Monthly Archives: March 2015

90. Live and learn: no bloody toes!

Running tip #90

Never wear a brand new pair of shoes on race day.  I learned this the hard way back in the 10,000m final of the 1988 U.S. Olympic trials.  Talk about a rookie move!  I was so excited to get shiny new spikes from my sponsor, New Balance, that I decided to “save” them for the final.  What was I thinking?!  This wasn’t the prom, for goodness’ sake, and I wasn’t preparing to be seen in a one-time only ball gown.   It was a foot race and my FEET needed to be well-used to the shoes I was wearing for a 25-lap race around the track.  Did I break those spikes in wearing them for strides three weeks before, a workout two weeks before, then maybe a dress-rehearsal race 10 days before The Olympic Trials like any mature, rational person would do?  Oh no, I took those shoes right out of the box and laced them up about 15 minutes before the gun went off.

And look what happened around the 2-mile mark of a 6.2 mile race:


Both of my big toes filled up with blood because those shiny new spikes were a 1/4 size too small.  Every step from 2 miles to the DFL place finish was increasingly more painful.  I could barely walk to the medical tent after I crossed the finish line … where my med-student friend heated up the end of an uncoiled paper clip to skewer/burn (I kid you not!) a hole right through the top of my toe-nail to let all the blood out.  It was gross and I was laughing and crying at the same time over the absurdity of the situation and my colossal idiocy.  You know how they say “Live and Learn”?  Well, in this case it’s better to learn this lesson in a running tip rather than live it with bloody toes.

WebMD explains how to do the paper-clip trick.


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89. Yin and Yang

Running tip #89

One sure fire way to improve is to run with different-paced training partners.  On your hard days, find someone faster than you to push you and on your easy days run with someone considerably slower to ensure you truly run easy on those important recovery days.  Most of us tend to get into a rut running the same pace with the same set of friends, falling into the same conversations on the same 50-minute loop.  Though this routine can be relaxing because of the non-thinking element, you may find it a bit TOO relaxing.   There is such a thing called muscle memory.  Whatever you practice (even if it is just a one-time event, like hitting a single golf ball at a driving range … or playing a piano chord for the first time) you store the memory of that action in your muscles – as well as your brain.  As the saying goes, “It’s like riding a bike” because once you learn, you can never UN-learn how to ride a bike.


Lifehacker explains better than I how muscle memory works:

“If you’re practicing a song on the piano over and over again, the idea is that you’ll continue to improve. “Practice makes perfect” can be an accurate phrase because the more you do something, you build up that procedural memory and your brain can quickly instruct your muscles to carry it out. That muscle memory doesn’t judge whether you’re doing good or bad, however, so if you practice a song poorly for hours on end you’re going to be really good at making the same mistakes over and over again. This is not only bad because you’ve wasted your time learning to be bad or mediocre at a task and may see all this work as a failure, but because you didn’t necessarily have to fail at all. When you repeat mistakes again and again, you build a muscle memory with those mistakes.”

So, in order to run fast(er) you must stop practicing slow or mediocre running; instead, find occasions to practice fast running so that your muscles store that memory.  And the best way to run fast is to find a fast friend – let’s call this friend, Yin – and stick with him/her as long as you can … maybe just for 1/2 the workout at first … but over time you will be able to complete the whole thing.

Do NOT run with Yin the day after; find a slow friend (Yang, of course) to make some long-lasting, jogging memories.



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88. no small thing

Running tip #88


At 5 minutes before midnight, my tip is DON’T MISS.  The contract you make is with yourself only (well … maybe with God, too, if you’re a believer).  There will be days when you want to lie in bed and skip your run or your workout or whatever duty is weighing on your shoulders, but you must not give in to the temptation to be ordinary.  Be EXTRA-ordinary.  Put your running shoes on and hit start on your watch.  Even if you only make it 5 minutes, you know you didn’t give up on yourself or your dream.  It may seem like a small thing, but it’s not.

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87. Sounds of spring.

Running tip #87 … keep listening.


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86. door food

Running tip #86

Everyone knows you are supposed to eat within 30 minutes after a race or workout for optimal recovery … but most of us don’t have (or take) the time to prepare a post-workout snack before heading out to run.  We often go straight from running to chores to shower to work without eating anything for HOURS after a run.  Waiting to eat until your stomach growls like a lion is far from optimal …

so might I suggest keeping a steady supply of what I call “door food” in your car or work/school backpack.  Door food is so named because of friend of mine who always had power bars and cliff bars in the door pocket of his truck. He actually replaced them on a regular basis like one refilling a larder.

Another option is to pack a mini igloo cooler with ice and a mango tango or chocolate milk for carbohydrate, protein, and electrolyte replacement.


Your taste buds will thank you now … and your sore muscles will thank you later.

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85. 400 slices of pie

Running tip #85


Like a pie, one workout can be divided many ways to accomplish different goals.

Let’s take the standard 8 X 400m (one lap around the track … or, eight slices of pie … also called “quarters”).

Endurance option:  Run the 400’s at 5k pace with 200m jog … or 1/2 the distance … recovery.

Endurance option 2:  Run the same workout above with 1/2 time recovery … i.e. for a 25:00 5k, run 2:00 per 400m with 1:00 recovery between each.  Obviously, if you are trying to run a faster 5k, you should do the 400’s at 90 seconds with 45 seconds recovery, etc.

