Running For FUN!!



Keep it FUN!

What elements of your running make it fun for you?   Do you run competitively, run for fun, or both ?  What are your future running goals and how do they support your lifestyle?  Do you find it rewarding to push yourself towards your upper limits or to keep expectations on the lower side?  How do you keep your running fun, manage your life, and satisfy all of your personal goals?

By setting goals, establishing a plan, and proper execution you will be on the road to success!  The satisfaction that comes with your goal achievement will keep things fun and rewarding at the same time.   I think that when balanced correctly running can be a fun lifelong activity and a compliment to everything else you do.  That being said, I have seen a number of athletes struggle with keeping this balance between sport and life.   Competing at your highest level and keeping it fun and sustainable over time can be a common challenge that you may encounter.   Identifying your true level of commitment combined with appropriate goal setting will be the key here.  When the goals don’t match ones level of spare time, work schedules, and family life we run into many conflicts.  These problems then create an environment where runs are missed, goals aren’t achieved, and running isn’t so much fun.   As a coach I have recently emphasized the need for more attention towards this issue and running plans that fit life better.

Running can be much more fun if you keep the balance between life and sport.   Your goals of the sport and how you will implement running into your life will be the deciding factor.  Tangible goals, attention to the plan, and steadfast execution will guide you in your journey.   Whether you’re attempting to qualify for the Olympic Trials, compete locally, or just to stay in shape, we all need a direction in which to run.  This destination gives us a purpose and will keep us motivated over time.  Running is much more fun when you have a destination!

Running with a destination can serve you in a variety of different healthy ways and lead to an overall good time.  The physiological and psychological rewards are significant and can be an integral component in maintaining your overall sanity.  How many times have you heard runners refer to their running as a form of personal counseling and well being?  The therapeutic qualities of regular running can be huge and can translate across everything else that you do in your life.   Use your running to your advantage and let the positive outcomes help to make your days more enjoyable.   You will be healthier, fitter, stronger, and ready to tackle all of life’s challenges head on.

(Valeria Curtis: 2019 Houston Marathon)

Is setting ambitious time goals and pushing yourself to the max what really does it for you?   From athlete to athlete the goals may be different and the joy of running may hold a different meaning.  Valeria is a mother of two, living in Minot North Dakota, with an enlisted husband that is gone away from home for large blocks of time.  She runs close to a hundred miles a week and thrives on setting serious running goals.  Recently, she narrowly missed her Olympic Trials berth of (2:45) in Houston.  Although she missed the goal she remains engaged, hungry, and running for fun in search of this goal in the upcoming season.  She does a wonderful job of keeping the balance in life and allowing herself to train at this very high level.   Athletes can fall into the trap of setting goals that require too extensive of a plan to fit their lifestyle.   When this happens it can lead to a loss of joy for the sport, poor performances, and in some cases being totally burnt out.  Keeping the balance with tangible goal setting and plans that support the rest of your life will be huge in keeping it fun for years to come.


10 tips to RUNNING at your BEST!!

1. Set tangible goals:  One of the BIGGEST errors that I see is when runners set goals that are just out of their reach in the current season and too ambitious for current fitness levels. What this does is sets up a training block where expectations are lofty and when they are not met in the early season it sets a negative tone for upcoming training and races.  It’s critical to develop early season confidence which can be applied throughout the training block as things begin to ramp up and peak races soon approach.  Setting reachable goals is an integral part of building the confidence necessary to be as consistent as possible while executing a long grinding training plan.

2.  Have a plan:  Once your seasonal goals have been established it will be time to get your plan together.  Whether you hire a professional coach or make up the plan yourself it will be an essential element to you reaching your goals.  Your plan should consist of a strategic approach to training with progressive workouts and long runs that gently prepare you for your peak races.   It will be key that your plan takes into account your personal and professional life and has a balance that will allow you to navigate through your life and keep training consistently through the peak of the season.

3.  Be flexible:  Your running and life will not always go exactly how you may be expecting it to go.  Be prepared to make the necessary adjustments to your plan and your life to allow for you to be successful.  Athletes that get too rigid in following their plan will likely end up getting frustrated and fall off track when things don’t go exactly to plan.  The best plans are those that change to meet the ups and downs of your regular life.  A solid running and life balance will be the key to your longevity as a runner.

4.  Be disciplined/patient:   Your fitness takes time to build or prime and a slow burn approach is much preferred to a get results NOW strategy.  Your physiology is very complex and your body’s energy systems prefer to be developed in a preferred order.  Now this can differ from athlete to athlete but there are some concepts that remain constant from runner to runner.  For example we know that racing too often in your base phase is a bad idea and can compromise high level gains later in the season.

5.  Run practice races:  Another HUGE error that I see is where we have runners (especially marathon runners) that think that they don’t need to race in preparation for their peak marathon events.   Running and racing fast is a skill that must be refined and practiced in order to be sharp.  The seasonal races that you put into your schedule serve multiple purposes and are very important components to any successful season.  We must practice the race type intensity many times in order to be able to call on this skill on race day.  Without this experience athletes are likely to fall short of expectations in those big events at the end of the season.

6.  Always listen to your body:   This concept will be one of the most important of all in keeping you injury free, on the roads running, and crushing all of your goals.  There is a time to follow your running program and there’s a time to alter the plan to fit your needs.  When your body is telling you that it needs a break or it it can’t handle the prescribed workout, you better LISTEN!  Sometimes it’s best to sneak in that extra day off or to bypass your weekly speed work session in favor of an easy run.  Give yourself that extra day and pick right up where you left off.

7.  Strength Train:  It’s essential to have a complimentary strength program for the demands of all of your running miles.   A proper strength program that is designed for runners will be an important component in keeping you injury free and consistent in your training.   As we run and race our running muscles get fatigued and break down in the latter miles.  Some extra support, stability, and strength will be crucial for that finishing kick and completing those quality long run miles.  Rep ranges in the 3-8 range will be optimal for enhancing power and creating strength gains that will directly translate to your running.

