How to Run Commute

Last summer, I incorporated run commuting into my training for the first time. I more or less followed Hal Higdon’s Marathon 3 training program for my sixth marathon, and while I like that it only required three days of running per week, the number of miles I needed to run on those days stressed me out.

Four weeks into training, I gave run commuting a try and instantly fell in love. Run commuting allowed me to do long(er) runs on weekdays without sacrificing my entire evening, alleviating what I felt was the most burdensome part of marathon training.

That being said, I couldn’t just get up from my desk one day and run home. Run commuting required a fair amount of forethought and planning. Today, I’d like to outline the various things I did to make run commuting a pleasant and successful addition to my training.

run commute, active commute, commuting on foot

Is run commuting for me?

Several questions can help answer that:

  • Can I reasonably cover the distance between my office and my house on foot?
  • Is there a safe way to get between my house and office on foot? (Are there sidewalks or running trails? If there aren’t, is the traffic light enough to run on the shoulder? Am I comfortable running in the areas I will need to pass through to get between my house and my office?)
  • How will I return to my starting point in the afternoon/tomorrow morning?
  • What do I need to bring between my house and my office on a daily basis, and how will that fit into my running?
  • Will my destination have the accommodations I need after I run? (If you run commute in the afternoon, this is likely a nonissue, since your house should have everything you tend to use during your post-run routine. If you run in the morning, you’ll need to consider these things.)

For me, the answers to all of these questions made run commuting (in the afternoon) sound reasonable:

  • I can walk the distance between my house and my office.
  • No matter how I went from my office to my house (I usually had to take very indirect routes to make sure I got in all of my miles), I would never need to run in conditions that made me feel unsafe (i.e.: there would always be a sidewalk or trail) or in unfamiliar areas.
  • I take the CTA to work. The CTA runs regardless of how I got home from work the previous day, unlike a car, which will stay where you left it until you move it later.
  • The only things I needed to take between the office and my house every day were my Ventra card, my phone, my house keys, and my work badge. I also chose to bring other particularly important cards from my wallet (like my license and my insurance cards) in case of an emergency. I leave my laptop and work shoes at my desk every night regardless of whether or not I run commute, so I didn’t need to consider those items, and everything else–my lunch box, the Tupperware in said lunch box, my work clothes, my backpack and the various pieces of scrap paper in it–were all things that I could survive losing without a major disruption or inconvenience to my life.
  • Since my runs ended at home, I had everything I needed to return to normal after running. If I ever did choose to run in the morning, my office has fully equipped shower facilities I could use (and a gym with space for foam rolling, stretching, and PT exercises, though I can’t imagine I’d ever start my run commute early enough to fit in all of those extras after a run).

How should I plan for a run commute?

If you answered with yeses: congratulations! You’re a good candidate for run commuting. Now comes the “forethought and planning” part of the equation.

If your office has a dress code, chances are you can’t wear your running clothes during the day. If you run commute in the morning, regardless of your office’s dress code, chances are neither you nor your coworkers want you to stay in your sweaty clothes all day. You’ll need to have work clothes available at the office, either by bringing them in a small backpack with you on your run, or by bringing them the previous work day–which means you’ll have to know that you plan to run commute at least 24 hours in advance.

To run home in the afternoon, you’ll need to bring your running clothes and any related accessories (watch, water bottle, fuel, sunscreen, hat, etc.) with you to work. This doesn’t offer you much flexibility when it comes to make last-minute decisions on what to wear for your run, nor does it offer you much flexibility in terms of deciding to run commute at the last minute, either.

Regardless of whether you run in the morning or afternoon, you likely won’t want to carry much with you beyond the absolute essentials. You’ll need to have a plan, then, for the nice-to-haves. For example, I bring my lunch to work every day, but I don’t want to haul my lunch bag + ice pack + Tupperware home with me on a run. To accommodate, I have two lunch bags, two ice packs, and more Tupperware than any one person needs. That way, I can leave all my lunch accessories at the office overnight and still be able to pack a lunch for the next day. To run commute successfully (i.e.: without forgetting something important), you need to think through all the things you’ll need to run, all the things you’ll need during your work day, and how to get those things from Point A to Point B in a way that won’t burden your run.

One other note: if your run commute will take you through areas with tall buildings and you tend to rely exclusively on your GPS for distance data, realize that your watch may not provide remotely accurate readings while you run near the tall buildings. If you’re concerned about getting in a particular number of miles (compared to running for a certain amount of time), I recommend mapping your route ahead of time on something like MapMyRun to ensure you cover the right distance.

When can I run commute?

Whether you run commute in the morning or afternoon comes down to your personal preference and your access to post-run accommodations (like a shower, or, minimally, a bathroom where you can freshen up). I prefer to work out in the afternoon, which is why I run commute home rather than to the office, but you can certainly do either!

In Chicago, I think summer is the only easy time to run commute. When you run commute in the summer, you have one less major essential to consider: a coat. I don’t want to carry my fleece, pea coat, or parka home on a run commute, but I also don’t want to try to get to work the following day during the colder months without a fleece, pea coat, or parka. Because my coat is a non-negotiable for my next commute after a run commute when it’s cold, unless I’m going to bring that coat with me on my run, I’m not able to run commute. In the winter, boots also come into the equation. I’m absolutely not going to carry my heavy boots home on a run, but I’m also absolutely not going to try to get to work through snow and slush the following morning without them. Not having to consider those elements in the summer simplifies the process immensely, which is why I stick to summer run commuting. (Though I am also willing to run commute during jacket weather. I have two lightweight jackets, so I can leave one at work when I run home and wear the other to work the following morning.)

Even though it requires a fair amount of planning, run commuting has been the most positive addition to my training. If it’s an option for you, I highly recommend giving it a try!

