Preparing for a Destination Race or Racecation

As you all may or may not know, I love to combine running and travel (hence the blog name if you were wondering). Out of the 48 half marathons (in 46 states), 1 marathon, 10k, 10 miler, 15k, and three 5k’s I’ve run over the years, only the 5k’s, 10k, and 15k have been local. I’ve traveled more than 2 hours from my home to every single other race and for most races I traveled far enough that I needed to spend the night before the race. That means by now I’ve found what works and what doesn’t work when traveling to a race, at least for me.

I’ve previously published a post on What’s in my Racing (Running) Bag? but there’s so much more to preparing for a destination race or racecation than just what to bring. As I also mentioned in this post on packing a bag for a race, it’s huge if you don’t have to check your bag with the airline if you’re flying to a race. Not only do you save money, more importantly you save time by not having to go to physically drop off your bag before your flight (just go straight to security then your gate) and wait at the baggage carousel after your flight, and you save yourself the stress of worrying about what to do if your running clothes don’t make it to your destination on time.

20190511_112259-2
From a recent racecation to Delaware, one of the few races I’ve driven to in recent years instead of flown to (but it was far enough we spent a few days there).

Even if you absolutely have to bring those four pairs of shoes, 5 dresses, and other clothes that you’ll probably only end up wearing half of and you do end up checking your bag with your airline, you can wear your running socks and shoes and the shirt you plan on racing in so at least you’ll have those things if your bag does get lost. Or another option is to put all of your racing gear in your carry-on bag and make sure the bag is small enough that it will fit under your seat on the plane so it doesn’t get gate-checked. This includes your running watch, belt, armband, earbuds, sunglasses, and hat or visor in addition to your shirt, sports bra, shorts or pants, and socks.

I also highly recommend running with your own hydration during the race if it’s going to be hot and/or a long distance (half marathon or longer). Honestly, I’m surprised more people don’t do this at races. I assume just about everyone trains with some form of hydration so why wouldn’t you want to run the race using what you train with? I guess maybe not everyone trains with hydration, though, or maybe they just don’t sweat as much as I do and don’t feel like they need to run with it. Also, if you run with gels or Gu be sure you put them in your liquids bag (each person is allowed 1 plastic quart-sized bag) because TSA counts them as liquids.

If it’s going to be cold the morning of your race, pack something you can discard just before the race starts like a mylar space blanket or old sweatshirt you needed to get rid of anyway. Those cheap thin gloves (Target sells them) and a Buff are great and barely take up any room in your carry-on and you can easily store them in a pocket or running belt when you warm up during the race. I recently heard of someone taking hand warmers to a cold race start and thought that was brilliant. Believe me, I wish I had this advice at some of my previous races where I was shivering in the cold waiting for the race to start. My advice is if you even remotely think it might be cold or chilly on race day, for instance if you’ll be running in a place where the weather often changes quickly, pack gloves, a warm hat, Buff, and tights or capris. I’ve been burned by summer races in the mountains before and have learned the hard way to do this.

IMG_7163
See the person running in capris that were bought the day before the race in Montana because I didn’t come prepared for the cold morning start? That’s me!

On the flip side, if you’re going somewhere that it will be hot the day of your race, there are some special considerations to take into account. As I mentioned earlier, I recommend racing with your hydration of choice (I like Nuun), which is even more important on hot days. If you’re prone to chafing, be sure to bring your preferred product to prevent chafing (I like Body Glide, which you can find at local running and outdoor stores). I’m also a big fan of Arctic Cool products and their “Hydrofreeze X” technology. You can find athletic shirts, shorts, capris, hats, headbands, and cooling towels on their website and can also purchase bundles of products to save money.

After the race, if you plan on hanging out at the race finish, put a clean shirt, sports bra if you’re a woman, and pair of recovery sandals or other comfy shoes in a gear check bag and you’ll be glad you did. Sometimes races will offer free post-race showers at a nearby YMCA or hotel, which is fantastic if you have to check out of your hotel or Airbnb before you can get back to take a shower after the race, or if you just want to stay close to the race finish for a while before heading back. As long as you plan for this when you’re at home packing for the race, you’ll be prepared. I have a small towel that I bought in Peru that I wish I would have bought for travel years ago. It’s small enough that I can stuff it in my bag without it taking up much space at all but it’s big enough to dry off with after a quick shower. In short, these small, quick-drying towels are perfect to bring along to a racecation.

