Gear Basics: 6 Essentials To Get You Running

Spring is here.  Dare I say that?  I hope I didn’t just jinx it back into hiding.

Warmer weather and longer days lend themselves to encouraging people outdoors – to the trails, the track, the pavement.  For those who are returning to the outdoors for the sake of running or for those considering a running routine for the first time, I offer you some tips on what you need to get started successfully.

It’s been said time and time again that one of the wonderful things about running is that you don’t need much to do it.  Put on some shoes and go!  And, while this is technically true, a few additional items can help to increase overall performance and enjoyment – both essential to sticking with it.

Me at start - sharpened a bit

Please note that I’m not going to discuss shoes in this post, because of course you know you need shoes to run in (unless you’re going all-out barefoot and, in that case, there are lots of resources for how to do that safely).  Plus, there are so many different types and styles specific to each individual runner.  So, on the issue of shoes, I will just say this: seek out a running store, not a big box retail chain, if you can to buy shoes.  You’ll get expert advice tailored to your needs by real runners and your money will be better spent.  You can also check out one of many running shoe guides like this one here from Runner’s World.

The Basics: Enough to Get Out & Go

  1. Clothes that wick

Ahhhhh.  Wicking technology.  It’s a glorious thing.  To get out and run comfortably you’re going to need some proper running clothes and proper running clothes wick.  You’re going to sweat, even in mild temperatures, and the last thing you will want is to feel that sweat trapped on your body as you’re striding along.  So while cotton is great for everyday, it is a runner’s enemy (chafing and perspiration-soaked clothes are nobody’s friend).  Look for items that have wicking technology, or at least include cotton as only a minor part of the overall material blend.

Fit is also highly important.  You don’t want anything so tight it will be restrictive during your run, but you also don’t want to wear something so oversized that it’ll flap around you (that’s just distracting and, frankly, not aero-dynamic whatsoever).  Depending on the climate that you’re running in you may need:

  • A comfortable pair of running shorts or capri pants.  Look for pairs with small pockets in them.  You’re going to need a place to store a house key or other small items and a good pocket means you don’t have to worry about buying and wearing an additional item to do so.
  • Long, heat trapping running pants
  • A sleeveless or short sleeve breathable top
  • A long-sleeve breathable top (or a lightweight jacket)

My All-Around Favorites:

  • Oiselle brand for women is absolutely amazing.  Materials, fit, and style are unsurpassed.  I shared my love for them once before here.

    roga

    Best Running Shorts Ever

  • For women and men, I also like Brooks.  Excellent quality and a brand that really focuses on knowing runners’ needs.

My Favorites for Those on a Limited Budget:

Building a running wardrobe can be expensive at first, so if you’re on a tight budget check out Target for tops.  Their lines may not be as durable as some of the other brands, but they’ll get you started.  Also, I’ve had some success scouring racks at discount shops, like Marshall’s and TJ Maxx.  They carry a surprising amount of Adidas, Nike, and other big name brands at deeply discounted prices.

  1. A hat

This one’s simple, really, but will make your life a lot easier.  Not only does it allow you to head out for a run first thing in the morning without sharing your crazy bedhead with the rest of the world’s early risers, but it’s a great help in keeping both rain off your face and sun out of your eyes.  I have both a warm skull cap and a breathable cap with bill.  I switch them up depending on the weather and have even worn them together on really cold days.  A lightweight, vented baseball-style cap is a good place to start.  It will help rain roll off of your face on wet days and shield your eyes a bit from spring’s earliest rays of sunshine (without having to yet invest in pricey sunglasses).

A Good Buy:

I often represent one of my local running stores (LYS) during my runs and wear a Brooks-made hat from Portland Running Company.  Check out your LYS, too.

  1. Good Socks

I know that you can get three- or six-packs of standard, white sports socks just about anywhere.  I highly encourage you to get the best quality socks you can get.  This is probably one of the most important parts of building your running gear inventory.  You will be pounding your feet into the ground repeatedly, in a variety of weather elements, and you want to take good care of them.  Making the switch from average, general athletic type socks to socks specifically designed for running was one of the best things I ever did.  I didn’t even know what I was missing until I experienced something different.  Running socks that breathe and provide cushion and support, without bulk, are something special.

