Selling Out

Have you noticed that your favourite race is selling out faster than ever before?

  • The Chicago Marathon sold out in 6 days this year. 45,000 spots. In six days.
  • The Ottawa Half Marathon is sold out four months before race day. 11,000 spots.
  • Around the Bay Road Race 30k sold out weeks ago. 8,000 spots.
  • The Vancouver Marathon is already more than 70% sold out three months from race day. 5,000 spots.

Running is definitely a sport that has been on the rise over the last few years. Races have been getting bigger, and selling out sooner. And more and more events are being added all the time with plenty of runners willing to put up the cash and run.

There is a downside to all of this popularity. Some runners are missing out on races because they don’t get registered in time. And some races have hiked fees as a way to try and temper the enthusiasm of those who want to run. Want to run the New York City Marathon and you live in Canada? First, you enter the lottery – that’s $11US with no guarantees. Then, assuming your name is pulled from the hat, you get to pony up another $347US to run the race. Crazy! Yet every year there are still three times as many people who want to run the marathon as there are entries available.

Boston has a similar problem – even if you manage to qualify, there’s still no guarantee that you’ll be able to get in thanks to the huge number of runners who are all vying for a limited number of spots.

What do you think? Is running getting too popular? What can be done to help keep race fees down and races accessible to the average runner?

A Good Time vs. A Good Time

I was talking with Ginny today about running, and about the focus that a lot of runners have on racing and achieving personal bests.

Eventually the conversation turned to running for fun – having a good time. The Running Room training programs always end with a goal race. That’s great in terms of motivation, but after a while, the focus on racing can often take away from the fun of running.

This year I’ve been really thinking about just enjoying each run and not worrying too much about times and personal bests. I’ve chosen one goal race – the BMO Vancouver Marathon – and that’s it for races for me in the first half of the year.

That means no Around the Bay 30k, and no Chilly Half Marathon for me. Instead it’s just some fun Sunday training runs with friends and a bunch of enjoyable runs during the week. That’s my approach in 2012.

We also came to the conclusion that focussing on having a good time running was a great way to end up with a good time on the results sheet. My best runs time-wise are often on the days where I’m just enjoying running a lot. The same goes for racing. When I’m having a blast out there on the course, it usually means I’ll come across the line with a nice result.

Personal Awesome

Personal bests are great. Personal awesomes are even better (my running buddy Nicole coined that term and I love it). Despite the fact that it was my slowest time by a few minutes, I still point to Vancouver in 2011 as my “best marathon” of the three I’ve run. A personal awesome every way you slice it.

You can’t run a PB every race…it’s just not realistic to think you’ll improve every time you race. But you can run a personal awesome if you remember that racing and running is fun and put having a great time at the top of your list of goals.

Negative Splits

I’ve been focussing more on consistent running these days. That means slowing down a bit off the start and trying to keep the pace and effort consistent throughout. Running the second half slightly faster than the first half – a negative split – is proof that I maintained that consistent pace throughout and I’ve done that a few times since training started in earnest.

I’ve never run a negative split on race day, although I’ve come close. I ran the second half of the Ottawa Half Marathon in 2011 within a couple of minutes of the first half and finished with a solid personal best that day.

The reason I never negative split on race day is that I usually start too fast, because I choose a goal time that is a bit on the optimistic side. Last year in Vancouver I started well with a 3:50 goal time in mind but faded in last few kilometers (thanks for nothing Burrard St. Bridge).

I’m determined to negative split a marathon at some point and maybe 2012 will be the year I do it. I’m definitely training differently this year and I’m hoping that pays off in Vancouver on May 6.

This week’s Sunday run is 16km and we’re doing a north-south route once again. That means an uphill start, with a downhill finish and it also means another opportunity for a somewhat easier negative split.

13 weeks to go until the BMO Vancouver Marathon.

Don’t Panic

I was chatting back and forth with another runner last night on Twitter and she said something that immediately made me think, “that’s a blog post.”

