The New York Harrier men (inlcuding my fist-pumping husband) are ready to cheer on the Harrier women at the 2011 NYRR Team Championships. (Photo: RunKarlaRun.com)
I stared down the track in front of me. I’d already run a 1600, two 800s and four 400s at an all-out pace. Now just one more 800 stood between me and the end of the workout. I didn’t know how to run faster. But that was the task before me.
“Group 4, you’re up!” my coach yelled.
“Why do we have to run another 800?” someone moaned.
“Because it mentally prepares you to run hard, even when you’re tired,” he said. “All right, this is all-out. This should hurt. Group 4, go!”
I had a cramp in my left foot, a stitch in my right side, and I still hadn’t caught my breath from the last interval. Everything in me wanted to quit.
But I took one look at the rest of the runners in my group, and I thought, “I can do this.”
Over the years, team speed workouts have become my favorite part of half-marathon and marathon training. There are so many reasons to train with a friend or a team. Camaraderie, accountability and encouragement are some of them. But my favorite reason to show up to team speed workouts is that I like to run with the fast crowd. It’s inspirational, motivational and encourages me to push myself harder than I ever would on my own. Read the rest of this entry →
Seven years ago to the day, I toed the line in my very first race. My raceiversary reminds me how far I’ve come: from a totally clueless newbie in cotton socks to an intermediate runner with seven marathons under my race belt. Running beginners, take heart.
On April 29, 2007, I remember being incredibly nervous as I readied for my first race ever, with 5,720 other runners lining up in New York City’s Central Park. I’d being running casually for two years already, so I’d run those hills countless times. But I still didn’t know what to expect from a “race.” It was New York Road Runners’ Run as One TGL Classic. I pushed myself as hard as I could and finished the 4-miler in 46:19 at an 11:34 pace.
Seven years later, I’m amazed by how far I’ve come. My 4-mile personal best is 34:38 at an 8:40 pace. I clawed my way from the back of the pack to the middle to the front of the middle. My half-marathon personal best is 19:18 faster than the national median time of 2:19:48 for women.
And I’m still getting faster.
I hear from running beginners a lot. Having started running from scratch after battling a bone tumor in my leg for a decade, I know what it’s like to hit the pavement and be instantly out of breath. But I also know that by sticking with it, I just kept getting better and running just kept getting easier.
So I thought I’d share some cold, hard stats about just how far I’ve come as a runner. Here’s a comparison between my race times from 2007 and now. The moral of the story: If I can do it, anyone can.
My first 1 miler at the Norway Run. (Photo: brightroom)
Inspiration For Running Beginners
My first race, April 29, 2007
4 miles then: 46:19 at 11:34 pace
4 miles now: 34:38 at 8:40 pace
At a 2013 track workout
My first 3-miler/5K, May 22, 2007
3 miles then: 32:17 at 10:45 pace
3 miles now: 23:22 at 7:47 pace
At the 2013 Wild Dog Triathlon
My first 10K, June 9, 2007
6.2 miles then: 1:11:20 at 11:30 pace
6.2 miles now: 54:09 at 8:44 pace
At a 2013 track workout
My first 1-miler, October 6, 2007
1.7 miles then: 16:14 at 9:32 pace
1 mile now: 6:46 at 6:46 pace
At the 2011 Fifth Avenue Mile (I haven’t raced a mile since then!)
Crossing the finish line of my first marathon. (Photo: brightroom)
My first marathon, November 4, 2007
26.2 miles then: 5:54:25 at 13:31 pace
26.2 miles now: 4:28:06 at 10:14 pace
On April 21, he did it again by becoming the first American Boston Marathon winner in 30 years. Even more amazing? He won at the age of 38 and in personal record time of 2:08:37.
Keflezighi is without question the U.S.’s best distance runner on the roads today. With an Olympic marathon silver medal and New York City and Boston Marathon titles to his name, he enters an elite group of American runners known as “the greatest.” Even Frank Shorter, the 1972 Olympic marathon gold medalist and 1976 Olympic marathon silver medalist, said it during the Boston Marathon wrap-up show on Universal Sports: “If there is a club, welcome to it!”
But we mere mortals can learn a thing or two from Marathon Meb. Here’s what comes to mind.
Meb Keflezighi at the 2013 New York City Marathon. (Photo: ccho/Flickr)
1) The big 30 isn’t old. Neither, it seems, is 40.
So many people think the end is nigh once your age no longer begins with a “2.” I’m as guilty as the next runner, wringing my hands at what feels like the inevitable decline now that my age starts with a “3.”
So it’s refreshing and inspiring to see a runner like Meb, just two weeks from his 39th birthday, becoming the Boston Marathon winner, running not just the best time of his life, but the best time in a field of younger guys.
