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Archive for the category “Backwards Running”

Habit of Bad Habits

To say I like to over do things I like to do would be an understatement. A lot of the good and even more of the bad. If I didn’t run I would probably weigh 300 pounds. Running makes me not want to do the bad things, but I still over eat from time to time and a day off from running makes me hungry or bored or both.

We all have different reasons to run. I love it and it loves me. At least that’s what it has been telling me lately. From the books I have read and the hills I have climbed, it has all come together to make it the most life affirming choice of this life.

The book Born to Run by Christopher McDougall notes that the ability to love and running do have a connection. Looking back on my life, I was not capable of love before I started running. Not sure if the connection runs that deep, but I am willing to run with it. Oh golly!

I didn’t care much for myself, before I starting running. I couldn’t maintain a relationship before I started running. I was only successful at escaping from my problems before I ran with them and worked them out.

Run far and find….yourself.


Training Plan Amendments

I as I prepare to run the streets of Fargo and Chicago (in the shadow of the John Hancock Building), which makes me think of what may be the most famous signature in the history of the free world. Hint: Think The Declaration of Independence, which makes me think of The Constitution, which makes me think of Amendments to the Constitution of the United States of America, which makes me think that every great plan needs to be altered once in a while. The same can be said about training plans.

Today was one of the those days. The table was set last night when I ran 6 miles later than I had hoped, finishing about 8:30. Then when I got up this morning I was sore and just didn’t think it was wise to venture out for my planned 10 mile run at 6:00 am without much sleep. I pushed my run to after my son’s basketball game(which I coached) and my daughter’s volleyball tourney(which they won!) and the hour and half drive back home. I end up running 6 miles finishing at 7:45. I cut the run from 10 to 6 due mainly to sore feet and knees from standing most of the day. Plus I don’t think I was as hydrated as I should have been.

To make up for the 4 miles, I will add that figure to my scheduled 8 mile run tomorrow. I can do 12 mile runs on back to back Sundays even though the plan calls for shorter long runs every other week. Sometimes you just have to go with the flow and be as flexible as your legs should be.

Chicago 2002 Part 2


Things were setting up nicely for a good time. As stated in Part 1, I was running free and relaxed due to open spaces and great crowd support. I was clicking off miles in the 7:00 to 7:15 range.  The need to lighten my bladder was catching up with me. I knew I wouldn’t last the whole way with the extra weight and discomfort. Finally at the 5 mile point there was a line of port-a-johns. I veered off the course and made what ended up being a full minute pit stop.

Having the prior year’s experience made for a much more confident me as the run progressed. I knew I had trained at a high level for many many months and knew I would not give up on the dream, which became my internal chat. Don’t give up on the dream. I hit the half marathon point at about 1:31:30 and I started thinking a 3:05 was within the realm.

Shortly after the 16 mile point I started employing part of my plan to incorporate backwards running into the race. I chose to use it when the spectators and runners were few and far between. I still received some looks and comments. One runner said,”The least you could do is slow down when you do that to make us feel better.” I just said that I wasn’t trying to make others feel bad, but to give my forward propelling muscles a break. It worked and I felt refreshed after about 100 yards of the backwards jaunt. Around 18 miles I used some short periods of walking to assist in recovery as well. I planned to walk and run backwards as the goal was to qualify for Boston and do so by all means necessary. I had planned to run the whole way the year before and qualify for Boston. I ran all of Chicago 2001, but failed in my ultimate goal and I wasn’t going to do that again.

23 miles was the big wall point in 2001, so when 23 came and went I felt like I was going to do this. My legs began to feel tight, however the major cramping like 2001 just didn’t show its face this year. I lost some pace on the back side, but not enough to take me off of Boston’s doorstep. I kick it up running down Columbus for the last .2. I must have looked like an idiot as I waved to crowd in a hyper wrist action. At one point the crowd seemed to react with a cheer and then as they realized they didn’t know who I was, became immediately silent. I stopped waving and then powered to the finish. I crossed the finish line and looked at my watch. 3:11:24, good enough for the Boston qualifying time for a 35-39 year old male.

I accomplished the dream. I saw a guy shortly after I finished, who had worked at the running shoe store where I had purchased my marathon shoes at his recommendation. The Adidas Cairos. He also had encouraged me that my Boston dream was a possibility after I had run my first half marathon of my life in 1:37. It was pretty cool that he was the first person I knew that I saw right after fulfilling the dream we had discussed just 2 years prior. He said,”See you in Boston.”

