How to love running more

Often times, when I discuss running with my non-competitive friends, they express awe that I actually enjoy cranking out interval workouts  or 18 mile long runs. “I could never do that”, they say. “I can barely even run a mile!” They think I must have always loved running or that I’m naturally crazy talented. Neither of those things are true. I was overweight in junior high and when I first joined the track team my initial intent was to be a shot put thrower (yes, really). However, I soon realized that my lack of coordination might hinder efforts in that arena. So instead, I decided to be a runner.

On my first day of practice, I could barely run one lap around the track. I remember finishing that first 400 meters, bending over, gasping for breath and asking my coach “Is…it…going…to…get…easier?” And you know what? It did get easier. As a freshman I stuck to the 100m and 200m sprints, Sophomore year I was racing the mile, and by Senior year I was able to run a decent 5k cross-country race. I still wasn’t fast by any means (I couldn’t even beat the girl with the knee brace most of the time), but I kept showing up day after day, season after season.

The summer before college, I got the crazy idea to join my school’s D3 cross-country team as a walk-on. I started freshman year very undertrained and came thisclose to quitting after getting my butt kicked during the first week of pre-season. But for whatever reason (stubborness? pride?) I kept going back for more. I wasn’t always the most dedicated runner (I admit to skipping long runs Freshman year), but eventually I decided that if I wanted to be good, I had to put in the work.

I’m sure this isn’t a big secret, but the better you are at something, the more FUN it is. Winning your age group in a race is a lot more fun than coming in at the back of the pack. That’s not to say that you can’t enjoy running if you’re slow, but being successful at something is a huge motivator. I don’t think I have a ton of natural talent, but doggedly training for 10+ years has caused me to run smarter and race faster.

So to all the runners out there who think you can’t run fast or long, I want to tell you that yes, you can. I think running is 50% training, 49% mental, and 1% DNA. What you were born with doesn’t matter nearly as much as dedication and desire. You can run that  sub-6:00 mile, a 20 minute 5k, or a 3:30 marathon. Maybe you don’t have the time or motivation to dedicate yourself to that type of training right now, but if you ever decide that you want to – it’s yours for the taking.

Okay, enough rambling from me! What was on my agenda for Thursday? A 7-mile progression tempo run with the team. Let the grinding mileage begin.

We started off at marathon pace and from W. 72nd St ran up the West side, across the 102nd street cut off, and South on the East side to E. 72nd St (3.75 miles). From there, we picked it up to half-marathon pace and completed two lower loops of Central Park (3.35 miles).

  • Warm-up: 2.75 miles
  • 3.75 miles @ marathon pace in 27:55 (7:27 pace)
  • 3.35 miles @ half-marathon pace in 23:39 (7:04 pace)
  • Cool-down: 3.15 miles
  • Total 13 miles

I felt decent albeit a little tired for today’s workout. I wasn’t sure where the mile markers were and so I thought I was running much slower than I actually was. I just plugged my times and distance into my running log and it’s very close to what I was hoping for (7:30 marathon pace, 7:00 half pace). Hooray.

All this running makes me hungry, yo. I pretty much eat non-stop, so here are the Thursday highlights:

My breakfast involved some local apricots, Siggi’s plain yogurt, and a crumbled granola bar. YUM.

Mid-afternoon, I snagged a $1 coffee smoothie from Jamba Juice today. Yes, it’s little high in sugar, but when you plan on running mega miles after work, you need those carbs and calories. Plus it was only a buck!

Dinner was super late because of my running adventures, but my summer corn and tomatoes were so fresh they didn’t need much work. Inspired by Leslie, I dredged some sweet corn in butter and chili powder and then roasted it for about 30 minutes. I also topped a deliciously ripe tomato with olive oil, balsamic, and some Parmesan cheese. Quick, wholesome, and delicious.

The best part of today? 5 minutes of fame. I was featured in a news story on healthy lunches and marathon training. Whee!

This has been a rough week of training and socializing and I can’t remember the last time I’ve felt this tired. I have a long run planned for Saturday morning, but then I’m headed home to Pennsylvania for a few days of family time and rest. See you from the Keystone state!