8.  Taper correctly:  The process of tapering is one that is constantly used incorrectly by runners all across the land.  In many cases we miss that sweet spot and either taper too much or not enough.  Now, we must consider that all athletes are not the same and each will respond differently to various tapering methods.  At some points of the season we won’t even taper, others will require just a short reduction in volume, and then the marathon will require more.  I have found a huge benefit in having athletes for many consecutive seasons as this lets me learn how each individual responds to different tapering methods.  Once we get this formula down we can count on consistent performances on race day each time out.

9.  Value your base phase:  For some reason so many athletes (Whitney Earnest) think that the base phase is less important than other phases of training.   When in reality the base phase is probably the most important part of every training block.  This 6-8 week block lays a critical foundation for all of the other training elements that will follow.   Establishing that aerobic base while growing your mitochondria and preparing your musculosketal system for the demands of faster running happens here.

10.  Know your current fitness:  With the birth of every new season come goals, expectations, and dreams.  Whether your season is focused on the 5k or the marathon there will be a significant commitment made and goals to achieve. In order to construct the right plan, keep on track, and not over train it will be essential to know your current fitness to start the season and as it progresses.  So many folks just guess on their fitness or use grandiose goals to gauge training intensities.  When we do this it’s very likely that we will be training too fast, too much, too early in the season.  Your training program must start where you are at and work towards where you want to go.  It must be progressive and match the needs of your physiological systems.  To get that big bang on peak race day takes patience and persistence and most of all TIME!

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John Scudder’s Journey to 2:39:57 in London


My Journey to the 2016 London Marathon


(The last 4 weeks)

    It is Easter week and I am on a one week family ski trip in Langenfeld, Austria. I just ran a  1:19:45 flat course half marathon this past Saturday in Rheinzabern, which is almost five  minutes behind my half PR of 1:15:09 just two years ago. Running feels like a chore to me, my  legs are very heavy, and any kind of faster running like intervals, tempo runs, and marathon  pace runs feel extremely difficult. I am tired after a long winter season marathon buildup  averaging between 75­80 miles a week with a peak of 90 miles last week. Skiing with my family  during the day is so much fun, but trying to get in 75 miles during the week in the mornings and  evenings seems like an enormous undertaking.

  Despite this, I grind through the week and choose difficult mountain runs on a few of the training  days. I am getting too soft on hills and I need a kick in the ass. I am slightly annoyed with my  good friend, former high school teammate, and professional running coach Matthew Nark of  Nark Running Strategies on my Wednesday morning 10 x 90 seconds at nearly an all­out pace  with short recoveries. His prescription for the day feels impossible and my legs just won’t allow  for it. I fail to come close to the prescribed pace, so I jog to the nearest steep hill and punish  myself with 10 x 10 second hill sprints with walks back down. I run easy the remaining 3 days in  Austria, but given the hills and mountains my HR rarely stays low.     After a tiring four­hour drive back home on a warm and almost summer­like 60 degree Sunday  evening, I put on my singlet, shorts, and head lamp and take off for my last 20+ mile run before  the London Marathon and my last run of a long week. The goal is a 22 mile long run with an 8  mile marathon pace goal finish. I manage to complete the long run, but with only 7 miles at well  below goal marathon pace, nearly 20 seconds per mile behind pace. At this point I am not  confident at all that I am even remotely ready to run a sub 2:40 marathon, a time goal I set out  to achieve over four years ago.

Three weeks out   


This week of running has not started any better than the last. I skip my Wednesday 2 x 5k  tempo run due to fatigue. I cannot imagine trying to run any faster than 8 minutes per mile  today, so I jog on a leisurely 10 mile lunchtime trail run. It is Thursday and I do not feel much  better than yesterday, but I lace up my shoes and head out to the local track. I average only  marathon pace on the first 5k, well short of the 5:30s/mile pace I am shooting for. After a short  rest, I average 5:40 pace on the second 5k. Ok, so maybe that isn’t too bad, and maybe I still  am pretty fit.     After a couple days of easy running, I head out for my Sunday 15 mile long run with the goal of  running the second half at marathon pace. My total weekly mileage after today’s long run will be  around 60. I can feel that the additional rest and reduction in mileage is helping my speed.  There is a noticeable extra pep in my step today. My stride feels faster and easier to maintain. I
nail the fast finish run and even manage to run near half marathon PR pace for 3 of the faster  miles. Things are looking better.

Two weeks out 

I will continue to reduce mileage down to a total near 50 this week. I start the week with an easy  bike ride to and from work with friends. I give myself a reward with a Biergarten stop on the way  home. It has been a long buildup and a cold beer sounds good right about now. My Wednesday  workout of 12 miles with 12 x 60 seconds nearly all out and 60 seconds of jogging goes well  despite strong gusty winds and heavy downpours. I choose a nasty hilly trail route because I like  the mental and strength boost the Austrian mountain running has given me.  With just over 10  days before the London Marathon, my confidence is improving, but I am still unsure if I am  ready to achieve my dream marathon time of a sub 2:40.

     It is now eight days before the race and Mat wants me to run 8 x 3 minutes at tempo pace  (5:30s/mile) today. I run very well in the 10 mile workout while my boys bike and giggle loudly  riding through mud puddles next to me on a flat and fast bike path alongside the German  Autobahn. I feel much more confident in my speed after this run today and running is becoming  fun again. Today, just a day after yesterday’s intervals, and a week out from race day, Mat  wants me to run a 5 mile marathon pace fast finish at the end of a 10 mile run. I struggle greatly  to keep up with marathon pace on the windy, rainy, cold, and hilly 10 miler. I have doubts that I  am not ready to hold a 6:05 pace for 26.2 miles and perhaps Mat is having me do too much  faster running so close to the race.