Do you ever run commute?

 

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Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle 8K Race Recap

Another year, another Shuffle.

I went into this year hoping to PR my half marathon in April. After realizing that circumstances would make that somewhere between difficult and impossible, I decided to shift my goal for the half marathon to negative splitting the race. I talked publicly about that, but I did not talk about the fact that I also decided to make the Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle 8K my goal race for the spring.

shamrockshuffle2018-1

I didn’t adjust my training to accommodate my new goal to PR at Shamrock, but I figured the training I was doing to negative split my half marathon in April would be sufficient for an 8K PR. Roughly half of my miles since the end of February have been fast: not 8K PR fast, but much faster than usual. Fast finishing my runs has helped me grow familiar with the discomfort and burning of giving it your all at when you feel you don’t have much more to give, so I thought I’d be in a decent place to PR.

I picked up my packet at packet pick-up on Friday–note that this year, the expo was downgraded to a packet pick-up–and spent most of Saturday unsuccessfully trying to relax. I felt anxious and stressed all day. I knew it was supposed to be “breezy,” on Sunday, which concerned me. I tackled two “breezy” runs the week before, and they were so hard. I knew windy conditions would make my already ambitious goal for the 8K (an 8:15ish overall pace, with 8:45, 8:30, 8:15, 8:00, and 7:45 mile splits) that much more challenging. I was also concerned about the temperature. I’ll sing the praises of running in 20-30 degree temperatures all day, unless that day is a race day with no indoor accommodations. I dread standing around in the cold waiting for a race to start while my hands and feet become progressively number. I know how to dress for a run when it’s 29 degrees with a Real Feel of 17: I do not know how to dress for a race in those conditions, where I know I’ll have to be outside for a decent amount of time before and after the run. On top of all of that, it was also important to me that I get to church for the 11 a.m. service after the race. I knew I’d have time to do it–I expected to be done running certainly by 9:30–but the logistics of getting to church, changing, and not freezing to death in the process stressed me out. The combination of all of those things had me feeling so overwhelmed that I truly wanted nothing more than to hide under my covers, forget the whole thing, and just take a DNS.

I’d rather save my first DNS for a time I actually need it, though, so off I went to Grant Park. It was every bit as windy and cold downtown as I feared (though it felt a little less intense in the park itself, with fewer buildings to whip the wind in every direction). I wore my warmest running jacket, which I LOVE but is way bulkier than I’d like to use for a PR-attempt race, and had throwaway sweatpants on over my tights to keep me warmish in the corral. Just a little before 8:40, my corral was off.

shamrockshuffle2018-2

In an effort to hit my mile splits (knowing my watch wouldn’t provide accurate readings downtown) I attempted to reconfigure my Garmin so I could manually lap it instead of automatically lapping it, but I didn’t really remember how to do that and ended up with no splits at all (WHY you have to choose between one or the other on this stupid, useless, worthless, waste-of-$200 piece of junk I will never understand. My Polar M400 was MORE than happy to automatically lap my miles while allowing me to manually lap the watch at the same time, and it would report both to me on the online portal after I synced my watch.) This obviously did not help the pacing situation one bit. I know I came through the first mile in 8:3x, which was a bit faster than I hoped to start. I figured I’d do my best to hold onto that pace for the next mile anyway to give myself a little cushion in the 8:15ish overall pace department, but who knows whether or not I did. My watch face wasn’t what I expected when I got to the mile two marker (in attempting to lap it, I had somehow changed the display mode *eyeroll emoji*), so I had no clue how fast I had run the second mile. I eventually got my watch face back to what I wanted sometime after the mile two sign, and it read 17:xx then, but I don’t remember how far I was past the mile two sign when I changed that, never mind if it was 17:00 vs. 17:59, so my second mile split is anyone’s guess.

I felt ok going up LaSalle, and got to mile three in 26:xx. I knew I ran a 26:xx 5K during the Shuffle in 2016 (my PR), so I figured I was probably more or less on track to get close to that time again. The wind picked up and I got tired after that point, though, and when I got to the mile four sign and my watch read 34:xx, I knew nothing short of a miracle would get me to the finish line in sevenish minutes.

In the cruelest twist of fate, the wind felt the worst on Mt. Roosevelt, which really felt like kicking me when I was already down. I checked my watch on Columbus and saw that a PR would be impossible. I hoped to at least not have a terrible race, so I kept up my level of effort and crossed the finish line in 42:33.

That turned out to be my second-worst Shuffle time out of the six I’ve run and a full 1:02 off my PR. (For the record: I ran a 26:26 5K split in 2016; I ran a 26:30 5K split this year. To go from being four seconds off PR pace to 1:02 off PR pace shows how badly that last 3K kicked my butt this year.) I’m pretty disappointed in how everything played out, and even though the race itself was fine from an organizational standpoint and all of that, I don’t know how many Shuffles are in my future. I don’t know if I’m jaded or bored or both, but something about these Bank of America events has started to rub me the wrong way–I have very little love lost for the marathon, too–and I’m sure that has an impact on my performance. The weather didn’t help, but I had a bad attitude about the race to begin with, and that probably didn’t set me up for much success. It’s something I’ll certainly need to work on before the marathon, because I would prefer to not have another race at least partially impacted by my lack of patience for my perception of a race’s sense of self-importance.

shamrockshuffle2018-medal

Training Thoughts

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I’ve decided to try to intentionally negative split my half marathon in April. To that end, I’ve started fast-finishing almost all of my runs, and so far it’s been going quite well! *knocks on all wood available* I’m enjoying it much more than I ever anticipated, though I think that has a lot to do with the fact that I’m turning in much faster final miles than I ever anticipated, which has been fabulous for my ego.

march3

march5run

Those were my runs on March 3 and March 5, respectively. To be fair, I did have a pretty generous wind at my back for the last mile of my run on March 5. But still, I don’t see 8:xx times outside of a race setting very often, and it’s nice to know that I am capable of running that fast without the assistance of dozens/hundreds/thousands of people next to me running that fast as well, even if I rarely do run that fast without said assistance.

