Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run training blog
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Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run training blog Live

Follow along as Sarah Beth Hensley trains for and runs in the Cherry Blossom Ten-Mile race on April 8, 2018.

  • About this blog

    Follow along as WTOP's Sarah Beth Hensley trains for and runs in the Cherry Blossom Ten-Mile race on April 8, 2018. In this blog, she'll detail her training and nutrition plans, share her obstacles and ask questions that may help anyone planning to run the race. Sarah Beth is a race ambassador and senior digital editor at WTOP.com.
     
    Have a question, comment or training experience to share? Click "Make a comment" on the gray bar below or email Sarah Beth.

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  • Mission accomplished

    Finisher medal for the 2017 Marine Corps Marathon. (WTOP/Sarah Beth Hensley)
     
    It’s all about perspective. I have to keep reminding myself of that. I finished the Marine Corps Marathon on Sunday – but it wasn’t my proudest performance.
     
    I felt great ahead of the marathon, and I started out feeling wonderful and strong. I ran some of my fastest splits for the first 13 miles. But then around mile 14 muscle cramps set in.
     
    Burning, painful charley horses crept up my quads, into my calves and feet as the miles mounted. I was forced to walk, setting me off pace and causing me to question if I would finish.
     
    The last 10 miles were the most difficult I’ve experienced in my running career. But I finished.
     
    I was disappointed with how I had done. But I finished.
     
    Did I let the heat get to me? Did I start off too fast? Did I not drink enough water or Gatorade? Did I not stretch enough? The questions pelted me as I ran, and linger well after the race ended. But I finished.
     
    I finished about 10 minutes later than my goal time; it wasn’t my best time, and it wasn’t my worst. I grimaced as I approached the end. But I finished.
     
    As I lamented my performance after the race, upset with my race strategy and pain (which I had never experienced in any of my other four marathons, nor during training runs), my husband, family, friends and coworkers reminded me about an impressive accomplishment: I finished.
     
    Some days you beat the race, and other days the race beats you. But, again, it’s all about perspective. I wasn’t pleased with how I ran, but I still was able to cross the finish line of a truly inspiring race.
     
    Where do I go from here? You better believe I will be back to run the 43rd Marine Corps Marathon. I may not have had my best race on Sunday, but I still love running and I still adore the Marine Corps Marathon race. I still cherish my time running and value my interactions with so many people in the running community. Between now and then, I’ll be running other races around the country and the D.C. area – let me know if you have any recommendations! Follow me on Twitter to get more information about those adventures.
     
    To all the other Marine Corps Marathon runners, congratulations! 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. 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.
     
    I was quite exhausted after a less-than-stellar marathon performance, but Mission Accomplished nonetheless. (WTOP/Sarah Beth Hensley)
  • Tips to calm pre-race nerves

    Getting nervous about an upcoming race? Here are some tips to quell your anxieties. (Thinkstock)
     

    Here is comes! Race day is almost here -- and I can already feel that pit in my stomach. 

    Pre-race anxiety can be overwhelming and perhaps crippling. The pre-race jitters get to me. It happens to me sometimes days before races I have already run. My anxiety tends to be even higher if it's a course I've never run or a town I don't know well.

    Being nervous before a race is totally normal -- it signifies that you're excited about the event; but don't let it get the best of you. Here are some tips that I use to get through those pre-race nerves and have a good run.

    1. Check out the course. Knowing what to expect out of the course can help reduce nervous energy. It's great to get out and run part of the course ahead of race day. If you can't do that, you can try to drive it, bike it or walk part of it. If all else fails, study the course map on the Marine Corps Marathon website.

    2. Trust your training. You put in the miles. You got up early. You earned the blisters. You nursed the sore muscles. You trained like a beast -- now trust the plan and know that your body is ready. Conversely, if you didn't train the way you should have, trust that you need to temper your expectations.

    3. Give yourself time to get to the starting line. I'm most stressed out when I feel rushed. I'm more likely to be frazzled on mornings that I slept in too late or didn't give myself enough time to get through my pre-race routine. Know how long it's going to take to get to the starting line and add extra time you may need for things like wardrobe changes, gear check, stops at the bathroom, security and stretching.