  One week out

I run a very easy five miler on Monday. I will take Tuesday off and run my final marathon pace  tune­up on Wednesday. On a warm and sunny Wednesday I run 8 miles including 5 x 5 minutes  at London goal pace. Suddenly, 6 minutes per mile is feeling much easier. I am happy the  forecast calls for much cooler weather than this in London. My energy levels have been rising  rapidly throughout this final week of my marathon taper. I start carb loading on Thursday  morning with a large portion of sweet potatoes and beet juice with one boiled egg. I slightly  increase my overall calorie intake while replacing most of my normal portions of fats and  proteins with healthy sources of carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes, rice, fresh fruit, small  portions of fruit juice, plenty of vegetables, pasta with tomato sauce, and unsalted pretzels. I  also reduce caffeine intake and increase water consumption throughout the week.     It is Friday, and Mat has me run 5 miles with 8 x 100 meters at a very fast pace. I go shirtless  on a 70 degree sunny day in Germany before my afternoon flight from Stuttgart to London.  The  sun feels great on my back. I finish the five miles feeling fresh and ready. Yes, it looks like once  again Mat knows exactly the recipe to get me ready for a peak race and a chance at a new PR.  The forecast for London is well below normal temperatures with a chance of sleet, snow  showers, or rain and it will certainly be windy. I think if the weather is not too bad in London,
then it is still possible to achieve my goal. Mat and I discuss that I will need to run a smart  negative split race by conserving energy until later in the race and finish fast. It worked in Berlin  and it will work again if I can execute.

Marathon day in London 


After 7 hours of sleep I wake up feeling fresh without an alarm clock as I have all week. I notice  some text messages from my very understanding and supportive wife and children and it lifts my  spirits. I pound a half liter of water right away. I prefer to drink more before a marathon on race  day as early as possible and drink much less in the final 90 minutes before the race. The last  thing I need is a bathroom stop when I am trying to trim 34 seconds of my 2:40:33 PR. To date  out of all the marathons I have run with a time goal, I have never had to stop for a toilet, quite  the opposite of what I go through in the weeks and months of training beforehand.     My legs are well rested and I can feel the positive effects of three days of solid carb loading and  last night’s pre­race dinner of calf liver with pasta and tomato sauce and a glass of red wine at  Fiddie’s Italian Kitchen. I look out the window and see that it is raining. The forecast calls for the  rain to move out within the hour. I eat a breakfast of three pieces of white toast with butter &  honey, one banana, one cup of rice cereal with almond milk, a small portion of mandarin  oranges, a small portion of scrambled eggs, a cup of orange juice, and one cup of black coffee.  It is 7:40 AM and time to head out. The race starts at 10 AM and it will take an hour on the  London Underground and Southeastern Railway to arrive in Blackheath with plenty of time  before the point to point race starts.    I arrive in Blackheath around 8:45 AM. It is easy to figure out where to go because there are  crowds of runners in front of me. It is about a half mile walk from Blackheath station to the  runners’ start areas. The town looks like what I would expect a nice English town in April to look  like; we walk by a few nice pubs and restaurants with flowers outside on what appears to be a  main street. Police officers have the area covered and well­secure as they call out where the  runners should go. The smell of grilled food is already in the air so early in the day. I have a  buzz that this could be my day as I snap off some selfies and other photos.     As we walk closer to the start area, I notice a huge line of people making the big mistake of  walking in their race shoes through medium length wet grass. I find my way to a sidewalk  slightly out of the way. Like Mat said, I need to control every variable possible to have a  successful race, and avoiding water­logged socks and shoes is one of them. There are three  blimps towering over the open fields, one for each runner start areas: green, red, and blue. I am  supposed to go to the blue area for the UK Championships since I qualified for this race with a  sub 2:45 marathon time and I am a member of the UK running club Serpentine. Any member of  a UK running club or any UK citizen who runs under 2:45 in a marathon qualifies to run with a  UK Championship entry.

The UK Championships meeting area is perfectly situated close to the race start line within the  blue area. It has two tents for championship runners to change and stay warm in, which is quite  a luxury on this lower 40s F, chilly, and breezy morning. The area has many port­a­johns and  fewer people so I will not have to wait in long lines to go to the bathroom my usual 3­5 times in  the hour before a big event due to nerves or whatever else causes the issue. I am very fortunate  I am starting in this area. I am thankful that my fellow Serpentine running club teammate, Alex  Jeffreys, brought my jersey to Berlin so that I could take part in this amazing event. It relaxes  me. I am no longer concerned with whether it will rain or how bad the headwind might be.     15 minutes before the race start a man with a loudspeaker announces to us that we need to  move our clear bags storing post­race items to the truck so they can transfer them to the finish  area. I keep on my arm sleeves, a headband, a pair of cheap gloves, and a warm 8 year old  long sleeve running shirt that has an old stench to the point that no washing machine on earth  could take the smell away. I ditch two of my seven gels I have brought along for fuel because I  think five will be enough. I hand over my bag and head to the start line. A couple of minutes  before the gun goes off I throw my old shirt and the headband to the side of the road. It is go  time.    Race ­ 5k ­ Time 18:55 – Diff 18:55 – Pace 6:05/mile, 3:47/km    The gun goes off and I quickly settle into what I think is a tad slower than goal pace. I am  thankful I started up towards the front because the road is not all that wide. I notice quickly that  many people are trying to pass and run aggressively. I know this is folly. Starting too fast in this  race is something I will avoid at all costs, as I have been burned late in many previous  marathons from fast or even goal pace starts. Around mile 2.5 I throw off my arm sleeves. It is  very chilly, but I am already warming up despite the increasing wind speed. There are  occasional speed bumps on the course in the first three miles and the marathon staff personnel  call out warnings to the runners.     Having just run the Berlin Marathon last fall, I am disappointed that these streets are rougher on  the feet and legs. The road is not as smooth as the perfect streets of Berlin and it feels as if it  will be easy to trip up if I am not careful. I am definitely going to feel my feet and legs ache later.  I take note and focus on staying with the marked blue line, which is the shortest possible path  along the marathon route that officials create mainly for the elite athletes up front. I make sure to  watch out for other runners and not step on anyone or be stepped on. It is more crowded three  miles in than I expected.     Despite my efforts to start slower, my first 5k is faster than the 6:08/mile pace Mat and I agreed  to target in the first 20 miles. I know from the past few years of sub 2:40 marathon attempts that  I need to run an average of around 19 minutes per 5k through the entire race.  Our goal was to  come in slightly above 19 minutes per 5k for the first 30k with energy still in reserve and then  finish as fast as possible in the final 10+ k. I clocked the first 5k in 18:55. I am not worried  though because up to this point I haven’t been sporadically speeding up and slowing down, I
haven’t been weaving around people, and I have been relaxed, save for the slight anxiety about  the running surface and slightly increasing winds.    Race ­ 10k – Time 38:12 – Diff 19:17 – Pace 6:12/mile, 3:52/km   


