Karen Saenz, Wes Johnson Take Top Honors for Distance Challenge

The 2012-2013 Austin Fit Magazine Distance Challenge wrapped up last weekend at the Livestrong Marathon, closing the books the latest version of the long-standing series. Started by RunTex in the 90’s, the Distance Challenge in it’s current state features six events and allows participants an option of a Full Track or Half Track. According to Vance Taylor – who has volunteered his time the past two years to manage the series – more than 700 runners registered, a significant jump from last year.

Full Track
Karen Saenz, no stranger to the Austin road racing scene, led the female division wire to wire. Culminating with a marathon of 3:17 that was good enough for first place in her age group amongst the 4,000+ runners, Saenz took the female overall title by more than 12 minutes. She was so dominant over the series that her time is better than all but eight of the men’s full track competitors.

Taking second was 35-year-old Alisa Gardner, holding off a late-surging Ashley Johnson who gained five minutes in the final two races but wasn’t enough to overcome the near nine minute deficit she faced.

On the men’s side, Wesley Johnson turned in a solid marathon performance to stave off a challenge from Michael Budde. The 45-year-old Budde has competed in five of the last six Austin 26.2 races, but never broken the three hour barrier. Last weekend was his day as he recorded 2:58:09, seven seconds ahead of Johnson after trailing at the 20-mile mark.

Taking third was Taylor Collins, garnering his first Boston Qualifier time with a marathon PR of 3:01.

Half Track
Added a couple years ago to answer the call of people not wanting to run a full marathon, the half track offers two 10K’s, a 10-miler, and three half marathons. This year more than 300 individuals signed up, making it the largest participation since inception.

Cornelia Kamp and Jennifer Lowry were neck and neck for the entire series with the latter holding a 24 second lead going in to the final 13.1 miles. The 47-year-old Kamp was not to be denied, however, as she closed with a 1:38 – almost as fast as her time at the 3M Half. Lowry cross the finish line 57 seconds later to take third, and Audrey Herold rounded out the top three.

Herold owned a near five minute lead after stellar performances at the IBM 10K and Run for the Water but gave way to Kamp and Lowry at the challenging Decker Half and was never able to regain the lead.

In the men’s division, Michael Chavez used Decker and 3M to put six minutes on his next two competitors which turned out to be the difference maker. Masters stud Peter Huff went in to Livestrong with a one second lead over his third place competitor but left no doubt when he turned in a 1:21:53 last Sunday, outkicking Chavez by six seconds and besting eventual third place winner Tony Orozco.

Orozco actually held a 30 second lead at mile 10, but the steep climb up Enfield/15th did him in as Chavez and Huff sped by to secure their top finishes.

Awards are being distributed on Thursday, March 7 at El Mercado Restaurant on S. First St. All results are available at www.austindistancechallenge.com.

Distance Challenge Continues Sunday With Inaugural Rogue 30-K

The Rogue 30-K, which will be held this Sunday (January 27th), is a new race that’s been added to the  2012-13 Austin Fit Magazine Distance Challenge series, but it’s not a new distance. The 30-K distance (18.6 miles) has been part of the DC series for many years, most notably with the RunTex 30-K, which was held for seven years on the rural country roads in Buda.

But after the RunTex 30-K disappeared from the Distance Challenge in ’05, the distance and its venues have been spotty. The last 30-K was five years ago and for a couple years the RunTex 20-miler took it’s place. An out-back race in Georgetown on similar country roads, the event featured a 10-miler but was dropped in ’10. Two years later, the Distance Challenge is back up to full capacity with six.

The Rogue race is the fifth of the six races with the big enchilada—the Livestrong Marathon and Half Marathon—coming up on February 17th.

Coming two weeks after the 3M Half Marathon and three weeks prior to Livestrong, the Rogue 30-K and accompanying 10-K will start and finish at Cedar Park High School (2150 Cypress Creed Road in Cedar Park). The 30-K will start first at 7 a.m.; the 10-K will begin at 7:20.

Both races will be held on loop courses and neither course is exceptionally hilly. Says Danny Spoonts, who measured and certified both courses: “I would characterize the 30-K course as relatively flat with some hills. There are a lot of tight turns, but since it’s such a long race the turns shouldn’t be a problem. The first 3-4 miles of both courses are almost entirely flat and since that’s the first three miles of the 10-K course, that race is really flat. From miles 8-10, there are some uphills, but none of them are very difficult. Certainly not as tough as the hills on the Decker course or even Livestrong. So I think it’s a fair course with some rolling hills that really shouldn’t be much of a problem.”