  • I love this so much because it is SO TRUE. Yeah, if you have twiggy muscley genes, you’ll probably be a naturally wonderful runner. But that is sooooo not a prerequisite, and I wish I could hand out this post to people who say “I could never do that.” Yay for you! And us!

    The first time I ran, I couldn’t make it half a mile either. You get better. And then you miss workouts because you were stuck in tunnel traffic.

  • Allie

    great thoughts! running is so much about what you put in is what you get out. also, congrats on being famous!! great feature!

  • Oh congrats on being featured! Also, great post and great workout. I quit swimming for running because I wasn’t going anywhere in swimming and I was winning races when running. Walking onto my XC team has me really nervous, but I’ll try to remember your success after you stuck with it.

  • i had no idea that you walked on the XC team! way cool. part of me regrets not doing that when i was in college (gosh i feel old just typing that!)

    congrats on being featured. that’s way exciting 🙂

  • I love your percentage breakdown for running – it’s so true. Three years ago I couldn’t run around the block. No exaggeration. Last weekend I ran 20 miles straight. It’s pure craziness.

  • Jess

    I totally agree! I tell my “non-running” friends all the time that they CAN do it, then just choose not to. I’m sending them to this post. Thanks!!!

  • This is great! I didn’t start running until I was 25. In fact, in elementary school, I was in remedial gym. True fact. Sometimes I’m amazed at how far I’ve come with my running. I went from struggling to finish a mile to finishing a marathon! And I know that I’m going to keep getting better, as long as I stick with it.

    Thanks for sharing your story! You’re such a dedicated and accomplished runner, that it’s inspiring to know how hard you’ve worked at it.

  • I loved this post! Totally agree with you, too 🙂 I’ve noticed a lot of improvements since I started running more “seriously” and racing a lot.

    I die for Siggi’s Greek yog, BTW.

    Easy run next week/long run next weekend? Have a good 18 tomorrow!

  • I totally agree with you about getting fast and good at running. I whine sometimes that I’m so slow or slower than when I started out but it’s all a reflection of the amount of effort I put in. I’m pretty sure if I ran 5-6 times a week and included speed, tempo and long runs I could be pretty bad ass! Very motivational Megan!!

    Enjoy some down time – weeks like that are killer.

  • Congrats on the feature! Well deserved! 🙂

  • Excellent post and blog! Thanks for sharing 🙂
    A peronal running history(which doesn’t really exist since I’m not a runner): In elementary school, we had to do the President’s Physical Fitness test which I always failed because I couldn’t run 600 yards.
    Lo and behold- Last year I had the thrill of a lifetime running the Boston Marathon (for charity, of course, leading the back of the back of the pack woot woot!)- a dream to qualify but as I learned, and you have just affirmed: YES YOU CAN!!!

  • Maren

    YAY! Congrats on the article! And cute pics! 🙂 I have only been running for about a month now (stupid injuries) and I forget how much hungrier I am! Thanks for the reminder that healthy food is most important! Have a great time at home!

  • i love this post, megan! it’s so true, not only for running, but really anything in life. if you want something badly enough and are willing to work for it, i really believe you can make it happen, and the reward of hard work really does make it enjoyable. i totally feel this way about yoga now.

    i didn’t know the whole background of your running story, and i’m so impressed with how much you’ve grown through so many years of dedication.

    and thank you for the shout out! corn and tomatoes, seriously two of my favorite things in life right now. it was so great to see you on wednesday – can’t wait for more wine and food adventures soon!

  • Congrats on being featured. Question about your workout – where are the mile markers in Central Park? Or are they setup by your club for your workouts?

    Also the article said you are trying to break 3:30 … but your workouts suggest a 3:15 time.

  • @Gaurav – the mile markers were set up by our coach. we basically did the middle 4 mile loop of the park and then 2 lower loops. and yes, 3:30 is my conservative marathon goal. i’d love to go sub-3:20, but we’ll just have to wait and see 🙂

  • Ah, living vicariously once again. Enjoy all that running for me!

  • i love this post. and people don’t realize that hard work totally improves your (athletic) game. anyone truly CAN run – some faster than others, yes, but how much work and effort you put in is the deciding factor in success. if only people understood this!

    i’m eagerly awaiting some corn on the cob from the harlem CSA – i boiled it this morning (dork alert!)