I have now found the conservative pace that I was looking for the first 5k. The Garmin  Forerunner 620 has been inaccurate on two of three mile splits earlier on by showing my  average lap pace as my goal of around 6:08, but then flashing an actual faster split three to four  seconds lower to my surprise. Can I trust this watch? It functioned poorly under the Frankfurt  skyline in October and I went out too fast in the first 10k of that marathon. I still have plenty of  packs to follow and I notice runners are still running very aggressively this early in the race. The  wind is starting to pick up from my front right side and sometimes as a headwind. I am starting  to feel warmer. I finally ditch the gloves and down the first of five GU gels I am carrying along at  mile five.    Race ­ 15k – Time 57:26 – Diff 19:14 – Pace 6:11/mile, 3:51/km    We pass the packed and rowdy area of the Cutty Shark and I feel a surge of adrenalin despite  keeping the pace on target. The crowd support is great here. I hear many calls of “Go  Serpentine!” We turn gently to the right and head straight into the headwind. I am focused on  tailing people closely to avoid energy loss from the wind. I know that a small amount of wasted  energy now can derail me in the end. I notice that this race seems to have water stations every  mile and that relaxes me. I take Salted Caramel with caffeine GU gel number two at the 15k  mark. I am confident that I am on the desired pace now and fixated on seeing 6:08­6:09/mile on  my Garmin.    Race ­ 20k – Time 1:16:33 – Diff 19:07 – Pace 6:09/mile, 3:50/km    I am totally focused and “in the zone”. My breathing is fine and I am running comfortably hard. I  am locked very close to 6:08/mile pace. I feel like I definitely still have a chance at a sub 2:40. I  cross the London Tower Bridge enjoying the huge crowd support at km 20.    Race ­ Half – Time 1:20:34    I remember Mat and I discussing that I would be about 50 seconds behind pace after 20 miles. I  do the math and figure I am about 25 seconds behind pace right now. I am roughly on track,  and I have plenty of reserves still to go harder later. I am also now running with the wind from  my back and it feels effortless.    Race ­ 25k – Time 1:35:19 – Diff 18:46 – Pace 6:02/mile, 3:45/km    We are running towards Canary Wharf and the Isle of Dogs. I down my fourth GU gel of the day  and slip in my two fastest miles thus far without burning too much energy. The crowd support
was supposed to be weak in this area but plenty of people are out cheering the runners on. The  wind is helping me slightly now and the cool mid to upper 40s F air feels good. I notice at 25k  that I have already begun trimming the time deficit too early. It is a reminder that I need to be  careful in the next 5k to conserve energy for the remaining 12.2k.


  Race ­ 30k – Time 1:54:09 – Diff 18:50 – Pace 6:04/mile, 3:47/km    I have shifted from being careful not to go too fast to being careful not to go too slow now. I am  close to 6:08/mile pace, but the Garmin is showing readings at times of 6:15/mile or more. I hit a  couple 6:08 miles. But then at mile 18, I record a 6:14, my slowest split of the day so far. This  surprises me because throughout the mile my Garmin lap split was showing 6:08 pace. My  confidence slips slightly and I realize I have to pick up the pace to goal pace or slightly better, at  least temporarily.

  Race ­ 35k – Time 2:12:57 – Diff 18:48 – Pace 6:03/mile, 3:46/km    I rip off a 5:55 19th mile without digging too deep, passing many runners and my confidence  returns. But am I starting the kick too early? Any faster now and I may jeopardize the finish. I try  to push slightly faster than 6:00/mile pace, but we are now heading back towards the Tower  Bridge and the headwind is catching me at times. There are no runners to tail because most are  going slower than me. I conserved energy while they went out too fast and now they are paying  a heavy price. I see a lot of runners in agony and some even dropping out or moving off to the  side of the road.     As I pass the 20 mile mark with a 6:05/mile goal pace split I consume the fifth and final gel from  my belt. I feel confident that I have fueled and hydrated properly during the race so far. Now it  comes down to a final 10k where the real race begins. I start my kick gently and hit the next mile  in 5:59. Not exactly as fast as I wanted to go, but it may be good enough. I pass through the 35k  mark and notice that I am a few seconds faster than 2 hours and 13 minutes, the pace I needed  to be on track for a 2:40 marathon. I still have energy reserves and I have not hit a wall yet. I  notice so many people are cheering for my UK running club Serpentine as I run by. I  acknowledge their support as best as I can without using too much energy.    Race ­ 40k – Time 2:31:42 – Diff 18:45 – Pace 6:02/mile, 3:45/km    I hit another mile split at 5:57. This gives me confidence that I am actually slightly ahead of pace  now. I am starting to lose energy though, and I drink the sports drink Lucozade offered on the  course. I know my friend Andi and his fiancé will be spectating around mile 22.5 and I hope to  see them. Within a few seconds of thinking this, I see Andi waving and cheering my name loudly  in front of me on my right. I wave to him as best as I can with my right hand and smile. The  crowd is so loud. I am struggling to hold pace now, but I am invigorated from seeing my friend  on the course. I am trying desperately to hold on to the pace and I run two consecutive 6:08
miles. Just before I run over the 40k mats I see that I am 18 seconds ahead of the needed 2  hours 32 minutes pace. This is a huge confidence boost. I can do this!    Race ­ Finish ­ Time 2:39:57 – Diff 8:15 – Pace 6:03/mile, 3:46/km 


