Archive for December, 2007

How To Choose The Right Half Marathon For You

With literally hundreds and hundreds of half marathon races across the country and around the world to choose from, how do you pick the one to run that’s right for you, particularly if you are a beginner? For most people, the answer is most likely driven by their work and vacation schedules, but it’s a good idea to consider as wide a selection of possible choices before committing to a race.

Especially if you’re a beginner and the only race near your local area is a difficult race designed for experienced runners, you’ll want to consider running your half in another city, to make sure your experience is a positive one. Here’s a few points to consider when choosing your race:

Location

No doubt, this is the number one factor for most half participants in most areas. And it’s usually a good guide for selecting your race, especially for beginning or intermediate runners who don’t want to take on the travel and lodging expenses of running a race in a faraway city.

However, consider additional factors when you’re selecting the location of your race, including the number of participants, the course views and the level of organizational support. Running a race that is well-attended will be an enjoyable experience that will offer plentiful fan support along the course, especially through the difficult later miles and the finish line!

Weather and climate

Because nearly all marathons and half marathon races take place in the fall, winter and spring months, participants usually don’t have to worry about excessive heat during a race. Particularly in Southern climates, race organizers are careful not to schedule their events during the often brutally hot summer months.

But rain, snow flurries and other inclement weather can put a damper (quite literally) on your race, so it’s best to check the average temperatures and rainfall for the area you’re considering for your next half well in advance. This writer has run a couple of events in the rain, which can slow down your time significantly and make the entire event a dreary affair, so the advantages of planning for wet weather (bringing a rain jacket or poncho) are clear.

Also, consider running your half in climates that get little or no rainfall, such as the Southwestern states, where many races also offer beautiful, scenic views all along the course.

Road race or trail race?

Road races are by far the more common variety of running races, but trail races (including 10K, half marathons, full marathons and even ultra-marathons) are rising in popularity in recreational (and especially mountainous) areas across the U.S. It’s important to note, however, that trail races generally attract much more experienced runners and are designed for participants looking for very challenging events.

Trail running calls for different kinds of shoes and gear, which you’ll need to own and have experience running in before you want to consider a trail event. For that reason, a road race is probably a more suitable choice for most runners, unless you feel you have the stamina and commitment to run a trail race.

Elevation changes

This is probably the most difficult element of a half to gauge if you aren’t already familiar with the terrain and the city/area of a race you’re considering running. Some half marathons can have long, steady elevation changes (such as the marathon & half marathon at the Bermuda International Race Weekend, which challenges participants with a steady incline about halfway into the race), while other races feature almost entirely flat race courses.

You can get some idea of elevation changes on race websites, many of which offer both course layout and course elevation maps and diagrams. The best way to get an accurate sense of how “up and down” a particular half marathon is for runners, however, is to call the race organizers and ask to speak with someone who’s actually run the race herself. Be sure to ask about particularly difficult spots or rises in elevation, and recommended ways for runners to tackle them.

“Fun” factor

Another difficult element to figure out until you actually run the race, the “fun” factor can mean several different things: How many people turn out for the race? How many participants take place? Do the race organizers permit “characters” in the race (people running in costume, participants running backwards, etc.)? These can make for some great memories and help take your mind off your run during the race, which is particularly helpful the further you get into a race.

Terrell Johnson is an Atlanta-based writer and runner who has completed several marathons, half-marathons and 10K road races. He runs the website HalfMarathons.Net, which provides information on half marathon events throughout the U.S. and around the world.

http://www.halfmarathons.net

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Posted by The Running Guy - December 29, 2007 at 5:55 pm

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10K Run and Saving for a Kick

Many long-distance runners and enthusiasts will go to a 10K competition to see how they can do in their age categories and they also want to do a good showing for family and friends and test out all their training and see how they do. This makes a lot of sense, as if you are going to run everyday and train for such then you want to put in a good run.

It is rather evident when watching these runners do their Saturday 10K that they will hold back a little in the middle of their run and then save some for the last mile or half mile and some even the last quarter mile so they can come striding in and looking good to their family and friends.

