guess so many of these choices. But I've learned to approach training plans with flexibility and manage expectations.
     
    There are going to be days I will skip runs, and it's OK. There will be times I feel fine running 15 miles, and other days where running 5 miles is a chore. There is no perfect science when it comes to training for a race, and listening to your body is vital.
     
    No matter what the training plan, I can't stress how important rest days are. I take the rest days very seriously, and embrace any chance to take a breather. I love running, and training can be fun, but rest days can be the best days.
     
    So how is your training coming along? What plans are you using? Tell me in the comments or tweet at me!

    Time management tips to help you make it through marathon training

    Running makes me happy, but it takes some serious time. I often feel like it's one more thing I have to do on my ever-growing list of tasks.

    Just because it's something I enjoy doesn't mean I'm not exempt from putting it off, prioritizing other things ahead of it or just not feeling up to it. Marathon training means longer miles, which can suck even more time no matter what you're up against. Chores, work, commuting, time with friends and family and other distractions can often leapfrog my running plans.

    Regardless of my own excuses, I know it comes down to time management. Running might by one more thing in a busy schedule, but it can be possible to work it in.

    Here are some of my tips for making time for running:

    --Come up with a plan. At the beginning of the week, map out how many miles you have to run on which days, where you want to run them and any other scheduling conflicts you may have. Knowing your time constraints and making a plan for how to overcome that can be crucial. Have an early Monday meeting? Plan to run in the evening. Doing carpool duty in afternoon? A morning run may suite you best. Can't squeeze a run in? You may have to set that alarm for even earlier. Having a plan can make you feel ready to take on any obstacles.

    --Work out in the morning. I'm 1,000 percent more likely to get my run in if I do it in the morning. If I wait until later in the day, I'm bound to have excuses: I'm too tired, my stomach is upset, I spent too long at work, plans came up or Netflix beckons to me. Get up and knock it out. You'll feel better, be more accomplished and won't have it hanging over your head all day as one more "to-do."

    --Think outside the box. Take any opportunity you can to book your run. Try running at lunch; run to or from work. Taking the kids to soccer practice or getting your car serviced? Pack your running clothes and do it while you're waiting. Think about 30-minute segments where you can add running into a jam-packed day.

    --Minimize distractions. This is my biggest challenge. I can get lost on Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, emails or just going through photos on my phone. The time that I have blocked off for a run can dwindle as I get lost in my phone. My advice is to put your phone by the door and don't grab it until you're ready to head out for a run (if you take your phone with you.) Otherwise, leave it behind. Keeping it out of sight can keep you focused on getting ready to head out the door to run.

    --Lay out your running clothes. Having your running clothes set out ahead of time can save the precious moments you have and may have spent looking for your socks, running shoes or that perfect running T-shirt.

    --Just say "no." Remember, you signed up for this. That means you may have to say "no" when people ask you to go out or take on a task that interferes with your running plans. I'm not saying you should pass on your family BBQ to run, but it may mean happy hour has to take a back seat to that 4-mile run you know you need to tackle.

    What do you do to help manage time and train? Let me know! Tell me in the comments or tweet at me!

    Pass on a training group? Here are 7 tips for running alone

    Running alone -- it's something I do more often than I'd like. But there are ways to stay safe and make it less boring. (WTOP/Sarah Beth Hensley)
     
    Marathon training is tough -- and going it alone can leave runners feeling isolated, bored and apathetic.
     
    And that's where I often find myself during this Marine Corps Marathon training period. I tend to run alone -- and not necessarily because it's my preference. I work a slightly in the afternoon/evening hours at WTOP and find that during the work week I run at times when many "normal" people have long been at the office. On the weekends, however, I am regretful I haven't joined a group with companions to push me and keep me company.
     
    Earlier this year, I joined a training group for the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler race, and I found it extremely helpful! Not only do groups provide training plans, but they also offer group runs and an outlet to meet new people interested in the same hobby as you. It's a helpful support network where coaches give you detailed routes, advice and methods help prepare you for a race.
     
    Many of the running groups in the D.C. area started their training plans weeks ago, but it may not be an issue to join one for those who are still interested.
     
    However, for those who may have missed the boat, here are my tips for solo running:
     
    1. Safety first! It's crucial to be aware and prepared when running alone. It's wise to run in bright clothes on well-lit, well-traveled routes. Let a friend/significant other know when you're running and where. Running without headphones will increase your awareness and is always a good idea -- but some people may find that virtually impossible when running alone. I know I'm fueled by podcasts, audiobooks and music on my long runs. To keep safety in mind, keep one earbud out, turn down the volume or try an "open" set of headphones, where music is played through bone conduction instead of through an earbud in the ear.
     
    2. Recruit a friend. The D.C. area is rich with runners, so find a friend, family member or coworker willing to jog with you. Even if they're not training for a race, they may be interested in tagging along.
     
    3. Meet halfway. There are times that I can't convince my friends to join me on runs that are more than a few miles long, and I get that! So if they're interested in running, I have them meet me in the last few miles of my longer runs. It's a pleasant distraction when I need it most, and it gives me some company.
     
    4. Stick to what you know. Don't try a new, unfamiliar route when you're running alone. It's not a time you want to get lost or find yourself in an unsafe area.
     
    5. But change things up. If you're getting bored, try something new for your run. One option is to add in some intervals -- meaning pick up the pace for a shorter distance. Pick out a landmark ahead and kick it up a notch until you reach that marker. Then slide back in to your regular pace. Rinse and repeat. Also, if you typically run the same loop, try running it in the opposite direction -- you may see things you hadn't going the other way.
     
    6. Carry identification. It's important to have your ID on you just in case of an emergency ... or you need a beer toward the end of your run. One time my husband ran with his ID while we were on vacation. Naturally, the slim piece of plastic fell out of his arm band, leading to an all-day endeavor to find it before a flight home. My advice: secured that ID! Or get ID tags that can go on bracelets or shoes. Here some of the many options on Amazon.
     
    7. Try positive self talk. If you're bored, tired or hurting, try a little pep talk to get through the rough patches. The Runner's Resource recommends mantras such as “Today is a great day,” “I believe in myself,” “I am ready,” or simply, “Breathe, Relax." What works for me? "You can do this, Sarah Beth!" It's super corny, I know, but it helps gets me through the leg cramps, hot days and hills!
     
    What helps you get through runs when you're solo? What tips do you have when you're headed out alone? Tell me in the comments or tweet at me!

     It's training time!

    It's that time of year again -- time to lace up the running shoes, do some stretches and mentally prepare myself for running in D.C.'s unrelenting summer humidity! I'm running in the Marine Corps Marathon again!

    It's my third year running the Marine Corps Marathon, which takes place Oct 28. Although I've run the race before, I learn something new about myself through every training cycle. I learn about fortitude, attitude, ambition and perseverance. I also learn some harder lessons too -- like don't have that third cup of coffee before heading out for a jog (hello, jitters!), and don't put off a long run until the afternoon during summer's sweltering heat.

    Whatever I'm taking away this year, you'll read about it here. I'm planning to share details about my training plan, diet and obstacles. I'm also seeking answers to my own questions: I plan to speak with the pros about shoes, doctors about foods and trainers about rest days.

    While I'm looking forward to another race, I'm not always thrilled about the whole training part leading up to it. Running is hard work; running 26.2 miles can feel like a death wish. I'm hoping this blog inspires others who are on their own training journies, no matter the distance. 
     
    So stick with this blog for more, and be sure to comment on this blog if you have any questions or thoughts. You can find me tweeting about running on too -- follow me here.
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