The size of the fields shouldn’t be much of a problem. Ruth England of Rogue expects about 500 runners in the 30-K and another 400 in the 10-K which is sold out.

There is still time to enter the 30-K. Packet pick and registration will be held Friday (10-7) and Saturday (10-6) at both locations of Rogue Running. The downtown location is at 500 San Marcos Street and the Cedar Park store is 2800 East Whitestone Blvd.

The weather for Sunday morning should be ideal with temps in the mid-40s.

Cheptoo, Kelly Williamson Dominate 3M Half

Mid-winter racing weather in the ATX is notoriously fickle. Especially for the 3M Half Marathon, the crème de la crème of winter races, which either has great racing weather or rotten.

But on Sunday morning, the confluence of chilly temps, overcast conditions and a howling north wind made for the Perfect Storm. Temps at the start outside the Gateway Shopping Center were in the high 30s, but once the race began and the pace picked up, the brisk tailwind provided a lift for the 6300 runners.

Quickly establishing themselves at the front of the pack, on the smoking fast north-to-south course were 39-year-old Sammy Cheptoo of San Antonio and 25-year-old Chass Armstrong of Austin. Armstrong, who is from Boerne, went to school at Trinity University in San Antonio and was well aware of the Kenyan.

“He’s a very strong runner,” said Armstrong who has been dealing with a chronic anemic problem.

The two ran side by side for the first five miles but on Shoal Creek, Cheptoo lowered the boom with a 4:40 mile and left Armstrong to fend for himself.

“Sammy’s tough and once he threw in that big move, I just couldn’t get back up with him,” said Armstrong who would finish second in 1:06:54 to Cheptoo’s winning time of 1:06:05. Jared Carson of Smyrna, Georgia was third in 1:07:02 and Paul Morris, a former Columbia University star who now lives in Austin, was fourth in 1:07:34. Jeremy Daum of San Antonio was fifth in 1:08:35. Defending champ Scott Rantall was ninth in 1:10:35.

Armstrong was mildly disappointed he didn’t better his PR of 1:06:46 which he set three years ago in San Antonio. “I came close to it,” said Armstrong,” but I really only had four solid weeks of training under my belt. Right now, I’m just excited about going into my 2013 season healthy.” Up next for Armstrong is the Livestrong Austin Half, the Statesman 10,000 and then a few 5000s on the track.

Kelly Williamson knows what’s in her immediate future: More triathlons. The 35-year-old pro from Austin easily defended her 3M title on Sunday, but her winning time of 1:16:19 was much slower than her PR from last year of 1:14:42.

Williamson and her husband-domestique-coach Derick Williamson spent the Christmas and New Year holidays back in her native Indiana. But the weather was so bad and there was so much snow, “I barely trained at all,” she said. “I don’t want to make excuses, but I’m just not as fit as I was last year at this time.”
She proved to be fit enough on Sunday as Williamson took the pace out with a series of miles between 5:40 and 5:45 which opened up a gap between her and Amy Shackelford of San Antonio and Kit Hoang of Flower Mound.

“I knew I wasn’t ready to run sub-1:15,” said Williamson who will do her first triathlon of the year in Panama in three weeks, “so I wanted to run under control.”

Williamson was able to hold onto her 5:45 pace through about 10 miles, but then the tough  11th and 12th miles took their toll. Just for this year, the course veered east up Dean Keeton up a test of character and then headed south on Red River for a difficult series of ups and downs on Red River before the final climb back to the Bob Bullock Museum off MLK. Next year the course will return to a more friendly final three miles, but the final hilly two miles certainly slowed times this year.

“Those last couple of miles kicked my ass,” said Williamson who lost about 45 seconds in the final three miles. “I was running as hard as I could, but they sucked the life out of me.”

Even so, said Williamson, “I was happy with how I ran. You can’t always run a race in your best shape—and I wasn’t—but I was glad I could compete and run solid.” Williamson, who is one of the best runners in the pro triathlete ranks, will probably run just one other race this spring, possibly a half marathon in The Woodlands in March.

