I’ve only been serious about running for just over two years now, which to me means more than a run every couple of weeks. I got into running after being inspired by the atmosphere surrounding the One Run For Boston, and then took it to the next level when I began running with November Project.
Since then, I’ve had two stress fractures and some severe hip, knee and ankle pains. After I failed to make it to the starting line of my first half marathon due to a stress fracture from over training, I decided it was time to start working with a coach.
I had considered using one of the traditional marathon training plans but decided with my injury history, that might still be taking a risk that could potentially cause me to miss another couple of months. Working with a coach allows for changes to happen to account for how you feel on a specific day or week, which is a flexibility a traditional running program does not allow for. This was probably the best part of working with a coach. If I was feeling particularly sore or in a little more pain than expected, Steven would adjust accordingly and give me tips on how to recover.
My coach says that his job is “to take the thinking out of running.” He tells me what to do, and I do it. I had never been too serious about running, yet I was still over training and hurting myself as a result. I didn’t know how to run intelligently, which was the main issue.
After recovering from my stress fracture, I began working with Steven Stam on building back up a base level. We eased into it to avoid re-injury. At times, I wanted to push myself further and run longer, but I had instructions on what exact distance to run from someone who was much more knowledgeable about what could happen.
For my marathon, Steven wrote me 3 different phases plus a base phase prior to getting started. This was about 20 weeks in total. Once we got a few weeks into it, training included a couple days of speed work, recovery runs, a hill repeat day (45 minutes worth) and a long run.
@JWLevitt I think you know my answer to this…already love my coach's customized plan that will push me way harder than I would myself
— Jana (@NanasforBalance) May 30, 2014
Like Jana, I don’t know that I would’ve pushed myself this hard (certainly not as intelligently) without Steven. I would often have questions about specific workouts/recovery time/interval times during the workout, and I would message Steven and he would respond quickly with exactly what I needed to know.
In April 2013 I ran 13.1 miles in exactly 2 hours. This was also the day I got my first stress fracture due to over training. 11 months later, I ran my first official half marathon (race) in 1:37. I had been working with Steven for a little over 3 months at this point, and there’s no doubt in my mind that the speed work he had me doing (plus the hills with NP… it was a VERY hilly course) attributed to a 23 minute PR.
I had another major PR as a result of the speed work/training with Steven. Last fall I ran a 23 minute 5k, which was my current PR. One day I had a 3 mile tempo run scheduled that I was feeling particularly good during, so I decided to extend it an additional .1 miles. I ended up with a 19:12 5k, nearly 3 minutes faster than just a few months earlier, which was before I started doing speed work.
July 2014 update: I ran the same race as the time I ran another 19:12 5k, and hit 18:55.
September 2014 update: ran the same race, hit 18:42.
October 2014 update: new half marathon PR by 9 minutes, 1:28:43
November 2014 update: PR’d 5k 3 times, at 18:12, 17:56 and then finally 17:42.
There’s absolutely no better feeling than seeing results from the hard work you put in.
Bottom line, if you’re looking to hit a specific time goal/qualify for Boston/stop getting injured (if that is a problem for you) I would 100% recommend working with a coach.
Interested in working with Steven? Tweet at him or message me and I’d be happy to make an intro.
— Stamgator (@Stamgator) May 30, 2014
Heard some more news about a friend with cancer today. Puts a whole lot of things into perspective…
Fuck cancer, it’s getting too personal. This is why I ride the Pan-Mass Challenge. It’s not just a bike ride anymore. The miles seem easy compared to what the little girl at the water stop with a sign that says “I’m alive because of what you are all doing” is going through. Or the 70 year old survivor bringing you a cup of water when you’re thirsty at the last water stop. Or the woman standing at the top of a giant hill at mile 170, who has no hair left, after going through chemo with a sign that says “Thank you for riding.”
Every mile brings us closer to a world without cancer and supports those affected.