    4. Have a plan. Visualize what you're going to do on race day and know what your goals are and the best way to achieve them. Do you need to start at a certain time or with a certain group? Do you need to be at a certain pace at the beginning of the race, or are you trying to hold back for the first few miles? Coming up with a race-day plan can help you map out the strategy and be less anxious leading up to the race.

    5. Study. Know where gear check is before the race, know where food and water stops are along the course, figure out what to wear based on the weather. Doing some research and study the details before the big day can help you know what to expect and can reduce stress and pre-race nerves. (FYI -- get information about where food, water and aid stations are along the course here. Find information about gear check and other frequently asked questions here.)

    6. Breathe deep. Getting in a few deep breaths and focusing on the mission can help you relax and ease some tension.

    Now knock down those nerves and run your race! You can do this!

  • The case for a tech-free run

     
    I'm a sucker for running gadgets. I just got a GPS watch after weighing the purchase for years; I run with music, apps and what promise to be sweat-proof headphones (they aren't.) As someone who works in the digital sphere, I fancy myself a tech-savvy person -- and take full advantage in my running life, too.
     
    But this past week, I went on my last (!) long, long, long run before the Marine Corps Marathon and ran tech free for most of it. And I loved it.
     
    I usually bring my tech with my on all runs -- arm band, phone, GPS watch. Music helps push me; and I've already shared about how comedians can take my mind off the harder workouts. Still, there is something to be said for unplugging in running as mush as there is in real life. It's a time to step back, refocus and enjoy what's in front of you.
     
    This past weekend, going on a tech-free run helped me run at a comfortable pace instead of fretting over what my GPS watch said to me. Running without music or podcasts helped me focus on my breathing, absorb nature's beauty and appreciate what my body is capable of.
     
    Beyond those benefits, running without technology can be a safer way to exercise. Tech-free runners can better hear cars, bikers and pedestrians around them and be more attuned to their surroundings. Distracted running is a thing -- and it can be dangerous.
     
    So as you head into the last few weeks of your Marine Corps Marathon training, consider running without your music or GPS watch. It may be the breath of fresh air you need!
  • Running motivation: Passion + miles = success

     
    How “enthusiastic” are you about running, and training, for a marathon? It can be really tough and time consuming -- it’s easy to get down on yourself as race day approaches. But it’s that fire-in-the-belly feeling – that zeal for running that motivates us to accomplish this impressive feat.
     
    It’s something Marine Corps Marathon Race Director Rick Nealis reminded me of. I interviewed him for a story I’m working on and what he said really stuck with me.
     
    “You have to be enthused about running … some people say it could be boring… it’s an individual effort,” Nealis said.
     
    “If you’re going to run a marathon, you’ve got to get out there every day and run and get that mileage in. You’ve got to take the initiative. No one else is going to put you through your running pace, except yourself.”
     
    It’s so very easy to do nothing. Sleeping, brunching with friends, binging Netflix, reading a book – all of these alternatives seem more attractive to me than running from time to time. However, a passion for running, an ardor for the sport and an appreciation for what the human body is capable of fuel me through the harder days.
     
    There are days so many runners get discouraged, but putting in time, miles and a dash of enthusiasm can go a long way, Nealis said.
     
    Running is different from so many other sports, too, he pointed out.
     
    “It’s the only sport that the elites and the back-of-the-pack are on the same course on the same day. It doesn’t happen in baseball – you wouldn’t be able to get in a Nats game and take a couple of swings at a Major League pitcher because that doesn’t happen -- but in running it does,” he said. “I’m able to get on the same start line as an Olympian, and compete on that day and think that I’m as good as him.”
     
    Lately, I’ve been getting a little lethargic and dreading some of the longer runs. This message from Nealis hit home at a time when I needed it. I hope it helps push anyone else who needs a little bit of motivation.
     
    Thanks, Rick Nealis!
  • Tales of a traveling trainer: Tips for running on the road

    Up early to log morning miles during a recent trip to the beach. (WTOP/Sarah Beth Hensley)
     
    My calendar is a little booked these days. The last few months have seen a flurry of visits from friends and family, trips to the beach, flights to visit my parents and quick weekend getaways.
     
    I’m not complaining – I’m quite grateful my summer has been filled with guests, entertainment and sunshine. And I’m blessed to have the means to travel. It’s just that often my voyages come at the expense of my marathon training.
     