Following Williamson to the finish, were Shackleford who finished in 1:17:06 and Hoan in 1:19. Lauren Barrett of Dallas was fourth in 1:19:05 and Ashley Johnson of Dallas was fifth in 1:19:50.

The masters were led by Jose Garcia of Richardson. The 40-year-old ran 1:17:45 to beat out Michael Budde, 45, of Cedar Park who ran a brilliant 1:18:35. Phil Oldham, 45, of Lincoln, Vermont was third in 1:21:06.

The old guys were paced by 51-year-old Scott McIntyre who ran a solid 1:21:39 with the amazing 56-year-old Greg Baxter next in1:23:20 (when is this guy gonna slow down?) and James Potts of Mesa, Arizona third in 1:23:52.

The really old guys were dominated by 60-year-old Doug Pautz of Blanco who ran a super 1:29:29. Charles Will, 61, of Strausberg, Pennsylvania was second in 1:31:28 and 61-year-old John La Claire was third in 1:31:42.

Jennifer Fisher, 45, led the masterly women with a fine clocking of 1:24:28. Amanda Marks, 44, of Lafeyette, Colorado was second in 1:25:57 and 47-year-old Jamie Patterson was third in 1:26:10.

The top 50-year-old on the morning was 51-year-old Audrey Herold who ran 1:38:51.

The 3M Half was the fifth of seven races in the Austin Fit Magazine Distance Challenge Series. Next up is the Rogue 30-K on January 27th.

Beginner’s Corner: Beating the Blues

It happens to all of us sooner or later. Especially newbies. The excitement of starting a running program has begun to wear off and all of a sudden, you feel tired and bored with running. Every time you even think about going for a run, you come up with plenty of  reasons not to go.

The alarm goes off and instead of hopping out of bed, you roll over. Or you come home from a long day at work and instead of a rejuvenating run, you grab a beer and head for the TV for Seinfeld reruns.

Sound familiar? It should. The motivation to run is something that comes…and goes. It could be seasonal (it’s especially tough in the summer) or you’re just plain tuckered out. Or, you feel stressed by the job or the screaming kids at home. It’s hot and humid and some days even a short run feels unbearable some days. Or maybe you’re just bored silly staring straight ahead day after day on the treadmill.

Whatever it is (or isn’t) staying motivated to run 12 months a year is tough. Maybe even impossible. Beginners and experienced runners all lose their mojo at some point.

The key is recapturing it so you can keep going and improve. And the key to recapturing that motivation, is to make changes in your running. It doesn’t matter what you change as much as simply making a change.

Switch your goals, plan for new ones. Instead of training for a marathon, set your sights on getting faster in a 5-K. Add more speed days. Reduce the length of your long runs or go much longer. Or substitute a strength training workout in the gym for a hill day.

Maybe you need to add an extra rest day to your schedule. Start taking a yoga or Pilates class. Maybe add a spinning class or try pool running. Or find new running routes around town. Possibly, you need to hook up with a different training group and meet new training partners. Run at a different time of day. Make plans to go to a new race in a city you’ve always wanted to visit.

There’s all sorts of solutions to break the ho-hum routine of running. You may not need to make major changes, but some change is good to shake up the routine.

Here are some tips that will help you stir the mix and get you fired up again about running this summer:

O Develop new training routes. Too many of us stick with the same roads. Even the Lady Bird Lake Hike and Bike Trail, the Scenic loop or Speedway gets old after awhile. Seek out a new course in a different part of town—even if it means driving. A change of scenery can make all the difference.

O Make new running friends. Join a different training group to do long runs or speed work. Or do different workouts with your regular training partners. If you only do long runs together, try just doing shorter, easier runs with your group. Or meet at the track once a week.

O Run earlier or later. If you’re a morning runner, switch to the evening. Or vice versa. If you can’t make such a radical switch, run a half hour earlier or later. Or go for a noon run, rather than eating lunch.

O Replay great movies in your head. What’s your favorite? Spinal Tap or To Kill A Mockingbird? It doesn’t matter. While running, entertain yourself by replaying the classic scenes in your head. Or replay your life. Pick a year and rehash everything (no matter how minor) that went on, but stick with that year.

O Buy new shoes or a new running outfit. A simple investment in new running gear might be just what you need to get excited about running again.