My All-Around Favorites:

Oh, Balega, how do I love thee?  Balega socks are the ones I trust the most to keep my feet happy.  They provide a substantial amount of balegaprotection against the harshness of the pavement, while still remaining thin enough to wear comfortably with my Mizunos.  They are my go-tos for all my long runs and my races.

If I was to give a runner-up award in this category it would go to Experia with Thorlo.  These are a bit bulkier than Balegas, but for street runners like myself, offer excellent cushioning.

  1. A durable, strong, comfortable sports bra (guys, feel free to skip this one if you like)

For so many years of my life, one of the reasons I thought I could never be a runner was because of my chest.  Running is high-impact, no doubt about it, and depending on your body type, it can be downright painful to do without the right sports bra.  No pull-over stretchy sports bra I ever tried from any department store or big-box sporting goods stores were ever effective for me.  Most of them come in three sizes only – small, medium, and large.  And, what if your cup size is large, but your band is small?!  There are way more than three sizes of women out there!  It’s downright infuriating.

This is an area to really focus on.  One good quality sports bra can turn you from aspiring runner to inspirational runner.  It’s that important.

My Favorite Hands-Down:

Moving Comfort is incredible.  When I discovered their bras, it was like a moment in a cheesy television show where harps are strummed, a choir sings, and the room is flooded with beautiful light.    These bras fit all shapes and sizes of women’s bodies.  They stay put.  They last through multiple washings.  And, they’re not even that expensive, really.  They rock.  Buy one.  Quickly.

  1. A book

Yes, I’m serious.  Running seams so simple, I know.  But, there’s a lot to it if you want to do it effectively and safely.  There are hundreds of books out there about running.  They cover running form, marathon running, increasing speed, maximizing your diet, preventing injury, and on and on and on.  I’d also be willing to bet that once you start running, you’ll discover how much there is to learn about it.  You’ll start to ask questions and wonder about ‘how to’s’ and ‘what if’s’.  Pick up a beginner’s guide to running and read through it.  Then, keep it on your bookshelf for reference as you advance in your skills.

I Recommend:

I wrote a post about this a while back.  Check out my resources for new runners to learn, be inspired and connect.

Bob Glover’s book was a great beginning book for me.  It covers a lot of topics and was a quick, easy read.

  1. A Training Journal

Some people feel that a training journal is only necessary once you are, you know, training – for a race or a specific goal.  I beg to differ.  Training Log 2Training journals are fantastic tools from the get-go.  They give you a dedicated space to track your runs (and other workouts), times, aches and pains, overall performance, feelings, moods, and sometimes nutrition.  Keeping an eye on this information from the beginning will help you learn how your body is reacting to your new routine.  By periodically looking at this data, you can discover patterns that you have (it helped me learn that Mondays need to be rest days or light workout days for me – I am no good on a Monday run) and respond accordingly.  You can track aches and pains which will help you notice and treat them early on – before they turn in to a sidelining injury.  You can pay attention to how what you eat sits with you during a run and whether you run fresher in the morning, midday or evening.  Essentially, a training journal is one of the most effective tools to helping you coach yourself.  As a bonus, they’re fun to look back on to see what you’ve learned and how you’ve progressed along the way.

My Favorite Training Journal:

There is a variety out there and most any of them would likely serve you well.  Heck, you can even create your own with a basic notebook if you want.  But, for what it’s worth, I like this one by Matt Fitzgerald (running guru).  It has space for all the information that I deem to be important and extra room to write in random notes as needed.  It’s spiral bound for easy flipping and bending and has little tips each week to expand your knowledge and motivation.

There you go.  The basics.  As you progress, there are loads of other fun things to pick up (Sports Watches!  Fuel Belts!  Hydration Packs!  Energy Chews!  Headlamps!) and I’ll likely do a follow-up post about some of these items in the future.  For now, take advantage of spring sales, weather, and energy to get the essentials that will get you started.  I encourage you to look for local running stores in your area and get moving!

Race Recap: Portland’s Inaugural Hop Hop Half Marathon

Sunday marked my third (yes, third) half-marathon race.  Just typing that makes me a bit excited.  To think that I ran my first half just last October and now have three under my (race) belt is pretty satisfying to say the least.  As I mentioned in a previous post, my marathon training plan (for Newport in June), called for a half as part of the preparation and the timing of this one was just about perfect.

