Don’t Run a Marathon Without Training

“Respect the process”

College student runs Fargo Marathon without training.

That’s not clickbait, that’s an actual headline of an actual story about an actual guy who actually ran a marathon without actually training.

Initial thoughts that might cross your mind would be “I don’t believe it.” Or, “How did he do it?” Or even, “Wow, that’s amazing!”

The first thought that came to my mind? “What a dick move.”

As the story goes, this guy planned to train, but kept putting it off, never got around to it. Still, he showed up on race day and stepped up to the starting line. Apparently he thought running a marathon was no big deal and do people really need to put in all that time and training to run it?


High fives to this awesome crew of runners rockin the 4:20 pace group

Let me tell you something, sir. Part of what makes a marathon so special and what makes a marathon runner so remarkable is the weeks and months of dedication they put in, before race day. The training is the true test of grit, determination, and discipline. Running the actual marathon? That’s the reward. The icing on the cake.

Now, this kid does admit that what he did was a really bad idea. After capturing his journey on video, he proved that it was pretty much the most awful experience ever, one he said he’d never do again. And that makes me sad. Running a marathon is tough but it can be a great experience. One I personally can’t wait to have again in October.

I’m not even going to touch on the dangerous message this sends to others who feel they don’t need to put in the time and effort, then wind up horribly injured. The only other thing I’m going to say is, to me, this comes across as disrespectful, and is a giant slap in the face to the people who put in the time to train and run their race.

So, now that’s out of the way, let me put a positive vibe on this blog. Hats off to you, marathon runner! The one who got up before dawn, every Saturday for 16-plus weeks to get in your long run. The one who sacrificed post-work happy hours to make sure you met your weekly mileage goals. The one who followed a diet designed to nourish and fuel your body.

You’re the real story, the one the local news stations should have celebrated. So, allow me to celebrate you. You rule.

Did you run the Fargo Marathon, or other race recently, after weeks or months of training? Post a comment or tweet me @runlikeagirl311. And if you liked this post and think fellow hardworking runners would too, please share on Facebook or Twitter.

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The Hardest Part of Marathon Training – After 26.2

“You can’t start the next chapter if you keep re-reading the last one”

Another Fargo Marathon in the books. This year’s race was one of the most fun for me, as I had the privilege of leading one of the pace groups. While I was nervous for my first assignment as a full marathon pacer, those nerves quickly went away, as I laughed, encouraged, and bonded with some great people throughout the streets, bike paths, and college campuses of Fargo and Moorhead.


Two members of my pace crew – started together, finished together.

Like other marathon runners, the hardest part of marathon training is here – what to do next. There are several reasons post-marathon time is tough but unlike other marathon runners, I don’t have the “whats” part of it to deal with. You know the “whats”:

“What could I have done differently?”
“What if I had run the first few miles a little faster?”
“What should I have changed with my training to do better?”

Runners are notoriously hard on themselves, often dissecting and analyzing every part of the race, every step in the training process, all to know what they could have done better.

As a pacer, I had a different approach than most runners hoping for a personal goal; I simply had a job to do and, I’m happy to say, I believe I did it well. So I get to look back on this year’s event and training with no regrets, no “whats,” but I sympathize with runners right now who are dealing with, both the scrutinizing “whats” and that big one: “What do I do now?” That’s why I offer up a throwback blog, how to beat those after-marathon-blues.


What’s next for me? More fun runs with Ainsley’s Angels.

Those of you who recently ran a marathon, whether Fargo or other, I invite you to read as well. Remember to celebrate your accomplishment. No matter how race day turned out, you worked hard for months and that alone is worth recognizing. Most importantly, it will help you move on to a better one of those “whats” – what’s next!

If you like this post and think other runners would too, please share it on Facebook or Twitter. As always, if you have questions or something to say, please leave a comment or tweet me, @runlikeagirl311 on Twitter.

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Why You Should Run With a Pacer – And Why You Shouldn’t

“Follow the leader”

Iiiitttt’ssss Marathon Week! After a long winter of training, it’s hard to believe the big day is almost here. On Saturday, along with thousands of runners, I’ll step up to the start line at the Fargo Marathon, my eleventh consecutive year running my beloved hometown race.

PaceMark copy

I’m THIS EXCITED for Marathon Day

What’s different about other years I’ve run the full marathon is this year I’m doing it as a pacer – my first time pacing a full 26.2 endeavor. I’m leading the 4:20 finish group so hoping I have a couple first-timers run, at least part of their journey, alongside me.

As a pacer, I’d love to tell you all the reasons why running with us is a great idea. And, as a runner who never ran in a pace group myself, I feel I should give you the other side of the story, too. So here they are, the reasons why running with a pacer is a great idea – and, why it may not be for you.

To help illustrate, I’ve identified five types of runners; hopefully you can see some of yourself in one – or all – of these.

1. If You’re a First-Timer
I identify the First-Timer as, maybe not a rookie racer, but a first-timer in his or her respective race, whether a full or half marathon, a 10-miler or 10k.

Why You Want to Run With a Pacer
The most obvious of all, it’s your first race! A pacer will help calm your nerves, keep your adrenaline in check, remind you to take fluids or gel, and, most importantly, keep you positive. Not only that, you’ll get the camaraderie of the full pace group – you’re all in it together.

Why You Don’t Want to Run With a Pacer
Especially for your first race, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and push too fast to keep up with a group. Conversely, you may end up underestimating yourself and be held back by the group you thought would be the right pace for you. Remember, a pacer knows how to run the race really well. But you know YOU really well.

2. If You’re a Type A Runner
I identify the Type A runner as the runner who has a plan on race day. Not only do these runners have have a goal finish time, they likely have a target pace per-every-mile. They’ve looked ahead at the course and have strategy for navigating turns and hills. They even a plan when they’ll take their gels and water stops. Full disclosure, I am the Type A Runner.

Why You Want to Run With a Pacer
The only scenario you’re likely to even consider running with a pacer is if you aren’t totally confident in the ability to pace to your goal. While it’s hard for the control freak to put their trust in someone else, the Type A Runner may see the pacer as a way to maintain the target and, ultimately, achieve their goal.

Why You Don’t Want to Run With a Pacer
The Type A Runner needs to be in full control of every aspect of the race possible. That’s pretty much the end of this story.

3. If You’re a Lazy Runner
No, not an oxymoron, there is a type of runner who I’d identify as “lazy” on race day. They’re the ones who put in the training but, when race day comes, they back off and don’t push it. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with this. I myself have taken a day or two off from being a Type A Runner to enjoy the spoils of a lazy marathon.

PacerLazyFun copy

Pacers make it fun – mascot selfies and all

Why You Want to Run With a Pacer
Another pretty obvious one – if, deep down, you want to achieve a PR or other time goal, running with a pacer will give you the push you may not otherwise do on your own. Also, you’ll likely enjoy the fun of running in a group.

Why You Don’t Want to Run With a Pacer
Often, the Lazy Runner is lazy because that’s how they enjoy running. Taking in the sights and sounds of the race, getting lost in the moment, not worrying about their watch. If this is how you enjoy running, make no apologies, and just enjoy it.

4. If You’re An Energy Feeder
Kind of the opposite of the Lazy Runner, I define the Energy Runner as one less disciplined during training but then feeds off all the energy and excitement on race day. They’re energetic early on, but may start to fade before they see a mile marker with a number in the 20s.

Why You Want to Run With a Pacer
All that energy in one bunch? A leader keeping the group motivated? Extra cheers from the crowd directed towards the entire group? You’ll love all the added motivation and camaraderie built-in throughout the course. And if you choose to line up with a group that’s running a pace realistic to what you can maintain, it might help from going out too fast, too early, and conserve your energy.

Why You Don’t Want to Run With a Pacer
The extra excitement and early energy bursts might cause the Feeder to experience an earlier-than-usual bonk. If you’re prone to this, it might be best to stay focused on you vs. others – notice your breath, how you’re feeling, your stride, and do what feels right.

5. If You’re A Repeat Offender
Repeat Offenders – many of us fall into this category, even if we’ve already identified a fit in one of the four above. I identify the Repeat Offenders as the ones who have run their particular race, from 5k to marathon, numerous times. They know how their body and mind react through the miles, and probably have a good idea of how to pace themselves on their own.


Repeat Offenders: my pal, Dakota and me

Why You Want to Run With a Pacer
If you haven’t yet hit that PR or time goal you’ve been wanting, this is a great chance to do so. Because you know these miles really well, you’re likely to choose a realistic pace group and use that to hit a goal.

Why You Don’t Want to Run With a Pacer
It has been said before and will be said again – the pacer knows the course and mile splits, but no one knows you better than you. If you’re seeking a new PR, running on your own is a great opportunity to teach yourself the art of pacing and make you a stronger runner. And, as an experienced runner and one who keeps coming back for more, you certainly don’t need the energy and extra push that a pacer provides.

Just as every runner is different, every runner on race day is different. Between the weather, nerves, sleep, and about a million other variables, you never know how race day is going to shake out. Always do what feels right for you.

If you’re considering running with a pacer, the best advice I can give is to start in the group, then either get ahead or drop back depending on the feels.

Have you ever run a race with a pacer? Why or why not? If you did, was it a good experience? Comment below or tweet me @runlikeagirl311 on Twitter.

As always, if you liked this post, please share it on Facebook or Twitter, along with any upcoming races you’re training for.

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Taper Goals for Marathon Training

“Make the best of what’s around”

While most Fargo Marathon runners began their taper last week, I was enjoying my peak week. Pacing Get in Gear the weekend prior required an adjustment to my overall training schedule. Normally, diverting from a schedule would have been impossible for my Type A running personality but in this case, it resulted in me getting to delay my taper a whole week.


Yep, looks like it’s taper time.

Those of you new to the blog won’t be surprised to know I’m not a fan of tapering. I certainly have blogged about it…a couple times. Those who have been around awhile may recall last year’s blog where I turned things upside down, actually offering some positivity for tapering.

This year, I’m again making the best of the taper instead of cursing it. Especially with it being a week shorter, I’m choosing to put a positive spin on it – or, maybe more distracting myself from it – by giving myself a new goal to achieve during the next two weeks til race day.

As much as I’ve been trying to take more time for mindfulness and meditation, it’s not a habit yet so it’s often forgotten or deprioritized. Not during the next two weeks though. I set a goal for focused, mindful time at least three times a week during my taper.


Burton helps me stick to a regular yoga routine.

This will be good for me in general, but also a really good exercise in quality psychological prep before a race. I’ve been putting in so many miles and weight days, my body has gotten the prep it needs for 26.2. Now it’s time for a little mind prep. I believe remaining focused, calm, and aware on race day will allow me to be my best, to lead my pace group through the miles and have a great run.

Anyone else tapering right now? Have you thought about setting a little side goal that will benefit you on race day and be a nice distraction during your taper? Comment or tweet me, @runlikeagirl311 on Twitter.

As always, if you like this post, please share it on Facebook or Twitter, along with what race you’re running! A little #runbrag is always good to keep the mental energy going this close to race day.

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Why You Should Run the 0.1 or 0.2

“You don’t have to go the extra mile, only part of it”

I’m fresh off pacing my very first 10k event, part of the annual Minneapolis Get in Gear race series. It was a great time, filled with several of my usual pace experiences – running with awesome people, getting hugs, at least one person asking about my pacer sign, and even a post-race photo request with a proud finisher.

What was interesting, though, was a question I got about a mile into the race; one I had never been asked before but is part of my strategy every race. A fellow runner asked how I factor the 0.2 into my overall pace to hit the goal finish.


Respect it, train for it

Let me tell you, I respect that 0.2, both in a 10k and a marathon. Same with the 0.1 in a 5k and half marathon. Whether I’m training, racing, or pacing, I’m very conscious of races that don’t end on an even mileage number, which is most of them, and I factor that mileage number into my overall time and pace strategy.

In a nutshell, I always – repeat ALWAYS – train for the 0.1 or 0.2 by adding that little extra mileage onto my long runs, and some of my shorter ones, too.

This isn’t just me, I do it when I create running plans for others. I recently created a half marathon training plan for my friend, Jess, and you can bet her long run goals ended with a 0.1.

Why do I feel so strongly about the 0.1 and 0.2? Why do I always train for it and suggest you do too? Here’s why, summed up in four key points.

Train for Distance
A 5k is 3.1 miles, not 3. A marathon is 26.2 miles, not 26. So, I see this question as, not, “why do I train for the extra distance,” but “why would you NOT train for the extra distance?” And, p.s., it’s technically not ‘extra’ distance, it’s simply the total distance. It’s going to show up on race day so it needs to show up on your training days.

Train for Mental
You know the joke, “A person who says a minute goes by fast has never been on a treadmill.” If your mind has you banking on ending your run as soon as the watch chimes on the even mile, those last few paces are going to feel incredibly long and painful.


Enjoy the 0.1 or 0.2, and that last stretch down to the finish

Train for Extra-Long
All watches don’t track distance the same and rarely does a race end on the exact distance it’s advertised. More often than not, races go long. My 10k I just paced, for example, ended as 6.3 miles, while a full marathon I ran a couple years back was closer to 26.4 (according to my watch). In these cases, the total distance was closer to a half mile more than the even mileage number – pretty significant. All the more reason to get yourself prepared to push a little further with every long run.

Train for a PR
Remember how I talked about the mental aspect of having to keep running those last fractions of a mile when your brain thinks it should already be done? If you’re going for a specific time goal and you don’t factor in that extra distance, it can be the difference between a solid PR or blowing up your time. If you train for the added distance, you’ll already be used to accommodating it and the extra time it adds to every run.

How many of you already train for the 0.1 or 0.2? Just me? Comment or tweet me, @runlikeagirl311 on Twitter.

As always, if you liked this post, please share it on Facebook or Twitter. If you want to go ahead and include a photo of your watch, showing the miles you ran – with the 0.1 or 0.2, of course – that would be supercool!

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What Should I Eat Before A Long Run or Race?

“Food is fuel”

Ah, food. One of my favorite topics. It nourishes our bodies and keeps us alive. It’s delicious and a key part of numerous social events. It also fuels our workouts and aids in recovery of the tough ones.


This is what my pre-run looks like

Last week, my friend, Trav, embarked on his longest run prior to an upcoming half marathon. With 12 miles on the plan Saturday morning, he asked my advice for what he should eat to help him make it through. Naturally, I was happy to provide my two cents.

On many occasions, I’ve had people ask me what to eat the morning of a run, and also what they should eat the night before a race.

As food is perhaps the most important choice you make before a long run or race – the morning of and the night before – I decided it would be a great topic for this month’s Q&A series.

Q: Why should I eat before a run or race?

A: The basic answer is to eat something that you know won’t upset your stomach, and is enough to fuel your needs without making you feel heavy. Some people focus on fat or protein, while most stick to the tried-and-true carb-load strategy. No matter which you choose, food plays a major role in how well we perform in endurance runs.

The most important piece of advice I can give to everyone is experiment and find what works for you. That said, don’t do this experimenting and try something new or wild the night before a your big race. You might wind up with stomach trouble throwing off your entire run.

Here are three each of my top meal suggestions.

The night before:
The right pre-run dinner serves a two-fold purpose: it sits well, leaving you feeling satisfied but not bloated, and it provides proper fuel rich in carbs and some protein. There are three I’ve found that strike a perfect balance.


Spinach and zucchini noodle pasta Friday helps me get thru 18, 20, and more miles Saturday

1. Pasta and Garlic Bread
There’s a reason pasta is synonymous with pre-race dinner. This is my classic night- before-a-marathon dinner and I’ve been doing it for years because it has worked well for me. I typically combine spinach-based pasta noodles (not wheat-based) with zucchini noodles, add a few extra veggies, and finish with a red sauce. Carnivores, you could add the meat of your choice. I top it off with two small slices of garlic bread. This one is the heaviest and most carb-rich of my favorites so I typically reserve it for my biggest long runs when my metabolism is at its peak, and the night before a marathon.

2. Pizza
Pizza-lovers rejoice – this food favorite is a great pre-run meal as long as you keep it light. There are so many variations of pizza you can do, from lighter lavosh crust to regular (I’d avoid super thick or deep-dish style), to various meat and veggies. In addition to keeping the crust light, I also recommend going light on cheese and sticking to a basic tomato sauce.

3. Breakfast for Dinner
Eggs, potatoes, and toast or frozen waffles with peanut butter. I’ve found this one, packed with more protein, is the least substantial and carb-rich of the three so it’s not enough for me during marathon season. But, it has proven to be great the night before lower mileage long runs or a 10k race.

The morning of:
Again, everyone’s stomach is different so experiment with your morning fuel on shorter runs to find what works. It’s best to allow at least an hour and a half or more between eating and racing to ensure everything has time to settle.

1. Banana
It’s probably the one you knew was coming and with good reason. Bananas are friendly on most stomachs and provide good carbs without feeling heavy.

2. Toast with Peanut Butter
Another that’s probably not a huge surprise again, because of its ability to digest easily in most of our guts. The peanut butter adds the slow energy release that helps sustain you through the miles.
p.s. This was my recommendation to Trav before his 12-miler.

I personally like to combine the two above; two slices of wheat bread, a light dose of peanut butter, topped with half a banana, sliced. My favorite race-day breakfast.


When actual food isn’t an option

3. Get or Energy Blocks
There are some who just can’t deal with food in their stomachs the morning of a race. Or, what if you oversleep and have less than an hour from the time you jump out of bed to the moment you step up to the start line? An energy gel or blocks are a great option for both of these scenarios. They offer a few calories, a kick of caffeine, and just enough substance so you’re not running on an empty tank.

With all of these scenarios and, especially with gels or blocks, make sure you’re drinking plenty of water. Happy running!

Do you have more questions about foods for runners? Or any questions about lifting, running, or working out in general? Submit your question to be answered in an upcoming blog by leaving a comment below or tweet me @runlikeagirl311 on Twitter.

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The Value, Power, and Importance of Failure

“In order to grow, first we must fail”

It’s here – the week of the 121st Boston Marathon! I’m so excited for, and very jealous of, all the wicked fast runnahs who get to go to the expo and pick up their bib, take in all the energy and sights of the city, and make the trek from Hopkinton down Boylston Street. And, of course, enjoy the victory and a special 26.2 brew.


Cheers, runners!

For many, the Boston Marathon represents years of hard work; for others, it represents the ultimate goal; for an entire city, this week brings painful memories yet is an example of people coming together and coming out strong – one might say, #BostonStrong.

The Boston Marathon means something a little different to everyone, from major significance to nothing at all. For me, it has changed throughout the years, starting as a measure of prestige, evolving into a dream, becoming a reality, and now being a special memory.

But more than that, for me the Boston Marathon is an example of the value of failure.

Failure? Isn’t a marathon, especially this one, an example of success?

I’ve shared my journey to the Boston Marathon, my quest to run a marathon in a qualifying time to earn my spot. How hard it was to miss the qualifying mark, not one, but two times, before achieving the goal. How I was able to learn from each failure and apply it to my next training season and race. How my fear of failing nearly got in the way of success.


Just as we encourage for success, let’s not shy away from supporting acts of failure.

I think that’s the part of my story that’s most important. We’re taught from a young age that failure is a bad thing. It starts with the shame of bringing home a failing grade on the report card. It follows us to adulthood where the word itself takes on a new meaning, becoming more of an adjective or noun than an action (for my non-grammar nerd readers, that means the conversation goes from, “I’m scared to fail,” to, “I’m scared of being a failure.”)

But failure can be a really good thing. It can mean you’re trying something. It can mean you’re going out on a limb. It can mean you’re taking a big risk. And what’s the payoff to a big risk? A big reward. If you never try anything big, you’ll never achieve anything big.

From muscle failure in the gym to personal failures in everyday life, we grow so much more when we fail first.

What have you achieved in life that you can attribute to failure? Comment or tweet me @runlikeagirl311 on Twitter.

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