When Did We Start Settling for Boring?

For the past four years, every single one of my runs has been the boring kind.

Who knows how many thousands of miles I’ve endured … and I just realized this.

How did this happen?

Like this: back when I was training to qualify for Boston, I discovered Core Performance Endurance. The program called for two kinds of workouts — intervals and hills — with easy days surrounding each.

To a fairly new runner like myself, the workouts were hard. Sometimes really hard.

But tough as those workout days were, they were better than the easy days. Because on easy days, you had to keep your heart rate below 70 percent of max, and that meant walking up hills. And it meant slowing down when the heart monitor beeped at you every time you started to get a little runner’s high and speed up … say, when a good song came on.

It was mind-numbing. Even worse, as you advanced through the program the length of time you had to endure this interminable boredom increased. From 30 to 40 to 50 minutes.

But the program worked. I qualified for Boston a year later, and I started running ultras for a change of pace.

And slowly, without my noticing, all of my runs became the boring runs.

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Can Tart Cherries Make You a Better Runner? A 7-Day Challenge to Find Out

If you’re a runner, you know there’s no shortage of new supplements and other products that claim to promote faster recovery for us. And mostly, as runners, we’ve learned to ignore them.

Usually, we just don’t believe it. Speed of recovery is hard to measure, subjectively, and even when the objective evidence is there, the miracle product du jour isn’t often something most of us would want to put in our bodies.

But tart cherry juice may just be an exception: (a) it’s natural; and (b) it seems like it might actually promote recovery. There’s a decent amount of science to say so, and the fact that it’s stuck around a while — I think I first heard of it in 2010 — certainly bodes well.

But what’s most intriguing to me about tart cherries is that they’re not just for recovery: they also have anti-inflammatory properties and have been demonstrated to reduce muscle pain during an event. Which makes them extremely well-suited for ultrarunning, where pain more than anything else eventually becomes the limiting factor … if they deliver.

Next week, that’s what I’ll be testing.

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How to Finally Enjoy Running: The Non-Runner’s Ultimate Guide

Enjoy Running v4

Runner or non-runner, whichever you call yourself, I’ve been there. And I think I’ve finally figured out that whole label thing.

When running is fun — when, even when it’s hard, it comes easy — that’s when you feel like a runner.

But most of the time, for most of us, it doesn’t flow like that. It’s a chore, a discipline. A struggle that’s worth it, but a struggle nonetheless. Those times, we don’t feel like runners.

If you’re the former — a runner, all the time — you don’t need this post. Go run because running is fun for you, for its own sake, no other reason necessary. And know that the rest of us envy you, and wish it could be that way for us.

But if you’re not always that runner, today you’re in the right place. I’ve been on both the winning and the losing side of the daily battle to get the miles in. And when it’s working — when it’s actually and truly fun to run (words I never thought I’d say) — here’s what makes it so.

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How I Fell Back in Love with Running

bartyasso

Bart Yasso, “The Mayor of Running,” reminding us why we love running.

This weekend that I was to become a runner again started off with me feeling like a fraud.

Thursday afternoon, I arrived in Boston. Two hours later, Jason Fitzgerald and I walked into West End Johnnie’s restaurant, where we were to meet the rest of the invited bloggers and some of the Runner’s World staff, the kickoff to our weekend at the Heartbreak Hill Half Marathon and Festival.

We each got goodie bags from Runner’s World. In the bags, among other things: an early copy of the July issue of the magazine, which I’d been eagerly awaiting. Fully prepared for disappointment, just in case the article I was to be featured in got cut at the last minute, I flipped to page 37 and found something unexpected.

The article was there. Focusing on what the elites drink while they run. Scott Jurek. Shalane Flanagan. Dean Karnazes. Kara Goucher.

Me. 

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9 Ultra-Helpful Tips for Making the Leap from Marathoner to Ultrarunner

Note from Matt:  Last year when I chose the course for my first 100-miler, one of the criteria I looked for was “fair.” I didn’t want the easiest, flattest course around, but at the same time, it is 100 miles, so why make it tougher than it needs to be? 

Next month, Doug Hay will be running his first 100. But in choosing his race, he didn’t look for “fair.” Instead, he went with the race that most inspired him, the Massunutten Mountain Trails 100 — which happens to be one of the toughest on the East Coast. Not a coincidence.