O Sign up for a new class. Learn how yoga, Pilates or kick boxing. If Tai Chi looks interesting, give a try. Ever tried deep-water running? Go for it. Can’t swim? It’s about time you learned.

O Leave your watch or GPS at home. Don’t time your run. Just run in any direction your feet take you and for any length of time which feels reasonable. Be spontaneous.

O Take five. If you’re still having a difficult time finding the motivation to get out the door, tell yourself you’ll only run for 10 minutes. Usually after just a few minutes of running, you’ll forget all about it and keep going.

Sometimes that’s all it takes to get a new ‘tude about running. Change your routine, make new goals, take a class and you’ll be back to your old self in no time.

If not, it might be time to take a break from running. That’s fine to take a week or two off. That’s usually all it takes to find your inner mojo again.

Long runs: How far and how many you should do

The twin objectives of every marathoner (or half marathoner) are to train his or her best to cover 26.2 miles on marathon day while reaching the start and finish line healthy and injury-free. The key is finding the right balance between doing enough training to run well and yet remain free of injury.

Why this is tricky is simple: The more you train and the longer and faster your runs are, the more susceptible you are to injury.

This is especially true of the long runs that are so essential to marathon success. When your long runs cover 18-22 miles (or longer), the possibility of injury increases. This greater risk of injury occurs because when you run that far your muscles become extremely fatigued (hence, the training effect) and lose some of their ability to absorb road shock. As the muscles fatigue in the closing miles of a long run, your running form will also deteriorate. Fatigued muscles and poor form in the latter stages of a long run, means you run a higher risk of injury than say on an easy five-mile run.

And yet, that’s precisely why a long run is important: to strengthen your muscles and prepare them for the stresses of a marathon. But that’s also why long runs are risky business. The more long runs you do (and the longer and faster they are), substantially increases your risk of injury.

Exactly how far your long runs should be, how many you do in preparation for the marathon, what pace you run and when you do them is based on your running history, experience and goals for the marathon. The longer you have been running and the more ambitious your marathon goals are, generally means you should be doing more long runs during your training (and better able to handle them) than a novice marathoner.

Clearly, a beginning marathoner can’t run as many long runs (or run as far or fast) as a veteran. In addition, if your goal is just to finish the marathon, means you won’t have to do nearly as many long runs as someone who wants to run a specific, personal best time.

If this the Livestrong Austin Marathon on February 17th is your first marathon and your goal is just to finish, your longest long run should probably be about 20 miles. It’s possible it might be a little less (based on your prior running experience), but it certainly shouldn’t be more than a mile or two farther. One long run of 20-22 miles should be sufficient. Two would be better, but only if you have been running and racing for at least a year. If not, your other long runs should be limited to 18 miles and you should probably get at least four to six long runs under your belt.

For most marathoners who want to run their best time at Livestrong, six long runs of between 18 and 22 miles should be plenty. If you have previous marathon experience and have handled long runs well in the past, adding another couple of long runs (going up to a total of eight or nine) should help you in the final miles of the hilly marathon.

If you are a vastly experienced marathoner who is focused on running a personal best, you may want to move up to 10 to 12 long runs. If you have tolerated the 20-plus milers well in the past, you might consider doing at least one long run of 24 miles. But only one.

It is important to build up to your ultimate long-run distance gradually. There are two ways to do this—time or mileage. Mileage means you add one mile per week to your long runs, skipping every third week.

For example, if your current longest run was 12 miles, you should be prepar to build up a 20-miler over 11 weeks. Using this as an example, in week 1: 13 miles, week 2, 14 miles, week 3, shorter long run of 10 miles, week 4, 15 miles, week 5, 16 miles, week 6, shorter long run of 10-12 miles, week 7, 17 miles, week 8, 18 miles, week 9, shorter long run of 10-12 miles, week 10, 19 miles, week 11, 20 miles. By now, you should be well on your way.

If you choose to increase your long runs by time, simply add 10-15 minutes every week to your long-run mileage. But continue to back down with a shorter long run every third week. Doing so in this manner, gives your body time to adapt to the increasing stresses of the longer runs.