I feel like a pretty tried-and-true piece of running advice is that *insert-large-number-here* percent of your runs and/or miles should be easy miles. That’s all well and good, but as a person who only laces up her running shoes three times per week, I’ve started find that advice increasingly stressful. If 60-80 percent of my miles are supposed to be easy miles, and I’m only usually logging 15-20 miles per week (up in the 30s during marathon season, but never even up to 40, never mind more than that), when, exactly, am I supposed to do “real” training – you know, the hard running that presumably makes up the rest of those miles? Assuming 80 percent of my miles should be easy, in a 15 mile week, that gives me a whopping THREE miles that are allowed to be hard. Even under the highest of mileage circumstances, when I’m doing more like 35 miles per week in the darkest depths of marathon training, that still only gives me seven miles that can fall into the “hard” category. And since long runs that last more than 1.5 times longer than your usual weekday ran apparently count as hard miles…wtf man?! It’s literally impossible to hit that kind of target when your mileage is as low as I tend to keep mine.

After years of trial and error, I’ve realized that three days of running/week along with three days of cross training per week is my exercise happy place, and unless that stops being my happy place, I don’t have any intention or desire to up the number of times I run per week. While I do occasionally ponder what kind of things I could accomplish if I ran more than that, I know that when I have tried to run more than that, I was so stressed out about how I would get in all those “other things” that I’m either supposed to be doing to be a better runner (strength training, cross training, etc.) or the things that I want to do (dance) that it just wasn’t worth it.

Only running three times per week, though, limits both the number of weekly miles I can log (hitting 40 miles per week–a fairly modest number, in the grand scheme of non-first timer marathon training–would require TWO weekday 10 milers AND a weekend 20 miler. HARD. PASS.), and limits the available time I have to do various workouts. Assuming a long run is a given and that I should do at least one type of speedwork per week, that leaves me with exactly one “free” run. That free run, of course, could be my easy run, but it would be impossible for easy run to account for 80 percent of my weekly mileage–you can’t possibly do one single run that constitutes 80 percent of your weekly miles and not have that run be your long run.

So does any of this conventional wisdom apply? Should ANY of my runs be easy runs when there isn’t even flexibility to include “junk miles” in my training in the first place? If I’m starting all of my runs slow and finishing all of them fast (aside, right now, from my once-every-three-weeks tempo run, prescribed by Hal Higdon’s HM3 half marathon training program), what kind of run is that, anyway? Half easy/half hard? All hard? SHOULD I be doing all of my runs like that? Am I setting myself up for injury and/or burnout by doing all of my runs like that? These are the questions that keep rolling around in my head every time I’m pounding the pavement.

While part of me feels like I’m playing with fire by fast finishing nearly all of my runs, it’s also blown my mind what kind of impact this seems to have had on my overall fitness. After watching with frustration as my resting heart rate (according to my Fitbit) stubbornly hovered around 6-8 bpm higher than I “like” it to be (and by “like” I mean “what I’m used to it being when I’m regularly running”), it’s been within my normal-when-in-training range ever since–and this is true–the day after I started fast finishing my runs. Maybe that’s entirely a coincidence, and even if you want to argue that my Fitbit is questionable at best at measuring my fitness based on heart rate data–which I would, for the record, completely agree with: last week, I synced my Fitbit when it was OFF my wrist, and the app showed my “current” heart rate at 105 bpm *rolls eyes forever*–I can’t deny how WILDLY different my tempo run last Wednesday felt compared to every other Hal Higdon tempo run I’ve done in the past year.

Hal Higdon’s tempo runs ask you to start at a comfortable pace, gradually speeding up to 10Kish pace around the midpoint of your run, holding that pace for 5+ minutes, and then gradually slowing down to a comfortable pace at the end of your run. I do this in five minute increments, holding a hard-but-comfortable pace for 5-10 minutes of the middle of my run (five minutes if there are an odd number of five minute intervals in my run; 10 if there are an even number intervals). These runs have, without QUESTION, been my #1 love-to-hate workout since I started doing them in February 2017. They are hard. While I would ideally like my paces to look like a perfect pyramid, the second half of these runs were almost always much slower than the first half. Last Wednesday, though? For the first time ever, it felt…easy. Or, at the very least, it felt much easier than it’s ever felt in the past.

I kicked off this training cycle with miles much slower than I hoped to see and a flurry of adjusting my expectations for spring running. I’ve seen a lot of unexpected improvement since I started, you know, trying on the majority of my runs. I know I phone it in a lot in the name of not getting injured, and I wonder if I use my fear of injury as an excuse to not hurt (in the right way, not the injured way) during a lot of my training. Or am I being smart? I truly don’t know, and this is the question that’s vexed me to no end for the past few weeks. The one time I did really train back in 2014, I threw down four consecutive PRs on back-to-back-to-back-to-back weekends. I also spent the entire second half of the year in physical therapy. It really frustrated me to not even come close to setting a PR in anything last year, and I would like to not feel that way about running again…but at what cost?

All that being said, I’m glad to be glad to be running again (not a typo). I was so burnt out by the time I wrapped up my 2017 training in December (actually, I was burnt out by, like, September), and I wanted nothing more than to stop running for a long time. It’s nice to be happy to run again.

