Run Doodle Run

The long road to 26.2


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When Will I Feel Like a Runner?

This is a question that new runners often ask. They lament that they are too slow, or too awkward, or plod too loudly when they start out. They believe that you must run a certain way, look a certain way, or dress a certain way in order to be considered a runner. No matter what their pace, they all believe they are slow.

In a way, they are right. Running is natural, but it can also be awkward for those who have spent a great deal of time sitting rather than communing with their limbs and lungs. Beginners often do plod, quite loudly, because they are attempting to run faster or longer than they are used to; tired legs are rarely quiet legs – even less so when the body that those legs are attached to is (quite literally) running on fumes.

But what running teaches you, if you stick with it, is that there are no fixed definitions. We are all slow at the beginning because we all have room to improve. Some have more room to improve, some have more will and capacity to improve, but all runners improve if they stick with it. Runners who have been running for a longer period of time “look” more like runners because their bodies have had the time to adapt to this odd and wonderful pursuit and determine what works and what is more efficient for that particular body – they are no longer fighting it, but joining it.

What running teaches you, is that is it all in your head. Your fast is my slow, and my slow is her fast. My body feels zen-like on some runs and awkward on others, like it’s fighting me the whole way – yet the onlooker cannot identify any discernible difference.

The definition of a runner, much like a runner, is not static – it is dynamic and ever-evolving. In middle school I defined a runner as a person who was pretty much anyone other than me and my awkward friends who forged notes and feigned injury to get out of running the mile in gym class. In high school I defined it as those who played sports or ran for one of the school’s teams, even if they “just” jumped over a single, towering poll or chucked heavy things across a field. In college I defined it as anyone who got out the door and went for a run.

Two years ago I defined myself as a runner, but with an asterisk. Yes, I ran, but neither well nor fast. Nor consistently. Nor at length without stopping to walk.

Today I define myself as a runner, period. Why the change? Because in order to appreciate what a runner is, one must go through the process of becoming a runner. To truly understand what defines a runner, one must test out all theories before settling on one.

I entered 2014 as a runner*, but leave 2014 as a runner. One year ago I was coming back from my first real running injury (that must mean I’m a real runner, right??) but wasn’t yet allowed to run. I grew agitated that I wasn’t allowed to run. I desired to run like I used to desire ice cream and a sofa. I built myself up in the gym and on the roads, tackling milestone after milestone. 3 miles? No prob. 4 miles? Now we’re getting serious… 10k? Really need to train just to get through it.

Getting dressed the morning of the Army Ten Miler this October, putting on the same shirt, compression pants, and shoes I’d run in all summer, I looked in the mirror – I looked like a runner. I ran a 10 miler and a half marathon in the same week – I felt like a runner. A training partner asked me to pace her through her first half marathon, a request I happily obliged, and a distance which felt easy – someone else believed I was a runner.

Two and a half years ago when I began running again after b-school, I couldn’t even run .15 mi when I set out for my first training run. Ouch. Yet, I didn’t second guess my resolve to run 13.1 miles four months later. This morning I voluntarily left my cozy, warm bed at 5:30am, got dressed, wandered out into the 28 degree darkness, and went out with my training group for a six mile run. I barely batted an eye at the distance (except for the chilled breeze which was causing them to water). I didn’t try to keep up with others, outpace others, or run anyone else’s run – I knew my cruise pace, I knew how this role played into my goal, I ran my run. This distance barely seemed worthy of attention. It seemed boring. That made me realize – I am a runner.

Looking back, I now know I was always a runner. But I had no way of knowing that without going through the journey.


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11 Miles? Check!

My brain still doesn’t seem to have dibs on blood yet, so my thoughts aren’t all here, but wanted to at least toss out a quick post-long-run update! 

Went out planning to do 11 miles today. We were on the crushed stone trail this week – a nice change from last week’s pavement pounding. My legs were a bit heavy from the big mileage increase this week, and for a while it felt like they were planning a coup, but I was able to get through the first couple of miles and finally hit a groove.