Sure, I guess I understand that and yet it seems to me that if they would concentrate on running the middle of the race hard they would be passing others along the way and get themselves into a stronger pace and surely complete the 10K with a much better time in the end.

If you are going to run a 10K and you truly want to post the fastest possible time and perhaps win you age category or post your personal best then you need to stop trying to save your energy for the kick at the end and concentrate on the middle of the race.

It is only 6.2 miles and you are only out there for a half an hour or more, so you need to work very hard to strengthen your stride and then you will post a much better time you can be proud of and take home some hardware (trophy), which will in the end make you much better and make you much happier. Consider all this in 2006.

“Lance Winslow” – Online Think Tank forum board. If you have innovative thoughts and unique perspectives, come think with Lance; www.WorldThinkTank.net/. Lance is a guest writer for Our Spokane Magazine in Spokane, Washington

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Posted by The Running Guy - December 22, 2007 at 1:28 pm

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Running Easy is Really Hard! Here are 6 Ways to Slow Yourself Down

Running can be the most difficult thing imaginable when you begin for the first time. As you get into better and better shape, though, running becomes easier. And as running becomes easier, you pick up your average pace and begin running faster. The problem, though, is that sometimes you want to slow down and run at a more moderate pace for your easy runs, but you have trouble sticking to that slower pace. This can cause a plethora of problems, but there are a few strategies that you can use to combat the subconscious itch to run faster than a workout calls for.

Running too quickly does not mean that you intend to run fast; it just kind of happens. Eventually, running at a moderate pace becomes more difficult than picking that pace up. What happens to be a fast pace is different from person to person and even from workout to workout, and picking up the pace when you are supposed to be running easy can quietly sabotage your workout schedule.

-The Risks of Never Running Easy-

If you do not make a conscious effort to slow down on your recovery or other easy runs, then you are going to have problems.

1. You will not be well rested for your next speed session or race.

2. You will increase your risk of injury.

3. You will increase your risk of burning out.

4. You will suffer from a state of perpetual exhaustion.

-How I Discovered That I Never Ran Easy-

The first time that I consciously recognized that I was running too fast on my easy runs was in the Summer of 2000.

I was running a half marathon in Connecticut, and a couple of miles into the race I started to get sort of dizzy. It was more of a sense of vertigo than real dizziness, but my balance was thrown way off and I was afraid that I was suffering from heat exhaustion. The sensation lasted for about 5 or 6 minutes and then went away.

I did not want to risk going to the hospital, but I seemed all right once my balance returned. I decided to run the rest of the race easy and be sure to grab a couple of cups of water at each water stop. The race was a lot of fun, and I chatted with the folks I was running near as I jogged my way through it.

Towards the end of the course, you begin doubling back on the first few miles. As I came to the same part of the road where I had had problems at the beginning I began to feel the same sensations of wooziness and an inability to hold myself upright. I began weaving back and forth across the road uncontrollably. I took this as a good sign, because it meant that my issues were not heat related but environmental.

As soon as I got past where the problems had first started, they went away and I knew that it was safe for me to sprint the last mile of the race in to the finish. I got quite a few dirty looks from the people that passed my seemingly inebriated self mere minutes before as I sprinted past them to finish the race.

So how did I realize that my easy runs were too fast? This race had been at my Sunday Run pace when I was training with my team in college, when we normally went for 15 to 18 miles. Our schedule always called for a race on Saturday and a long run on Sunday, which was supposed to be at a relatively easy pace. When I looked at my finishing time for the half marathon, I saw that my relatively easy pace was at 6:47/mile.

If I was running my easy runs at that pace, then I was not giving my body a chance to recover. With an average of 12 running workouts per week when I was in season, that could prove catastrophic. (In fact, it did, as the next Autumn I got a stress fracture in one leg and tendinitis in the other.) I needed to slow myself down.

-How to Slow Yourself Down-

It took me a few years to find reliable ways of slowing myself down. I know how important it is to run at the correct pace for the workout, so I often employ different strategies depending upon my circumstances to make sure that I hold to that correct pace on my recovery runs. What works for me may not work for you, though, so you will need to experiment. Here are a few things that you can try:

* Run by feel. This does not usually work for me, since my mind might wander and I might accidentally pick up the pace. Even though the pace might feel easy, my body may not realize what I am trying to accomplish and might betray me. For some people, though, running by feel will be all that they need to do to keep themselves at the right pace.