Please consider joining in on the fight. Our goal this year is $40 million. Every penny counts. My personal donation page can be found here
There’s a good chance you’ve seen me post/talk about November Project. (If you haven’t, it might be the greatest thing ever, #JustShowUp) NP is definitely the most motivating group of people I’ve ever met.
In person fitness communities are awesome, but did you know there are groups that exist online that can be just as motivating and inspiring?
— Erin Kreitz Shirey (@powerfitness) May 28, 2014
I love how online fitness communities allow for people with really specific interests to connect #poweredbybits
— Amanda Kelly (@MissMass_2009) May 28, 2014
My last post was all about “Making the Most of Twitter Chats,” which are becoming more and more popular these days. Twitter chats allow for communities to exist online without people ever actually meeting in person. I participate in a half dozen or so each week, for ENERGYbits as well as my own personal enjoyment and benefit. Some of my favorites include chats about plant-based running, healthy living, and running in general.
Why are these online fitness communities so popular? People can share their successes which can be inspiring to others. After seeing so many tweets about people running marathons and crushing races, I decided to go for it myself! I was inspired by hearing about how successful other people have been and am hoping to pay it forward.
@JWLevitt for the connection to other people like me, challenging ourselves and sharing our adventures together! Instant friendships!
— Runner Blogger AZ (@runblogaz) May 22, 2014
— Kelly Caiazzo (@iamrunningthis) May 22, 2014
Like Kelly said, many people enjoy being involved in these communities so they can learn how they can improve and ask for help when there’s something that’s been challenging them.
There are plenty of other communities that exist outside of the Twitter chats. Another one you can participate in is #FurtherFasterForever, which got started on Instagram as a way to inspire people to train and race faster and for longer distances. People are constantly searching the #FurtherFasterForever photos and commenting on each others’ photos and training progress. F3 has grown so large that they have meet ups at races, and I even heard of a couple getting engaged after “meeting” via the online posting.
There are plenty of other, similar communities such as FitFluential, Girls Gone Sporty, Sweatpink, #PoweredByBits and many others, where there’s more to the community than just an associated chat. All of those communities have brand ambassador programs associated with them, where members receive some sort of benefit for being a part of the community.
What are your favorite online communities to be a part of?
Twitter chats offer a unique opportunity. You can connect with like-minded people across the world, all at your finger tips. For individuals, this offers an opportunity to learn about what’s working for other people, or share your own thoughts on a specific topic. For a brand, this offers a chance to connect with potential customers and engage in a real conversation with them.
But first… What is a twitter chat?
A twitter chat usually takes place over a one hour period, with a set topic and a moderator, and often a guest host. Anywhere from 5-10+ questions will be asked over the course of the hour, and the conversation begins from there. Often, there are follow up questions asked based on how the conversation is going.
Questions are preceded by Q1, Q2, etc., and as a way to keep the conversation a little clearer, it’s best to include A1, A2, etc., before your answer to that specific question number as well. Many people like to retweet the questions to increase the reach of the chat, as someone browsing their own twitter timeline is more likely to join in if they know what the conversation is all about.
Q5: What are your fatigue fighting tips? #poweredbybits
— Emily (@emkslone) May 14, 2014
Some of the chats can move pretty quickly and have hundreds of people involved! How do you make the most of a Twitter chat, especially when the tweets start flying by? I use a website called Tweetchat.com (or twubs.com when in a larger chat like #runchat, as you can slow down the refresh rate of the tweets). These sites automatically include the hashtag and refreshes so that the tweets flow like a conversation. You’re also able to highlight the moderator (or anyone) so that their tweets stand out.
Why join in on a twitter chat?
There are thousands of twitter chat topics, but the ones I focus on are the ones related to health, fitness and social media. I participate as a way to learn more about what’s been working for other people, as well as to share what I have learned from my experiences.
For an individual, this provides the chance to learn about products and services that you might not otherwise have considered as a way to improve your performance/training/life in general. You never know who’s tuned in to the chat – it could be your neighbor, future boss, or newest online friend.