Once we hit the turnaround (which was eerily quiet and empty for a Saturday morning), our pace really picked up and we ended up running negative splits! My hip started getting cranky after I stopped to Gu and refill my water bottle at 7.2 miles, but we both pushed through. And just for shits and giggles, just when I thought M was completely outta gas, she suggested a quick pickup to the road after we hit 11 miles. It was hard, but I’m glad we did it. 

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My muscles are a bit sore and my knees are a bit creakier than usual, but all in all it was a damn good run. I have logged 31.01  (yes, .01) miles this week, a new personal high (!), and am just under 90 for the month. Tomorrow’s shakeout will take me over 90 for the first time ever. Wow. I’m feeling more and more confident about coming in under 1:45 at Army and I think I’ll be able to really enjoy Baltimore this time. I can’t say enough good things about this training group – I really don’t think I’d’ve hit as many milestones this summer as I have without them. 

But now, it is time to ice the bejesus out of these legs of mine. 

Have a great weekend! 

Did/will you run long this weekend? How far? If you’re training for a race, how’s training going? 


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Race Report: Dreaded Druid Hills

The Dreaded Druid Hills 10k is tagged as a “torturous race by runners for runners” that’s run on/around the summer solstice every year. I volunteered as a course marshal last year and loved the atmosphere of it.

I’ve had my eye on this race for years but have never felt prepared for it. And because it’s a small race, and I’ve never been the fastest runner, I’ve always been afraid of finishing last. As runners we frequently deal with the self doubt of wondering whether or not we’re prepared for the challenges we face, so I just decided there was really no point in waiting and wondering any longer. I sucked it up and signed up for the race a few weeks ago. Either I’d be ready or I wouldn’t – three’s only one way to find out.

if you never try youll never know

It was weird. I’ve been nervous before races before, but for some reason I had no nerves going into this one. Two other friends of mine, Steph and Lauren, signed up for this race as well and they both said the same thing.

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Usually race day is ungodly hot and humid but the weather couldn’t have been more perfect for us this year – low to mid 70s with low humidity. The course runs through Druid Hill Park, just outside of downtown Baltimore, which has tons of trees, so there’s lots of shade on the course, especially on the hills.

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The course it notoriously brutal. It starts out with about 2 miles of rolling hills before you settle into a flat section before the monster hills in the back of the park. On the easy part we actually passed the house where my grandmother, who passed away from Alzheimer’s this past December, used to live, which I wasn’t prepared for. It was weird, but I imagined her sitting on her porch (in an oh-so-Baltimore way) cheering me on, which helped immensely.

I didn’t really know what to expect going into this, so I just pushed whenever I could. It was great hearing encouragement from Lauren and Steph as I was entering the hills and they were working their way out. I’m not used to hearing people cheering for me on the course, so it was a huge pick-me-up. I actually did really well until about mile 4.5 – then the hills got really tough. I pushed as hard as I could, but even walking up the hills was brutal. With it being in the back of the park, where basically no one goes, there wasn’t much course support, but the volunteers and course marshals were awesome in their support of us. Mile 4 – 5.5 was the hardest for me, both physically and mentally, but I met another woman, Lisa, out on the course at mile 4.5 and we paced each other through much of the remainder of the race. The awesomeness of the running community never ceases to amaze me.

When I saw the sign for mile 5, I knew I was in the clear. We had fared the worst of the hills. I remembered that when I ran the Celtic Solstice 5 Miler a few years ago, my dad bet me $1000 if I ran it in under an hour – I came up just short that year. Even with the brutal hills of the Dreaded Druid Hills, I hit 5 miles in under an hour – that made me feel amazing. I lost a bit of steam just after that point, so I downed half a Gu, and pushed all the way to the end. As I got closer, I realized that my 10k PR was actually in danger – on the Dreaded Druid Hills!! I kept pushing through the discomfort of the heat, knowing that it was a downhill finish. Although I didn’t set a new PR, I missed it by only 51 seconds.

DDH 2014 Splits

51 seconds. Think about that. They advertise this race as “NOT a PR course!” and I missed a PR by less than a minute. It’s amazing to think of how far I’ve come in just two short years of running. For the kid who always finished last in the mile in gym class to come this far is just mind boggling. I honestly could not have been more proud of my performance yesterday.