This was the first year for the Hop Hop Half (I’ve got to admit, I’m not a huge fan of the name – a bit cutesy for my preferences – but I do understand the desire to tie it in with the holiday) and going in to it I felt like it may have been a bit of a risky move for the race sponsors.  Coming on the heels of the Shamrock Run, which is a very popular and large event, I wasn’t sure how the turnout would be.  It turned out to a moderate-sized, but lovely race.

Starting line

I had a strange set of feelings and expectations heading in to this event.  For the first time, this was not the event I’d been training for, but was part of a bigger picture.  Because of that, I didn’t want to place too much pressure on myself, but did want to give it a good effort and see how my racing ability was progressing.

Race day started out well enough.  It was a bit chilly at the start, but dry and sunny –  perfectly good racing conditions.  The event started off with a 5k that was winding down by the time the half-marathoners got going at 8:20am.  I think it’s worth noting that the race started pretty close to the scheduled time (only a minute or so late).  An on-time start always pleases me.

The race started off well and was fairly uneventful (in a good kind of way).  The first couple of miles weren’t the most interesting to run, but after about mile 3, we made our way onto a path that travels right alongside the Columbia River.  It was beautiful!  On such a lovely Spring morning, the sky was relatively clear, providing a beautiful view ahead (to the East) of some of the gorgeous mountains in the Pacific Northwest, to the left of the Columbia, complete with seagulls stretching, soaring, and basking in the sun, and the Portland Airport to the right (which may not seem like much, but is actually kind of lovely to see from that vantage point).

Rounding the turn

I’m the one in the center of this photo – in all black!

The course was pretty darn flat, so I chugged along steadily most of the way.  I did encounter an uncomfortable situation right after the turnaround point (around mile 7, I think it was).  I wanted to share it because it was so unusual and am curious if others have encountered this.  I was coming up behind another runner ahead and was running at a slightly faster pace than he was, so I was nearing him.  I was clearly going to pass him, so I maneuvered to the left, where there was space to move around him.  He glanced over his left shoulder, saw me coming, and moved directly in front of me to block my path and cut me off from passing!  It was very apparent that it was no accident.  I had indicated my intent to pass by when he looked back at me and he made a very deliberate shift in his position on the pathway.  I was shocked.  Seriously, seriously shocked.  Neither of us are elite runners, we weren’t racing to win.  Furthermore, even if we were, that is not how runners behave in my experience.  I am so used to friendly runners.  Runners who respect each other and share a certain camaraderie, even in competition, that I was totally taken aback by what happened.  Has anyone else had this happen?

I will say that I eventually still maneuvered around him and never saw him again.  Plus, my faith in the goodness of runners was restored later in the race, with less than a mile to go.  I was right at pace with another male runner and eventually started to pull ahead.  Instead of another weird encounter, this runner nodded and encouragingly shouted “Looking strong!”  It warmed my sappy runner’s heart.

When all was said and done, I finished with a new half-marathon PR – 1:49:17 – and placed 91 out of 618 total finishers!  I’m totally happy with my performance and finish, though it didn’t take long for me to realize that in just about 10 weeks I would be doing it again – twice.

Heading under the bridge

Me in black again – heading towards the final mile!

A couple of other notes on the event and race.  First, runners were treated to complimentary mimosas after the event.  Nice.  I much prefer this to the beer that is often present after a race!  While I certainly know that taking in alcohol is not the best recovery plan, I did enjoy my free brunch-y cocktail after having a couple cups of water.  I definitely approve of this beverage choice!

Second, along the way, I noticed a very young runner participating with an adult by her side.  Curious, I looked at the age group results after they were posted and saw that an 8-year old girl finished the half-marathon in just a bit over 2 hours! I am so impressed by that.  She looked like she was having the time of her life when I saw her on the course and I am so inspired by someone of that age having the focus and dedication (not to mention the skill) to do that run.  I can only wish I had had some of that when I was so young.  Amazing.

Hats off to Foot Traffic (one of my local running stores) who organized the event.  It was a smooth race and delightful event to kick off the spring running season!  I would absolutely consider running it again next year.

