Check out the latest episode of the Mickey Miles Podcast when I chat with hosts Mike and Michelle about what makes runDisney events so much fun.
We also talk about how I got started running. If you don’t already know the story, it’s pretty crazy. I share my favorite runDisney moment, talk shop about “On The Run,” the new Dopey Challenge, the Walt Disney World Marathon and lots more.
Also, be sure to check out my new runDisney page, where you can find all of my Disney running stories in one place, including race reports, costume guides, features on celebrities like Drew Carey, tips from Jeff Galloway, a behind the scenes look at runDisney, news and more.
Disney’s Princess Half Marathon was a fairy tale race.
If you keep on believing, the dreams that you wish will come true. Cinderella sang those words and I took them to heart. At Disney’s Princess Half Marathon in Walt Disney World in Florida, I channeled my inner Cinderella and believed that I could break my half-marathon personal record (PR). Disney races aren’t for PR’s many people say. Just have fun, they tell you. But on Sunday, Feb. 26, I learned that it’s possible to PR and have fun too.
Running in Costume: Cinderella and Prince Charming
For starters, I feel compelled to confess: I ran in costume. Not just that, I cajoled my fiancé, Phil, to run in costume with me—as Cinderella and Prince Charming. Cinderella has long been my favorite princess, ever since I saw clips of the film on my Fisher Price Movie Viewer Theater back in the early 1980s. I even named my dog Cinderella. What better character to summon for a half-marathon than a gal who knows how to put her head down and work hard?
I found that once you put on a costume and give in to the Disney spirit, it’s inevitable that you’re going to have a good time, no matter how painful the running itself may be. Read the rest of this entry →
But after the marathon on Nov. 7, I languished in physical therapy, dealing with a newly diagnosed arthritic knee and feeling really uninspired by my workouts on the bike, elliptical and what felt like an endless kick line of leg lifts. Sure, giving into the post-marathon blues seemed natural for a little while, but I honestly hate to wallow. My knee now feels great, thanks to all that physical therapy and an injection that will lubricate the joint for about six months.
So it’s time to get back on the horse. To motivate me after two months of minimal running, I’m looking back at my 2010 goals to help target some new ones for 2011. Read the rest of this entry →
Beans and lentils are packed with protein, but low in fat.
You’ve got questions. I’ll find the answers. “Ask the Running Nerd” is back.
What is the protein requirement for runners post running? I run marathons in about 3 hours and am looking into my nutrition a bit now to try and improve a little.
Thanks for a great question, Sean. My running could certainly benefit from better nutrition, and as we head into fall marathon season it’s more important than ever.
Protein is crucial to muscle recovery after a workout. It repairs muscle damage, diminishes the effects of cortisol—the so-called “stress” hormone that breaks down muscle—and, when taken with carbohydrates, speeds your body’s ability to replenish its glycogen stores, your all-important energy source for those long runs during marathon season. If you’ve ever “hit the wall” or “bonked” in a marathon, you know what it feels like to deplete your glycogen reserves.
To gain the full benefits of protein’s power, most sports dieticians and nutritionists recommend getting 10-20 grams of protein within 30 minutes of finishing a run, and some say even sooner—that’s when your muscles are the most receptive to a helping hand. Read the rest of this entry →
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.
And like so many kids, 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.
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. The recording reveals an intrepid young journalist (played by me) “interviewing” an Olympic swimmer (also played by me). It went a little something like this (and, bless my 8-year-old heart, this is an actual transcript of the recording). Read the rest of this entry →
You’ve got questions. I’ll find the answers. Welcome to “Ask the Running Nerd.”
I’ve been running off and on for about 10 years, and I recently became more serious about my running – I joined a team, set some goals and am becoming more consistent with my workouts. As a result, I’ve been increasing my mileage, and I’ve met some really great like-minded runners. Unfortunately, I’ve also encountered 5 women in the last 2 months who have suffered some type of foot fracture. These women range in age from 23 to 38; some have been running competitively since high school and others are relatively new to the sport. I’m hoping to avoid this seemingly common injury myself. What causes these types of injuries in women and how can I avoid them?
Karla running the cliff walk toward Sydney’s Bondi Beach. Photo by Phil Hospod.
My feet splashed unfettered as my breath heaved in rhythm to the sound of the rolling surf. Children played cricket using boogie boards in place of wickets buried in the sand. A dog trailed its owner, tail wagging. A few swimmers splashed and screamed.
And I ran. No iPod, no shoes, no watch. Just me and the beach. The seemingly endless Australian beach.
Whether I’m on vacation, a business trip, attending a wedding or any of the other occasions I’ve had to travel, I always look forward to going for a run. Running on vacation promises new vistas and a break from your regular routine. Instead of sightseeing, it’s sightrunning, and it’s one of the best ways to take in a new locale. Read the rest of this entry →
Hanukkah is here and Christmas is just around the corner. With eight nights of lights and stockings to fill, I’m sure we all have lots of gifts to buy. So here’s a handy holiday gift guide for runners.