Fartlek option:   with no track available, run the equivalent of 8 x 400m using your watch to slice the pie.  8 x 2:00 with 1:00 recovery.

Speed option:  Run 8 X 400 fast (way faster than race pace) with one lap jog … or equal distance recovery.

Speed option 2:  Run 8 X 400 fast  with equal time recovery … i.e. if you run each 400 in 80 seconds, then take 80 seconds recovery (much shorter recovery than equal distance b/c jogging a 400 will take twice as long as fast 400).

Strength option:  Run the 8 X 400m UP HILL (with jog down recovery).

Leg-turnover option:  Run the 8 X 400m DOWNhill (with jog up recovery).

Anaerobic threshold option:  Run the 8 X 400m at goal pace with LIMITED recovery … either with a 100 jog limited distance or with a 1/4 limited time recovery … i.e. 90 seconds per 400 with 22-25 seconds recovery.

2-mile Race option:  8 X 400m with zero recovery.


p.s. Here’s a great article from New England Runner on “Training for Speed” with 400’s.

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84. running matters … sometimes, more than anything

Running tip #84

Running the Mile Relay,
by Ron Rash

Ours was an easy courage.
none of us college prep,
we did time in Crest High’s
vocational wing,

learning nothing
that would save us
from trailer parks and mill work,
of even a winding-down war.

So we ran against time,
lived for stolen seconds,
finding our measure
brassed in trophy cases.

Tight as the baton,
we gripped our certain knowledge:
this running in circles meant
more than anything coming.

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83. undergarment product endorsement

Running tip #83 … for the running ladies:

There are lots of fun running accoutrements on the market …

RNG-049-1   SweatyBands1  running-accessories-laces

but none so fine as Oiselle Rundies!


… and for the lads?

Sadly, Rundies aren’t available for men, but Chubbies does make some really cool state flag shorts for chillin’ after your run.


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82. If you wanna sing out, sing out …

Running tip #82 …  try something new!

I’ve already mentioned the need for a passionate hobby outside of running … but inside of running you should also keep it fresh by challenging yourself to try something new.  If you always race 5k’s as a soloist on the road, sign up for a longer trail race with a friend; if the marathon’s your thing, consider dropping your mileage and upping your speed-work to train for a mile on the track (many communities, like the Godiva Track Club, have a summer track series); if you only participate in local events, try booking a flight to enjoy a destination race in some beautiful place you’ve always wanted to visit.  Trail Runner magazine often tempts me with trail-race porn when they publish their Destination Trail race bucket lists.

There are so many options available to keep you from feeling like a rat on a wheel. “There’s a million things to do, you know that there are.” (Cat Stevens)


Poke around on the internet to see for yourself.  Then, take the plunge and sign up!

Back in 1998, I trained for the first-ever women’s 3k steeplechase at US nationals to try something new.  I’d already made my Olympic team (after trying 4 times over 16 years, mind you!) so, as they say – or, rather, as my friend Bernie says – I had nothing left to prove as a runner.  Bernie also believes, “It’s not about who wins or loses, it’s about who scores at the big social afterward.”

Back to the steeple.  My decision to take a break from “flat races” and hurl myself into the equestrian world of water jumps and barriers thick as balance beams, was invigorating and life-giving at a time when my running was sort of on its death bed.  I ended up falling face first into the water jump at nationals around lap 3 … but at least I have a story to tell!  Remember Ruth Gordon from Harold and Maude when she philosophizes?

“A lot of people enjoy being dead, but they’re not dead, really.  They’re just backing away from life. Reach out. Take a chance. Get hurt, even. But play as well as you can. Go, team, go!  Gimme an “l,” gimme an “i,” gimme a “v,” gimme an “e.”  l -i-v-e  Live!  Otherwise you got nothing to talk about in the locker room.”

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81. Pin-holes are for rookies.

Running tip #81

The spring road racing season is fixin’ to begin, so today’s tip is kind of a silly one about what I think is the best way to pin your race number on.  I suppose if you polled enough runners, you’d find a variety of opinions about …


Most people use the pre-punched holes on the four corners of the race number, but I find this allows for way to0 much fluttery air between your shirt (or in my case, shorts) and number.  Also, the four-corner pin job doesn’t allow any resizing for your more diminutive customers.  So, here’s how I pin:

If possible, fold the top portion down about an inch so you are pinning through two layers of number.  Then, turn your pins horizontally to attach the top left and top right sections of the number (pinning down more total surface area).  I never pin the number on my shirt because I may need to take it off when hot, tossing it or tucking it in the back of my shorts (racing in jog bra, gals … or bare-chested, guys).  On the bottom of the number – here’s the secret tricky part – I affix only ONE pin horizontally across the middle of the number.  This leaves my legs free from the four-pin number bunching annoyance.  In the photo (below) I would have folded down the “Moonshiner 5k” race advert, to leave the essential 1278 visible so the number wouldn’t feel as long or cumbersome.


The center pin would be directly under the 27 with no pins under the 1 or 8 (or, heaven forbid, using those rookie pin-holes on the sides).

Crazy, I know.  I’m living on the edge here in Carrboro, NC.

And what do I do with my leftover 4th pin?  I hook it on the left belt loop of my jeans … because you never know when someone’s going to need a safety pin.

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