    Each time, I promise myself I will get up and go run before my 6:30 a.m. flight; I’ll carve out an hour or two to run when I have visitors in town; I’ll convince my traveling companions to incorporate running into the agenda. Alas, these things rarely happen.
     
    Still, it’s not impossible to coordinate training and travel schedules. Here are a few tips when it comes to running while you’re on the road or entertaining guests.
     
    • Plan. This sounds obvious, but actually going out and running is much easier if you’ve planned which day you’ll do it, where and how long you have to run. Know which days you’ll have the energy to run and what time of day works best. And be prepared to get up early. That seems to be the best time for me to actually do my run and get out ahead of what can be busy days.

      Also, if I’m in a new city, I try to research places that are runner-friendly such as trails or parks in the area.
       
    • Pack. Make sure you take your running shoes, socks, GPS watch and any other appropriate apparel when you’re traveling. Think about an extra layer too – just in case you’re visiting a chilly destination.

      And be realistic – don’t take four running outfits if you’re only going to (truthfully) run once. No need to pack more than you’ll use. (Although I’ve never applied that to any other aspect of my packing technique – I’m away for three days? Better bring half my closet.)
       
    • Communicate expectations. I’m often guilty of this when I’m traveling or entertaining guests – I want to go out for a six-mile run, but my companions have a different idea of how the day should go. A museum visit, dinner reservations or “quality time” may overlap with the time I intended to run. It’s best to let your fellow nomads or visitors know what day and when you will be unavailable. I don’t think it’s an unreasonable request – and it may even motivate others to get out and run with you!
       
    • Consider safety. If you’re in a new city, be mindful of safety always. Run in well-lit areas and consider recruiting a buddy.
       
    • Utilize hotels. Check if your hotel has a fitness center and a treadmill. No fitness center? Running stairs can be a good workout, too!
       
    • Make running part of the destination. Try a run-cation! There are tons of wonderful cities around the world that host races – so plan your trip around a race, or scope out if there are any 5Ks or 10Ks with available registrations scheduled for the time you may be there.

      I’ve planned loads of trips around fun half-marathon races. I find it’s a wonderful way to see a city and log some training miles, too.
       
    • Do long runs before you depart. It’s OK to adjust your training schedule and push your long run to before or after you leave. I’d rather get in a long run a day or two before than not at all.
       
    • Be realistic and enjoy your vacation. Training for a marathon is a commitment and should be taken seriously, but don’t beat yourself up if you’re not training exactly by the books. Run when you can, and remember to enjoy yourself.

      I’ve had a few too many instances where I got down on myself for not running as many miles or days as I should have during a trip … but I enjoyed an experience instead. I’d rather have memories of that than logging treadmill miles in a dingy hotel by myself.
       
    What tips do you have for traveling and training? Share them with me – and bon voyage!
  • When to buy new running shoes

    My running shoes may be ready to bite the dust. (WTOP/Sarah Beth Hensley)
     
    As Marine Corps Marathon training chugs along, my once-sturdy running shoes are wearing down. The tread is wearing and the magenta fabric is fraying. The shoes feel fine, but is it time to ditch them for another pair?
     
    Admittedly, I am not a fan of buying new shoes – I’m rather particular and I’ve been known to buy new shoes, run in them, fret that they “feel weird” and then return them. I mean, of course they “feel weird” – my foot hasn't imprinted into them.
     
    To quell my new-shoe queries, I turned to a D.C.-area shoe expert about when to get new kicks. Pacers Running Brand Specialist Stephen Laico offered tips, tricks and advice for the shoe-buying process.
     
    When should runners get new running shoes?
     
    Runners should typically get new shoes when they have put between 300 and 500 miles on that pair, Laico said.
     
    However, it is also dependent on the duration and frequency, he added.
     
    “Someone running five miles a week is going to go through their shoes a lot differently than someone who is training for a marathon and is putting in 25 to 50 miles a week,” Laico said.
     
    The runner’s form matter, too.
     
    “[It’s] going to vary based on how people strike – someone who has got a light, efficient gate is going to be on the higher end of that mileage. Someone who has got a really heavy foot strike or kind of scuff their foot when they land, wear through that quicker and be on the lower end,” he said.
     
    What helps extend the life of running shoes?
     
    Running on a treadmill absorbs some of the impact on the shoe. Laico said runners can get a little bit more life on shoes by running inside.
     