If you’ve recently published something related to the topic of the chat or a specific question, sharing it at the appropriate time is a great way to have more people see your post!
For a brand, this means the opportunity to interact with highly engaged consumers looking for new things, at a time and place that they’re ready to learn. The problem is, it’s a delicate process, since you don’t want to come off as being pushy and sales-y, but rather focusing on building a real, genuine relationship instead.
A3: I find I can get the best product and technology recommends and and reviewed from my online fitness friends! #PoweredByBits
— Amanda Kelly (@MissMass_2009) May 28, 2014
Just getting started? Try just following along with the moderator and answering the questions. Once you’re comfortable with that, try using Tweetchat so you can engage with others involved in the chat too!
Personally, I’ve developed and manage several regular twitter chats. My top focus is the weekly #PoweredByBits chat every Tuesday at 8EST, which is co-hosted by one of our brand ambassadors, focusing on a different health and fitness topic each week.
Another chat I’ve co-managed with my friend Remi for about 3 years now is #SportJC. I started Sport Job Chat in the spring of my senior year, with the goal of having it help me find a job. It’s aimed for students and those aimed at breaking into the sports business world. We ask questions about the interview process, internships/jobs, classes, resumes and anything related to the job hunt. We’ve had recruiters from ESPN and many sports teams and brands join in, and quite a few people have interviewed and got jobs/internships as a result of the connections made in the chat.
Essentially, twitter chats allow for hyper-focused, high-speed networking. What are your favorite chats to join in on? Tweet me your favorites or respond in the comments!
Here’s a list of a few that I enjoy joining in on:
#RunChat 10pm 1st/3rd, 8pm 2nd/4th Sunday
#VegRunChat 9pm – all about plant based running/fitness
#HealthyWayMag 8pm: health/fitness
#BitsOfHealth 9pm 1st Monday: health/fitness
#PoweredByBits 8pm: Co-hosted by an ENERGYbits brand ambassador. Health/fitness topics
#BibChat 9pm: running/racing
#TeamBits: 8pm: Co-hosted by an elite/pro athlete who’s part of the ENERGYbits team
#WellnessChat 8pm: health focused chat
(All times ET)
27 Things I Learned Running My First Marathon
- Figure out nutrition and hydration very early on – figure out what you’re going to carry, and how you’re going to carry it. I had a mini-emergency when I switched up my source of calories two weeks before the race and hadn’t tested out what I was going to carry on more than a 10 miler. That made for a very stressful couple of trips to the running store. I switched to UCAN as my source of calories in addition to ENERGYbits as fuel, but I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to carry it. I bought an 8-ounce flask and was going to carry two servings in it, but I lost it the week before the race. I ended up with 2, 2-oz gel containers, which was less than ideal, but got the job done.
- Don’t forget electrolytes too – this was my one hydration/fueling mistake. I carried two electrolyte packs (Vega/UCAN make good ones) but only remembered to take one. I ended the race with yellow salt streaks all over my face and shirt. If you’re running a local race and have the convenience of a blender and refrigerator the night before, try this “Real Sports Drink” recipe from Julieanna Hever, The Plant Based Dietitian.
- Flat runner pictures are fun to take and even more important the morning of race day. If you lay everything out the night before, there’s a good chance you’ll remember everything you need.
- Don’t skimp on building up a base before you get into serious training. This was my issue last year that led to a stress fracture and a cancelled half marathon. I spent 2 months building a base this year while working with a coach before getting into the serious training cycle.
- Hit the track – hard. Speed work is important for getting faster, but the mental training it provides is almost even more important. There’s no better feeling than crushing a tough workout that you felt like giving up on. When I was struggling at mile 24, I thought of the 12x400m session and how it was uncomfortable during, but felt awesome afterwards.