20180819_113939
My racecation in Alaska was one to remember for sure!

Traveling to a race doesn’t have to be stressful as long as you plan and are prepared before you ever leave your house. Make a list of all of the things you’ll need for your race plus everything you’ll need before and after the race, and check them off as you pack them. Start packing a couple to a few (depending on your stress level for this kind of thing) days before you’re supposed to leave to make sure you don’t forget anything. It’s also a good idea to lay out your “flat runner” on the floor so you can visualize everything you’ll be running with.

Have you traveled to a destination race or racecation? If so, do you enjoy them? If you’ve never traveled for a race, why not?

Happy running (and travels)!

Donna

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Packing for a destination race

Advertisements

Race Medals and What to Do With Them

Race medals didn’t use to be a thing when I started running races, way back in 2000 and I ran my first 5k. In fact, I didn’t even get a medal for running my first, second, third, or even fourth half marathon. My first race medal was at the Philadelphia Distance Run in 2004 and since then I received medals at most of the races after that, although there was the occasional race that didn’t include medals in the early 2000’s.

Now it seems like everyone who finishes everything from a 5k to a marathon and every distance in-between gets a medal. Until more recently medals were only given to marathon and sometimes half marathon finishers, but now it’s not uncommon to receive a medal after a 5k, especially if it’s a large event. Small, local 5k’s may or may not give medals to all finishers. Sometimes a medal will be given to age-group winners only at small races.

IMG_20181117_105727
My largest medal- it’s bigger than my palm spread out!

I’ve seen all kinds and sizes of medals over the years. I even have a medal that seems to be made of some type of foam material that I got at the Color Vibe 5k, a “fun run” that I ran more for the experience than anything because it was my first run of this type. The most interesting medal I have is the one from Shamrock Half Marathon in Virginia Beach, Virginia. It’s a functioning bottle-opener so it’s not only cute but it’s useful too (well it would be if I actually used it).

20180908_083710
My “Bright & Bold” medal from the Color Vibe 5k

Although I’ve only run on average 3-4 races a year, I have been running races since 2000 as I mentioned before (with a lapse between 2001 and 2004), so I have a decent accumulation of race medals by now. I know many runners run more like 7 or 8 races a year (or more), which means they accumulate a whole lot more medals in a year than I ever did. In just a few years’ time, this could mean dozens of race medals. I only have 45 race medals so it’s not an issue of what to do with them but I could see it being a real issue for other people who may have hundreds of medals.

Some people have display racks. My daughter started running when she was in grade school and has accumulated quite a stack of medals by now (she’ll be starting high school this fall), and she has a display rack that’s already over-filled with her medals from races. You can buy these at local art supply stores or easily make your own.

Others give their medals away. Medals 4 Mettle accepts medals earned by runners and triathletes and gives them to “children and adults for the mettle and courage they demonstrate battling cancer, chronic illness, trauma and other life challenges.” All you have to do is remove the ribbon from your race medal and mail it to them and they will take care of the rest. According to their website, over 55,000 medals have been awarded since 2005.

I’ve heard of other people repurposing their medals into coasters, Christmas ornaments, and magnets. All of these things would be pretty easy to do, especially to make magnets and ornaments. This way your medals actually have a use other than sitting in a drawer or on a shelf.

20190721_183916

I have to admit, all of my medals are on a bookshelf in my office at home. I have a collection of books that I was saving for my daughter to read someday and/or re-read them myself, and the medals are on this bookshelf. I also have some other race-related things on the bookshelf, like the trophies I’ve won at races and the printed photo I got at the Missoula Half Marathon in Montana. They’re a nice reminder of all of the races I’ve run over the years.

What about you all? What have you done with all of the medals you’ve received over the years?

Happy running!

Donna

 

Review of Arctic Cool Shorts

I’ve been a fan of Arctic Cool shirts since I received my first shirt in 2017. See my review of the women’s v-neck shirt here. Since then I’ve bought more shirts and I still love them as much as I did my first one. Recently I decided to buy my first pair of running shorts from Arctic Cool. For some time they didn’t offer running shorts, then they only had them available for men. When they became available for women, I knew I had to try them.