Lesson? You’re only as old as you think you are. Being young at heart pays and, yes, 40 is the new 30.
2) Being the fastest runner doesn’t always matter. But being the smartest does.
Meb Keflezighi is rarely the fastest man in the field. In the 2014 Boston Marathon, no fewer than 14 men had personal best times speedier than Meb, some fully 5 minutes quicker. Read the rest of this entry →
If Disney characters were runners, what kind of runners would they be?
The Disney Princess Half Marathon weekend of races kicked off today with the Cinderella Royal Family 5K, and continues Saturday with the inaugural Disney Princess Enchanted 10K and the Disney Princess Half Marathon on Sunday. Not to be forgotten is the first ever Glass Slipper Challenge, where runners complete both the 10K and half-marathon. Talk about medal envy; I’ve got it bad. You know I love me some Cinderella.
So in honor of the Disney Princess Half Marathon, I thought I’d share another installment of my runDisney Running Profiles.
Previous installments have looked at Sleeping Beauty as the runner who needs some rest and recovery, Alice in Wonderland as the newbie runner who has fallen down the running rabbit hole, and Cinderella as the hard working back-of-the-pack runner.
But who better to spur runners on this Princess Half Marathon weekend than Disney’s best cheerleader, Belle?
Beauty & the Beast: The Coach and the Runner
Great coaches—in running and in life—are the people who bring out the best in us. They cheer us from the sidelines, encourage us when we’re down, expect more of us when we give them less, and help us show the world, and ourselves, just how great we really can be. Never is that more apparent than when watching the Olympics.
In the Disney universe, the greatest coach of them all is Belle from Beauty & the Beast. And the Beast is a quintessential runner.
I thought this would be the perfect time to share an essay I wrote back in August 2007 called “I’ve Got Peace Like a River.” I was one month into training for my first marathon—the New York City Marathon—and at the end of a religion reporting fellowship. I’d spent the previous eight months immersing myself in the world of belief, traveling to India and across the U.S. to uncover stories of faith.
Near the end of the fellowship, my colleagues and I went on retreat at an Anglican monastery that observes complete silence for 12 hours every day, from 8:30 p.m. to 8:30 a.m. It was a unique experience to play Scrabble in silence and eat breakfast at communal tables in quietude.
But it gave me a chance for reflection; I think that was the point. In the stillness, I found that running, rowing, and swimming—the exercise of my life—have been the conduits of my own spirituality.
I’ve Got Peace Like a River
A tree on the Hudson River. (Photo: RunKarlaRun.com)
Floating. The sun stares down, turning the inside of my eyelids red. The water feels warm, but a cold current tickles my fingers, rolling over them in tiny waves. My arms above my head, my toes pointed, I stretch as long as I can, tensing all my muscles, then relaxing. Little splashes of water wash over my face as the wake of a boat crosses the river toward me.
I float downstream. I am all alone. Just me and my river.
The Hudson runs past my home in Manhattan. But here, at the Holy Cross Monastery in upstate New York, it’s a retreat. A retreat from my work-a-day world into the inner sanctum of my own being. Read the rest of this entry →
The Olympic rings in Whistler, Canada. (Photo: RunKarlaRun.com)
As a kid, I eagerly anticipated the arrival of the Olympics. My family would gather around the TV night after night and watch the spectacle unfold. I was dazzled by figure skating and skiing in winter and obsessed with swimming and running in summer.
And since this was the dark ages before the Internet, I’d keep my own medal tally like the nerd that I was—and still am—drawing gold medals with yellow and blue markers (for the metal and ribbon, naturally), silver with grey and red, bronze with brown and orange. Forget Leap Year. The Olympics were the event I waited for every four years.
Once again, they have arrived.
As I watched the opening ceremonies of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi (holy jellyfish/dove of peace dance!) I was transported back to 2010 when I was lucky enough to attend the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver as a reporter. It was not only a career highlight, but also a personal dream come true.
She-Ra rides Swift Wind “For the honor of Grayskull!”
I think Graham Watanabe, who competed for the U.S. in Snowboard Cross, summed it up best:
“Try to imagine Pegasus mating with a unicorn and the creature that they birth. I somehow tame it and ride it into the sky in the clouds and sunshine and rainbows. That’s what it feels like.”
By the power of Grayskull! Apparently, being an Olympian is like being She-Ra.
It’s kind of what it felt like to attend the Olympics too. What struck me most was this: I was not only watching athletes doing what they do best, but doing what they do better than anyone else in the world. At that moment in time, there would be no faster speed skater, no lovelier figure skater, no more daring snowboarder. I witnessed the pinnacle. And we all get to witness it every four years. That is magical. Almost as magical as She-Ra riding Swift Wind, her winged unicorn.