How often and how fast you do your long runs is a subject of great debate. Some marathoners do a 2-2 ½-hour run on a weekly basis, year ‘round. But in a marathon buildup stage, it is safer to space the long runs out, alternating long-run distances (for example, one week 18, the following week 12) or simply alternating weeks. One week you run long run; the following week, you either run a race or do a moderately easy semi-long run of 10 miles or less). Or, some training programs, do one long run every two weeks.

There is no right answer which works for every marathoner, just as there is no definitive answer on long run pace. Some coaches advocate long-run pace should be two or three minutes per mile slower than marathon pace. Others, suggest it should be about 90 seconds a mile slower. All agree you should not attempt to do an entire long run of 15 miles or more at marathon goal pace.

My answer to what your long-run should be? It depends on the length, terrain, weather and purpose of the long run. Generally, a long run begins at a rather conservative, conversational pace for at least the first hour. After that, the pace can be picked up to anything from 25-30 seconds a mile faster than what you’ve been running. Or you can try to hammer a section of the long run for a specific length of time (usually 45-60 minutes) and then back off. Or finishing the final hour of the long run at marathon goal pace. Or do an entire long run of 12-14 miles at marathon goal pace.

There are no pat answers, but beginners should usually stick with a conversational pace (that is, a pace they can maintain a conversation without being winded) which they can continue for the length of the run. Marathon coaching guru Jeff Galloway contends that no long run pace is too slow. Slower isn’t necessarily better, but it’s less stressful than a tougher pace.

But if you’re experienced and want to set a personal best, you will have to vary your pace on the long runs and do at least parts of some long runs quicker than a jog.

One of the best long-run workouts you can do is two complete laps around Lady Bird Lake. Although it can be crowded, it’s flat and there’s water available at various spots.

Here’s how you can maximize results from this 20-miler: Run the first lap easy and relaxed, making sure you hydrate along the way. But for the second lap, try to run it five minutes faster (30 seconds per mile). Or run the entire second lap (or at least the final eight miles) at marathon goal pace. Either way, it should be a tough long run (especially if you didn’t start slowly enough) but a great marathon simulator.

A Lady Bird Lake long run is obviously mostly flat, but to prepare for the Livestrong Austin you need to do  a few of your long runs over several sets of hills such as Mount Bonnell and Mount Barker, Exposition, Rain Creek, Scenic and any of a number in Westlake Hills.

Since you’re right here, it also only makes sense to run as much of the Livestrong Marathon course as possible on various long runs, including Exposition, South Congress and the tricky three-tiered San Jactinto hills.

Some long-run tips that should make the workouts easier:

  1. R&R. Rest the day before each long run and recover the day after every one. Treat each long run almost like a race and chill out the day and night before.
  2. Load. Carbohydrate-load the day before every long run. Load up on carbohydrate-rich food just like you will in the days leading up to the marathon. Find out which foods work best for you. Make more than enough the night before and you can pound some the leftover carbs when you finish the long run.
  3. Pre-hydrate. Every marathoner knows the importance of drinking during the run, but many begin their morning long runs already in a dehydrated state. Drink at least 20 ounces of water or Gatorade before you start every long run.
  4. Go early. An early morning long run is always better than later in the day. There’s less traffic and pollution and it’s cooler. Livestrong Austin starts at 7 a.m. so even if you generally aren’t an early-morning runner, doing  long runs early will help you get used to running in the pre-dawn darkness.
  5. Don’t overdress. Unless it’s extremely cold, all you need to wear is a long sleeve T-shirt, shorts and possibly some light gloves and a hat. Don’t wear a jacket or tights unless it’s below freezing.


Beginning Runner Issues Asked and Answered

If you’re training for your first race this fall as part of the Austin Fit Magazine Distance Challenge or even thinking about entering your first 5-K, it’s important to understand that not every run will go perfectly. Some are wonderful and easy; some aren’t. It’s simply the nature of the activity.

Typically, what holds many beginning runners back is the fear that running will hurt and be self-inflicted torture. Beginners tend to have stereotypical notions that any running is painful and there is overall muscular discomfort. They fear not being good enough. Or looking foolish and out of shape.

Fear not. Beginning a running program properly can be done easily and pain-free. The key is avoiding some of the pitfalls all runners make when starting out.

Here are some of the most common mistakes beginners make—and easy solutions.

1. Too far. You were too ambitious and attempted to run two or three miles your first time out which was too great a distance. Your friends run that far, but you couldn’t. Just trying it was painful and discouraging.