 

 

 


2017 Running Recap

Time for one of my favorite posts of the year! As always, thanks to Kim for the inspiration 🙂

Races participated in: 10
Races “raced” (of x amount above): 3. I was going to make a comment about how this is the most I’ve ever raced, but then I looked back on my past annual recaps and it’s definitely not, haha. It is, however, one of the only times I’ve ever been able to give a definitive response for this, so that’s something 😛
DNFs: 0
DNSs: 0

Distances
5K: 2 (a personal annual low!)
8K:
2
Half Marathon:
5 (far and away a personal high. My previous record was 3.)
Marathon:
1
States Run In: 6, another new personal high! Although it looks like I used to only count this as states raced in, not states run in. Regardless, I went to way more places this year than ever before, and consequently ran in way more places this year than ever before. This year, I ran in Illinois, Michigan, California (new to me, both as a state and a running destination!), Tennessee (new to me!), New York (new to me!), and Nevada (new to me!). It was a pretty big year for destination running, I’d say. I’m bummed I was too sick to run when I was in Washington, D.C. in May 😦 I’m writing this post the week before Christmas, and there’s a very small chance I may run in Washington (state) while I’m out there this week, but I’m not counting on it.

nyc-centralpark-view

Road: 10
Trail: 0
Months Run In: 12

Hottest race: For the first time ever, this is a tough one. (I don’t keep track of the actual weather on race day, so I’m just going off memory.) It was either Rock ‘n’ Roll Nashville, where they pushed the start of the race up by 30 minutes due to the heat (it approached 90 that day, though I don’t think it was in the 90s while we ran), or the Chicago Half Marathon, where it also got up to 90 that day. Bizarrely enough, Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago had some of the best race day weather (at least from a seasonal perspective) out of all of the races I did this year. Go figure.

chicagohalf2017start
Coldest race: Jingle Bell Run Chicago, easily. It was only in the 20s.
Windiest race: I’m going to give this crown to Jingle Bell as well, because the headwind in the second half of that race was no. joke. It was windy during the Illinois Half Marathon, too, but not at ALL like at Jingle Bell.
Wettest race: That’s a three-way tie between Rock ‘n’ Roll Nashville, the Chicago Half, and the Chicago Marathon, not because it rained at any of those events–there wasn’t a cloud in the sky for the duration of any of them–but because I think I dumped as much water on my head during those races as I drank and was soaked through by the time I finished all of them. Yay hot runs 😐

Races I ran for free: 0. Another first 😦
Race entries I paid for other people: 0

Participation medals received: 13. Why yes, yes I did end up with more medals than races run. I got a bonus medal at Illinois for doing the Half I Challenge, a bonus medal from Rock ‘n’ Roll for doing two of their races, and though it hasn’t arrived yet, I’m also supposed to receive a bonus medal from Rock ‘n’ Roll for doing three of their races. In related news, I’ve run out of space on my medal rack. In equally related news, I think the regularity of handing out medals at the end of races has gotten a little out of control.

illinoishalfmedals
AG medals received: 0 😦 Oh, odd year Jingle Bells, how you break my heart!

PRs:
Goose egg 😦 Since I started running in 2011, this is the first time I didn’t log any PRs. It’s a bit disappointing, especially on the half marathon front since I ran so many of them, but hopefully I’ll have better news to report in 2018’s annual recap.

Favorite medal: Nashville. Say what you will about Rock ‘n’ Roll, but as far as medal design goes, I think they’re the best in the business. I love that this one lights up!

rnrmedalnashville
Favorite picture: Mt. Roosevelt.

2017chicagomarathon

I don’t often buy pictures from MarathonFoto, but I believe it’s required by runner law to hand over your credit card to MarathonFoto if you’re able to look that genuinely happy at the top of Mt. Roosevelt at mile 26.1 (or so) of a MARATHON. I regret nothing.

What I particularly appreciate about that picture is that I sent this picture to my parents two weeks before the race so they’d know (more or less) what I’d look like on race day, saying, “I forgot to take pictures of my outfit after the 20 miler this year because my brain was melting from all the heat. Fortunately, CARA’s photographer got one of me, so this is what you can expect to see on race day. Don’t hold me to that expression, though.”

2017 CARA Ready to Run 20 MilerPhoto credit: Chad Marek of Endurance Photo

WELL WELL. Look who was able to manage that expression on race day! 😀

Miles run in 2017: 802.42 (+238.02 from 2016, with the ENORMOUS caveat that my 2016 total doesn’t include any of my many, many 2016 treadmill miles. I estimate that I ran up to 100 miles on the treadmill in 2016, which would make this +138.02 from 2016 instead). This is, of course, assuming that my GPS watches were accurate, which as I most certainly learned the hard way this year, was not always the case. But that’s what my Polar annual report + my Garmin reports say, so that’s what I’m going with. (Speaking of Garmin: is there an easy way to get it to tell you your annual mileage? The only thing I could find was a chart with monthly mileage, but I had to add up the monthly totals individually. I find Garmin Connect, both the website and the app, to be fairly unintuitive compared to Polar’s interface, however, so it’s possible I just don’t know how to get the data I’m looking for.)
Of those, miles done on the treadmill: 5.74

BOOM. This was probably one of the pettiest, stupidest goals I’ve ever had as a runner, but at some point during marathon season, it occurred to me that I hadn’t logged one single marathon training mile on a treadmill, and I decided I wanted to keep it that way. It’s so irrelevant and unimportant (and not even meaningful, really – I didn’t log any treadmill miles during marathon training in 2015, either), but I guess after doing SO many runs on the treadmill last year, I got a pathetic amount of pride out of not running on a treadmill this year. I only ran twice on a treadmill all year: once in February, and once at Runn Chicago.