From the Arctic Cool website: “It features state-of-the-art HydroFreeze X Technology, a cooling management system that reduces the fabric temperature to cool you down when you need it the most! The short’s design also includes ActiveWick, our moisture wicking technology that pulls sweat away from skin and disperses it throughout the short, keeping you dry and cool. It’s made with fabric that includes 4-way stretch, providing a full range of motion for any activity. The Instant Cooling Women’s Active Short is antimicrobial/anti-odor powering your short to smell fresh and clean after every wash! Lastly, we added on sun protection with UPF 50+ to keep you protected by blocking 98% of the sun’s rays!”

20190710_165703-2.jpg

When I received my shorts in the mail, I immediately tried them on and liked how they fit. They have a fairly relaxed fit just like their shirts, but not too loose either. I also liked the pockets (full-size pockets on the sides, not just a small pocket in the front for a key), which aren’t always in athletic shorts but I appreciate them. Just about the only thing I would change is have a liner in them since I prefer my running shorts to have a liner. The length also seemed just right- not too short and not too long. I’m 5’8″ if you’re wondering.

Now for the really important part- how they performed when I went on a run. For my first run in the shorts, I went for a 30 minute run in 90 degree heat with around 40% humidity. Even though I also have some Arctic Cool shirts, as I mentioned earlier, I purposely didn’t want to run with one, to see how the shorts fared on their own.

20190725_181322
Top part of me post-run:  sweaty, bottom part, not so much!

They fit well and didn’t move around or bunch up between my thighs when I was running. Thanks to the drawstring, I was able to get a snug fit around my waist. They do have a somewhat looser fit, which I found to be neither a pro nor con really. When I got home from my run, I noticed they were only slightly damp around the top part of the waistline.

Normally my shorts are soaked in the front and back when I run in really hot weather, since I sweat a lot when I run. Now, do I think they helped keep me cooler on that run? Who knows, honestly. I do know I felt amazing when I was running, despite the heat, and despite the fact that I hadn’t run in almost two weeks. No doubt I can’t truthfully say it was all due to these shorts, but they certainly must have had some part in it all.

I decided to take the shorts for a spin again for a longer run of 5 miles. It was 72 degrees, so cooler, but also more humid, so not exactly great conditions for running. As before, the shorts felt comfortable the entire run and I found that by the end of my run, only the very top of the shorts around the waistband were a little damp. In contrast, my sports bra, running shirt, and even my socks were so wet I had to drape them over the shower to dry like I usually do after a summer run (normally my shorts are soaked as well).

20190727_083553.jpg
Wearing my Arctic Cool shorts on my 5 mile run

Next, I wanted to wear an Arctic Cool shirt along with my new Arctic Cool shorts to see what would happen. I purposely chose a running route that isn’t very shaded and has a couple of long, gradual hills to climb. In other words, I would be working hard on my 30 minute run. It was 91 degrees out with around 40% humidity, so it was pretty much like my first trial run, weather-wise.

This time, I did something a little different, however. I’ve found I get a bit of an earlier cooling effect with the shirts if I dampen (not soak) the part around the collar with the HydroFreeze X Technology. I did this with the waistband on the shorts, just dampening a bit but not running them under the faucet so they were just barely damp around the waist. Similar to the shirt, I immediately felt the shorts get a bit cooler. This is a subtle effect, so don’t expect to feel like you’ve stuffed your shorts with ice or anything like that.

All I know is my split times for that run were pretty darn good, considering the heat and humidity. After my first mile I felt like my pace was faster than what I should be going since it was supposed to be a fairly easy run and not a speedwork run. However, my second mile was even faster but I still felt great. After that, I told myself I really needed to slow down some, which I did for my third mile. Then I started to think about some things.

20190729_175956.jpg
Still feeling great after running 3.5 miles in 30 minutes in 91 degree heat!

Sure, I was still sweaty but I was supposed to be sweaty; it was 91 degrees and sunny and I was running at a pretty decent pace. If I wasn’t sweating, I should be seriously concerned because that could mean I was over-heating and possibly headed toward heat exhaustion. Our bodies cool off by sweating and the more you sweat, the more efficient your body is at adapting to the heat and cooling itself down.