  • Hope you get to relax when you visit your family!

  • Mandy

    this post is very true. your blog is very motivating to me. i am currently training for my third half marathon….and when i get tired i just read your blog as a reminder to keep going! thanks!

  • I loved hearing about how you got started running. I’ve been a semi-dedicated runner and love the idea of improving…although it’s easier said than done! Right now I’m working towards getting back up to a 5K, as I slacked off a bit this past spring semester. But that’s the great thing about running, you can always get back into it!

  • These are extremely motivational tips to reach new running goals! I often get discouraged with running (injuries, too hard, etc.), so this post was just the shot in the arm I needed in order to stay inspired.

    PS: That corn sounds amazing. I love the looks of the fresh and wholesome dinner!

  • Wow! Great motivation! I’ll admit, I was one of those runners who looked at you speedy folk and thought “It’s got to be natural, how could it not be?” Thanks for showing me otherwise 😀

  • no matter what I think its always the first mile that is the hardest. Everytime i start running im already thinking this is so hard why am i so out of shape… why am i going so slow. how am i tired already…. but its like a switch when you hit mile 2 it becomes nothing till mile 10 and then i get bored and tired again haha

    all that pizza probably isnt helping either 🙂

  • I totally agree with you. From someone who joined the cross team because she got cut from the volleyball one, I’d say it’s the best decision I ever made. It’s also a great feeling when I convert non-runners to runners to marathoners 🙂

  • This is a great post, Megan! Thanks for the remind and encouragement. 🙂

    That corn sounds amazing- I never roast whole ears of corn. I’ll definitely have to give that a try!

  • True it does get easier with time. I like your story.

  • Tara

    If you are in the PIttsburgh area and want to do some Frick/Schenley park runs, message me! You’re blog is great! (I’m assuming my e-mail is linked to this. I can send you my facebook profile so you can see I’m not a creepy old man or anything 🙂

    Tara

  • This is a great post! I totally agree with your thoughts on non-running friends and wanting something badly enough. And literally everyone I tell that I’m running a marathon in a few months is like “I can’t run a mile!” Like seriously, neither could I at one point, you have to work for it. People don’t get it.
    And congrats on the feature!

  • I totally agree with this post! When I work hard, my times get faster. When I slack off on a speed workout, I don’t. No pain, no gain 🙂 I love that running has the possibility of being an “any man’s” sport.

  • This is oh so true. I remember in junior high when we all had to run the mile for gym class and thinking how much it sucked, and here I am training for a marathon.

  • I totally agree with you! Every word in this post is spot on! The better I become at running, the more fun it is!

  • That is the great thing about running…pretty much anyone can do it. Now, whether you want to or not, that’s up to you! I’ve truly do like to run. I’ve had to put it on pause to nurse a hurt hamstring, but I can’t wait to get back into it!

  • I don’t know what happened… I used to love running, and then I guess I just burned out. I’m sure the ITBS had something to do with it, but I’m hoping to get back on the horse in the fall.

    Congrats on the feature! We must celebrate.

  • @Katie – I think it’s totally normal for your interest in running to wax and wane. I took most of last summer off (ohhhh ITBS), but after a hiatus I was ready to return. The break helps you to appreciate it more!

  • I am way late to comment, but I just wanted to say how much I loved this post. So true. So much of running is believing in yourself.

  • Thank you for posting this. I’m one of the self-proclaimed slow runners and this has really encouraged me. I’ve done several races in the past (doing run/walk), but always at a slow pace because I didn’t think I had it in me to run faster. Well, a friend of mine challenged me and this summer has been an experiment of sorts. I pushed myself to try and run a 10-min mile (ultimate goal, run 3 miles in 30 min without stopping). After several weeks I’ve been able to average a 9 1/2 min-mile, and I’ve done 1 1/2 miles without stopping. It’s slow-er compared to others but I didn’t even think I could push myself like this. I’m slowly beginning to think I may be able to push myself to do an 8-min mile, but we’ll see. Anyways, THANK YOU!

  • i find most of my battle is just getting my butt out the door. once i do, it’s all good from there…

  • Congrats on the great feature article! You look fabulous in the pictures, too… not-so-photogenic-me is jealous 🙂