Chicago 2002 Part 1

My Chicago Marathon experience in 2001 drove my training for an entire year. I didn’t take much time off and trained through the winter months with weekly 10 mile long runs. Not qualifying for Boston, hitting the wall at mile 23 and missing a few long runs in training for 2001 made me hungry for a second chance. I was driven to not repeat the same mistakes and accomplish my goal this time around.

I trained all the way up to 24 miles for my peak long run and was consistantly hitting 40-60 mile weeks. I had also changed jobs over the winter. I went from a desk job to a truck driving  job that included unloading  between 80,000 -120,000 lbs by hand a week. I was in the best shape of my life. I didn’t get 6 pack abs, but I did come close with a 4 and a half and a half pack.

My friend Dave took this year off from running Chicago, so I was on my own for travel and hotel. I drove in to Chicago for the Expo on Saturday and had planned on a quick 3 mile run on on the bike paths on Lake Michigan, but it rained quite a bit Saturday, so I canceled that idea. My hotel was about a 30 minute drive to the Shedd Aquirium parking lot, which would become a marathon tradition for my parking needs. Cheap and not much of a walk to Grant Park and the starting line. 2002 was the first year for a seeded starting corrals and I had been able to earn a first corral position from my time in 2001. I remember pulling up my sweatshirt to show Security my specially colored bib number as I went down the roped off area to the start corral. I felt like a rock star at that point. I got there early enough (about 30 minutes before the start) to do a little warm run in the corral before it got too populated to do anymore running. I lined up about 10 feet from the front of the corral and could see the elite runners warming up out on the course. I started to notice that I was trapped in this holding pen waiting for the start and now needing to relieve some water weight. Well I guess I am going to have to see if the course has any port-a-johns.

The gun went off and it only took me about 14 seconds to get to the starting line chip timing pad at which point I started my Ironman stopwatch. Running down Columbus Dr. I remember looking up to all the fans looking down from a bridge. They were cheering like crazy and it was just an awesome feeling. Shortly running under that bridge and through a short tunnel, a follow runner past me in the crowd veared right in front of me and passed gas. Thanks a lot Mr. Smelly! Nothing like the stentch of a Big City tunnel followed by a methane chaser.

I did notice that the crowd was not nearly as dense as the year before since the start corral put us in front of everyone, but the elites who were long gone within a few strides after the gun. It was nice to run without fear of being clipped or tripped.

(to be continued)

16 Miles (Part II)

Somedays of training are just hard work with little feeling of reward. Today was one of the days where you feel like you are making progress and can see the benefits of the hard work.

I had been struggling with my long runs of late and had done alot of run/walking after 10 or 12 miles. Today I took my long run to a flatter course to gain some confidence with less than 6 weeks to my marathon. It worked. I was able to run all 16 miles at a 8:30 pace.

With the hills of my normal training runs, I have not been able to get under 9 minute pace. My level of confidence had been suffering. Not being able to run for the entire distance and the less than desirable pace.

The run this morning has turned me around and I feel like a 3:30 marathon is a strong possiblity. The biggest difference for me was being able to fight off the desire to bail and start walking. Everytime I got the feeling to walk, I turned around and ran backwards instead. I was able to maintain my pace and gave my forward working muscles enough of a break to keep me charging on. As referenced in my blog “Rough Patches”, backwards running has been a key in my Boston Marathon Qualifying times. I swear by this practice. The key is the switch from forwards running to backwards and back. If you try backwards running, practice on a track or smooth trail before trying it in a race. Practice the switch slowly at first and see if one direction of the twist works better than the other. Is counter clockwise better than clockwise or see there no difference for you.

Experimenting with courses and styles of running can yield some amazing results. Break from the norm.

Rough Patches

There are rough patches in training and during races. Mentally enduring during training should help you during races.

Walking is one alternative many promote and employ to overcome rough patches. I believe in walking some during marathons to regain energy. I also like to run backwards. Running backwards allows me to maintain my pace while giving my hamstrings and other forward thrusting muscles a break. My first marathon I ran the entire distance, hit the wall hard at 23 miles and came up short on qualifying for Boston. In my next 2 marathons (both yielding Boston qualifying times) I walked and ran backward. The wall never appeared in those races.

One other technic many forget about is actually speeding up when tired. It may seem counterintuitive yet the difference in cadence will revive you and help propel you on.

Many marathons promote a fast flat course. Sometimes the lack of hills forces you to get creative to not overwork the same muscles over and over again. Using the methods listed above will help add needed variety to your pace and allow you perform better.

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