Are you new to running?  Maybe you want to start, or maybe you started running during the pandemic and you are one of the millions of new “Pandemic Runners” and you want to learn more about your new passion.  First, welcome to the wonderful world of running!  Here’s your quick guide to the basics of running.

Choosing Running ShoesRunning Gear

Running is generally an inexpensive sport – you can run in just about any clothes that are comfortable.  I even remember seeing a runner almost every day in the winter running in jeans and a long-sleeved button-down shirt!  Once you get farther into your running journey, you may want to find some specialized running shorts, socks, jackets, etc.  But, starting out, feel free to wear what you have – any comfortable shorts or leggings, t-shirt and socks.

But, the one piece of gear you absolutely cannot skimp on is your running shoes.  It is so important to get properly fitted shoes and shoes that are right for your running gait and body structure.  So, go to your nearest specialty running store for advice.  You may pay a little more than buying online, but it is so worth it to reduce the chance of injury and blisters.  Many running stores have a treadmill where the shoe fitter will watch you run for a bit to examine your running gait, and others will examine wear patters on your existing shoes to find potential issues that can be alleviated with the proper running shoes.  Then, they will measure your feet and get the size right – don’t be surprised if they recommend a size that is a little different than your regular casual shoes.  Proper shoes means fewer injuries and fewer injuries means a happy runner!

The Training Plan – Take it Slowly

Ok, you have your shoes, now get out there and run!  Well – maybe not… First, if you have any health issues, make sure you talk to your doctor before starting a new training plan.  Once you are ready to start training, don’t go full steam ahead and run a 5km run.  Start slooooowly.  If you over-do it, you may injure yourself, or you may just be sore and tired and that will defeat your momentum and motivation.  As you start running, there will be days where your muscles are stiff and your legs are sore – that’s normal.  But, be aware of any sharp pains or aches that just don’t go away.  You may need to back off or go and see a doctor or physical therapist.

We recommend finding a “Couch to 5k” plan.  (You may also see it called “C25K.”)  These plans are all over the internet and they will take you from never running to finishing your first 5k.  (By the way – 5 kilometers is just over 3 miles.)  Most of these training plans include a lot of walking at first.  An example of an early “C25K” workout would be something like – warm up by doing a brisk walk for 5 minutes, then alternate jogging for 60 seconds and walking for 90 seconds for a total of 20 minutes.  The workouts gradually progress to more and more running until you are able to run a 5k without stopping.  Yay!

Race in Europe - Running TourThe Race!

The best part of running is the race!  Only 50% of new “Pandemic Runners” plan to participate in a race in the coming year.  Running is a great sport for your overall health, and running a race isn’t required, but if you have never participated in a race, you are missing out.

My 5 Favorite Things about Racing:

  1. Community – You will see runners young and old, fast and slow all gathering together to do what we love.  All so different, but we have running in common — it’s a beautiful sight!
  2. Adrenaline – There’s something about lining up at the starting line that get’s that adrenaline pumping.  It’s definitely not that quiet solo run you are used to.
  3. Competition – Do you have a competitive streak?  A race is a great way to test yourself – having other runners around always seems to get me to run faster than I thought I could.
  4. Cheering – Goosebumps!  The cheering crowds, the high-fives, live bands on the course – you need to experience it!
  5. Celebration – When we’re done, we celebrate!  Yes, our lungs and legs may still be burning, but we all celebrate our accomplishments together at the post-race party.

Welcome!

All of us in the Running Community are so glad to have you join us!  Get out there for a run (with some walking, of course) and enjoy it!

We are so happy to see in-person racing is starting back up around the U.S.  And, now we are starting to get the details on Europe opening back up to U.S. tourists.  Here’s what we know, and some tips for you to get ready to join in the fun.

In-Person Racing

Marathon in France - Running TourWe are already seeing in-person races being rolled out around the U.S.  Europe is a little behind the U.S. in this regard, but in-person events have started up there as well.

What changes can we expect in the post-Covid world?  Limited number of participants has been the most common change so far.  So, make sure you register for your race early — or, join a tour with us and get guaranteed entry!

Other common race features for Covid-19 safety:

  • Mask requirements at the start and finish
  • Limited pre- and post-race gatherings
  • Staggered start times
  • Pre-packaged food, or no food offered
  • Single-use water bottles, or “bring-your-own water” requirement

While the events may look a little different, we are excited to finally be gathering together and racing again!

Europe Opening

Run In Paris, FranceYipee!