No article of clothing in the world is going to make you sweat considerably less, nor should it. It’s hard to say if I was sweating less because I was wearing Arctic Cool clothing or not. I’m not sure how I would even measure that. All I know is my shirt and shorts were just barely damp when I got home from my run, while my sports bra, underwear, and socks were all soaked from sweat.

If there’s one thing I do know for sure because I have proof of it, it’s that Arctic Cool clothing wicks sweat away like nothing else, so you won’t have to peel off a soaking wet shirt or shorts after a run! Arctic Cool claims “the technology actually moves moisture away from the skin and circulates it through the fabric, keeping you cooler, longer.” That’s not to say you won’t sweat when you wear their clothing, but at least for me it feels like I do stay cooler longer when I wear their shorts and shirts.

If you want to try Arctic Cool clothing for yourself, you can buy their products here:  Arctic Cool.com. They offer package bundles where you can order multiple products at a discounted price. Feel free to ask me any questions about their products!

Happy running!

Donna

 

 

 

 

Star Valley Half Marathon, Thayne, Wyoming- 46th state

This is part of a series of posts from my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states. Wyoming was my 46th state.

Many of you may be wondering, where the heck is Thayne, Wyoming? Well, it’s a little town about halfway down the state, close to the Idaho border, due east of Pocatello, Idaho, if you know where that is. Still nothing? It’s about an hour south of Jackson, Wyoming and Grand Teton National Park.

Now you may be wondering how I happened upon a half marathon in little Thayne, Wyoming. Well, actually, I’ve had my eye on this race for many years now. When I was choosing which race to run for my half marathon in Wyoming, this one popped up as a contender. You may not be aware that many cities in Wyoming are at a high altitude, and as a person who lives at low altitude, this was a concern for me. Thayne, Wyoming and the surrounding area sits around 6,000 feet in elevation. High elevation is considered anything between 5,000 and 11,500 feet (with very high and extreme altitude more than that).

When I ran the Boulder Rez Half Marathon, Colorado- 37th state the elevation was 5,430 feet and I definitely felt the effects of the altitude during the race. The rest of my time there, I was perfectly fine, but during the race, it felt like my legs were made of lead. However, when I ran the Spearfish Canyon Half Marathon, South Dakota- 34th state, the race begins around 5,000 feet and it was my fastest half marathons ever; granted, it’s a downhill course.

IMG_2500.JPG
I took this when I drove the course the day before the race.

Regardless, there are many other places in Wyoming with races at higher elevation, and I felt like this race in Thayne was a good choice for me. So, with all of this in my head concerning elevation of the area before the race, I was anxiously looking forward to seeing Wyoming for the first time. I was also looking forward to running in cooler temperatures because I was getting tired of the heat and humidity where I live.

Packet pickup was offered both Friday evening from 6 to 8 pm and race day morning on Saturday. I picked up my packet at Thyne Elementary School on Friday and it was quick and easy. All runners received a drawstring bag with our race number on it so we could put clothes in it for after the race and a bright yellow short sleeve technical shirt. Inside the bag was an ad for an upcoming local race, a sticker, some Hammer nutrition samples, a water bottle, and hand wipes. There was also a spaghetti dinner that evening but I didn’t go.

20190712_201107
Packet pickup goodies and race shirt

Race morning was 49 degrees and partly sunny. Most runners were bused to the start at Grover Park, a tiny little area with not much other than a grassy field. My husband dropped off my daughter and me, which was nice since we could sleep in a little later and not have to be at the bus pickup at 5:30 or 6:00. The race started promptly at 7:00.

The start of the race was downhill and although it was on gravel, which at first I worried would be slippery, it was fast. I was actually one of the last people to go across the start since I was in line for a port-o-john right before the start, but since we had chips on our bibs, it was fine. My first mile was 8:56 and that was with me fumbling with my phone; it wasn’t syncing with my ear buds for some reason. I finally just put them both away and ran like I usually run races without listening to anything.