    Still there is one major way to give running shoes more time: Keep running shoes strictly for running.
     
    “Sometimes people come in and saying ‘I’ve barely run in these shoes and they have pretty much broken down.’ But they are also walking in those shoes every day and spending their day wearing them. So all the time on your feet is going to add up – it’s not just the time spent running in those shoes that adds to the wear,” Laico said.
     
    How many pairs of shoes should runners have?
     
    An average runner should have at least two pairs of shoes to cycle through, Laico recommended.
     
    Alternating through two pairs will give more life to each pair. Also, it can help to switch between runs if, during the summer particularly, shoes get wet or sweaty.
     
    Before a shoe is completely dead – when there is about 25 percent of life left – set it aside and save it for the times when you need to turn to the back-up pair, Laico recommended.
     
    Where and when should runners buy shoes?
     
    Laico recommends runners stop by a specialty running store where trained staff can examine your stride, shoe size, running style and more.
     
    Also, runners may want to consider stopping in to buy shoes after a longer run to see what their shoe needs are when their legs are tired.
     
    “How you look in first couple minutes of a run when you’re really thinking about it and your legs are fresh is different than how you look further down the road,” he said. “So if you want a better sense of how you are after a six-mile run, come in after a six-mile run.”
     
    The staff can look at your gate under stress.
     
    “So if you’re training for a marathon, maybe after halfway you need more support than what you did at the start of the run  -- it might be a better gauge of where you are at that point.”
  • Return of the ‘run-mute’

    Taking off from WTOP for a run-mute home. (WTOP/Sarah Beth Hensley)
     
    Getting tired of the same old run? It’s easy to do. I find that sometimes I can’t will myself to get out and run when I’m growing weary of my same old routes, or watching the same old shows when I take it to the treadmill.
     
    That’s why I decided to change things up this week and run commute, or “run-mute” as people (OK, maybe just me) call it. I live a few miles from the Glass-Enclosed Nerve Center, so on Tuesday, I packed my running clothes, took public transit to work and then opted for a run commute home.
     
    There are some major perks with my return run-mute: I’m traversing the city when the weather has cooled off and forcing myself to run a fixed distance. Beyond that, it’s good for the environment!
     
    There are some crummy aspects. It takes some planning. Also, putting my run off until later in the day leaves me ruminating about my looming run: did I have too much coffee before this run? Did I eat enough? Did I eat too much? Where can I stretch? What if my coworkers see me running and I need to pick a wedgie? What if it rains? What if it’s still too hot out? What if it gets too dark?
     
    (For what it’s worth, these are pretty baseless fears. It’s just a normal run and I need to get out of my head.) Still, here are tips to have a good run-mute:
    • Remember to bring all your clothes/running needs. You don’t want to run to work, only to realize you don’t have pants. Or on a return commute, realize you don’t have your running shoes. Hobbling home in heels doesn’t sound like a good run to me.
    • Anticipate the smell factor. Let's face it, running to work can come with stinky consequences. I'd recommend not running to work if you don't have a shower. If you choose to do so anyway, there are waterless shampoos and body washes that can help remedy the situation. Tolerant coworkers help.
    • Bring extra food. On run-mute days, bringing extra snacks is crucial and I try to get them in about an hour before I plan to run home. Every runner is different, but I can’t run on an empty stomach, and I’m even less productive if I’m hungry – which is often the case when I’m finishing up my day.
    • Plan and organize what you need and when. If you're running to work, try bringing your clothes for the week to the office, or at least the day before, so you're not forced to haul your work clothes with you while you run. When I run-mute home, I Metro with my running gear, change at the office and stuff my work clothes and other belongings into lockers we have in the newsroom -- then I retrieve it all the next day. Also, I pack light on those days to make sure I'm not leaving too much behind at the office.
    • Be a safe runner. If you're running when it's dark, make sure you're equipped with reflective materials, headlamps, bright clothes, etc. Running with a buddy on well-lit streets is wise, too. I have a clipable reflective, blinking light I got at a sporting goods store for a few dollars that works well for me.
    • Make adjustments. Commute too long to run-mute? Try taking public transit part of the way and running the rest.
    Run commutes can be a great way to feel energized in the morning, or help clear your head in the evenings. Do you run-mute? Share what helps your run-mute.
  • Read more of Sarah Beth's Marine Corps Marathon blog coverage here.
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