The European Union “will accept, unconditionally, all those who are vaccinated with vaccines that are approved by EMA [the European Medicines Agency],” Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, told the New York Times. The three vaccines that have been approved for use in the United States—Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson—have all been approved for use in Europe.

It’s great to hear that all of Europe will be opening soon, but von der Leyen didn’t give much information on when or exactly how that would be happening.

Luckily, France was more concrete with their plans.  French President Emmanuel Macron released a detailed road map for how the country plans to emerge from its current lockdown and begin relaxing restrictions. The plan includes allowing foreign tourists with a “health pass” to visit France again starting June 9.  Greece is already starting a phased opening, and Italy and Spain are not far behind.

What’s a Vaccine Passport?

Vaccine Passport EuropeThe truth is, we don’t yet know.  France’s plan seemed to indicate that either proof of a vaccine or a negative Covid-19 test would suffice to gain entry.  But, there is talk about a more strict requirement of proof of vaccine only.

A digital “vaccine passport” has been speculated by many in the travel and tourism industry, but actual details are not yet known.  The E.U. is working on “Digital Green Certificates,” to prove vaccination status, recent negative tests, or recovery from the disease.  We U.S. travelers may need to submit a proof of vaccine document to the country we plan to visit.  That country would then issue us a digital certificate to meet the E.U. requirements.  But, at this point it’s too early to know exactly what the process will entail.

We do know that Europe is eager for tourists, so I wouldn’t expect the process to be a difficult one.

Make Your Reservations

Race in Europe - Running TourA travel boom is coming, so be ready to make your plans!

A Travel Technology Association survey found that over 80% of Americans plan to travel this year.  And, AirBnB CEO Brian Chesky said, “we think there’s going to be a travel rebound coming that’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen.”  We at Finish Line Travel agree – everyone wants to get out and run a race and TRAVEL!

What can you do to be ready to travel once the borders open?

  1. Keep an eye on flights – there have been some good deals popping up, so be ready to snatch that flight when the price is right.
  2. Pay attention to cancelation policies – most airlines are offering free changes and free cancelations.  But, don’t expect those terms to last past the New Year.
  3. Book early to guarantee your spot.  Our Finish Line Travel tours are small – so, they will fill up!  Book early to guarantee your spot, but also know that your tour can be canceled or changed without hassle.
  4. Go run, travel & enjoy!

Are you a lone wolf or do you like to be part of a pack?  We’re digging into why you might want to do either and what it can do for your running.

Running Alone TrailBenefits of Running Alone

Your “Race,” Your Pace

You all have those days as part of your workouts or training when you need to up your tempo just as much as there are days when you should just run easy – let yourself recover and keep your risk of injuries at bay.  Those easy days are one of the best arguments for running alone.  When you run with a group, you will try to keep up (always competing are ya?) – and, if the pace isn’t just right, then you may risk injury, or at least you’re going to tire yourself out.  So, on those easier days, think about skipping the group run, and head out on your own, do your thing, listen to your body and take it easy.  Run and smell the flowers.

Meditation & Peace

Do you ever just need some “me time?”  (Right here!)  Running alone is a perfect time for that!  Skip the earbuds and just head out for a run with your thoughts.  Or zen out with your favorites tunes.  Either way, sometimes you need that alone time to work through a business issue, reflect on relationships, or maybe it’s time to think about nothing and clear your mind.  We are fans of getting out for a run on a trail or in a park and just listening to what’s around us or under us – our feet padding the ground.  Ahhhh.

Time to Focus

Are you in the middle of training for a big race?  Maybe it’s time to get serious and really focus on your workout.  Group runs can help to make workouts more bearable (we’ll talk about that below), but sometimes the chit-chat isn’t what you need – just run alone focus on your workout or your form & breathing.  You may get the most out of your run without any distractions.

Benefits of Running with a Group

Running Group WorkoutTalking Pace

Coaches always say that when running your easy pace, you should be able to carry on a conversation.  Long runs are such an important part of marathon and half marathon training — if you are lucky enough to have a running group with people of your same ability, a long run with friends is a great way to make sure you don’t run too fast.  Just keep running and talking!  The time and the miles will go by quickly and you know that you aren’t running too fast if you can still carry on the conversation.

Some of my fondest memories are going for runs with my college cross country teammates.  There was always lots of joking and telling stories while the miles passed below our feet.