Solution: Run by minutes, not miles. Don’t worry about how far you cover; merely run by time. Start off with two minutes of walking, followed by a minute or two of slow jogging. Alternate walking and jogging for 15 minutes and gradually progress from there.


2. Too fast. You tried to run a set distance in a certain time and flamed out. Trying to run fast was painful and left you wheezing and out of breath.

Solution: Slow down. When you run, run easily at a comfortable pace. You should be able to carry on a conversation with your running partner while running. If you can’t, you’re going too fast. Ease up. At this stage in your development, speed is not a goal. Fitness is. That comes with being able to sustain the activity.


3. It hurts. If even slow jogging just a minute or two is painful, you might not be ready for it.

Solution: Stick with walking for a good month or two before you attempt to run. You need to get used to being on your feet and doing some aerobic exercise before starting to run. Take your time and walk. Gradually increase your distance and pace. Eventually, you’ll get aerobically fitter to the point where you can start a running program.


4. You hated it. The run was no fun at all. You always hated running and you still do. You remember your old football coach punishing you with laps and all that negativity came flooding back the moment you started to run.

Solution: Out with the old, in with the new. This isn’t punishment. Running or walking should be a relaxing, energizing time of day. Nobody is watching over you with a stopwatch or whistle. Chill out and think positive. Banish your old conceptions of running to the garbage bin.


5. You’re bored. You know you should run, but you find it boring.

Solution: Go to the Butler (Lady Bird Lake) Trail or one of Austin’s beautiful parks. Find a partner to run with who you enjoy spending time together. Take your dog. While running, try solving some problems that confront you. Or empty your brain and enjoy some stress-free, relaxing time. If you’re running on a treadmill or track, get off and explore all the great spots Austin has for running.


6. Too hot. Fall’s finally here, but it might be too hot to run at certain times of the day. Trying to fight our humidity and heat, is a losing battle.

Solution: Go early. It’s cooler in the morning and the air is fresher. For many Austin runners, it’s the best time of day. If you can’t run or walk early in the cooler air, at least go later at sunset. Avoid the heat.


7. You’re still too hot–even in the morning. Let’s face it, running at any time of the day is rough when it’s still warm and humid.

Solution: Wear as little as possible. Don’t wear sweatpants or tights; merely wear some lightweight, breathable running shorts and a light T-shirt. Don’t make the mistake that sweating a lot will get you get in shape faster or burn more calories. It won’t.


8. Your feet hurt. They get hot and sweaty and you feel like your tennis shoes don’t provide enough cushioning. Chances are they don’t.

Solution: Buy a pair of running shoes. You must get running shoes and not just any type of athletic shoes such as basketball, cross-trainers or tennis shoes. Running shoes are designed to cushion and support your feet. Go to one of the three RunTex stores for expert fitting and advice.


9. The sidewalks feel too hard. You’re right about that: Sidewalks are too hard for daily running. The surface is also uneven and often crowded with pedestrians.

Solution: Go to the Town Lake Butler Hike and Bike Trail. The dirt surface isn’t nearly as stressful on your body as a sidewalk and it’s a lot fun more to run there. If the trail isn’t readily accessible, run on some quiet roads facing traffic. Any asphalt road is better than a sidewalk.


10. Your legs are sore afterward. The big thigh muscles on the front (quadriceps) and back (hamstrings) are sore. You’re even stiff the next day.

Solution: Some soreness is normal. If you haven’t run in several years, your leg muscles will take a week or two to adapt to this new activity. After finishing your  run, stretch your leg muscles for a few minutes. When you get home, gently ice your leg muscles and take some Advil or Aleve to ease the soreness. Go for a walk later in the day.

10 Commandments To Run Safely Every Day (and Enjoy It)

Regardless of your ability, speed or body shape, the greatest challenge almost all runners face—especially beginners—is staying healthy. By the very nature of the aerobic benefits of running, we are certainly healthier than our sedentary counterparts, but runners tend to pick up all sorts of niggling injuries.

Usually our injuries aren’t too serious, but even the little things tend to slow us down. Fortunately, most of the common running injuries can be avoided if you follow the rules of healthy, injury-free running.