The next few miles were my fastest of the race:  8:14, 8:31, 8:31, 8:23, and 8:18. After mile 6 when we had been on flat roads for a while and the sun started to heat things up, I started to slow down a bit but not too much. Mile 7 was 8:44, then 9:04, 9:07, 8:51, and 8:44. All along the course I wasn’t really paying much attention to my split times other glancing down at my watch every now and then and being surprised at my times.

20190713_084816
Farms and mountains were my views for much of the race

By mile 11, I was pretty sure I could be close to a PR if I could just hold on to around 8:45 for the last couple of miles. I told myself that I felt really good, nothing really hurt, and I could continue to push. Mile 12 was at 8:37 and my last mile was 8:46. I crossed the finish line at 1:53:00, a PR for me by two and a half minutes.

The course was almost entirely along quiet country roads but there were more spectators than I thought there would be. I was impressed with how many people had come out to the middle of nowhere for the sole purpose to cheer runners on. There was a spot along the course where three girls were dancing and playing music, which made me smile. I also loved all of the people with signs for runners and the little boy and girl hosing off runners that wanted to cool off a bit from their garden hose.

This race was in memory of Jeremy Bart Kunz, who was killed by a drunk driver in 2009. There was a photo of Jeremy at every mile marker. The community obviously thought highly of Jeremy and it’s nice that they remember him in this special way. I definitely got a sense of what a close-knit community this was.

There were aid stations at miles 3, 6, 8.5, and 11 with water and a sports drink. Aid stations 6 and 11 also had cut up oranges and bananas and aid station 8.5 had Otter Pops. There were also port-o-johns near each aid station.

20190713_100431.jpg
Posing with my medal after the race by the largest collection of elk horns in the world

We were handed a medal and cold bottle of water when we crossed the finish line. The medal was a bit small and kind of plain. Nearby the finish line there were volunteers with bananas, orange slices, cut-up watermelon, mini muffins, rolls, sports drink, and cold chocolate milk. The watermelon was particularly refreshing.

My husband checked my finish time and even though it was a PR for me, I was still only 7th in my age group so we didn’t wait around for the awards. They were also giving out prizes like a treadmill but I was just too tired to wait and see if I won a prize. I’m guessing since I never heard anything either I didn’t win or they gave my prize to someone who was there.

This race was one of my favorites so far and not just because I PR’d. My three fastest half marathons have all been at races with a downhill start, even though two of them were at high elevation. Beyond my fast time at this race, though, it was scenic with views of mountains and farm land all along the course. Friendly volunteers and pacers were the icing on the cake. I highly recommend this race if you’re looking for a very fast course in Wyoming with awesome people.

Date of my race was July 13, 2019.

Star Valley Half Marathon

Have you run a race in Wyoming? If so, which one and what did you think of it and the area?

Happy running!

Donna

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review- Run For Your Life: How to Run, Walk, and Move Without Pain or Injury and Achieve a Sense of Well-Being and Joy by Mark Cucuzzella, M.D. with Broughton Coburn

I first heard of Dr. Mark Cucuzzella on the Marathon Training Academy podcast, which I believe he’s been a guest on at least a couple of times. When I learned Dr. Cucuzzella had a book out, I knew I had to read it. In true form (at least based on what I heard of him on the podcast), Dr. Cucuzzella’s book is extremely thorough.

Run for Your Life is divided into three parts:  Before the Starting Line, The Body in Motion, and Running is for Everyone. Within each part are five to nine chapters. Including the Appendices, Acknowledgments, Notes, and Index, this book is 349 pages so it’s not a quick read. As you might guess, the first part of the book gives some background information behind running in general and the history of humans and running with a multitude of information about walking and the foot. The second part of the book, the real meat of the book, covers everything from nutrition, which Dr. Cucuzzella is a huge proponent of nutrition as medicine, to the importance of recovery in running, and the prevention of injuries. The third part of the book covers what an important place movement and exercise has for people of all ages and walks of life.