12 Mistakes Runners Make (As Identified By Running Times)

I came across this article on the Running Times website this week (a wonderful wealth of information, by the way).  It is, quite simply, one of the most helpful articles related to improving training and performance that I have read in some time.  The article points out that even experienced runners are prone to make some of these mistakes, so regardless of your level of running expertise, it could possibly be worth a few moments of your time to check it out and see how you’re doing with these.

photo credit: [ changó ] via photopin cc

photo credit: [ changó ] via photopin cc

The list is as follows (full article here):

  1. Start Too Fast
  2. Make All Runs ‘Medium’ Runs
  3. Neglect Speed
  4. Recover Inadequately
  5. Overtrain
  6. Indulge in ‘All You Can Eat’ Workouts
  7. Refuse to Adjust Workouts
  8. Search For the Perfect Workout
  9. Become Running Fundamentalists
  10. Delay Injury Prevention Plans
  11. Train at Goal Pace
  12. Race Stupidly (A Compendium)

Of course, more detail on each of these is provided in the article and, not intended to leave you hanging, fixes for these mistakes are included, as well.  Though all of tips are perfectly logical and I may have heard many of them before, I think it is helpful to periodically return to fundamentals such as these and review how I am doing with them.  It is so easy to get caught up in the just doing of running, logging miles and times, and get distracted from focusing on the finer details that will really help me improve (not just maintain).

I know straightaway that I am guilty lately of committing #2.  I need to focus much more diligently on slowing down during my long runs so that my body can reap the benefits of the unique training they provide and so that I will be fresh enough to really do quality tempo runs when I need/want to.

Thanks, Running Times, for providing me with a fantastic opportunity to re-center on the details that will maximize the benefits of my training plan and overall performance!

Newport Marathon Training Update: This Is Starting To Get Real, You All!

Being that today marks week 6 of training for my first marathon in Newport, I figured it was about time to check in about how it was going.

Newport symbol

First, I will say: so far, so good.

Thus far, I haven’t done anything that I haven’t done before, so to speak.  Honestly, I’ve been doing a bit less than I’ve done before.  My training plan (as training plans are keen to do) builds up over time, so my first few weeks have been relatively easy.  I’ve been consistent with my schedule and laying the groundwork to start increasing mileage.  I’m happy to say that I’m feeling strong so far.  My body is feeling healthy; I’m running what I should be and I’m fitting in some cross-training for overall balance.

Second, I will say: I think I’m about to turn a (exciting, but sort of nerve-inducing) corner.

In the coming weeks, I will surely test my endurance, time commitment, and mental resolve.  This current week is still ‘easy’, but things will start to steadily build from there.  My plan calls for me to start increasing my weeknight running mileage, as well as to build up my long run up on Saturdays.  In a month’s time, I will be pushing myself close to setting new distance personal records for myself.  I’m excited to make this progress, but, of course, my mind is always chirping at me with some self-doubt, too.

One of my biggest concerns is simply the time factor.  I know that I will make the time to log the miles that I need, but being a person with a tightly packed schedule, it does give me a bit of stress thinking of what I will have to cut back on or forego in order to make it happen.

But I will.

I will make it happen (and I’m sure I’ll tell you how it goes).

The reality of my marathon-mission set in this weekend as I took two more steps forward.  I finally booked my hotel room for the overnight stay and I registered for a half-marathon as part of my training.  My plan actually recommends that I run a half-marathon right around the mid-point of my plan, so I set out to see if there is a local one happening that weekend . . . and there is!  I’m now registered for the Hop Hop Half on March 24th!

hop-hop-half-logo-2013

So, there you have it.  Marathon training is fully underway, accommodations are arranged, and I’ve got a new race to complete in three weeks!

I know many others are also ramping up your training as spring heads our way.  How’s it going for you?

In Regards to Selecting A Marathon Training Plan . . .

. . . frankly, it’s a bit overwhelming.  I mentioned previously that I committed to running my first marathon.  So once that decision was made, I logically moved on to the next step in the process, which is to plan my training for said marathon.

Now, for those of you have trained for your first marathon (or maybe you are beginning to now), you may have noticed that training plans abound.  They are not difficult to find.  Plenty of running coaches and successful marathoners have published their ideas about how one should train for running the infamous 26.2 miles.  So, it can be a bit overwhelming to find the one that’s right for you.  Complicating the matter for me was that while dozens of marathon training plans exist, they actually tend to exist on opposing ends of the fitness spectrum, leaving many folks sort of in the middle, like myself, feeling like they don’t quite fit.

