I am a happy runner. Running is my comfort zone. It has been for three years now. For three years I have run aimlessly without any specific goal race. I never really thought about running Boston. Hell, you have to be a wicked fast runnah to even qualify to run in the Boston Marathon and wicked fast I'm not. So, I just adopted the position that I'd find that pace I could run forever and run really long races. I get up every morning, put on a pair of shorts and a pair of shoes, and I just run whatever feels right that day. Some days a 9 minute mile for a 10K, other days I just lay back and run an easy 10:30 or 11:00 for miles, and yet other days I'll try to bust a 5K PR. But my running has always been a day to day whatever strikes my fancy that day.
And then Meb won Boston. At 38 years old, Meb - an American won Boston. What? Against all odds and with not a single soul expecting him to place even top 5, Meb wins Boston. Oooohhh... I want to run Boston. I want to qualify to run Boston. But. I can't run that fast. That's not my run happy place. When I try to run fast I seem to hurt myself. But, I want.to.qualify.for.and.run.Boston. I can run back to back marathons. I can run 50K's. I'm sure I can run a 50 and one day a hundred. But. I want to run Boston.
"Your comfort zone is not a place that you want to remain in. Dare, discover, be all that you can be." Catherine Pulsifer
To this end I've sought out and hired a coach to help turn my run happy ad hoc training into a disciplined training plan with speed work and strength work that builds this week upon last week's work. My coach is Jennifer Kimble, a coach with RunOn! and an accomplished runner and very motivational and inspiring person. Her job is simply to push me out my run happy comfort zone, show me how to run harder and faster, and keep me focused until one day, hopefully very soon, I break a 3:30 marathon and earn my ticket to Boston. And if anyone can do this, I'm sure Jennifer is that person. Because I'll do the work.
Yes. To be a wicked fast runnah. To dare, discover, be all that I can be.
Cross training. Most runners hate it. All we want to do is run. But running only works the heart, the lungs, and everything from the waist down. I have found, in a short three years, that core strength is just as important to being a balanced and healthy runner as strong quads, hams, and glutes. But first, let's go back to the beginning.
I weighed 250 pounds and was dying a slow death from type II diabetes and high blood pressure.
And my friend Abel Berry took me under his wing, so to speak, and into the gym with him. We killed it 4 days per week. I cut excessive nonsense from my diet. I started eating smarter. And I lost 50 pounds in six months. No running. No specific cardio. Just hit it hard and heavy in the gym and changed up the way I ate. And then I started running solely for the purpose of running a half marathon in memory of my nephew. But running and I hit it off really well. I loved running and found that I'd rather run than to the gym so I stopped working out.
And then... the injuries. Recurring injuries. IT Band Syndrome. Piriformis Syndrome. Glutes were weak. So weak even that my chiro commented on them more than once. Herniated L4/L5. Twice even. And I found that injury recovery and long run recovery took longer and longer. I had lost that "core strength" and with that I had lost upper body stability. So earlier this year I returned to the gym two days per week. In a few short weeks I found that my running improved. I am getting faster. And running longer. Recovering faster. And most importantly, not injured repeatedly.
Cross training. I believe, firmly, that strength training is the most important thing a runner can do besides running. I go to the gym two days per week and work all the muscle groups. One day I do heavy weights with lower reps and the other day I do lighter weights with higher reps. And I work both upper body and lower body both days since I know I'll be running the other days. Squats are a runner's best friend. And do not neglect the abs. Upper abs, lower abs, and obliques all need to be worked and kept strong.
I strongly recommend Weight Training for Runners: Ultimate Guide by Rob Price which you can pick upon Amazon in either book or electronic form.
If you don't have a gym membership bodyweight strength training can be done in your living room and there are plenty of great exercises you can do with nothing more than your body that will get you the real muscle strength you need to be an effective, strong, and injury free runner.
Don't neglect the rest of the body. It really is one big kinetic machine and all of it has to work together to run strong.