* Find a running partner. If you can find a running partner that runs at the pace that you need, then you are all set. Just run with that person and try not to force them to run too fast. If you are conversational, then you will tend to slow down so that you can have enough breath to keep talking.

* Sing out loud. You can sing when you are running with somebody or when you are by yourself, but I guarantee that if you are running too fast and trying to sing at the same time, it will be very readily apparent when you are running too fast! I’ll warn you that you may get some strange looks, especially if you are singing while you run alone. If you are in a race, you may also annoy the people around you. (Why are you trying to run easy in a race?)

* Breathe through your nose. I have a breathing exercise that I do on easy runs that helps me to run a little slower when I am running alone and I do not feel like calling attention to myself by singing out loud. I will breathe in through my nose for 4 or 5 steps (2 left, 2 right) and will then exhale through my mouth for 4 or 5 steps. You are unable to bring as much air into your lungs when you breathe through your nose, so you begin having trouble breathing when you go too fast.
Breathing in and breathing out through my nose does not work very well for me when I am running, although you may want to experiment with it. It tends to lead to my having to sneeze when I try that, which is why I breathe out through my mouth. As a side benefit, this is a great way to protect your lungs (a little) when you are running with traffic, because your nose filters the fumes in the air somewhat rather than providing a nice straight path that the fumes get when you breathe in through your mouth and are gulping air from a fast pace.

* Calculate your pace. If you are running with a wrist watch over a measured distance, you can calculate what your pace is and adjust your speed accordingly. Just be aware that trying to do the math in your head might be distracting, so be careful that you don’t pick up the pace and try to be aware of any traffic nearby. An easier way to calculate your pace is to use a footpod or GPS device that can calculate your pace for you. The numbers may not be 100% accurate, but they will be close enough and can be pretty close to real-time.

* Check your pulse. Your heart rate can be a great determiner of how hard you are running. If you are running at 90% of your max heart rate and you want to be running at 60%, then you know that you are running too fast. The beauty of this method is that it takes environmental factors such as hills and weather into account, as well as how recovered you are from previous workouts, so you can truly run at an easy pace no matter how fast that happens to be.
You can calculate a very rough heart rate by finding an artery and counting the beats for 6 seconds and multiplying by 10, but it is better to count for at 30 seconds and multiplying by 2 or just count for a full minute. You may need to stop to get an accurate count, though. An easier way is to wear a heart rate monitor and then just glance at your wrist to see if you need to slow down. If you get a fancy one, you can even make it beep at you when it is time to slow down.

The next time that you have an easy day on your schedule, try one (or more) of these strategies to make sure that you run at a moderate pace that is going to allow you to recover from previous workouts and be ready for your future workouts.

Blaine Moore has been running since the early nineties, and regularly competes in distances between the 5k and the 50k. To sign up for Blaine’s Running Tips Newsletter, visit http://www.RunToWin.com or http://www.Marathoning.org

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Posted by The Running Guy - December 15, 2007 at 6:46 pm

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7 Essential Tools For Running Safely in the Dark

Running in the dark can be a challenge and presents some unique challenges. Running in the dark can also be very exhilarating, especially when you run in a group.

Basic Questions

There are basic 3 questions that you need to answer before you head outside for your early morning or late evening run.

1. What sort of terrain are you going to be running on?
2. How much light will there be on the route you plan to run?
3. How safe is the route you plan on running?

Terrain

Will you be running on the roads or will you be running on trails or a track? If you will be running anywhere that there is traffic, then you need to be sure to make yourself as visible as possible. Any time that you are out running with traffic, you need to assume that they can not see you. Very few drivers will look for runners out after dark. After all, it seems as if few enough lookout for runners during the daylight hours!

Ambient Light

Does the route that you are planning on running have regular street lights or house lights that can show you your path? Are the moon and stars bright enough to allow you to see where you are placing your feet? If not, then you will want to bring some sort of illumination with you.