This choice perfectly sums up Doug’s passion for ultrarunning and trails. And it’s the reason I asked him to answer a question that people ask me all the time these days: “I’ve run a marathon, but now I’d like to run an ultra. Any advice?”

Above all, the difference between marathoning and ultrarunning is the mindset, and Doug’s post will help you to understand that shift. 

Here’s Doug.

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When it comes to running ultramarathons — any distance over 26.2 miles — most people don’t have a clue where to start. The distance sounds so much longer, the courses so much tougher, and the word “ultra” that much more hard core.

I know that before running my first ultra, I worried about things like:

  • If I train for an ultramarathon, will I end up rotting alone somewhere deep in the woods?
  • Will training for an ultramarathon take over my life and piss off all my family and friends?
  • How do I even begin training for such a distance?

Questions like these were filling my head with doubt, and I know these same doubts are common based on the questions I get from runners and readers.

The good news is that the leap from marathoner to ultramarathoner isn’t as big as most runners believe. With a few key distinctions and (maybe) a little extra mileage, you can be well on your way to adding “ultra” to your running accomplishment list.

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4 Running Mistakes that Keep You Stuck and Frustrated

Sometimes, you just need someone to give it to you straight.

Occasionally Jason Fitzgerald and I do 30-minute coaching calls with new Run Your BQ members to help them build some initial momentum when they join our program. I’ve done a few dozen of these calls now, and in the process I’ve noticed something striking:

Almost every runner’s frustrations are the result of the same small handful of mental mistakes.

The good news is they’re fixable: all but one of these mistakes has an easy, obvious solution, once you’ve identified the problem. And that’s what I hope this post will help you to do.

I’ll repeat: at least one of these mistakes is to blame for the frustrations of just about every single runner I’ve talked to on a coaching call. If you’re not getting the results you want, look extra hard at yourself. Be brutally honest, and see if one of these mistakes isn’t behind your lack of progress.

Awareness of the problem is the first step to fixing it, and a huge one. After that, I’ve suggested a solution to each to get you started on the path to correcting it. The rest, of course, is up to you. 

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What I Learned Running 100 Miles (And What’s Next)

Judging from the way things look, you wouldn’t know that almost a month has passed since I ran my 100-miler. (Like the fact that I’m still writing about it …)

Remnants of seven different blisters still blemish my feet — no longer painful, but clearly visible. My Hokas are still caked in mud; I’ve had no use for them. They’re really meant for long runs, which I haven’t thought of doing, much less actually done, since.

And my gear bag — no use for that either, right now — still gives the appearance that today is race day, save for the handheld water bottle, which I’ve learned is slightly more pleasant when you clean it out instead of leaving sports drink in it to fester for weeks on end.

But it’s not just my feet, my shoes, and my gear that are frozen in post-100 contentment: my brain is still stuck in the state of satisfied exhaustion it was in during the days right after the race.

No urgency to think about what’s next, just wallowing in the afterglow of an accomplishment that took so much preparation. And filled with a sense of awe, not so much at what I achieved, but at what the human body and spirit — anybody’s, not just mine — are capable of.

Warning: I have no real plan for this blog post. I’m writing it mainly for myself, to put a bow around my first hundred and move on. But if you get something out of it, great!

What has stuck with me

There have been three themes, if you will, that I keep thinking about as I replay in my mind the abridged version of a race that took more than an entire day.

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The Ins and Outs of My First 100-Mile Ultramarathon

br100 medal1 1024x657My alarm went off at 3:30 a.m. This is it, I thought.

Even with all the advance planning I had done in an effort to make absolutely certain I got a full night’s sleep, a fitful four hours was all I had managed, tossing nervously and with a distinct feeling of guilt for three hours before actually drifting off.

That’s right, guilt. A friend who has done many ultras had warned me that 70 or 80 miles into a 100-miler, a feeling of guilt for abusing your crew is not uncommon, one of the brain’s many tricks for convincing your body to quit. But the night before the race?

It seemed my brain was getting a head start, trying to undermine the whole effort before it even got underway. I felt badly about how much time I had spent training since we had our daughter less than three months ago, how much of the workload my wife had shouldered to pick up my slack.

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