My Garmin shows a 6:00 split for mile 25. I see the London Eye to my left across the Thames  River. I remember reading tips on the London Marathon that said when you see the London Eye  to your left you will know you are only a little over a mile away. All I need to do is hold onto a  6:00/mile pace the remainder of the way and it is mission accomplished. But I am really  struggling now. My heart rate is soaring from near 160 in the first half to the mid 160’s later and  to now over 170. I am starting to feel my breathing go out of control. I have a cramp developing  in my right chest muscle and on the lower right side of my abdominals. This isn’t good.     I see a sign showing 600 meters to go. I am not sure that I can pull this off. I feel myself slowing  and I have anxiety now about where my time stands. Further ahead of me a sign shows 400  meters to go. I see on the clock there is approximately 1 minute and 27 seconds between me  and a sub 2:40 marathon as I pass by it. I know at this point I must sprint the remaining 400  meters or fail. A “Pain is temporary” quote from the Nark Running Strategies Facebook group  just popped into my head. I feel like there is somebody sticking me with a dagger in the right  side of my chest and right abdominals. My breathing is completely out of control. I turn a right  corner for the final straightaway.     The crowd support is epic. I can hear the cheers and yelling but my vision is blurry except for  the big red finish line in front of me. I run full speed across the finish line mats in relief and  immediately stop my watch. My breathing is still out of control, but I am done now, finally. A few  seconds pass. I look down at my watch with anticipation. Did I do it? 2:39:58. Marathon staff  personnel are tending to ailing and fatigued runners who just crossed the finish line. I let out a  loud “Yes!” three times. Many workers and runners look back at me and smile. By running the  final 400 meters at a 5:26/mile pace, I finally achieved my goal of a sub 2:40 marathon. And Mat  Nark had me trained and coached perfectly to sprint at the end when I needed to the most.



How Do You Measure Your Success As A Runner?


How can I get faster?

Am I improving?

Can I do It?

How fast can I get?

Am I good enough?

Running is a sport that is truly based on your own individual improvement.  It’s you verses yourself and at the end of the day the only thing that matters is whether or not your time has improved.  We challenge ourselves to improve on a weekly, monthly, and annual basis.  It really doesn’t matter what our competitors, friends, and team members do as long as we have put our best foot forward and have been true to ourselves.  Surely we aren’t always going to be thrilled with all of our performances as that would be far to simple.


Running is a sport that requires a tremendous amount of dedication, consistency, and drive.  Fabulous results will come only to those that put in all of the necessary hard work.  It’s all about getting out for that early morning AM run when all you wanted to do was sleep in.  Bundling up on a sub-zero afternoon to bang out that six mile loop that you have done so many times before.  Going to the track for your weekly speedwork in the heat of the day as that was the only time possible to get it done.   It’s all of these actions that will get you to the finish line that much faster.  Repeating these activities over and over and putting your best foot forward with every step will get you there.


How do you quantify your success as a runner?  So many get caught up in the game of comparing themselves to others and what everyone else is doing.  This comparative strategy will only lead you astray and leave you constantly walking in the shadow of others.  Your success as a runner is truly measured by the level of personal enjoyment, fulfillment, and progress towards your individual goals.   For some this may be the conquering of the five hour marathon or in other cases it could be the hurdle of the thirty minute 5k.  It’s all a matter of setting yourself some tangible goals and reaching them in a your chosen timeframe.

I want to do it!

I can do it!

I will do it!

I did it!

Only a select few of us will ever get the opportunity to grace the front page of Runner’s World as seen below.   Set some goals, get a plan together, and get busy training for those goals.  In given time you will all have the opportunity to celebrate the fruits of your labor and enjoy all of your running success.




Chasing The Unicorn: How The Little Runner Girl Will Earn Her Boston Marathon Qualifier.

Hey Guys! It’s Erin over at the Little Runner Girl and I am so excited to talk to you guys about why I made the leap and decided to get a coach.   I have no plans to be an elite runner (even if I did have plans, I’m not sure they would come to fruition, I am just being honest here!)  So why would I hire a coach?  Running coaches aren’t just for experienced or elite runners.  They are for everyone!  Whatever level of runner you are, whatever you are hoping to achieve (losing weight, running any distance from 5k-marathon, Boston qualifying), everybody can gain something from hiring a good  coach.  I already had this post in my head and when my coach asked if I’d want to guest post on his blog I knew this was the perfect post.  He gave me free rein to blog about whatever I wanted, but with fall marathon training about to start, this seemed like as good of a time as any.

Finishing the OK 5k 2 weeks ago with a :40 second PR-- 3 weeks after I started with Nark Running Strategies

When I started running about 2 years ago, I didn’t know many runners and I didn’t know anything about running. I immersed myself into learning anything and everything I could.  I read every article, reached out to people via social media to ask questions and searched tons of blogs.  I ran every training run solo.  I got injured and still ran #runnerprobs.  It was mentally draining training through the summer for a fall marathon and not having anyone to keep me accountable or anyone to share in my whining and complaining on 20 mile runs in 90 degree heat. If my plan called for a certain track workout, I had no idea how to execute it properly.  I didn’t know what a tempo run was, what a fartlek was or even just how to properly train for the goals I hoped to accomplish. Google was my friend ( ie: how to run yasso 800’s). I joined a local running club for a few track workouts and runs, but it just didn’t seem for me.  I still had no idea what I was doing and I felt dumb asking how to do the workouts (Don’t feel dumb, please ask.  You’ll save yourself lots of time and frustration).   I would attempt them on my own and give up because they were hard.

 After training for my 2nd marathon this past winter, I knew I wanted and needed more out of myself and my running.  I reached out to a runner friend, Allison, who had joined Plaza Fitness/ Nark Running Strategies back in January (she finished her 3rd Boston Marathon in 3:17:31 this year).  She had NOTHING but great things to say about the group and about her coach, Mat, and it sounded exactly what I was looking for.  When I checked out the Facebook group, I noticed how they really motivated and encouraged each other (I also saw how many PR’s were being achieved.)  Falling just short of my BQ in April and already looking ahead to Chicago in the fall, I knew this was the time to get some help.

Allison and Deanne at mile 17.5 of this years Boston Marathon.

There are tons and tons of different training plans out there and I know a lot of people who have had success doing it that way.  I find it more difficult because the training plan is generic.  It’s not tailored to my needs and goals.  Using a training plan that had no speed-work while training for the NJ marathon this year probably wasn’t the best choice for me when I was trying to earn a BQ.  And like I mentioned above, I didn’t meet that goal.  I had reached the point in my running where I did everything I knew how to do and couldn’t figure out how to push past the barrier.  I needed guidance and so after a few back forth emails and meeting Mat, I hired him to help me reach my goals.