Safety

How safe will the route that you are running be? It can be dangerous to run through an area with rocky terrain. You may also need to worry more about predators at night, both two-legged and four. I have never felt a need to carry any sort of weapon when I ran, but I am male and have lived in relatively safe cities for most of my life and most of my trail running after dark has been with a group.

Basic Tools

Once you have answered these questions, you will need to decide what you are going to carry with you. Here are a few items that you may need (I recommend that everyone get the first 3 if they ever plan on running in the dark or in inclement weather):

1. Get a reflective vest or jacket. Preferably a bright one in some unnatural color like fluorescent yellow or orange. You may look funny during the day, but I never let that bother me. Having been hit by a car, I like to make sure that I stand out against my surroundings. You may not need to wear this if you are not going to be running where there is traffic.
2. Get a headlamp. They are pretty cheap these days. You can start with a $20 (or less) pivoting headlamp at your local hardware store that will work well enough on the streets (that is what I currently have.) If you are going to be on trails or running in the dark regularly, then you will want to get a brighter one that is made for running. The ones that are made for running generally have a little extra support, the battery is located at the back of the head, and there are 6-8 white LEDs. Unless it is very bright where you are running, you are going to want to wear your head lamp on all of your runs in the dark.
3. Get a red strobe light. I use one that I bought for my bike as a tail light, but it came with a strap so that I could wear it on my arm. I have used it running more often than I have used it on my bike. It has 8 or 10 red LEDs that are very bright and that flash in 6 directions (3 horizontal and 3 vertical). You may not need to wear this if you are not going to be running where there is traffic. I have found that this does the best job of getting me noticed by traffic when there is any, though. Almost every one of them sees me if I have all three of these items on.
4. You may want to carry some mace. You will need to be careful not to accidentally spray yourself or somebody you are running near, but it can come in handy if you are mugged or if a dog or some other animal begins to chase you.
5. Bring some friends. Running with a group in the dark is a great shared experience, and it can be a lot safer than running solo. You are less likely to be hassled than if you run alone and traffic is more likely to see a crowd than a single person. If you fall and hurt yourself, there will be somebody there that can take care of you or get help.
6. Bring a cell phone, especially if you do not bring any friends with you. If you get lost, get hurt, or just get tired and lazy you will be able to call for somebody to pick you up or emergency services to come rescue you.
7. Bring identification. You should carry some sort of identification with you any time that you leave the house.

Weather

The last thing that you should consider before you leave your house is the weather. If it is foggy, slippery, raining or snowing really hard, or extremely cold then you may want to avoid running in the dark. Your visibility may be impacted and it can be easy to get lost or step on something that you can not see. Especially on roads, you need to worry about people driving that won’t be able to see any lights or reflective material that you are carrying. When it is really cold or has been snowing, there may be no shoulder for you to run on and a driver may not have adequately cleared their windshield so that they can see where they are driving.

Days where the weather makes it too dangerous to run outside I will bite the bullet and run indoors or cross train. It is never a good idea to miss a workout, but if you can not get home safely from the workout then it is worth trying to find some other activity to do or even changing up your schedule a bit to accommodate the weather.

Running at night can be safe and enjoyable, and there are a lot of tools that make it easy to get out in the dark. Make sure that you have an extra helping of common sense and that you can see and be seen, and have fun playing out in the dark!

Blaine Moore has been running since the early nineties, and regularly competes in distances between the 5k and the 50k. To sign up for Blaine’s Running Tips Newsletter, visit http://www.RunToWin.com or http://www.Marathoning.org

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Posted by The Running Guy - December 8, 2007 at 12:25 pm

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Winter Running Foods

Most people average two or three colds a year with the risk increasing during the winter months but instead of falling prey to one of these energy sappers, bolster your immune system with essential nutrients to help keep your defenses high. The shorter daylight hours of winter and lack of sunlight make make many people depressed but moods can be lifted by certain foods.