- Pick a running mantra – I hadn’t been wearing my LIVESTRONG bracelet for a couple years now, but I threw it back on prior to my race as a reminder. Say what you will about Lance Armstrong, but the guy knows a think or two about motivation. Lance said “Pain is temporary, quitting lasts forever.” This helped me last year during the Pan Mass Challenge before a particularly rough hill at mile 170, and helped again during my marathon when I was ready to give up when staring down 2 miles of hills to the finish.
- Pick a few races to run as training runs during your program. Have a goal and aim to crush it – it’ll help build confidence!
- Run with friends – find a local running group that you can get your easy recovery runs in with, or if you’re lucky, the hard ones. I was fortunate enough to be able to run hills every Friday morning with 200 friends.
- Laugh at the signs and thank the spectators. My two favorites were “Press here for a power up” and “Smile if you just pooped a little”
- Runners are anything but normal. See my last post.
- Runners are willing to do anything for performance, even if it means an upset stomach later on. But there are alternatives. Again, see my last post for my fueling plan – I had no hunger, GI issues, cramping or bloating during or after my run.
- Go out slow – I made this mistake and only slightly paid for it, but it could have been a lot worse. I was over 1:00/mile faster than I had planned for the first 10 miles, but you have a goal pace for a reason.
- DON’T JUST RUN – I think this may be my most important tip. I incorporated 1-3 days of strength training for about 2 months of my 5-month program, but I could’ve done with a lot more. More squatting means stronger knees, hips and ankles, which are critical for distance running, especially if hills are involved.
- Learn to set night–time alarms – if you set an alarm for 9:30 or 10pm to remind you to go to bed it’ll be a lot easier to roll out of bed at 5am for the early morning runs
- Train hills.
- Find the start line the day before if possible – the race I ran didn’t list an address for the start line. I was given a map and was told to show up at 7am the next day. It took us 25 minutes longer than expected to find the location the afternoon prior, which would’ve meant I missed the beginning of the race.
- If you can, train with a coach. This was the single best choice I made with my training. I worked with Steven Stam, a running coach from Florida who wrote me a base phase as well as 3 training cycles worth. He altered the program based on things that came up and coached me every step of the way. Working with a coach is the best way to get faster, avoid injury and ensure a great race day. Tweet @stamgator on Twitter if you’re interested in learning more, and let him know I sent you.
- Eat to perform, and remember to eat to recover too. You just ran 26.2 miles. You just subjected your body to quite a bit of stress – time to help it heal. I went with a loaded burrito bowl (extra guac, grilled shrimp) for my post race meal, but not before I had a few extra ENERGYbits and RECOVERYbits to speed the recovery process. The combination of this plant-based approach ensures that your body is getting the nutrients it needs to begin to repair itself and reduce inflammation – the cause of soreness and aches. As I write this, it’s Tuesday morning and I’m ready to run again.
- Tweet/Post about your successes. Putting it out online is the best way to hold yourself accountable, and you also never know who you’re inspiring.
- Recruit some friends to join you along the course – seeing a familiar face can give you a boost that no amount of fuel can provide, especially if it’s at the bottom of a big hill or right as you’re nearing your 20th mile. If they can run with you, even better. Be sure to thank them for joining you.
- No matter what, just keep moving. I stopped once or twice for water and it took me out of rhythm. Even if you walk through a water stop, or need to run/walk, just keep moving.
- Own a foam roller and lacrosse ball and use them both as often as possible. The lacrosse ball helps with your hips and the foam roller helps with… everything else.
- Have a song on your playlist that doesn’t fit but pick it intentionally. Use it as a pick-me-up. On my mostly country running playlist, my pick-me-up song was Timber. It made me laugh and sing along momentarily when it came on. #shameless
- If your goals don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough. I was terrified of the distance when I signed up for my race. As long as you train smart, that’s where the real gains happen.
- When the running gets tough – think of those that aren’t able to run or do sport at all. Dedicate those tough miles to them.
- Enjoy it.