My Cinderella storybook cassette. (Photo: RunKarlaRun.com)
Olympic Childhood Dreams
How many of us as kids dreamed of being Olympians? I’m guessing a lot of us.
I always dreamed of going to the Olympics someday, albeit as an athlete. Swimming was my sport back then and I was sure I was going to be the next Janet Evans.
Side 2 of the tape contained my Olympic warbling. (Photo: RunKarlaRun.com)
Not too long ago, I unearthed a cassette tape I had made on my purple boom box (it was the ‘80s after all) when I was about 8-years-old. Appropriately, it was the backside of a Cinderella storybook cassette. Regular readers know I’m officially obsessed with Cinderella. What you may not know is that I was equally obsessed with She-Ra. Like Cinderella, she is a princess. But she is the Princess of Power! A warrior. And what are athletes if not modern day warriors?
The recording reveals an intrepid young journalist (played by me) “interviewing” an Olympic swimmer (also played by me).
Runners pass the Tower of David at Jerusalem Marathon (Photo: Kobi Gideon/Flash90-IsrealTourism/Flickr)
In its fourth year, the Jerusalem Marathon has grown to become a large international event. In 2013, 20,000 runners from 54 countries competed at the Jerusalem Marathon weekend; 1,730 of them came from abroad. This year, I’ll be one of them.
I’m going to the Jerusalem Marathon on March 21 as part of a press trip sponsored by the Israeli Ministry of Tourism in cooperation with El Al Airlines. The event includes marathon, half-marathon, 10K, 5K and 800-meter races. I’ll be running the half-marathon.
The 2012 Jerusalem Marathon (Photo: Uri Lenz/FLASH90 – IsraelTourism/Flickr)
The courses were designed, the race website says, to trace Jerusalem’s history, taking runners through the Old City and past the Tower of David to more modern locales like the Knesset and Hebrew University.
Pausing for a pic in Epcot with my mom during the Disney Family Fun Run 5K. (Photo: RunKarlaRun.com)
This year, I took the name of the Disney Family Fun Run 5K seriously and did it with my family—my mom to be precise.
runDisney invited me to be their guest at the race. When I asked her if she wanted to join me at Walt Disney World, she jumped at the chance and quickly pronounced her desire to do her first 5K.
The Disney Family Fun Run 5K on Thursday, January 9, 2014 was the first of four races at the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend: the 5K, 10K, half-marathon and marathon with some runners doing all four for the Dopey Challenge.
The 5K was the first of three races for me. I was doing everything but the marathon, and in costume, of course.
Ready for the Runner’s World Holiday Running Streak. (Photo: Phil Hospod)
As Thanksgiving Day rapidly approaches I’m struggling with an age-old running question: To streak or not to streak? Back in 2011, I participated in the first annual Runner’s World Holiday Running Streak. I ran at least a mile a day from Thanksgiving through New Year’s, logging 100 miles in 40 days during a month when I often sit on my butt. It was an excellent exercise in perseverance that helped me battle the gluttony of the holidays and sluggishness of cold, dark winter days. I didn’t run a fall marathon in 2011, so I was raring to go.
Come 2012, I’d finished the Philadelphia Marathon just four days before Thanksgiving and I didn’t have the running streak in me. I needed a break.
But this year, I’m debating taking the pledge once again. My fall marathon, the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, is more than a month behind me and I’m feeling that familiar itch—the itch to train. I loved doing the running streak in 2011. It kept me honest and gave me a great training base for nabbing some personal bests in 2012, which proved to be one of my fastest years on record. Though I bested my 5K and 10K times this year, my half-marathon and marathon PRs from 2012 still stand.
But the Holiday Running Streak is a commitment. I found that squeezing in a mile was sometimes difficult. There were midnight runs, a pre-holiday party run in 3-inch heels, and post-dinner runs with creamed spinach jiggling in my belly. There were sick runs, runs during snowstorms in rural Quebec, and plain, old “I don’t want to” runs.
Runners at the 2013 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon got their choice of a men’s or women’s cut shirt. (Photo: Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon)
Many of you read my post decrying “unisex” race shirts in favor of women’s running shirts that I wrote back in September. After reading reports that the organizers of the Omaha Marathon gave men tech shirts and women cotton shirts with their race registration, I decided to write another op-ed about women’s cut race shirts on my column at The Washington Times Communities.
I honestly couldn’t believe it. Not when other races, like the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon and the Baltimore Marathon, give runners gender-specific technical shirts. It was just one of many complaints runners had about the Omaha Marathon weekend of races, but it came shortly after I wrote a diatribe about “unisex” shirts here on my blog.