1. Stretch after every run.

Running tends to shorten and tighten the primary running muscles of the legs, hips and back. Over time, the muscles contract and if this happens to you enough, you will get injured. Guaranteed.

Conventional wisdom used to suggest you stretch before you run. Baloney. Stretch after each and every run. I’ll say it again: Stretch after every run when the muscles are warm and pliable.

Consistent, proper stretching is what counts. Set up a routine of stretching all the major muscle groups—primarily the hamstrings, quadriceps, hip flexors, Achilles and calf muscles—and devote at least 15 minutes of stretching each and every day. Even more if you’re an older runner.

If you don’t know how to stretch properly, join a yoga class. There are dozens of yoga classes in Austin at health clubs and yoga studios that cater to runners. A qualified instructor will show you the proper poses, how to hold them and what to do. Once you learn the poses and stretches, practice them. They aren’t complex.

Try to stretch within 10 minutes of completing every run

2. Wear a high-quality running shoe which you rotate every 300-350 miles with a new pair.

It is absolutely essential to your running health that you buy a quality running shoe which fits your feet and biomechanics. To find that shoe, you must go to a running specialty store (hint: RunTex). There is no other reliable way.

Once you have that right shoe, stick with it. Don’t buy the latest shoe with all the cool gizmos just because your friends like them.

But even the best running shoe will wear out over time and lose its ability to cushion and support the foot. Once that happens, it’s time to buy a new pair. Any delay in replacing a worn out shoe places you at risk to injury.

But when is a shoe worn out? Hard to say. Each shoe, each runner is different and the maximum mileage you can get out of a shoe differs greatly. Suffice it to say, a good pair of running shoes should last at least 300 miles and as long as 500. But not much more

Don’t wear your running shoes around town or for walking, tennis or aerobics or you’ll reduce the mileage you can get. Best bet is to only wear your primary pair of running shoes for running. And it’s much better to replace a pair of shoes a little too early than too late

How can you tell when your shoes are shot? Again, there’s no set answer, but you should be able to notice a lack of cushioning. A normal easy run in a worn out pair will result in abnormal aches and pains (due to reduced cushioning). Monitor how your body feels and think back to when you bought the shoes.

Better yet, mark on your training log when you bought the shoes and first began training in them. Or mark the date on the tongue of your shoes when you first started running in them. Calculate your miles per week (that’s why it helps to keep a training log) and multiply those miles by the weeks you’ve been running in a particular pair. If the mileage approaches 300, it’s time to consider buying a new pair within the next few weeks. If the mileage exceeds 400, buy a new pair immediately.

3. Walk in, walk out.

Every run should start and finish with a walk. Whether you’re leaving for a run from your front door or running on the Lady Bird Lake Trail, begin every run by walking a couple of minutes. When finished, do the same thing.

Walking accomplishes a few things. It’s a brief transition from being at rest to moving (running). During this short walk, check out my various aches and pains, warm up your legs, adjust shoelaces and determine if you’ll need to add or shed any clothes before taking off on a run.

The walk out is a little different, longer and more enjoyable. Loosen your shoes, take off your sunglasses, cool off a bit, grab a water and bask in the endorphin rush of yet another satisfying run. It’s a moment or two to celebrate a good run by enjoying the sweat, the effort and the glorious day.

4. Avoid sidewalks.

Austin’s sidewalks are hard, cracked and full of pedestrians. They are an awful place to run. Sidewalks are made out of concrete and concrete is so hard (eight times harder than asphalt) that—over time—it will crush your legs. No surface is worse. Avoid sidewalks at all costs. If you have to drive a short distance to avoid the sidewalks it’s worth it in the long run.

The best surface for running is a smooth, dirt trail such as our Lady Bird Lake Trail. But there are plenty of other good running trails in Austin in parks and neighborhoods

5. Uphills are great; downs are not.

There’s no question that hills are an integral part of any runner’s training program. Hills provide quick results in terms of building strength and power. That is, the uphills do. The downhills don’t.