Just be sure that you aren’t over-doing it. If you are trying to keep up with runners faster than you and running too fast, you will risk injury or you may just be too tired to follow your workout routine the rest of the week.  And in that case, what’s the point?

Safety

Do you run very early in the morning or at night?  Running with a group or a partner is a great way to feel safer.  It’s a sad reality that we runners (especially women runners) need to think about safety and harassment.  Be safe, plus get all the other benefits of running with a group!

Run Faster Together

On a dark morning, the bed is so comfy… If you have a group waiting for you, that accountability is sometimes just what you need to force you out of bed and into the running shoes.  And, once you are out there, it really does feel so good!  You won’t regret leaving your warm bed (most of the time).

There’s also something about running with others that lets us push just a little bit harder.  If I’m running alone, it’s too easy to just skip that last “rep” on the intervals.  So, running with others is great for those hard workouts.  There’s the encouragement from your cheering friends and a little friendly competition to get that extra push.

Reach Your Goals

There’s a time and place for group runs and for running alone.  Plan ahead, check in with yourself and see what suits you (mentally and training wise) and each type of run can help you reach your marathon or half marathon goals!

Brussels Belgium Marathon

Last week (How to Run Faster – Part 1 – The Plan) I mentioned that when I hear runners asking how to get faster, the first thing I always hear is that they should add intervals and speed work.  Intervals are important, but they shouldn’t be the first tool you reach for when trying to improve your running pace.

Prague MarathonA 2016 study of marathon runners showed that runners who ran intervals completed their marathon 3 minutes – 5 minutes faster than those runners who did not incorporate intervals into their training.  However, when comparing runners who ran an average of 30 miles per week during training vs. runners who ran 50 miles per week, the higher mileage runners saw an improvement of 25 minutes – 32 minutes in their marathon time!  I believe that for the vast majority of runners, running more miles should be #1 on the training plan if you want to run faster.

So, what is happening in our bodies when we run more?  Your heart gets stronger and is able to deliver oxygen-rich blood to your legs faster.  You gain muscular endurance as your mitochondria (the “powerhouse” of your cells) increase in size and quantity.  The capillaries that deliver blood to your muscles grow.  And, your muscles and tendons learn to be more efficient at the running motion – so, every step is a little easier than it was before.

 

I always use the analogy of a car when talking about running more mileage versus intervals.  Starting to train with intervals and speedwork is like putting high-octane fuel in your car — it’s going to help you get the most speed out of what you have.  But, running more miles consistently is like putting a bigger engine in the car.  You will be able to go farther, faster.  And, when you are ready to add that high-octane fuel, you will get even more out of it.

 

The Magic of Miles

If I have been injured, or maybe over in Europe for an extended period researching new races and running tours, my weekly mileage drops a lot.  So, when I’m ready to start increasing again, I find that once I hit about 60 – 65 miles in week, magic happens.  Even though I’m increasing my miles, and my legs are tired, I will all of a sudden start running faster, my heart rate will drop for the same run I did the week before.  And, my Garmin Recovery Advisor will show that I need 10 – 15 hours to recover from my runs, rather than the 15 – 20 hours that it would recommend in the preceding weeks.

Now, I’ve always been a higher-mileage runner, and a 7-day/week runner, so don’t take “60 miles” as gospel.  Each of us is different and you need to listen to your body.  (It’s better to run less and be healthy, rather than get injured!)  But, I encourage you to increase your mileage slowly and see if you can find that same magic.

How To Safely Increase Mileage

Lot’s of people talk about the 10% Rule for increasing mileage.  The rule says that you should add no more than 10% more miles each week.  This is a decent rule-of-thumb, but don’t it’s not written in stone.  If you are running 4 times per week for a total of 20 miles (5 miles each run), then you may be able to add another day of running to your week without too much risk of injury.  That would be about a 20% increase.  On the other hand, if you are already running 40 – 50 miles per week, then 10% may be too aggressive.  In order to stay injury-free, you may need to limit yourself to a 5% increase.

The other plan I like when increasing miles is to step up for 3 weeks, and then step down for 1 week to let your body recover.  So, you may start at 40 miles, and in the following you bump up the miles to 43.  Then, 47 miles, and then you have a recover week where you drop it back to 42 miles.  And, then you start the process again, but the starting point is a couple miles higher than the previous month.

If that is too aggressive for you (some body’s can handle increasing mileage easier than other), then I would suggest stepping up the mileage 5% and keeping it at the new level for 2 – 4 weeks to let your body adapt before increasing again.  The most important thing is to not get injured – so, back off if you feel an injury coming on.