Thankfully, runners are pretty easy people to shop for. Our sport offers all sorts of gizmos and gadgets for every type of budget. And if you’re not sure if the runner on your list already has a GPS device/heart rate monitor/hydration belt/running gloves, here are 10 more general gift ideas any runner would love.
The Stick. Lots of runners have tight muscles. I try to balance yoga with training, but even then my calves sometimes feel like they might snap. I’ve seen these things at marathon expos and I’ve always been intrigued. The Stick compresses and stretches muscles to ease pain. Models vary by length and firmness—the website even has a cool calculator that tells you which one is best for your body type. The Marathon Stick is ideal for distance runners. $32. Read the rest of this entry →
It was dark. It was brisk. It was electric. I shivered in the 29-degree air, my teeth chattering as the sun rose over Chicago’s Grant Park. This was it. My stomach rolled over, nervous and uncertain. I stood in the starting corral, packed in with nearly 35,000 other runners huddling like penguins bracing for winter. We moved forward en masse, and then, there we were facing the starting line of the 2009 Bank of America Chicago Marathon.
It was the 6th anniversary of my father’s death, and I was about to literally run down memory lane. The day before at the marathon expo, I watched a video of the course neighborhood by neighborhood—The Loop, Lincoln Park, Old Town, Greektown and on and on. My emotions swelled and I swallowed hard. I had come back to Chicago a prodigal daughter of sorts. This was my homecoming, my triumphant return to the city of my youth.
Chicago’s John Hancock building. (Photo: Phil Hospod)
“This one’s for you, Dad,” I whispered to myself as I crossed the starting line. It took the first few miles for my body to warm, and even then, I still felt the sting of the frigid air. I tried to take in everything around me—the runners, the buildings and the spectators, who to my surprise were out in force. I shouldn’t have been shocked. I’d been to more than enough Bears games in sub-freezing temperatures to know better. I didn’t realize that exuberance extended to 7:30 a.m. on marathon morning. But boy was I glad it did. To the crowds on the streets (my friends and family among them): you were my heroes.
Chicago’s Merchandise Mart. (Photo: Phil Hospod)
I ran with the 4:30 pace group, hoping for a personal best. I felt strong and healthy as we ran the entire north side and back to the Loop again. 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.
The sign my sister made.
I’d been running for two hours and felt good. But after 3 hours I started to worry. My inner thigh was terribly cramped and I wasn’t sure if I had pulled something. I was right on target for a 4:30 finish, having clipped along at a 10:15 per mile pace for 17 miles. But as we pulled into a water station I slowed to a walk, trying to massage the cramp out. The 4:30 pace team pressed on and I let them drift away. I didn’t want to risk an injury. My adductors wouldn’t stop screaming and I let them yell.
But I wasn’t about to quit. I knew I had a full half hour in the bank on my previous best time. So even if I took the last 9 miles slowly, I’d still be able to PR (runner speak for personal record). And so, from mile 17 to the finish, I hobbled along at a 12:40 per mile pace in a good amount of pain. My lungs felt great, barely challenged by my slower speed, and I took the race bit by bit.
Friends cheering in Chicago’s Chinatown. (Photo: Tania Haas)
At mile 22, the reserves were waiting. My friend Tania had proposed hopping on the course for the last few miles to help bring me home. In the words of the late Harry Caray, holy cow! Was I glad to see her. I grunted something about my groin and she stayed by my side the rest of the way.
I shuffled across the finish line in 4:51:02. Amazingly, I had set another personal record despite a nagging cramp that forced me to drastically reduce my speed. I was deliriously happy. A volunteer wrapped me in a space blanket and another put a medal around my neck. Tania helped me grab food, water and my clothes. I limped across Michigan Avenue on Tania’s arm to a bar where my boyfriend and some friends, who had also run, were waiting. We celebrated and feasted, recounting our war stories and smiling from ear to ear.
My dad always said I’d come back to Chicago—that we always return to where we are from. Well, Chicago put me through my paces, but ultimately welcomed me home. And in the process, what might have been a sad run down memory lane became a joyous one. I hope I helped my dad, wherever he is. I know that running for him helped me. Thank you, Dad. I love you.
Chicago, I’m coming home. On October 11th, I’m running the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. It’s my third marathon, but it might be my most significant. October 11th will mark the 6th anniversary of my father’s death.
I was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs. My family lives in the city proper now, and I visit a few times a year. But when I left for college in Massachusetts 13 years ago, it was the last time I ever called Chicago home. After graduation I moved to New York, where I still live. Now when I line up for the start in Grant Park, it’ll be a homecoming of a different kind. 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!