Training Log 2

What I mean, you see, is that most marathon training plans I found are either:

A)    For complete novices, new runners, with little to no base weekly mileage to start; or,

B)    For runners who have completed a marathon or two and are looking to improve on their overall speed and performance (i.e. ‘Run Your Best Time Ever!’ plans or ‘Race Your BQ!’ plans – BQ, by the way, is runner’s lingo for completing a marathon with a time that will qualify you for the legendary Boston Marathon).

I don’t really quite fit into either of these categories.

Story of my life.

This will be my first marathon – so am I a novice?  But, wait, I’ve been running consistently for over a year now, so I’m not brand new to the sport.  I’ve got a base weekly mileage of approximately 30 per week, which places me above what most ‘beginning’ training plans say a ‘beginner’ usually has, but I’ve not looking to run ‘my best time ever!’ – just to finish a marathon the first time around.  I’ll worry about speed later.

Beginner training plans often start out with weekly mileage somewhere in the low 20’s, which would be a significant cut back from what I’m used to doing now.  Long runs start at about 6-8 miles, when currently I run long at a minimum of around 13 miles.  Yet, looking at the more advanced plans, I’d be getting up to 50 miles a week, with multiple runs at 20 or more miles, something I’ve never done and am told as a first-timer, isn’t smart to do.

Nothing quite fit.

Grr.

MarathonGuide4_mdIn the end, I sought some advice on the Runner’s World forums and decided to go with a trusted expert – good ole’ Hal Higdon.  Hal, at least, has a novice 1 and a novice 2 training plan, plus intermediate 1 and intermediate 2, thus offering a bit more variety.  As a first-timer, I’ve based my plan on the novice 2, but am taking the advice of my fellow runners and letting myself be open to running my long runs a mile or two longer than the plan initially begins with, so as to not cut too far back on my current base.

It feels good to have made a decision and have a schedule laid out before me (I am a planner at heart).  Being that the plan is 18-weeks long, I officially begin this coming Monday and, in response to feeling a bit run down lately, have decided to make this week an easy, scaled back run week to give my body a chance to rest up for what’s to come.

If anyone else is currently marathon training and/or you’ve used Hal’s plans, please feel free to share your thoughts – I’d love to hear them!

Bring it, Newport! (Or, Finally Committing to My First Marathon)

I’ve done it!  I have finally made a decision about my first marathon.  Newport it will be!

newport

I am not a good decision maker.  I agonize.  I research and I plan and I debate with myself until I’m exhausted.  Just when I think I’ve made a decision, I second guess myself and begin to pick it apart.  Deciding on which marathon to select as my first was no different.

There are so many factors to consider and I just wanted to make sure my decision was a good one.  The right one.  The best one possible.

No pressure or anything.

In the end, it came down to two primary factors:

  1. Location – I didn’t want to travel too far.  Newport is only a couple hours by car.  I can easily travel there the day before the race and have plenty of time to rest after arriving.
  1. Timing – The idea of running the local Portland Marathon as my first was very tempting, but I just didn’t want to wait until October.  While I still have training to do, I really don’t think I need quite that much time to prepare and the extra wait felt a bit painful to think about.

The Newport Marathon is a smaller event, capping out at 900 runners, but after much research I have found it to be generally well-reviewed by other runners.  It has a pattern of being well-organized and is a mostly flat course.  I think June will be ideal as far as weather is concerned and it’s not so small that I’ll feel too lonely (I hope).

So, with just a bit under 5 months to go, the training plan is being finalized so I that I can stay focused through the rest of winter and spring.  Having run a personal distance PR of 17.5 miles last weekend, I’m feeling good about  being ready come June 1st.

If any of you seasoned marathoners out there have any tips or advice, I gladly welcome them.  I am both incredibly excited and somewhat terrified all at once – but that’s what conquering new personal challenges is all about, right?

Holiday Half-Marathon Race Recap: Rain, Wind, and A Wardrobe Malfunction . . . But So Worth It!

BannerI’ve been so busy and distracted that my second half-marathon kind of snuck up on me.  All of a sudden, it was two days away and the reality started to set in!  I picked up my race bib on Friday and those pre-event nerves started to kick in.

In true Me fashion, I had a clear, verbalized goal and a secret goal that I didn’t really talk about much.  I was nervous about what my race time would be for a couple of reasons.  First, the weather.  Cold, wind, rain, all of these can definitely slow a runner down a bit.  I run in the rain often, but I hadn’t raced in it yet.  Second, I had been feeling a bit run down.  My body was feeling generally tired and achy and I wasn’t sure how that would show up come race day.