A few people voiced their disagreement to my position. Most of them were women who prefer men’s cut shirts because of fit issues and some were men who found it “silly.”
But the vast majority of readers—and I mean vast—have agreed with me. Fewer than 5 percent of the feedback I received—via comments, e-mails, tweets, direct messages and the like—were critical of my stance. A full 95 percent of readers—including a few race directors—wholeheartedly agreed.
If you’re not sick of me harping on this topic and you feel as strongly about it as I do, please consider sharing that column as well. The wider we spread the message, the better chance it has of actually being heard. Read the rest of this entry →
Just after the 12-mile mark, the marathon course tracks past The Merchandise Mart, where my dad worked during his glory days. I spent many weekends at my dad’s office when I was growing up. I can never pass the Mart without thinking of him. He was a workaholic, but more importantly, he was an alcoholic.
As we crossed the Chicago River near the 12-mile marker, we passed the building where my dad once worked. “That’s the Merchandise Mart,” one of the pace team leaders yelled to the group. “It’s the largest office building in the world.” I bowed my head and prayed for strength. Not for me, but for him. At some point during his life, he’d lost the strength he once had; he died of alcoholism at the age of 58.
Last month marked the 10th anniversary of this death.
My dad never knew me as a runner. For a decade, I hated running, thanks to a bone tumor in my leg just below my knee. The surgery that changed my life, and opened up the world of running to me, happened just two months after my father died. Read the rest of this entry →
This is it. It all comes down to one moment: 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, September 22. It’s my half marathon moment of truth—the time when I’ll cross the finish line of the DirectEdge Newport Liberty Half Marathon in Jersey City, New Jersey under 2 hours …or the time when I won’t.
This is what I’ve been training for all these months. Yes, the Soctiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon still lies ahead for me on October 20. But breaking 2 hours in the half marathon is what has haunted me as a runner. It’s the goal I’ve most wanted to achieve. And the one that has continued to elude me.
On my way to the Saten Island Half Marathon in 2012. I missed sub-2 by 31 seconds. (Photo: RunKarlaRun.com)
Last year I came this close. At the 2012 Staten Island Half Marathon, I ran 2:00:30. I gave it everything I had and came up 31 seconds short. It was still a personal best by nearly 5 minutes, but I really wanted my time to start with a “1.”
In January, when I laid out my 2013 goals, I made a bold pronouncement: “This is the year,” I wrote. “Those 31 seconds are toast.”
I hope so. I’m going to toe the line at 8:30 a.m. on Sunday morning and give it everything my body has.
Smiles for women’s cut race shirts at the 2012 Tinker Bell Half Marathon. (Photo: runDisney)
An Open Letter To Race Directors Everywhere
Dear Race Directors,
Earlier this year, runDisney announced they are offering women’s cut running shirts at the 2014 Walt Disney World Marathon in addition to the “unisex” race shirts they’ve handed out for the last 20 years.
Women all across the U.S. shouted a collective “Amen!” to Disney’s news. Why? We’ve been grumbling about this for years: under our breath, to other runners, and, on occasion, to you.
Disney recognized what you should too: women now account for the majority of runners. The tide has turned and women are the main driver in the current running boom.
So here are all of the reasons why you should have women’s cut running shirts at your next major race as part of your registration kit. Read the rest of this entry →
Confidence. We all struggle with it. Or at least that’s what I tell myself. Because I struggle with it in running, as in most things.
The last two months have been a real confidence struggle for me. And it all comes down to the day I fell off a horse.
Since then, I’ve been struggling through injury to get back into running shape, riding shape, and mental shape to believe that I can do the things I set out to do—score a personal record in a September half marathon, run an October marathon, continue to make progress as a runner and a horseback rider.
Shaken confidence is pernicious. It takes root like a tree and begins to shade every thing you do.
You thought you were making progress as a runner? Think again. You won’t be able to run a sub-2 hour half-marathon this fall.Not gonna happen! Maybe next year, kid.
You think you’re a good enough rider to play polo? Not even close. Maybe you should just give up. Hang up your mallet and call it a day. Or else you’re going to fall again!
A Christmas Story comes to mind. I feel like I have a chorus of naysayers in my brain chanting, You’ll shoot your eye out!
They’re the type of thoughts that, if given in to, undermine your best efforts and all but guarantee a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure. Read the rest of this entry →
I’m not the fastest runner and I’m not the slowest, but I am a running nerd. A journalist by trade, I love to research, read, learn and cogitate. So stick with me. Like all good nerds, I’ll do the homework and share it. But the running is up to you!