 A running coach designs your training plan to optimize your performance and simultaneously minimize your injury risk.  I told Mat about my past training and what my goals were for the summer and for my fall marathon.  One thing I never made a priority was strength training so, in addition to coaching, I also signed on for two strength training classes a week.   I ran my first 5k 3 weeks after joining and had a 40 second PR.  My previous 5k time was from April at the peak of marathon training when I was in fantastic(ish) running shape.  This 5k PR was just 2 weeks ago and coming off of marathon recovery.  I could already see a HUGE difference.  I felt ready.  My body felt stronger and my running seemed to flow easier.  Even my form was improving.  That weekend there were 23 PERSONAL RECORDS achieved by Nark Running Strategies runners.  I don’t think I have to make a convincing argument that the training I/we are receiving helps us in every aspect of our running.


Before I would just follow whatever plan I had chosen (loosely) and sometimes would just completely change a workout.  With my training plan done for me every Sunday, I don’t need to question why I’m doing a specific workout or run because my coach knows what my goals are and what I need to be doing to achieve them.  Instead of going out racing every weekend like I used to, I did one 5k this month to see where I was fitness wise and my next race won’t be until mid-July.

Coaches are the voice of reason and seem to be the only people on planet earth that can rein a runner in  and explain why recovery and rest are important parts of training.  And surprisingly, I listen.   My goals for this training cycle are a sub-21 5k and a sub 3:30 marathon in Chicago.  More than anything though(okay, equal to wanting a BQ), I’d like to go through this training cycle injury free.  Something I NEVER(this is not an exaggeration) included in workouts was a warm-up and cool-down.  A good coach will make that a priority and every speed-workout I do, Mat includes both.   When you are injured less often, you can train more consistently.   Coaches keep you accountable and consistent. I believe that what sets apart good training versus great training is consistency.  When you train more consistent, you become a better runner and ultimately your coach can help you become faster and more fit than you ever thought possible.  Staying consistent means staying motivated and a coach keeps you on your toes and reminds you why you are working so hard.

Hill repeat recovery

Long story long, if you’re having trouble figuring out your next step in your running, it’s probably time to hire a coach.  The great thing about hiring a coach is that they are accessible ANYWHERE.  Maybe you travel a lot or you like to get your run done in the mornings, you don’t need to have a coach physically by your side every moment of your training.  Your plan will be there for you, you fill out your log for them to review and they will be there for you with any questions or concerns you may have.  I have texted my coach at 6am (sorry) and at 10pm (sorry again) whenever I have a question about a workout or to see if I could possibly maybe run a race next weekend (the answer was no.) If you are dedicated about reaching a goal and willing to go the extra mile in your training then investing in a running coach is 100% worth it.  Do the research, ask questions and run fearless.


If you’re interested about learning more about my work with Nark Running Strategies, visit my blog over at The little runner girl and I’d be happy to answer any questions you might have!  If you’re even more interested about joining us for group runs and training, check out the website or facebook for more info!

Happy running!!




Running Results That You Can See!


This past weekend our Nark Running Strategies @ Plaza Fitness Performance team produced some unbelievable results at a three different events.  Our half and full marathoners were in New Jersey, Cherry Blossom 5k folks in Niskayuna, and duathlon athletes were in Delmar.

In Jersey we hit a home run with eight of nine runners getting new marathon personal best’s.  On the half I missed my PR by eleven seconds (1:21.49), Mike Cebula got his second half PR of the season, and Jennifer Meissner also came very close at 2:00.01.  Mike Dinicola nailed a 1:26.46 in his 1st half marathon and is begging for more.

Kara Defeo – 3:24.54 –  2 min marathon PR

Jennifer Newman  –  3:57.26  –  7 min PR-14 mins in 2 years

Heidi Nark –  3:32.01  –  20 min marathon PR

Bill Drapeau – 3:18.51 – 11 min marathon PR

Dennis Beardsley – 3:16.05  –  Amazing marathon debut!


Mike Cebula  –  1:36.16 –  21 sec Half PR/ 2nd PR this spring

Erika Beardsley –  3:47.27  –  13:03 Improvement

Steve Montanaro  – 3:39.08  –  5 Min PR and perfectly executed pacing.   Colleen Murray –  3:49.36 –  1 Min PR in 13th marathon

At the Cherry Blossom 5k we also had a phenomenal day with eight PR’s on the day.  Korey got under that 6 minute pace barrier, Dan Brady came close to 20 minutes, and Kara Plue was on fire with over a minute new personal best.  Nicky got under 25 mins, Ringer has a two minute improvement,  Deb Petridis got under 27 and Mary Walsh broke thirty minutes for the first time ever.  Well deserved achievements by a bunch of folks that have earned it!


Michelle LaRock –  31:31 – 2:13 min improvement

Frank Gwinn – 24:09 – 5 second improvement

Mary Walsh –  29:55. 32 second PR…but the real news is that it’s my first 5k under 30 minutes!!!


Nicole Moran –  24:57 – 13 second PR


Deb Petridis – :57 sec  5k PR to 26:50

Dan Brady –  22 sec PR to 20:11

Kara Plue –  24:29 – 1:17 5k PR

Korey McCoy – 18:07 –  30 sec 5k PR

While the rest of us were running, Mike Conroy and Tiberio x 2 went to town at the Delmar Duathlon.  Great job by all on a very exceptional weekend.  Here comes the fall marathon block before you know it.