So, as it stood, my verbalized goal was to stay under 2 hours.  As I had managed to do this in my first half two months earlier, this was important to me to repeat.  My secret goal was to beat the time in my first half and finish in under 1 hour 55 minutes.

Result?

Success!

Final Race Time = 1:51:42!  Woot!

ME near finish

Now, I know race times aren’t the most important thing in the world, but I’m a pretty goal oriented person.  I like to have benchmarks and plans and something specific to shoot for, so for me, it matters.  And this particular finish mattered a whole heck of a lot.

It didn’t come easy.

Race day started off in a bit of a nerve-racking fashion.  Remember how I mentioned that my body had been generally achy?  Well Sunday morning I woke up to shower, dress, and prepare for my race with a seriously uncomfortable right hip, thigh, and knee.  It didn’t hurt, per se, but it definitely felt uncomfortable and I was worried about how it would impact my experience.

What DID hurt were my fingers.  I have this strange condition called Raynaud’s Disorder.  No one seems to know what causes it for me, but it’s bad.  Like, really bad.  My fingers start to get really cold and then they burn.  Then, they go numb in spots and still burn in other spots.  They turn all the colors of an American flag and become a painful, distracting mess.  Sunday morning, my friend Raynaud decided to go nuts.

So, there I was waiting for the start with my uncomfortable hip and leg, my burning, numb fingers and my nerves.  Finally, we got started and I was no more than a few feet across the start line when I felt my torso get really cold.  I looked down to see that the bottom zipper on my double zipper jacket had come undone.  The top zipper (near my neck) was still secure.  So if you can imagine, it was instantly like I was wearing a cape, but backwards.  My jacket, purchased to shield me from the cold and wind and rain, was instead flying open, exposing me to all the elements.  I tried to fix it while I ran, but, you see, when my fingers go numb, they don’t really work.  I can’t pick things up or close them tightly around things, so it didn’t go so well.  Finally, I made a decision that I was not happy about.  I ran to the side of the road and had to stop completely and take the time to get my jacket fixed.

I was not happy about this.  Stopping?  I don’t stop during a race!

Grr.  Argh.

Okay, so I get going again and, at least from there, no new problems occurred.  The race was pretty flat, so that wasn’t bad at all, but there sure were stretches with some serious wind gusts and rainfall.  There’s something about running through all that, though, that feels liberating and strong.

Or maybe I’m just a little bit crazy.

Either way, I felt good most of the way.  The route itself was quite pleasant, meandering through neighborhoods in North Portland.  I passed plenty of houses with festive lights on them, as well as a few carolers along the way that volunteered their time for the race.  I felt like I was pushing myself, but not overdoing it and I had the energy for a good kick during that last mile.

Finding out my finish time was fantastic.  Seeing that measurable improvement over my first race, combined with the actual physical change I noticed in my body during this run (less fatigue, more strength, more power) made all the mishaps of the day so very worth it. Me and Tree 2

What a great way to ring in the holidays!

Only Seven Days Until the Holiday Half!

Seven days until my second half-marathon!  I’m racing the Foot Traffic Holiday Half next Sunday.  My mind has been so focused on thinking about what my 2013 racing calendar will bring that I keep almost forgetting that this race is right around the corner.

HolidayHalflogobigger2012

I am quite looking forward to running it, though, as it is North Portland, where I’ve never run before.  Starting and ending near the Adidas Campus, the run loops through North Portland and under the St John’s Bridge.  I suspect that it will be quite lovely.

I’m hoping for a PR by beating my time at the Portland Half-Marathon in October, but I’m also realistic that it may not necessarily happen.  The weather could be interesting.  I don’t mind running in the rain so much, but it does slow me down a bit.

I guess we’ll see in seven days!  I will certainly let you know.  .  . Wish me luck?

(P.S.  If you want to wish for a dry Portland morning, that would be swell, too!)

A Runner’s Thanks (A Belated Thanksgiving Post)

I have read and listened to various stories about how running saved someone’s life – from obesity, from addiction, from lots of things.  I don’t feel like I can be so grand as to say that running saved my life, but it certainly has changed it dramatically.

 
Running has given me so very much.  It has enriched my life in ways that I never would have thought possible.  It’s such a simple thing, really, to run, and to have so much value come from it is pretty astounding.  So, I am thankful for the run.  I am thankful for the runs that exhilarate me, as well as the runs that exhaust me.  I am thankful for the runs that challenge me and the runs that feel easy; for the runs that give me new personal records (distance, speed) and the runs that feel like the same old thing.