After the race I stretched out my hip a bit (those hills did it no favors) and then attacked the fruit trays they had waiting for us. The watermelon and strawberries were so deep red and amazingly sweet… I swear I could have devoured an entire tray of strawberries if given half a chance.

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Steph had to run off as soon as she finished to take her daughter to swim lessons, but Lauren and I hung around a bit longer to enjoy the post-race festivities. This race really is unlike any other race I’ve ever done, and although I was intimidated by that before I found it to be absolutely amazing. I truly can’t wait to sign up again next year.

On our way back to our cars, Lauren helped me take a picture for the #RunChatHunt. One of the photos is supposed to be of roadkill. Ew. Totally not going on my phone or my twitter feed. So I got creative instead 😉

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Photo Jun 28, 9 08 43 AM

I ended up napping for almost an hour an a half yesterday afternoon, but then finished out a great day with a glass of wine in front of the fire pit.

Photo Jun 28, 8 58 05 PM Photo Jun 28, 9 03 40 PM


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#RunChatHunt Time!

For those of you who mightn’t be familiar with #runchat, it’s a seriously great online community for runners. It really started out as a weekly chat (Sundays at 8:00pm or 10:00pm eastern), but it’s so much more than that.

In order to make things a bit more fun (and let’s face it, with hot and humid summer runs ahead of us we could probably all use a distraction on our runs!), they have scavenger hunts every so often, and it’s scavenger hunt time again! Throughout June, runners are encouraged to find photos of the following items and post them on twitter with the hashtag #RunChatHunt for a chance to win some awesome stuff. Because I’m a total nerd, I’m going to be keeping track of all of mine right here! Happy hunting!!

#RunChatHunt 3.0 Scavenger Hunt Items
1. Trail path (or evidence of running on a trail)
2. Funny road/store/church sign
3. A dog (yours or someone else running with one)
4. Someone fishing
5. Sunrise or sunset
6. Farm equipment
7. Road kill
8. A great local dive bar
9. Pay phone
10. Gnome


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2013 in Review

Well, we are once again at the end of another year. Carson Daly is on TV, the neighbors are shooting off fireworks, and the bubbly is poured.

I must admit, I’ve been waiting for this year to be over with for several weeks now. There have been some high points – including setting a 5k and 10k PR – but pretty much everything else about this year has sucked. There were numerous personal setbacks that I haven’t discussed on here, and then breaking my leg was really just the icing on the cake. I’m very fortunate to have caring and supportive family and friends, but I really need the universe to stop being an ass.

Although my hip flexor went spastic on me during PT yesterday and my year-end run that I had hoped for today had to be cancelled, I did have a nice surprise today when I tallied up my mileage for 2013. 350 miles! This was WAY more than I had expected seeing as I’ve been injured over half of the year! This does give me hope going into 2014. If I can get strong and stay injury-free, I know I’m capable of so much.

Here’s to a fabulous 2014!

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#RunChat Scavenger Hunt

#RunChat had its first-ever scavenger hunt this month (there’s still time to join in on the fun! it ends March 31st). It’s just fun, nothing terribly serious. But as I looked at the list of items, I realized I pass almost every single one of them on my run – so why not play along? There are prizes – each post is an entry – but it’s just more for something to keep me entertained while training for my spring races. So what did we have to find?

A running sticker (13.1, 26.2, etc.)

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Bridge (bonus for covered)

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A giant hill you’re going to run
(300m, 19% grade! my favorite and most hated hill)

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Christmas decorations still up
(the ornaments have been on this tree at least 6 years)

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Historical marker/sign
(the best thing about living on the east coast – these things are everywhere!)

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Letters from signs to create #runchat

runchat collage


“Welcome to” state/city/county sign

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Water (lake/river/pond)
(the water can be hard to see – the green grasses are growing in the stream)

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Trail marker or mile marker

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A scene from your favorite place to run
(I used the first, but wish I had used the second – I love running into horses on my trail)

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Photo Mar 24, 2 27 29 PM