 

 

While I said that increasing mileage is more important than intervals, that doesn’t mean that intervals aren’t important.  Intervals are another tool to help you run faster in your next marathon or half marathon, and I’ll talk about interval training next week.  So, stay tuned and get out there and run!

I’m well on my way to my coaching certification (read about my journey to coaching here).  There is so much information to absorb and to compare & contrast to my 40+ years of running and racing experience.

Running CalendarAs I’ve focused more on the technical and physiological aspects of running, I keep noticing runners in Facebook groups asking about how to get FASTER.

That’s what we all want, right?  Keep improving and moving forward – get a Boston Qualifier, break 2 hours in a half marathon, get that PR (Personal Record).  But, most of the advice I see immediately suggests intervals and speed work.

There are so many ways to run faster, and intervals and speed work have their place (and I’ll be talking about them in a couple of weeks), but the first thing you need to is to do pause and PLAN.

The plan is the most important part of running faster.  Legendary Coach Jack Daniels says that you must always be able to answer the question, “What is the purpose of this workout?”  If you don’t have a schedule of how far & how fast you are running, then you very likely don’t have a purpose for each run.

Without a plan, two things can happen — and, they are the complete opposites of each other!

  1. You can flounder.  Without seeing that 3 miles written on the calendar for today, it’s so easy to just hit snooze and sleep in.  “I will run tomorrow,” you might say to yourself.  Well, tomorrow it will be cold and dark, and that extra hour sleep will continue to entice you.
  2. You can over-do it.  Last fall I was in pretty good shape and I was running a lot.  I was building up the mileage week after week.  I was enjoying seeing those big numbers on Strava and I kept increasing the mileage until I injured my hamstring.  If I would have planned out my autumn running schedule there is no way that I would have written down those big mileage weeks.  It would have been a better thought-out strategy of increasing my mileage for a couple of weeks, and then resting and recovering for a week before I started building again. (We’ll look at the magic of building up your mileage next week!)

Where should you get your running plan?  The answer to that question depends on your goals, how far away your goal race is, your experience, and many other factors.  There are tons of great coaches out there to help guide you in your plan to run faster.  (Message me and I can help, or I can point you to a another good coach.)  There are also lots of good books – I’m reading a bunch of them right now, and I will be reviewing them here soon.  But, some classics are “Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide” by Hal Higdon, “Hanson’s Marathon Method,” “Advanced Marathoning” by Pete Pfitzinger, and many others.  Also, check out your local running stores and running clubs for training groups and training plans.

But, you can even create your own plan!  I think it’s important to have a plan, even when you aren’t “training” for a goal race.  You might be 8 or 10 months from your goal race, so you are not yet in the thick of the training, or maybe you are recovering from an injury and not back in shape yet.  But, having a plan — even if that plan is all easy running — will help you stay in shape, stay focused and stay injury-free.

You also need to remember a plan isn’t set in stone.  Evaluate how you are feeling each day.  Are you inching up on an injury?  Did you have a terrible night’s sleep?  Is there added stress at home or work?  It’s ok to move a workout to different day, or skip it entirely.  The only caveat is to be sure about the reasons.  There have been many workouts when I just wanted to skip it during the warm-up, but once I forced myself to get started it, ended up being a great workout.  (Always remember the famous runner mantra – “The first mile is a liar!”)

Faster Marathon RunningOver the next couple of weeks I will be talking more about how to run faster.  I will be discussing the magic of mileage, threshold training, intervals, speed-work and more.  So, stay tuned and get out there and run!

I have a been a runner since just about the time I could walk.  My dad was an NCAA Div. I track and cross country coach (and a pretty darn good one), so I grew up around some of the best runners and coaches in the world.  I’ve always been a student of running – I’m always reading and researching training plans and coaching methods.  I even remember taking the final exam for my dad’s university-level Track & Field course when I was about 10 years old!

But, now I want to take that knowledge to the next level and get my running coach certification.  I am going to help our tour guests achieve their goals, and then I want to celebrate their success with them on our running tours to Europe!

I’m currently studying the legendary coach Jack Daniels, learning about “Critical Velocity Training” from Tom “Tinman” Schwartz, and absorbing everything I can about running from books and videos, old and new.

I’ll be documenting what I’ve learned here on the blog so you can take advantage of it and improve your running.