 
I am thankful for runners.  I am thankful for runners that smile at me as we cross paths and for those who ignore me, intense in their own rhythm.  I am thankful for the runners at my local running stores who give me sage advice and for runners who blog so that I can learn from their wisdom, no matter how far away they may be; for runners who I see when I’m in my car because they get me excited to go out myself later in the day and for the runners that I passed and passed me in my races this year, spurring me on with healthy competition.

I am thankful for those that support my habit, even if they may not quite understand it.  To those in my life that cheer with me when I add another half a mile to my long weekend runs and to those who leave encouraging posts for me here on this blog.  I am thankful to the volunteers who helped keep my fueled during and after my first half-marathon and to the strangers along the way who lifted my spirits with encouraging shouts and signs.

I am thankful that I have discovered an activity that feeds my introverted nature and need for solitude, while still connecting me with a vast network of community and support.  I am thankful that I have reached new levels of health and fitness – places where I never imagined I could be.

And, I am thankful for myself.  For having the courage to try things I once thought were impossible and for believing that I can continue to do it – every single day.

So, fellow runners, those who support runners, volunteers, and the like, you have my utmost gratitude and respect.  Happy (belated) Thanksgiving to you all!

Recipe: Koshari (Pre-Race Dinner and One of My Favorite Meals)

In the weeks leading up to my first half-marathon, I spent quite a bit of time reading and planning for how I would prepare.  What would my taper look like?  Should I have a pre-race meal 2 hours or 3 hours beforehand?  And, of course, there was the question of what to eat the night before the race.

Since I wasn’t running a full marathon, heavy carbo-loading wasn’t necessary, but I did want to increase my carbohydrate intake somewhat in the days leading up to the run, just to be sure I had the stored energy that I would need.  I also wanted to eat something familiar and delicious; something that I knew would provide me with necessary nutrients, as well as comfort to calm some of my nerves.

It didn’t take long for me to decide on koshari as my pre-race dinner.  Many runners turn to pasta dishes before runs.  Whether it’s a group of runners gathering together or a quick meal at home, pasta dinners have long been a tradition before races.  Koshari is a take on a pasta dinner, but with a decidedly different cultural twist.

As I understand it, koshari is Egyptian in origin and is a traditional mixture of pasta, lentils, and rice with a somewhat spicy tomato sauce and onions.  I’ve seen several different recipes for koshari and the one I will share with you here is the one I have created from a culmination of various sources and my own trial and error.

This is a simple dish, but it is consistently one of my favorite and most satisfying meals.  I also like to think that it really is ideal to include in a healthy menu for runners and other athletes, as it packs a nice combination of nutrients.  The pasta and rice give you the carbohydrates you need for sustaining energy levels.  The lentils provide a substantial dose of protein, fiber and B vitamins.  The tomato sauce delivers powerful antioxidants and a good amount of potassium, and the onions provide protection for your heart, as well as overall anti-inflammatory properties.  How perfect is that??

Plus, this stuff is good.

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Koshari

Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dried lentils, rinsed and picked through
  • 1 cup rice
  • 1 cup dried small pasta (macaroni/orzo/elbows)
  • 1 large white or yellow onion, diced
  • 2 tblspns olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2.5 cups tomato sauce
  • ¼ tspn red pepper flakes
  • 1 green chili, diced
  • 1 tblspn red wine vinegar
  • (optional: extra onion to fry and top with cooked koshari)

Preparation:

  1. Place lentils in a pot with 3 cups of water.  Bring to a boil, cover and simmer about 30-40 minutes, until tender.  Drain and set aside.
  2. Simultaneously, cook rice in 2 cups of water as directed on package. When finished, set aside.
  3. Also, cook pasta until al dente.  Drain and set aside.
  4. Saute onions, garlic and chili in olive oil until browned.
  5. Add tomato sauce, red pepper flakes, and red wine vinegar.  Heat to boiling and reduce to a simmer.  Add salt and additional red pepper flakes to preferred taste.  Simmer for 3-4 minutes.
  6. Combine cooked lentils, rice and pasta with the sauce and mix to combine.  If desired, serve topped with caramelized onions, chopped parsley or cilantro.