Going back to part one, Dr. Cucuzzella spends a huge amount of time covering sitting, walking, shoes, and the foot, which makes sense because modern humans spend so much time sitting and wearing shoes. I don’t think it’s news to most people that sitting for hours on end is bad for our health in general but many people may not realize there are other options out there. Dr. Cucuzzella gives several options to sitting for long periods such as working at a standing desk to the simplest but often over-looked idea of taking standing or walking breaks every thirty minutes. He also describes how he suffers from hallux valgus, a deformation of the big toe caused by repeatedly wearing shoes with a pointed toe box, and he describes in detail how he was able to correct this condition. No surprise that he’s a big proponent of minimalist shoes. There are also drills in the book specifically for strengthening your feet.

Screen Shot 2019-06-17 at 11.05.04 AM

Part two of the book begins with proper running form and includes drills for developing efficient running form. As I mentioned earlier, there is a large section devoted to nutrition including some recommended lab tests including basic ones and second-level tests for higher risk groups. In the section on recovery, Dr. Cucuzzella talks about how exercise can effect our hearts in a negative way if we don’t allow enough time for rest and mentions a couple of apps to measure heart rate variability (HRV), which is something not really talked about much.

There are some basic tips and general information in part two about running a marathon and racing in adverse conditions. One tip that many people may not realize is when you’re running in the heat, it’s a good idea to use sunscreen sparingly because it beads the sweat, which rolls off without evaporation but it’s the act of sweat being evaporated from your body that cools you. Dr. Cucuzzella also recommends some specific gear for running in the rain and/or cold weather. Another important section of part two is about the therapeutic mental benefits of running, something often over-looked by people especially those that aren’t runners. Part two ends with a discussion on some common running injuries and how to prevent them.

Part three begins with information specific for women and includes the full spectrum from running while pregnant to the benefits of running for menopausal women. Specific information related to children and running follows, then information about older people running. Dr. Cucuzzella dispels the myth (do people really still believe this?) that running is bad for your knees and joints with his notation of Paul Williams’ study at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory that found no increase in osteoarthritis or hip replacement even for runners who participate in multiple marathons a year. In fact, there are a multitude of references to the medical literature on the subject of running and exercise throughout this book if you’re the kind of person that “needs” to have scientific references for you to be properly informed.

In addition to a slew of scientific references, this book is filled with drills and exercises, either for warm-ups, for strengthening, or recovery. There is a website runforyourlifebook.com that includes a wealth of information. Under the resources tab, you can find videos on mobility and stability exercises as well as other things like kid-specific information and links to the Freedom’s Run Race in West Virginia that Dr. Cucuzzella is a co-director for. Finally, there are training plans for the 5k, half marathon, and marathon that seem pretty straight-forward for beginners or newish runners.

So, after all of that, what did I personally think of this book? Well, I think it’s an excellent tool for any newbie runner because of the wealth of knowledge included. A more seasoned runner can also benefit from reading this book, but they likely wouldn’t find much of the information new but perhaps good reminders of things they’ve heard before but had forgotten. I personally enjoyed this book and the way the information is presented.

Have you read Dr. Cucuzzella’s book? If so, what did you think? Do you think you would be interested in reading it if you haven’t read it?

Happy running!

Donna

 

 

 

 

 

Stuck in a Running Rut? Sick of Your Running Routes? Here are Some Suggestions.

If you run enough, sooner or later chances are pretty good you’ll grow tired of running past the same places over and over again. Getting stuck in a running rut can suck the joy out of running if you don’t do something to mix up your running routes, or at least it can for me. Last year I was struggling with this and I was in serious need of some new running routes. I felt like I was running the same paths and/or streets every week and I desperately needed some new places to run.

The funny thing is for years I would run my long run on the same exact path every single Saturday. I would tell my fellow runner co-workers how great this converted railway trail was and how much I liked running there. Fast-forward to present day and I would never choose to run there. I find it terribly boring and monotonous with pretty much the same scenery for miles on end.

Sure, this path is scenic to the newcomer, with trees on both sides and the occasional bridge over a small creek. There’s crushed gravel in parts, asphalt in parts, and packed dirt in other parts. What it’s lacking in is a change of scenery, though, since it was once a railway line and goes in a straight path through the woods. There are no turns, no curves even, just miles and miles of one straight path.

IMG_20190302_094418257-3
Running in Hawaii. I could never get bored of this view!