Anyway, treadmill hatred aside, this was FAR and away the highest annual mileage I’ve ever logged. My previous recorded PR in that department was 671.58 in 2015. I was also in training for a lot more of this year than ever before (last week of January through the second week of December with no time off by my definition – “time off” by my definition meaning not running for a full week by choice, not by injury- or illness-induced force), so I can’t say I’m surprised. I also have an even greater appreciation for people who manage to log 1000+ miles annually after all of this. While I think my body could’ve handled more miles this year, my mind certainly couldn’t. I was really, really tired of running by the time I was finally done training for the year, and I can’t imagine adding any extra training time onto my schedule (or somehow adding 198 more miles into the training I did).

It was a weird year in running for me, on the whole. Most of my race times were not anywhere near what I’d like, and marathon training was a wildly demoralizing experience, especially after Labor Day. The marathon itself, however, went so well that I’m really still not over it almost three months later. That was the highlight of my whole year in running, and I kind of feel like it made up for every disappointment I had in the half marathon department this year (of which there were PLENTY). I don’t have any super solid goals for running in 2018, other than at least putting effort into trying to PR my half marathon, but I’m looking forward to running a couple new races, seeing some new sights, and hopefully not getting food poisoning during marathon training this time around 😉

 

Art Van Turkey Trot Chicago 8K Race Recap

Thanksgiving may be the most popular day for racing in the United States, but growing up, I was completely oblivious to the concept of a turkey trot. Maybe it was ignorance, but from what I remember, Thanksgiving was most definitely not a day for running where I grew up. In Chicagoland, however, the opposite is true, and since I stayed in town for the holiday this year, I took on my first turkey trot last Thursday!

artvanturkeytrotshirt

I was a little concerned about the race from an organizational standpoint in the hours leading up to the event. After finding out the Sunday before Thanksgiving (or maybe it was the Monday before?) via a sponsored Facebook post that the race had changed its course, I then got an email on Wednesday informing me that, “As the safety of our participants, volunteers and spectators are our utmost priority, we’ve been working with the City of Chicago to make some alterations to our race course. Stay tuned to our social pages for event updates and new course announcements.” Excuse me? They then sent another email at 10 p.m. on Wednesday, a mere 11 hours before the race, announcing that they had finalized the course. The “new” course was now identical to what the course had been prior to them changing it a few days before o.O All in all, a very bizarre situation that I would not exactly label “confidence inspiring.”

Anyway, I got to the race Thursday morning, and it was so nice outside! I certainly wouldn’t call it warm, but the sun was out and tons of people were dressed up in turkey hats or other holiday-appropriate apparel, making me very excited for the race.

artvanturkeytrotprerace

I opted to run the 8K, but the race had a 5K option as well. Everyone, aside from the kids running the Plymouth Rock Ramble, started at the same time: all 6,886 of us. The race was self-seeded, and since I’ve never run an 8K slower than a 9:03 pace, I decided to tuck myself into the back of the 8:00 corral. The course began at Fullerton and Cannon, and it wasn’t particularly spacious, so they were sending the corrals off at a pretty generous stagger. I crossed the start line roughly 10 minutes after the race began and headed east on Fullerton.

Even with the staggered start, the course was CROWDED for the first mile. I came through the first mile in 9:04, which was fine by me. I had looked up the results from 2016 before starting, and knew that I didn’t have a prayer of placing in my age group (I thought I might, given that turkey trots are usually more low key affairs, but that apparently isn’t the case at this particular race), so I wasn’t too concerned that I turned in a 9:00+ mile.

We continued running north to right around Addison, where the courses split. The 5K runners headed south while those of us running the 8K kept north. Unsurprisingly, the 8K was the least popular of the two events, so the course opened up a lot after the turnaround, making it a lot easier to run faster. I had an 8:38 second mile, which was a lot closer to where I ideally wanted to be pace-wise, and followed that up with an 8:36 third mile. When I got the mile three sign, my watch said I was at 3.14 miles. I didn’t think too much of it, since I don’t really expect my watch’s mileage and a race’s mileage to ever match up exactly, but when I finished the run, my watch said I had gone 4.99 miles total. Somehow over the course of less than two miles, I had gone from being .14 miles ahead of where I technically should be to only being .02 miles ahead of where I technically should be. Either I somehow cut a fair amount of the course during those last twoish miles, or the mile marker signs weren’t 100% accurate. I’ve never seen myself make up that much extra mileage before, so I found that to be a bit curious.

It occurred to me after the turnaround (just north of Buena) that I was going to have to join back up with the 5K runners at Addison, and that the 5K runners I’d be joining would definitely not be running the 8:30ish pace I had been holding for the past few miles. I hoped to bank some time before I got too caught up in the melee, and was happy to see that I ran a 8:26 fourth mile. The course crowding wasn’t as bad as I feared initially, because between Addison and Belmont, the northbound runners were all running along the harbor, and the southbound runners had the trail more or less to ourselves. Things definitely got sticky between Belmont and the Barry underpass, but fortunately that didn’t make up *too* much of the course, so it didn’t hurt me too much from a time standpoint.

I didn’t have any real time goals going into Thursday’s race, but after emerging from the Barry underpass, I decided I’d like to try to finish in under 43 minutes. I managed to squeak in just under the wire, finishing in 42:56 for an overall 8:39 pace (and a perfectly negative-split race! My last .99 miles were at an 8:13 pace.). I’ve run seven 8Ks over the past few years, and all but three of them have been a 42:xx, so I was perfectly happy with my result.