@JamesKoole thank you. It’s so hard not to go panic mode.
— jess howard (@jess_howard) February 1, 2012

She, like I am, is training for the BMO Vancouver Marathon in May. Like most runners aiming for that race, she’s in the midst of the mileage ramp up that comes at the beginning of almost all marathon programs.

That increase in mileage usually brings along with it some aches and pains as the body adapts to the new normal of running 35 kilometres a week (or more).

When those aches and pains come, it’s so easy to go into panic mode. What if these shin splints get worse? Will this IT band prevent me from doing my long run this weekend? My knees are angry but I can’t skip this tempo run.

I’ll put here what I told her on Twitter:

@hopebombs No need to panic. Goal #1 is to get to the start line in good shape. The race will take care of itself – it always does.
— James Koole (@jameskoole) February 1, 2012

As mentioned in the priorities post a few days back, missing a run or cutting back on the miles a little bit will not cause you to miss your race. On the other hand, left untreated, an injury very well could.

So if you are worried about your shins, or struggling with some sore hips or knees, the very best thing you can do is to slow down, and back off on the training for a bit.

This is your body telling you that you’ve gone too far, or too fast, or both. Listen to what it is telling you know so it doesn’t really start yelling at you later in your training program.

Most of all, don’t panic. You spring marathon is probably still 3 months away and that’s plenty of time to build up the strength and fitness that you’ll need to complete it. Job one right now is to get to the start line uninjured and ready to give it your best.

The race will worry about itself.

Speed Kills

Everyone likes to run fast. It’s all kids do – they blast around at full speed, running until they drop. Go watch a kids cross-country race – almost all of the competitors will invariably go out too fast (just like us big kids in the marathon often do).

On race day, going out too fast makes for an unpleasant second half to the race. In training, going out too fast is often the ticket to injury.

When planning out your training schedule, remember to also plan out a reasonable pace for each run. Kicking up the pace to much on your tempo runs is a surefire way to bring on shin splints or IT band trouble. That’s especially true early on in the program as you ramp up your mileage.

Don’t forget to slow down on your long Sunday runs too. The “S” in LSD stands for slow and it applies to you too, speedy.

We all want to be fast. But like running far, you can’t get there in a day. You wouldn’t do at 32km run two weeks into your training program. So why would you think that you could run your expected marathon race pace three weeks into your schedule?

Build speed along with strength over the course of your training program and you’ll avoid injury, and have a better result come race day.

Running Priorities

We’re all busy people and running often just adds to the todo list. That’s especially true when there’s a race goal or other training program in place.

Making time to run is key in ensuring that you reach your goals. That’s true whether it’s simple fitness you are after, or if you have a big race goal like running a marathon.

It’s easy to say, I know. But everything in life has a priority that provides guidance on the order in which you do things, and helps you decide what to let drop off the todo list for now.

It’s Okay!

The best way to get your runs in is to put them where they belong on the priority list. Sometimes that will mean that running takes priority over sleep, or over doing the laundry, or cleaning the house. And that’s more than okay. Sometimes running will win over spending time with the kids, or your job. You know what? Depending on circumstances that’s also okay.

Conversely, sometimes other things will trump your run. Newsflash – that’s okay too. If you miss one long Sunday run in your 18 week training program and can only do 12km on Monday evening instead, it won’t kill you or cause you to DNF. If work requires you to stay late on a Tuesday making it impossible to do that tempo run, it’s not the end of the world.

You run what you can, based on where, when and how you can fit it in with all the rest of the things that you have going on.

If getting to Boston is all that matters to you, then running is your number one priority and make it so. Don’t let anything get in the way. The people in your life should understand this.

If staying fit and maybe putting in a personal best at a marathon in May is your goal, then running is probably down the priority list a bit. Some days it will trump everything else, and other days it will be dropped off the bottom.

Do yourself a favour and make sure you know where running sits on your priority list right now.

Travel and Running is an Awesome Combination

I’ve booked some more travel for work in the next couple of months which means more opportunities to run in far-flung places. First up is Orlando in February which will be a write-off as far as outdoor stuff goes. I was there last year at the same hotel – the Gaylord Palms – and it’s a horrid location to run…nothing around but highways. Treadmill running will be the order of the day there most likely.