I am somewhat a creature of habit, however, and I run all of my long runs on the same trail now, but there’s a ton of variety along this path. This is a greenway, so it’s asphalt for the most part, but there are large sections of wood (boardwalks, for lack of a better term) that go over wetlands and other water sections like creeks. There are also many twists and turns along the way, with one tunnel, and some hills to mix things up. The greenway goes along and through many different neighborhoods so you may see a wide variety of trees, flowers, ponds, houses, and the occasional road to cross (but not too many). In short, I never get bored of the scenery here plus there are often adorable dogs being walked along the way to brighten my run.

As I said earlier, though, I began to grow bored of the running routes I was running during the week and I started Exploring While Running and Fighting Boredom. I discovered entire neighborhoods that I previously never even knew existed, just by deciding to run somewhere and see what was there. Instead of running the neighborhoods around where I lived, I would change into my running clothes on my way out of work, stop at a place along the way home, and just park my car and start running. Sometimes this worked out, sometimes it didn’t but I learned a few things along the way.

One big thing I started doing that was really simple but I had never thought to do it before is open up Google maps, choose a neighborhood, search for greenways or trails, and figure out where they are in relation to the neighborhood. I’m lucky that we have miles and miles of greenways and other running/walking/cycling paths in the 20 mile radius between and around my home and work places, although unless you live in a particular neighborhood you may never even know that greenway exists unless you look it up like I did.

IMG_20170225_101501176
Running a race in another state is a fun way to mix things up! This was taken in Utah.

I also do a Google search for running paths and include the city and state I want to run in. Inevitably what will come up includes greenways, routes from mapmyrun.com, traillink.com, and alltrails.com. Yelp also comes up, with links to greenways and parks. You do have to register with traillink but it’s free, with the option to upgrade for $29.99/year. You also have to register with alltrails.com if you do anything other than just a simple search, but again, it’s free for the basic plan and $29.99/year for pro. I don’t use either enough to warrant paying for the upgraded plans but the basic plans are really basic.

You can also search local running stores online whether you’ll be running in your area and want new places to run or will be running while on vacation. Sometimes if they do group runs, the routes and days/times will be on their calendar, but if not you can always give them a call and ask where they recommend for safe places to run. Another option is to try meetup.com where you can search for running groups. Click their sports & fitness box and go from there.

Sometimes you have to just think differently about your runs if you want to mix things up. Instead of running straight out your door and heading down the same way you always run, just make little changes like going right instead of left or straight instead of turning like you usually do. You can make as many or few of these changes along the route as you feel like that day. Just pay attention when you make changes so you don’t get lost!

IMG_20190502_081627
One of many beautiful trails near where I work!

You can also try running near your work place if you drive to work but don’t normally run near where you work. If you’re lucky enough to have showers at your work place, you have multiple options of when to run- before work, during your lunch break, or after work but before you drive home. If you don’t have showers at work, you’ll have to either make due with body wipes and deodorant (which you can possibly get by with during cool to cold months if you don’t sweat a lot) or run after work but before you drive home. Just be sure to bring a towel for your car seat (and another small one to dry off with before you get in your car).

If you have school-age children who are in after-school activities, you can even run near their school. Be sure to allow yourself plenty of time to drive there, run, and have a bit of a buffer before you pick them up. I’ve run during my daughter’s soccer and swim practices many times. This helps break up the monotony of not running in the same areas all the time plus gives you something productive to do rather than just blowing that time sitting around on your phone while they’re at practice.

What about you guys? Do you prefer to run the same routes every week or do you like to mix things up? If you do mix things up, what do you do to choose new running routes?

Happy running!

Donna

 

How to Help Your Kids Follow in Your Footsteps as a Runner

My daughter’s first experience with running came when I signed her up for the kids’ dash at the Susan G. Koman Race for the Cure. She was three years old and ran 50 yards. When she was 8, she ran in a kids’ marathon where she ran with a running group at her school, tracking her miles up to 25.2 and ran the final mile on the adult marathon course. A year later, I ran a half marathon in Branson, Missouri, the Roller Coaster Half Marathon and they offered a one mile run for kids. She ended up finishing in 8:25, despite the extremely hilly course during a cold, rainy morning and she had just turned 9 years old then.