20 Strategies to Kick Ass at The Boston Marathon!

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  1. You will have had a solid breakfast and bring a balanced snack/drink to start
  2. You will have atleast 4 gels for race
  3. You will dress warm to the start line
  4. You will drink as many carbs as possible at water stops
  5. You will not slow down at water stops
  6.   You will run the shortest route possible and stay focused on the tangents
  7.   You will get on goal pace and stay there
  8.   You will not stop for a potty break unless PR is out of question
  9.   You will have all priority body parts lubed up to prevent chaffing
  10.   You will only wear gear that has been used many times before (no exceptions)
  11.   You will hydrate and fuel early and often during race
  12.   You will have a razor like focus that doesn’t allow you to stray from your plan with all the excitement
  13.   When running with a partner you designate one watch in which to follow so that there are no pacing debates during race
  14.   You leave your partner whenever needed!
  15.   Make those early downhill miles as effortless as possible
  16.   Race starts at 18-20 miles
  17.   You will attack the last 6 miles with unseen ferocity
  18.   You will give 110% of yourself in this RACE!
  19.   The only thing that will stop you is you!
  20.   You will enjoy post race party!
  21. Bostonmarathonlogo


20 Habits of Super Successful Runners!

If you’re an aspiring runner or a veteran of the sport this list will help you to run faster times. This list of 20 proven strategies will guide you to your next PR and keep you as fast as possible.  Running is a sport that has a very high rate of injury and therefore it is a necessity to master these principles.  In order to be a super successful athlete is this sport it is essential that you avoid the common pitfalls of running injury.  The more that you can remain consistent in your training the more successful you will be at improving as a runner.  Below I have compiled a list of guaranteed strategies that will help to guide you in becoming the fastest runner possible.


1.  Soft surface runs:  The pavement and concrete of the sidewalks is tremendously brutal on your musculoskeletal system.  Get off the hard surfaces as much as you can and take advantage of trails whenever possible.

2.  Complete rest days:  Recovery from training is just as important as the training itself.  For most 1-2 days off a week is very appropriate and will insure that you stay fresh and rested for training.

3.  Set tangible goals:   Set goals that truly can be achieved!  Many folks set goals that are simply not possible in one particular training block.  Many factors should be considered when setting goals and they must be reflective of ones ability level, commitment, and aspirations.

4.  Recovery days:  All hard efforts and long runs are followed by a recovery day of running.  Keep those days super slow or off from running to allow proper adaptation to occur from tougher training days.

5.  Race pacing plans:  One of the most common errors that runners make when racing is that they start their races too fast and are forced to drag themselves to the finish line.  The longer the race the more important this concept will be to master.

Reactive Core Training for Runners

6.  Adaptable training programs:  Cookie cutter programs that don’t change to meet the challenges of life and the individual needs of the athlete will not be ideal.  The best programs are built to be changed (at anytime) to optimally accommodate busy life schedules.

7.  Post marathon recovery:  Although there is no answer for everyone here I recommend two weeks of rest or significant mileage reduction before beginning the next season.  If you begin the next mileage buildup on worn out legs you are setting yourself up for what will be a less than optimal training block.

8.  Build long runs gradually:  Whether you are training for marathons or shorter races it’s very important that you build these long runs progressively.  Raise the volume for a couple weeks then reduce or take a break from at least once a month.  The long run will be a staple of training and will solidify your stamina and endurance for faster racing and speed work to come.


9.  Address injury immediately:  After all this dynamic will be one of the quickest to put an end to your season.  Always be keenly aware of aches and pains that you may feel and adjust training accordingly.  Take an extra day off or skip sped work sessions to allow your body to recover fully before pushing on.

10.  Strength train:  A regular strength training program will help to keep you resistant to injury and training consistently.  By lifting weights one to three times per week and doing exercises that complement your running you will be stronger and more stable to absorb the stress of your running program.

11.  Have a racing schedule:  During your base phase it’s key to not race and build your mileage.  Once that base is established it’s recommended to have some regular races in your schedule to allow yourself to assess your progress and check on your fitness level as you approach key goal races.

12.  Practice how you want to race:  Run training, speed work, tempo runs how you would expect to race.   Practice even or negative split running in practice so that you are comfortable on race day and can stick to your pacing plan.

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13.  Energy system variation:  Most folks have a couple of workouts that they repeat over and over throughout their training block.  To achieve better results it’s recommended that you vary your workout stimulus to facilitate optimal training improvement and physiological adaptation.

14.  Fueling on longer runs:  As we run we burn our energy resources down at roughly 75-100 calories per mile.  In runs lasting for more than an hour it’s essential that you replace those carbohydrate stores to keep your fuel tank full for the upcoming miles ahead.

15.  Nothing new on race day:  Never try something new on race day!  If you haven’t done it in practice then don’t attempt it in competition.  Many problems can arise when you switch shoes, clothing, nutrition, or try a new race plan on race day.

16.  Compete against yourself:  So many folks make the huge mistake of comparing themselves and their training programs to that of their teammates and competitors.  This will only lead to discontent and loss of focus on ones training program and objectives.  Strategies that work for one athlete may work differently or not at all for another.  Some athletes will prosper off of high mileage while others will get same results from less.  Be your own athlete and focus on your goals to achieve optimal success.


17.  Have a support network:  By training with a group you will be more consistent and will be able to conquer your workouts with ease.  Sometimes you will need that extra push out the door and someone to discuss and plan race strategies with.

18.  Be patient:  Running is a sport that takes time to get where you want to go.  Results will come to those that are consistent and driven towards the goals that have been set.  There will be times of elation and those of deflation as you wind through running seasons.  As you become more and more experienced new personal best’s will take a bit more planning and execution to achieve.

19.  Eat and sleep a lot:  Along with the rigors of a demanding training program comes the need for extra nutrition and sleep.   Many athletes neglect their nutrition and fall short on much needed rest.  Keep the engine fueled and get those 7-8 hours of sleep per night to achieve optimal results.

20.  Reward yourself:  When you crush those old PR’s or hit those mileage goals be sure to reward your efforts.   It takes a lot hard work and determination to be consistent and continuously improving in your running journey.  Have yourself a bountiful dinner or treat yourself to some mixed drinks to celebrate your achievements.  You earned it!

train smart


Albany Run Coaching: Injury Prevention for Runners

What is the number one factor that is limiting your improvements in running performance?   Most of us will agree that the answer to this question is the annoying occurrence of injury that limits your consistent pattern of training.   We all find ourselves at one point or another with any number of  common running injuries.  Whether we develop ITB problems, suffer with shin splints, or experience plantar fasciitis they all put a damper on your training plans.   How can I avoid these injuries before they stop my training?