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I was MORE than perfectly happy with the post-race party, however! Holy cow! I really have no complaints about Lifetime as a race organizing entity (other than the course situation earlier in the week, but from my experience with Lifetime, that seemed like an anomaly), but if there’s any part of races that Lifetime really knocks out of the park, it’s the post-race party. The post-race party for the Chicago Spring Half is main reason why I ran that race twice, the post-race party for the Chicago Half is definitely top-of-the-line, and even the Chicago Triathlon post-race party, which I attended this year with the triathletes I spectated, was mind-boggling in terms of amenities. The Turkey Trot was no exception. In addition to the standard banana/potato chips/pretzels spread Lifetime usually hands out for post-race food, they also had MINI PUMPKIN PIES, which made my day. And that’s not even including the party itself! They had all sorts of stuff to do: corn hole, a football toss, TURKEY BOWLING (where you bowled with an actual frozen turkey. My family always goes bowling on Thanksgiving, so that made me particularly happy, though my family was grossed out by it, haha), beer, hot apple cider, race results, and the most insane giveaway I’ve ever received at a race:

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This is the S+ sleep monitor by ResMed (a company apparently best known for its sleep apnea devices). It’s supposed to help you sleep better by giving you feedback on your sleeping environment (too hot, too cold, too bright, etc.), telling you how you’re currently sleeping, helping you drift off at night, waking you up gently in the morning, and all sorts of other things. I haven’t taken my out of the box yet, so I can’t give you any insight into whether or not it works, but what I can tell you is that, according to Google, these things retail for $30 a pop, and they were just handing them out. It was crazy!! I’ve never seen anything like it.

Overall, I thought this was a fantastic way to start Thanksgiving. I had a smile on my face from start to finish, and couldn’t recommend this race more if you’re in Chicago on Thanksgiving.

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Runn Chicago

I’ve never tried to hide my hatred of treadmill running. I took it as a point of pride that I never once set foot on a treadmill for the duration of this summer’s marathon training. I only choose to run on a treadmill if something makes it too dangerous to run outside, and even then, I’d be more likely to just scrap my run altogether than hop on a treadmill for however many miles I wanted or needed to run that day.

Needless to say, when Runn Chicago, a new, local fitness studio whose entire premise is treadmill running, reached out to see if I’d be interested in a class, I was skeptical at best. I enjoy checking out studios and sampling their workouts, but despite all the rave reviews on Facebook about how this would change your mind about treadmill running, I really didn’t have high expectations that’d I’d be all that thrilled with the class.

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I went to an Express Runn class at 5:30 p.m. on a Monday and was one of only three people there that day. Keith, the studio’s founder and my instructor for the day, said that class tends to be lighter in the attendance department, which means if you’re able to show up then, you, too, could get what basically amounted to a small group training session for the price of a group class. Speaking of the price of a group class, your first class is 100% free, regardless of whether or not you have a blog 🙂 After that, it’s $23 for a single class, $109 for a five-class pack, and $199 for a ten-class pack (class packs never expire).

The Express Runn class itself lasts 30 minutes, but I don’t think we ever did anything for more than one minute before changing something. Keith really ran through the treadmill through its entire repertoire: we’d go faster, then slower, then up, then down, then faster and up, then slower and down. It was as much of a workout for your thumb as it was for your legs!

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Speaking of Keith. Now, I’ve been to a lot of studios and a lot of classes over the past few years, and I honestly don’t think I’ve ever met a friendlier instructor. You know the haughty, aloof vibe you get walking into some studios, where it feels like they deigned to allow you to enter their space? There was none of that at Runn Chicago. Not even close. I saw a few reviewers on Facebook mention that they had been faithful attendees of Keith’s classes when he used to teach at a gym, and I can see why. I’m sure it helped that there were only three people in class when I was there, but he was so engaged with us on an individual level, recommending speeds based on other speeds we had run earlier in the day, chatting with us about our running backgrounds, telling us about why he opened the studio, asking each of us which song we wanted to sprint to at the end and accommodating all of our requests. I’ve never had an instructor, particularly an instructor whose class I was taking for the first time, be that friendly and approachable, and it made a HUGE difference.

The 30 minutes flew by, and I’m sure that’s because there was so much variety in the workout. The thing I really hate about treadmill running is that I find it to be just painfully boring. I’ve tried all sorts of things–music, TV, podcasts, audiobooks–to try to keep my mind occupied when I’m on the treadmill, and none of it ever works. I inevitably end up staring at the clock, praying that it’ll move faster so I can be done with it. Things changed so constantly during Express Runn that I didn’t have time to pay attention to the clock: I was too busy adjusting my speed or incline to focus on how long I’d been running.

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Overall, I was really impressed with Runn. I enjoyed the class a lot more than I anticipated and felt like I got in a good workout in a short amount of time. Particularly if you need motivation to get in speedwork, I think Runn could be a great supplement to your training plan.

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What’s Next

Long-term edition.

This past marathon season, as I mentioned once or twice or on a weekly basis from the beginning of September (or maybe even earlier?) through race day, was without a doubt the most trying marathon season I’ve had. A variety of factors played into this, and while maybe one or two of them would’ve been manageable on their own, dealing with all of them at once made the last six weeks of training so difficult that I began to ask myself some serious questions, the root of which, always, was, “Why am I doing this?” The fact that I couldn’t come up with an answer–not any sort of answer at all–was troubling, to say the least.

When I crossed the start line of the Chicago Marathon this past October, I did so not knowing whether or not I’d be back in 2018. I had had it with the entire experience of marathon training and really didn’t know if I could put myself through that again. Then, of course, I had the race of my life (when I was expecting to have a terrible race, no less), so that obviously changed my perspective a bit. While I suppose it would make sense to retire now–going out on a high note, as it were–now that I feel like I’ve at least figured out how to run a marathon (only took five years and six attempts!), I would like to apply that knowledge to a training cycle and race and see what happens.