- BONUS: Run the shortest route along all corners. If you don’t, you may run quite a bit extra. I ended up running 27 miles instead of 26.2
On April 15, 2013 I watched 30,000 “normal” people run by me at the half marathon point in Wellesley. I said to myself, if they can do it, why can’t I? The events that occurred later that day only furthered my goal of crossing that finish line too. The next day, I went out and ran 13.1 miles on the course, relatively untrained. I decided that if I could run a half with no training, I could certainly do a full if I took it seriously.
Fast forward a couple of weeks and I had started running with November Project (shout out to Andrew Ference and One Run For Boston for this) and taking this running thing a little more seriously. I quickly learned runners are anything but “normal,” as I had previously thought while watching them pass me in Wellesley.
Fast forward again, and it’s 4:30am on Sunday. I was up and ready to go. I got to the race around 7:15, drank my UCAN and had a serving of ENERGYbits and RECOVERYbits about a half hour prior to the race.
The start line was off in the woods, up a steep incline. There was a quarry right nearby, so we all joked that the first obstacle was to navigate out of the quarry. Anything for a laugh before you’re about to run 26.2 (or 27) miles apparently.
The first 10 miles were relatively uneventful. It was a beautiful 2.5 lap (flat) loop around a reservoir. I was pushing the pace a little bit, and averaged sub 7:30 for the first 10 miles. I went out too fast in my half marathon as well (over a minute faster than planned) but was able to get away with it for the “shorter” distance. I couldn’t get myself to slow down, again though.
I had my second serving of bits and next swig of UCAN as I was exiting the reservoir at 10 miles (bits every 10 miles and UCAN at 10 and 17 was my plan, with PocketFuel as needed)
At mile 11 I had my first electrolyte packet, which was in a white packet. I bit off the top, and as I was running through a water stop, they said it looked like I was lighting up a cigarette from the distance. That little bit of laughter didn’t last long, unfortunately. Almost immediately after passing mile 11, my right hip decided it didn’t want to keep moving.
I normally run on the sidewalk or the right side of the road (oops) and this race was mostly on the left side, with a huge camber in the street. My hip was not too pleased as a result, and every step for the next 5 miles caused extreme pain. I took in a few extra bits, hoping they’d help the inflammation, and by mile 16 or 17 the pain had gone away.
I saw my dad for the first time at mile 19, and it was just the boost I needed. I had been running at a pretty quick pace, because I honestly thought I was in the group of the top 4 runners. I was cruising along between 7:05 and 7:45 between 18-21, which felt like my best miles of the whole race. I had just had a combo of bits and UCAN (I was late with the bits due to water) and was feeling strong.
I was neck in neck with what I thought were the #1 and #2 runners, as I passed #4 (of my group) around mile 20. I trailed #2 for a bit, then passed her while motoring along and let #1 set the pace for a while. Rookie mistakes all over, especially for my first race. I was this far in, and still had plenty of energy left so I figured I’d push a little harder than planned.
Well, the combination of an average pace of 7:39 through 20 miles plus what was coming ahead caused me to slow down quite a bit. I went from feeling strong and in control, to running straight into a headwind, uphill. For the remaining 2.5 miles.
As I got closer to mile 25, I had to slow down. It was still almost entirely uphill, and I was forced to do a bit of run/walking. I would run for a minute and then walk for 5 seconds or so, and then pick it up again. Remember the “run for those that can’t” advice from Mark? That’s what helped me pick it up when I wanted to keep walking. Just keep moving.
I made my final turn onto the home stretch, and I saw my friend Lauren. She could not have been in a better place. I was ready to walk that last hill (for my November Project friends, think second half of the front side of the hill) but Lauren motivated me to keep pushing, as I called out “shit, this marathon thing is hard” to her. With her encouragement, I set off for the final .8 miles of climbing to the finish. I hit the 26.2 mark at the bottom of the hill at 3:26, and it took me nearly 10 minutes to cross the finish line, which was .8 miles ahead.