But March includes a 10-day adventure including some time in Holland, and then southern Germany. I’ve got a 29k on the schedule and a free Sunday in Amsterdam looking for an activity. I’m already excited about that run. Last time I was in Europe I ran an amazing 29k along the Rhine in Köln.

Looking at schedules, I should be able to get two runs in around Rust, Germany. I’ll be there for which is a hosting industry trade show that is held at EuropaPark, of all places. I’m hoping to do at least two, and maybe three runs in Amsterdam including the long Sunday run mentioned above.

Since I started running, mostly thanks to a bunch of work travel, I’ve been lucky enough to run in San Francisco, Austin, New York City, San Diego, Orlando, Washington D.C. and Boston plus Köln and Brühl, Germany. Non-work travel adds runs in Vancouver, Hilton Head Island, Ottawa, and around Muskoka.

One fortunate runner here!

Church of the Running Room

My mom remarked a few weeks back that our run club is our community. That’s absolutely true…and it’s a great thing.

I sometimes jokingly refer to our Sunday morning run-club as “Church of the Running Room.” The more I think about it, the more apt I think that nickname is.

Growing up, we were regular church goers in our family. In fact, these days my parents take our kids to church almost every week while we run.

For us, church consisted of a couple of distinct phases:

  • Getting ready: wake up, get dressed in your Sunday best.
  • Get to church and chit-chat with people prior to the service starting.
  • The service itself…usually about an hour or so, although longer on special occasions.
  • After-church coffee with lots of socializing about what was going on in the community.

Contrast that with the Church of the Running Room:

  • Getting ready: wake up and get dressed in the appropriate running gear for the weather.
  • Get to the Running Room and chit-chat with people prior to the start of the run.
  • The run itself…usually about an hour, although longer on some occasions.
  • After-run coffee with lots of socializing about what is going on in the community.

Running Rooms are like local churches from the same denomination. If you are from out of town, you can find the local Running Room and show up at 8:30am on Sunday knowing there will be a group run happening.

People who run at the Running Room have similar beliefs and creeds – running is fun, 10 and ones are the way to go, John Stanton is our “Pope” (I resisted the obvious parallel there to a higher power, but I bet some see him that way).

Whether you see running as a religion or not, there’s no denying the depth of the running community and the many great benefits that being part of the running community provides.

Speed Bumps on the Road to 42.2km

My last post here was all about getting back into the running groove.

A little incident on my way to work a few weeks back left me with a badly broken left arm just above the elbow. I was cycling in as usual and was hit by a car. I was knocked flying and 14 hours later I had 13 screws and two plates in my arm.

Unfortunately, that will have to wait until after my arm heals up enough that I can start running again. It’s going to be long couple of months of therapy to regain my strength and restore the range of motion that I had prior to the accident.

My ultimate goal is to get back to Vancouver in 2012 to run the BMO Vancouver Marathon for the second time. It’s 210 days from today. I’m not sure I’ll be able to do it, but I’m sure as heck going to work hard in physio with the goal of getting ready to start training again come the new year.

Until then, it’s going to be quiet around here.

Reviving the Running Mojo

I’m starting to get back to a regular running routine. That means running three or four times a week, and logging about 120km a month. It’s been a quiet summer for running for a couple of reasons. First, I had a bit of an injury after the Niagara Ultra 50km that just wouldn’t heal. Second, I bought a road bike and did a lot of cycling.

I’ve done a couple of longer runs the last two Sundays – 16km last week, and 12km this week. I’ve got a map for an 18km on Sunday that I think I’ll attempt. I’ve run those runs slower than I’m used to, but it’s ben very enjoyable.

I really needed that break from running to remind myself that I really, really like it now that I’ve come back. Tonight I ran 5km at Variety Village, and while it was unpleasant due to some tummy issues related to dinner choices, it was nice to hop on the ‘mill and put in some miles.

Looking forward to the BMO Vancouver Marathon is also helping to revive my running mojo. I’m already planning my training program and thinking about how I want to approach the fall season so I get to the start of that program in good shape.