Remember also to keep portion sizes small otherwise you’ll be left feeling sluggish as your body works to digest the extra food. If you need to snack between meals, fresh winter vegetables, such as radishes, broccoli and cauliflower or low-fat yoghurt flavoured with chillis and lime, make a good snack at work. Here’s some further suggestions from dorunning to help beat the winter blues for next time you head to the shops

Fish
Omega-3 acids, which make up a substantial portion of each brain cell, are found in fatty fish, particularly salmon. People who consume a lot of fish have been shown to have dramatically lower rates of depression than countries which eat less.

Steak
The trace mineral selenium has been shown to lift people’s spirits and is found in lean sirloin steak Other good sources include nuts, oatmeal and seafood. The mineral can be toxic in amounts which are too much more than the Recommended Daily Amount so it’s important to obtain the mineral from foods rather than a supplement.

Shellfish
Large amounts of zinc are found in shellfish which help to keep your white blood cells working properly. Shellfish are ideal in soups, pasta sauce or jacket potatoes. Other foods containing zinc include lean meats, beans and wheat germ.

Whole grains (cereal, bread and pasta)
The carbohydrates from these foods help trigger the release of insulin in your body which encourages reactions from your body which lifts your mood. Aim to include carbohydrates in every meal and snack and at least five servings of fruit and vegetables.

Vegetables
Butternut squash
This is packed with beta-carotene which is converted into vitamin A in your body. Protective tissues such as your skin, sinus passages and the lining of your lungs rely on this vitamin for their proper texture and suppleness – cracks in these tissues allow unwanted bacteria, germs and viruses to enter your body. Butternut squash is great roasted.

Onions
Onions are an antioxidant and act on invading bacteria. They are great added to soups, stir fries, casseroles and chilli. The rest of the allium family – garlic and leeks are also good antioxidants as are grapes, tea and berries.

Artichokes
Artichokes taste great steamed, and they also contain a good supply of vitamin C, fibre and folic acid, as well as potassium and copper to your body.

Cabbage
The cabbage family is a great source for vitamin C and carotenes. Cabbage works well added to a stir fry or steamed and serving with chicken or fish.

Chestnuts
Roasted chestnuts are a source of vitamin C. They work equally well eaten separately or added to a stuffing mix.

Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes are great roasted, baked or mashed and are a source of the vitamins B6 and C, as well as beta-carotenes, potassium and copper.

Fruit
You’ve enjoyed picking your own raspberries and strawberries during the summer, but there are many other fruits available in the winter that taste just as delicious.

Bananas
Bananas contain vitamin B6 which helps to boost your body’s production of serotonin – this helps to elevate your mood and give you a positive feeling. Eat a banana for a mid-morning snack or slice one over your cereal Give your porridge more flavour and cook a banana with it. B6 is also found in chicken, nuts beans and avocados.

Oranges
Oranges are full of vitamin C, folic acid and fibre which help to boost your immune system. Aim to eat at least two vitamin-C rich fruits or vegetables a day – clementines or satsumas are perfect for a quick snack. If you’re not so keen on citrus fruits, try kiwi fruit, berries, broccoli and tomatoes. Or pomegranates are another good source. Stir the seeds into yoghurt with some honey for your desert.

Cranberries are a great source of fibre, potassium and vitamin C and can be sweetened with honey or used to make a sauce for turkey or even fish.

Drink up
Don’t forget that you still need to drink during the winter as well as the summer in order to combat the dryness of air conditioning and central heating.

Keep a bottle of water with you at work, or for a more tasty drink, try a low-calorie flavoured water to help you stay hydrated.

Don’t drink too much caffeine to stay awake. If you do find yourself drinking coffee all day, cut back slowly otherwise you’ll suffer from fatigue and headaches.

Millie Reed writes regular stories for the running website dorunning. Specializing in running footware, clothing and accessories, dorunning is becoming an unmissable resource for athlets of all abilities. With vast amounts of information to help runners, dorunning is fast becoming a runner’s bible. With amateur and professional athletes buying their running shoes and gear from us, we are always up to date with the latest in the world of running. Visit dorunning for more news stories, training and nutrition tips and associated information.

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Posted by The Running Guy - December 1, 2007 at 11:51 am

Categories: Nutrition   Tags: