A line from one of my favorite movies! The character Forrest Gump starts on a journey from his home in Alabama and criss-crosses the country in a pair of red-on-white Nikes. I know you all are used to me writing on my adventures with triathlons and other “limit-pushing” feats. But this month I just have to share about my Forrest-like experience that truly tested all levels of endurance. Spring is here so, if you ever even considered trying a 5K walk or a 10K run, now is the time to start training. Hopefully, you will be encouraged to step out and sprint to the finish.
I had the experience of a lifetime with some of my Biggest Loser family and four awesome fans this past weekend at the 2011 Ragnar So-Cal Relay. This race is considered one of those “extreme” races. It involved a team of 12 divided into two vans, running a relay race over an extreme distance and often extreme terrains. Ragnar So-Cal was 200.9 miles (yes, 200.9 – I did not misplace my decimal!). Each of the 12 runners is assigned 3 legs of various distances to complete. I had to do 15.5 total, about 5 miles per leg. The catch: you don’t stop until you cross the finish line! So, for my group the race was 36+ hours long! You run and drive all day and all night. The Ragnar Series truly lives up to its motto: “Run…Drive…Sleep?...Repeat”.
I think I slept about a total of 2 hours between my first leg at 6am Friday morning and my last leg at 7am on Saturday. There is nothing like running while sleep deprived! The sleep deprivation also served to be our source of entertainment. Random movie quotes and songs filled our “downtime” while we waited for our van-mates to complete their legs. I will now forever be known as “the girl who can do Jabba the Hut.”
I must say that although we started in Huntington Beach, CA as mostly strangers, we ended at Coronado Island, CA as uniquely bonded friends – all able to come away with nuggets of inspiration and motivation to do another race. It was just about the best time that I had in a very long time – and it happened to be centered on a healthy activity. No one cared how fast you ran…the only thing that mattered was that you finished! And, each member of my van focused on nothing else than crossing that finish line.
What was most inspiring about the event were the four fans who won spots on our teams. These were people who on their own have lost tons of weight and are pushing themselves to complete once unimaginable feats. I only spent the weekend with one of them (Adam) and he was simply INCREDIBLE. Once 278 pounds and a diabetic, he trimmed down to a lean and mean 180 pounds, maintaining close to that weight for the past 18 months. He has become a run enthusiast, and did the Ragnar Northwest Passage in 2010. Adam is just a regular “Joe” who changed his life – but he serves as motivation to all. Read his story for yourself….
So, are you ready to run? Maybe you are not ready to run an extreme race like Ragnar, but you want to start with a short race, like a 5K (3.1 miles for the metrically challenged ).
Here are some tips on training for your first race within 8 weeks:
1. Develop a schedule.
Plan on running 3 days per week, rest 2 days, 1 day of cross-training (elliptical, biking, swimming), and 1 day of active recovery (an easy, comfortable run/walk or cross-training)
2. Invest in your footwear.
Running in old or worn-out sneakers is one of the most common causes of running injuries. Running shoes lose shock absorption, cushioning and stability over time. If feel muscle fatigue, shin splints, or some pain in your joints -- especially your knees -- you may be wearing running shoes that no longer have adequate cushioning for the long run. Your best bet is to find a running specialty store (The Running Store). Plan on spending some time there because the salesperson should ask you lots of questions to determine your foot type and have several running shoe options for you to try out. Cuteness is not a consideration – make sure that your shoes are at least ½ to a full size bigger than your regular size. Your feet will swell when you run and you need plenty of “wiggle” room. If the store can do a running analysis where they watch you run on a treadmill, all the better.
3. Choose good food.
Before you run, choose foods high in carbohydrates and lower in fat, fiber, and protein. Some examples of good pre-workout fuel include: a bagel with peanut butter; a banana and an energy bar; or a bowl of cold cereal with a cup of milk. Stay away from rich, very fatty, or high-fiber foods, as they may cause you trouble on the road (gas, bloating, etc).
4. Train through the pain.
It is common when you train to have some kind of pain. You will need to determine if it is the type of pain that requires you to slow down or needs further medical attention. Most mild to moderate pain may be tolerable enough for you to train through. Rule of thumb – if it doesn’t cause you to limp and the pain is not off the charts, you can safely work through it. However, if you are ever seriously concerned about pain or an injury, please seek medical attention immediately.
5. Find a buddy.
Make your new adventure a partnering or group activity. Find a friend or two and start your own club. The motivation and support you provide each other will push you farther.
I started running nearly three years ago while a contestant on The Biggest Loser. My Ragnar race is road race number eleven (I’ve become partial to triathlons ). I approach each race with the same energy and excitement as my first.
What is most exciting is that three years ago, I never would have even though about running a race. So the fact that I can finish one, keeps me going. Are you ready?