Meg Sodano @ HMRRC Half Marathon

Have your movement patterns analyzed and develop a strength training program that addresses your corrective needs.  These prescriptions will target your asymmetries and imbalances and get you strong symmetrically.   The single leg deadlift is a great tool to use for just this.


Kettlebells are the preferred implement when executing this movement.  Above is Meg Sodano demonstrating a great example of the single leg deadliest with a 12kg (26.4 lbs ) kettlebell.  This exercise places amazing stability demands on the stance leg and the contralateral side of the torso/core.   Address and correct hip rotator, adductor, abductor, and glute instability problems all in one place with this dynamic stability movement.  Give it a try!




Smarter Not Harder


This most underrated variable in running programs across the land is RECOVERY.  Most athletes believe that working harder, faster, and training longer will produce optimally desired results.  The “more is better” mentality is common and plagues runners of all abilities and experience levels. It is not only individual athletes who struggle with this; even formal training programs sometimes fail simply because inadequate recovery is prescribed. Unfortunately, without adequate recovery, we may not see the true benefits of our hard work on the track and roads.

Recovery is a critical training component and encompasses concepts such as “days off” from running, sleep and mental recovery.  All athletes will respond differently and there is no “one size fits all” when addressing these factors. The volume and frequency of recovery greatly depends on the experience and history of the athlete, as well as individual psychosocial factors.   Past injury, age, goals, and levels of commitment must all be taken into account to find the ideal ratio of running to rest in order to produce consistent improvements in performance as years pass. As we all know, to truly excel in running, we need to be as consistent as possible and log enough miles to get us to our goals – without becoming injured or overdoing it.   By getting some much needed rest and relaxation from time to time, you can keep yourself fresh, motivated, and continually improving.

It can be difficult to know exactly how much rest is needed for each one of us. Some will wait until they find themselves at the orthopedic specialist to get that rest in.


Hopefully, your recovery has either been pre-planned or the need has been acknowledged prior to injury.  The human body uses common injuries to protect itself from more serious overuse.   Most of us will need days and even weeks off on an annual basis. In a Finnish study, “Training-related risk factors in the etiology of overuse injuries in endurance sports,” 446 Finnish athletes who used less than 2 rest days per week had a 5.2 fold increased risk for an overuse injury; tendon overuse injuries were more common in older athletes compared to younger. This is not particularly surprising; however, each one of us typically wonders, how much rest do we need in order to avoid these injuries? Since the answer to this question can only be determined for each one of us through experience, the key may really be avoiding what is known as “overreaching,” or, even more concerning, “overtraining syndrome.  ”Overreaching and overtraining syndrome (OTS) are well-studied phenomena. OTS is a clinical diagnosis is a “maladapted response to excessive exercise without adequate rest, resulting in perturbations of multiple body systems (neurologic, endocrinologic, immunologic) coupled with mood changes” (Kreher et al, Overtraining syndrome: a practical guide. Sports Health. 2012 Mar;4(2):128-38). As defined by the joint consensus statement of the European College of Sport Science and the American College of Sports Medicine (Meeusen et al, 2006), “overreaching” is different and has less severe consequences compared to OTS. Overreaching can be considered “functional” or “nonfunctional” but most athletes will recover from either type of overreaching.



Functional overreaching leads to “short-term decrements in performance in capacity with or without physiologic and psychological signs and symptoms of maladaptation in which restoration of performance capacity may take several days to several weeks” (Meeusen et al, 2006) but eventually leads to  positive performance outcomes in the long run. An example might be attendance at a running camp that, in the short term, makes competing in races difficult but, in the long run, leads to better performance overall. Nonfunctional overreaching is more negative, where an athlete who consistently works at levels that are taxing (without allowing for adequate rest) experiences challenges in performance that are more remarkable (without seeing the longer term benefits); recovery from nonfunctional overreaching takes weeks to months, leading to negative psychological, neurologic or hormonal side effects and poor performance outcomes. Recovery from nonfunctional overreaching eventually occurs, given appropriate prolonged rest. At the most extreme, athletes who overtrain are susceptible to OTS; recovery from OTS may take months, or may not possible at all; individuals sometimes have to discontinue a career in running. The concerning clinical warning signs of OTS include extreme lethargy, loss of appetite, decreased coordination and physical side effects such as impaired performance, postural hypotension, loss of menstruation, and changes in heart rate from normal. To avoid overtraining syndrome, the key is avoiding excessive training (including excessive non-running activities) and focusing on obtaining adequate rest, as well as controlling other factors including nutrition and minimizing psychosocial stressors in one’s life. Two interesting examples of high volume runners in our area are Tom O’Grady and Jim Sweeney; each rarely takes a rest day but both seem to avoid overreaching and OTS. These two men exemplify what true consistency and dedication is all about; by uniquely managing their recovery, they have been able to generally stay clear of common injury and have built impressive running resumes.  Between the two of them they’ve had one break (5 days off with appendicitis for Tom O’Grady) in the last 15 years.  During this eight year span they have accumulated a rough total of about 60,000 miles between the two of them.  The total mileage here would have taken them two and a half times around the world.

 Tom O’Grady

5k – 15:21, 10k – 32:12, 10 Mile – 53:38, Half Marathon – 1:10.56 Marathon – 2:28.39 – One break in 8 years

 Jim Sweeney

100 Miles – 14:14:25, 100K – 7:11:53, 50 Miles – 5:38, Marathon – 2:35, 50k – 3:17 — 8 Year running streak on August 20th 2014

Recovery for some runners – such as for Tom and Jim – does not mean taking a day or two off from running every week. When asked about this topic, Tom stated, “Recovery for me is running with new people or trying some new running routes.” Tom does not feel he has experienced overreaching or OTS. By managing his workout schedule nutrition, sleep, and psychosocial factors so well, Tom has continued to make gains year-by-year in his running performance, despite high mileage and an intense training regimen. Jim’s record speaks loud and clear.

Perhaps recovery means taking a week off after a marathon – or taking two days off on a harder week when you’re juggling work challenges. Perhaps changing things up a bit after a long season and incorporating cross-training into your workout can give you that boost you need to pursue your new goals. Whatever it may be, remember that recovery is a critical component of training and continually improving your running while avoiding overreaching and overtraining syndrome.