Sometime after the one mile run in Missouri, my daughter expressed interest in running with me. I was thrilled, that is until every time we ran together she whined and complained how hard running is, and asked over and over if we could take a walk break, that it was too hot out or she was thirsty, and she basically took all of the fun out of running for me when we ran together. When we would head out the door, I always told her we would run at her pace, and I let her take the lead to make sure I wasn’t pushing her too fast.

IMG_4419
My daughter at the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure

Still, clearly this wasn’t working. Instead of just giving up on my daughter becoming a runner, I signed her up with Girls on the run, an after-school running group meant to encourage girls to live a healthy active life and help them build up their confidence in themselves over a 10 week period that culminates in a 5k event. This worked even better than I could have imagined. Not only did she see that she was indeed a good runner but she began to gradually build a love for running.

Since she ran her first 5k with Girls on the Run, she has run multiple 5k’s, many of which she finished in the top three for her age group, she’s run a 10k (where she finished second in her age group), and she’s currently training for her second half marathon. In line with her previous racing history, she finished first in her age group at her first half marathon. She often says she wants to eventually run a marathon and after a few marathons an ultra marathon. I told her to take it one step at a time.

It’s been 10 years since my daughter ran her first race and over the years I’ve definitely learned some things about getting your child interested in running. I’ve learned what generally  works and what doesn’t work.

One of the things I’ve learned that is a good idea is to sign up your child for a race. Good ones to start are the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure races, which are held around the US, usually in the spring to summer months. They often have bounce houses, face painting, stickers, giveaways, and all kinds of other fun things for kids, in addition to fun, non-timed runs for children (and adults). There are also a plethora of fun runs held around the country like color runs, glow-in-the-dark night runs, short obstacle races geared toward children, and bubble runs.

20180908_083710
Me with my daughter after a Color Vibe Run

It’s also a good idea to run with your child. If your child is really young, this is a given unless they’re running with a group at their school. Although my experience with this wasn’t stellar in the beginning, things did turn around when she was older and we started running together again. Just make sure you’re running at your child’s pace and take walk breaks as often as needed. Also take a day off running with your child if it’s a struggle just to get out the door. It’s supposed to be fun, and if you have to force them to run, it’s not going to be fun for either of you.

Invest in good quality running shoes, running socks, and other running apparel for your child. You wouldn’t go for a run in just whatever sneakers you happened to have, a cotton t-shirt, shorts, and socks, so why should your child? After you’ve gotten dressed and ready to run with your child, make sure they are actually wearing said running apparel, too.

Now for some things that don’t work so well with children and running. Don’t push them in any way to run, whether it’s the speed, distance, or even whether to run that day. Again, as a runner, you gradually increase your distance and you gradually increase your speed, so your child is no different. You also don’t want them to feel like they’re being pushed into running when they really have no interest.

IMG_20180225_094330197_HDR
My daughter and I ran together many times in the Canary Islands- this was after one of those runs

If your child expresses interest in running but then complains about it when they actually run, don’t let it discourage them. Explain to them that everyone (even you, their parent) has runs that don’t go so well, and that’s normal. Don’t let them give up unless it’s clear they truly have no interest in running. Even then, I’d say don’t give up forever. Maybe they’re just not ready to become a runner at that point in their life but given some time and the right circumstances, they’ll become a runner when they’re older.

Finally, for children in middle and high school, you can encourage them to try out for the track and/or cross-country teams. My daughter was on her middle school’s track team and quickly found out it was not for her, but she stuck with it and learned that she’d rather just run on her own. When she starts high school, she’s going to check out the cross-country team and see how that goes. She may find out that too isn’t for her and keep running on her own, or she may love it, who knows?

The bottom line is with the proper encouragement and guidance from you, your child may follow in your footsteps and become a runner like you, but it needs to be a completely natural process driven primarily by your child. As a mother runner, some of the best things I can hope for my child is that she grows into a healthy and happy independent adult. If running helps her do those things, then I think that’s fantastic, but if eventually she decides to say, take up hiking as her primary mode of exercise and staying healthy, that’s great too.

If you’re a runner, does your child run too or do they run the other way screaming when you mention running? If they are a runner, what was their experience with getting interested in running?

Happy running!

Donna