I’ll always remember that last stretch. It was only a half mile or so after I made the turn, but it felt like forever. There were people cheering me on, and that gave me the strength to push on. When I got to the finish line, I threw my arms up in the air and smiled. Then a volunteer told me I wasn’t there yet – I had to run another 10 feet to cross the official line. My dad and grandparents were waiting there for me, but I don’t remember a single thing they said. I was overwhelmed with what I had just accomplished, plus a throbbing pain in my thigh that seemed to vanish as quickly as it appeared.
As soon as I finished, I found out that the woman I thought was the #1 runner, was actually the #1 runner… of the second group. I think she finished #11 overall, which put me somewhere around 15th. Looking back on it, I’m glad I thought I was in the top 4 – it was motivation to keep a solid pace.
Big shout out to Steven Stam my running coach for helping me cross that finish line. Those 400m x 12 repeats gave me the mental strength when I needed it most. Hit @stamgator on Twitter if you’re looking to kick ass in your next race. I cut 22 minutes off my half time, and got down to a 19:12 5k (down from 23 minutes) while working with Steven.
Without November Project, I wouldn’t have felt nearly as strong on the hills and more importantly, the desire to #raceeverything.
The #PoweredByBits and running community on Twitter overall was incredibly supportive and I was blown away by the support.
After the race, which finished near my college, I went to my favorite burrito place and got a giant grilled shrimp burrito bowl. Extra guac, of course.
The marathon was humbling. I crushed it, and it kicked my ass, all at the same time.
ENERGYbits and UCAN 30 minutes prior.
ENERGYbits every 5 miles (ended up with 5, 11, 17, 20, 23)
VegaSport electrolyte mix at 12.
UCAN at mile 10 and 17 (ended up with 10 and 17)
No dips in energy, didn’t bonk/crash at all. Not hungry during race, and not ravenous (rungry) afterwards either. Only issue was that I didn’t take in enough electrolytes and had salt streaks as a result. I’m writing this over 24 hours later, and still don’t have much muscle soreness at all in my legs. Hips are a different story – will definitely incorporate more strength training into next training cycle.
Would go with same combination in the future, but add more electrolytes.
Tweet me (or email) for more information about trying either product. I work for ENERGYbits, but have no affiliation with UCAN besides being a customer.
This Sunday at 7:30am I will set out on one of the most physically challenging activities I’ve ever attempted. After training 6 days a week for the last 5 months, I will be attempting my first marathon.
I recently spoke with Mark Kleanthous, an elite triathlete who has completed over 460 triathlons. Mark just ran a 6-day, 156-mile ultra marathon through the Sahara Desert (equivalent of 6 marathons) so I asked him how he gets through tough training and races. He said, “think of those that can’t run or do sport… run for them.”
While I may not be running 156 miles like Mark just did, Sunday morning is going to be hard. As tough as it will feel, it pales in comparison to the struggle that cancer patients deal with every day. After about four hours of running, the challenging event will be over and I’ll be able to rest. For those with cancer, it’s not that easy. When I’m laboring through those last couple of miles, I’ll be thinking of those going through a much harder struggle. Those for whom it seems like a marathon simply to walk around the hospital during treatment.
That’s why I’m riding the Pan Mass Challenge again this summer. Our goal is $40 million and my personal goal is $5000 to help fight cancer. The miles are the easy part; it’s the fundraising and support of people dealing with cancer that is why I’m doing this in the first place. That’s why we ride 192 miles that first weekend of August. So that no brother, mother, sister, father, friend, whoever, has to hear those awful words that their loved one has cancer.
You can help me reach my goal. Our goal. A world without cancer. Every penny counts, and every mile gets us closer to a world with more birthdays.
In honor of the marathon, would you consider making a $26.2 donation?
Click here to join in on the fight against cancer! http://www2.pmc.org/profile/jl0364
Thanks for your support!