HOWEVER. Having the race of my life doesn’t suddenly erase the fact that last marathon season was not even close to an enjoyable experience, nor does it change, what I think, was the main reason I hated last marathon season so much: my CARA group. I feel like the experiences I had with the group this year had a serious impact on the way I felt about marathon training in general (that is to say, not positively). Because the importance of this group to me and my training in the past was so high that it was consistently the reason I listed as the reason why I continued running the Chicago Marathon, having a problem with the group automatically becomes the biggest problem of all. There’s a lot that goes into this, so bear with me.

I’ve run with the same 10:30 pace group every year that I’ve done marathon training. I don’t know why I initially chose a 10:30 pace group–I guess it seemed reasonable enough in 2013?–but if I’m being honest with myself, it was a bit too fast for me. I rarely ran with the main group, and more often than not ran with a handful of people doing closer to a 10:45 pace. I barely ever spoke to anyone. I went to one post-run brunch, but felt like I was crashing a party I wasn’t actually invited to, and never went to any other “extracurriculars,” if you will. Somehow, despite not really being connected to the group, I felt inexplicably connected to the group (see?), and came back for more in 2014.

Two big things changed for me in 2014. I felt far more comfortable in the group than I did in 2013. It was no longer a new experience, and that made it easier for me to open up and be chatty–a key element to making friends in my running group, in my experience. Additionally, a fair number of people who I considered to be the “in crowd” of the 10:30s were not running with the group in 2014. This left a social vacuum, an opportunity for a new in crowd to form without having to compete with the existing in crowd. I took both of these changes and RAN WITH THEM (literally, I suppose, but I mean it in more of the metaphorical sense 😛 ). I initiated conversations with my running buddies. I went to every single extracurricular event. I struck up a good friendship with another girl in the group, Jill (all names changed to protect the innocent)–so good that she even invited me to her birthday party that November (the one and only time someone from the 10:30s invited me to a non-10:30s event). Things went really, really well from a social standpoint, and I was officially all in for the CARA 10:30s.

Things changed in 2015. Jill signed up for marathon training, but rarely showed up to marathon training, mostly because she was usually at CrossFit instead, and I definitely resented her for it. I still attended the extracurriculars like my life depended on it, but I didn’t feel like I had A Running Buddy anymore like I had had in Jill. It bothered me a lot. Something about group training in 2015 just didn’t click for me like it had the year before (see? [#9]). 2016 was more of the same, but I blamed that on the fact that I was training for two marathons at once and rarely ran the same mileage as the rest of the group.

I don’t remember what my feelings were headed into training this year. I knew Jill wouldn’t be there, since she moved to California. Pretty quickly, however, I realized that the in crowd situation from 2013 was back with a VENGEANCE. Though the cast of characters had changed, there was a distinct, undeniable in crowd in the group. They took up the front spots in the group every Saturday, would meet up with each other to run on weekdays, were all on each other’s kickball team. If I thought Jill not showing up in 2015 made me feel resentful, it was NOTHING compared to the way I felt about the 2017 10:30s in crowd. They were cliquey and exclusive and I hated it, not only because of the cliquey-ness and exclusivity, but because every single person in that clique joined the group AFTER I did and have run fewer marathons than I have, and that infuriated me. I felt like I had seniority, like I had earned my place in the in crowd, like this was my group and my thing and how DARE they take it away from me like that. Maybe that’s petty or stupid or whatever, but it’s the truth.

My resentfulness about the clique situation came to a head after Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago. I used to live relatively close to two of my group leaders and would often get rides home from them. The week before Rock ‘n’ Roll, I told them I wouldn’t be at the group run the following week since I was doing the half instead.

“Emma’s doing Rock ‘n’ Roll, too,” one of them responded, referencing one of the girls in the clique. “She’s looking for someone to run with! You should let her know you’re running!”

Now, I’ve never been particularly close to Emma. We’ve chatted once or twice at group events, but that was it. Nevertheless, I’m Facebook friends with her, so I sent her a message later that day letting her know that I’d be running Rock ‘n’ Roll and was available as a running buddy but most certainly did not need to be her running buddy if her goals were different than mine for race day. She responded quickly letting me know that two other girls from our group (both clique members) were also running it (so why my group leaders were under the impression that she had no one to run with is beyond me) and that “we should definitely meet up before.” Fair enough. She gave me her number, and that was that.

Neither Emma nor I made any effort to coordinate with the other person before race day, so the morning of, I texted her to let her know which corral I was in, and that I was about 20 minutes away from Grant Park. She responded in kind, letting me know that she also would be there in about 20 minutes. I opted to carry a water bottle and my phone that day instead of checking gear like normal, so I had my phone on me the entire time leading up to the race, but I never heard anything from Emma. That was fine with me. I was just there to get my long run in and didn’t necessarily need a companion to make that happen.

That was all I really thought of it until after the race, when I sat down in Grant Park and began looking up the race results of everyone I knew participating, as one does (or is that just me?). To my enormous surprise, Emma (and the two other girls) had both run substantially faster than I had–like, up to 13 minutes faster than I had–and to my enormous dismay, I saw that all three of them crossed the start line at the exact same time.

I. Was. Furious.

My furious-ness only increased later in the day, when I made the critical mistake of Facebook stalking Emma and saw the two pictures she had posted from that day’s race: one of her and the other two girls all together in their corral, and one of the three of them together after the race, complete with the caption, “Lucky to be part of such a wonderful running community.”

RUNNING COMMUNITY MY BUTT. I made an effort to be your running buddy even though I didn’t want to because Jack and Jess (the group leaders) said you needed one, and then you completely ditched me to run with two other girls in the clique?!?! If that’s “community,” then I’m Jordan Hasay.