Obviously, uphills are much harder to run than the flats or downhills. The problem with running down the backside of a hill is it places plenty of stress on your back, knees and shins. The pounding of a downhill is a killer. And since there isn’t much of a training effect going down, it makes good sense to gently ease your way down. Or even easier: simply walk the steepest parts to save wear and tear on your body. Especially when doing repeats on some of Austin’s steepest and most formidable hills

6. Ice is cool

One of the greatest masters runners was a New Zealander by the name of Jack Foster. Jack died a few years ago, but at one point he was the fastest masters marathoner in the world. And his “secret” was that he finished every run by hosing down his legs with icy water drawn from a deep well. Foster said that’s what horse trainers do for their thoroughbreds after every workout and race. He theorized, “If it’s good enough for horses, it’s good enough for me.”

Too right. An icy, cold compress applied right after you run and stretch, reduces the muscular inflammation that results from any run. Left unchecked, this inflammation can worsen into a full blown muscular strain or tear. Ice keeps the inflammation under control.

It doesn’t matter what you choose to use as long as you use something—ice cubes in a plastic baggie, ice baths, commercial frozen gels, frozen veggie packages—to ice your legs within a half hour of running. Or just spray your legs with a garden hose for a few minutes while watering your plants and vegetables.

7. Take one day off a week.

Writing a zero down in your training log can be a good thing. The type of dedication where you never miss a day of running can be self-destructive. Especially if you dutifully slog out a few miles just to avoid having to write a zero in your training log.

My buddy, Brigham Young University coach Ed Eyestone never trained on Sunday during his great career because of church and family obligations (he has six daughters) and because his body needed a rest. So does your’s.

8. Run by time, not miles.

Here’s a newsflash: Your body doesn’t know the difference between a five-mile run and a 45-minute run. You might, but your body doesn’t recognize any distinction. But here’s the problem: we’re addicted to mileage. What sounds better? I went for a long run of 20 miles or I went for a three-hour run? Of course, we’ll say the 20-miler.

But thinking in terms of miles is counterproductive because we tend to become obsessed with the weekly and monthly mileage totals as if that is an end in itself. But it isn’t. Getting in shape and staying healthy is the goal, not padding our training logs with impressive mileage totals.

9. Pause that refreshes.

Many of us grew up in the era when football coaches refused to allow players to drink during practice. The belief was not drinking somehow made players tougher. Unfortunately, such ignorance didn’t make them tougher; it made some players dead.

The same held true for running. Not any more. Now everyone recognizes the importance of proper hydration in football—and running. We have Dr. Robert Cade of the University of Florida to thank for that. He developed Gatorade (named after the Florida Gators) and as coaches, football players and runners now know, a properly hydrated athlete is a better athlete.

You can take that another step. A properly hydrated runner is a healthier runner. Especially older runners who are more susceptible to running injuries. As you age, the blood and oxygen supply to your muscles isn’t as good as when you were in your teens or early 20s. If you are dehydrated during or after a run, it can only aggravate the situation. That’s one reason older runners have more muscle strains, spasms and pulls as they age. They’re dehydrated. Drink up.

10. Have fun.

This is a no-brainer. If running isn’t fun, enjoyable or at least a satisfying experience, why even bother? Sure we all want to stay healthy, fit and trim but you can accomplish that on a stationary bike in a health club. But that’s not any fun.

Having said that, running isn’t quite as high on the adrenaline-rush, fun scale as say, downhill skiing. Or surfing. Or sky diving. Or street luge.

Running’s different. A good run, a completed marathon gives you a sense of accomplishment, an inner glow, a feeling that you’ve done something for yourself and only yourself.

Stars & Stripes 5K – Memorial Day 2013 at Beautiful Camp Mabry

Join us tomorrow, Memorial Day and take part in the first annual Stars & Stripes 5K! The event will take place within the historic grounds of Camp Mabry in west Austin. This family friendly event will feature both a fun run 5K starting at 8am as well as a kids k starting at 9am. The 5k will be a timed event and offer awards to the top 25 men & 25 women, the kids k will have finishers awards for all the kiddos.


The Gut Check Challenge is more than just a mud-run. It’s more than just some obstacle course. It’s an event. It’s a grueling, make-your-muscles-burn, test of bad ass-ness wrapped in beer and barbeque! In the true spirit of a “Gut Check”, we’re here for you to test yourself. There’ll be other competitors, but this isn’t about whether or not you can beat them. Hell…you just may have to help a few of those others through some of the obstacles. No…this event is for you to see exactly what you’re made of.
So sign up. Show up. And drink up….Just don’t give up! We’ll see you at the finish line!!