Maybe I’m being ridiculous. Maybe I am, once again, being petty. Maybe should have hounded Emma more to coordinate meeting up. But it pissed me off. It all felt so unnecessary. If you didn’t want to run with me, JUST SAY SO. I would not have been the LEAST bit offended. I would’ve been relieved, in fact! I SPECIFICALLY said in my initial Facebook message that it “doesn’t make a difference to me either way” if she ran with me or not. But when you act like you want to run with me and then go silent on me on race morning AND THEN run with other people from the training group AND THEN post all about it on Facebook, I’m going to be offended! (The fact that they all smoked me time-wise didn’t help either, I’ll admit.)

So I was already soured on the group, and that was definitely the straw that broke the camel’s back. That whole situation went down at the end of week six of training. I only went to four more long runs with the group for the entire year (out of 11 possible). Granted, there were extenuating circumstances more than once–my knee, my food poisoning, being out of town, a half marathon–but still. If you needed me to point out the The Moment where everything changed for me in terms of marathon training this past summer, that was most definitely it. That was the moment that all of my starry-eyed infatuation with the 10:30s from 2014 exploded into a million dead pieces, and, having had time to reflect on it, I think that’s really what killed this whole season for me. No, the food poisoning didn’t help, and the fact that September felt more like July in terms of temperature (when July had been fairly September-y) most certainly didn’t help the situation either. But it was Rock ‘n’ Roll that did me in. My love for my training group and the friends I had there had always been enough to overcome all the frustration and disappointment that inevitably comes along with an 18-week marathon training program. Once that love was gone, so was my interest in marathon training.

Since marathon training has, historically, been my primary interest in this whole thing–I really hated marathon running up until just about a month ago–having lost that interest–or at least having lost interest in doing that with the people I’ve always done it with–has put me in a bit of a running identity crisis, if you will. Who am I, if I am not a 10:30 Awesome?

To be fair, the Saturday 6:30 a.m. group at Montrose is far from the only option for marathon training. I could train with the 6 a.m. group (*weeps*), or the 6:30 a.m. Lakeshore East group, or I could defect and become a Chicago Endurance Sports runner and train with them next year. Or I could train solo, though that idea doesn’t really appeal to me when I know the path will be full of groups I could’ve joined if I had decided to do so. As much as I hate to admit it, I think my 10:30 Awesome days are over. And it just sucks, you guys. That group was so fundamental in developing me into the runner I am today. I really, really like Jack and Jess, and I hate the idea of abandoning them. I felt like I got along with the two of them really well. They’re friendly and helpful and impeccably nice. Jess TEXTED me on my birthday, for goodness sake! The only other people to text me on my birthday were my best friend from childhood and my good friend from dance! I’m sure there are other wonderful group leaders in CARA (and in CES, for that matter), but Jack and Jess are my group leaders, and it really upsets me that the vibe of the group changed so much that I don’t even feel like I belong anymore and won’t be running with Jack and Jess as a result.

The other issue I have at the moment? I just…don’t want to do the marathon next year. I’m not sure that I want to do any marathon next year, never mind the Chicago Marathon. I had such a miserable experience this past training cycle that it’s really turned me off from the whole idea.

Now, that alone should seal the deal, right? If I don’t want to run the marathon next year–if I don’t even have to do soul-searching to know that, if my stomach turns every time I get an email from the race encouraging me to sign up for next year–that should be it right there. Don’t want to run the race? Then don’t run the race. A few years back, there was a girl in my dance class who would constantly text me an hour or so before class saying that she didn’t want to be there, and it was all I could do to keep from shaking her by the shoulders and screaming in her face, “THEN DON’T COME TO CLASS ANYMORE!!!!!!!!!!!” (Instead, I’d text her that, just with less caps lock and fewer exclamation points, haha.) It BOGGLED my mind that she could have so little interest in dance and continue to show up week after week after week, and even more than that, continue to register for future sessions! WHY?! Why would any adult do that to themselves? Why would any grown woman force herself to have a hobby she didn’t want to have?! I could NOT comprehend it.

And yet, here I am, with next to no interest in running the Chicago Marathon next year, still contemplating running the Chicago Marathon next year.

I guess what it really comes down to for me is this: I don’t want to run the Chicago Marathon next year right now. I am not at all confident that I won’t want to run the Chicago Marathon next year when training season rolls around. Unfortunately, because the race insists doing registration obscenely and unnecessarily early, I don’t have the luxury of waiting until next summer or next year or even next month to decide if I want to run Chicago or not. Since every summer marathon training program in the city targets the Chicago Marathon, if I intend to train with a group–which I do, even if that group is a different group–Chicago is far and away the most logical race to do, especially if I join a new group. Joining a brand new group and then running different mileage then them every week is certainly not going to do me any favors in the running-buddy-making department.

That’s one of the other pieces that’s keeping me from throwing in the towel entirely: while training was not a particularly pleasant experience this year, I do really like marathon training. Really truly. I love have 18 weeks of scheduled workouts (even if they inevitably don’t go according to plan). I like the structure and the order, and even though it can be burdensome at times, I very much appreciate the predictability and rhythm of marathon training. It feels stable, and I like that feeling a lot.

I still haven’t submitted my application for my guaranteed entry, but I expect that I probably will. At the end of the day, even with all the angst it caused me in 2017, I think I’d like to give the Chicago Marathon specifically at least one more shot. I’d like to try training with a different group, and I’d like to try training at a more appropriate pace (which, based on how the race went this year, is probably going to be either 11:00 or 11:30–most likely 11:30–much to my ego’s chagrin). If things still go terribly, if I hate my new group and I hate training, then I guess I have my answer as to what I should do with all of this moving forward. I still feel like I have unfinished business with the Chicago Marathon (like finally running a time I want to run, for example), and I don’t think I’m ready to walk away from it with that hanging over my head. We’ll see what happens, I guess, but that’s the plan for the moment.