It’s almost Christmas, but if you are like me, you still have some shopping to do.  We’re sharing our favorite gifts for runners below, so you can find a great running gift and then get back to enjoying the holiday season!

Goodr Sunglasses

Goodr SunglassesGoodr sunglasses are amazing!  Made by runners, for runners – they don’t slip and don’t bounce, and only $25.  Plus they have so many fun colors and styles (if you aren’t that adventurous, they have some “tame” ones, too.)   Be sure to check out the names of each style – hilarious!  🤣

 

 

 


Running Socks – Wrightsock

Everyone has their favorite running sock, but mine is Wrightsock.  It has two layers so the sock rubs against the sock, and not your toes.  So, no more blisters!  They are also great in the winter – the double layers hold in the warmth.  They offer tons of styles and colors, so, check them out!

 


Finish Line Travel Running Tour

Antwerp 10m and MarathonObviously, the best running gift ever! 😉 It’s almost the new year and we will be racing and traveling again soon – so, reserve a spot and make 2021 something special with an unforgettable running tour to Europe.

 


Road ID

We love Road ID – especially on our running tours.  Stay safe by having your contact information easily accessible on your wrist in case of an accident while you run.

 


Run Fast, Eat Slow

Tasty and healthy recipes by 4-time Olympian Shalane Flanagan and chef Elyse Kopecky.  My wife’s favorite are the “Superhero Muffins” and I love the hearty (and spicy) Minestrone Soup.

And, also check out their new cookbook – Run Fast, Cook Fast, Eat Slow – Quick Fix Recipes for Hangry Athletes.


Honey Stinger

Honey Stinger is our favorite brand of running fuel.  I love that they are all organic – healthy fuel!  My favorite chews are the Cherry Blossom flavor, and for those really long runs, I love the caffeinated strawberry kiwi energy gels.

 

According to Strava, January 19th is when most people give up their New Year’s Resolution, and quit running.  You don’t have to be one of those people!  Here are a couple of ideas to keep that running goal in your sights.

Sign Up for a Race

The best way to motivate yourself to keep going is signing up for a race.  It’s on the calendar, and it’s not moving – so, you better get moving!  And, what better goal race than a race in Europe.  Check out our tour calendar and message us for details.

If you like beer, then the Great Breweries 25km & Marathon is for you.  Love history?  Then check out the D-Day Half Marathon & Marathon in Normandy, France.  Looking for beautiful scenery?  How about the Swiss City Marathon & Half Marathon?

Find a Running Partner

Have a friend to run with makes sticking to your goal much easier.  So, ask a buddy to head out with you this weekend.  Or, if you don’t have a regular running buddy, ask around at the gym, or head to your local running store and check out their weekly group runs.  If all else fails, message us and maybe we can hook you up with a running partner.

Cut Yourself Some Slack

January can be cold, icy, snowy and just plain unpleasant for a lot of us in the U.S.  And, the treadmill alternative can be boring and depressing, so just cut yourself some slack for the next couple of weeks.  If you don’t run a lot this week, that’s ok!  Just make sure that it’s just a temporary “pause” of your running goal, and don’t completely give up!

We know you can do it, so just keep putting one foot in front of the other and run!

We love the café scene in Paris. Sitting at a sidewalk café sipping a rosé and maybe enjoying a “croque” while watching the world go by – it’s relaxing and exciting at the same time.

But, there seems to be a million cafés to choose from. How do you know you are finding a good one, and not a tourist trap? Here are 3 quick tips:

1. Get away from the busy tourist spots. Sometimes we want to sit with a front-and-center view of the Eiffel Tower. But, just know that you are over-paying for that glass of wine, and the atmosphere & service may not be top-notch.

So, when you find yourself on a busy square surrounded by tourist sights, walk around the corner, or just down the street. Or, better yet, find a quiet alley nearby. You will be sitting with the locals, rather than other tourists. The service will probably be better and prices will not be inflated.

2. Look for a busy spot. This may seem to go against tip #1, but if you can get away from the busy tourist area, and find a busy café that means that you found a good spot. If the locals are flocking there, you want to be there, too. It could be that the café has great happy hour specials, or it means the food, drinks & service are great. Either way, it’s a win for you!

Now, it can be a little uncomfortable — you will probably feel like you are sitting on the lap of a Parisian. But, it will be worth the effort.

Paris Cafe3. Sit outside, facing out. Many cafés have cute interiors, but when in Paris, sit outside.  If it’s cool, don your scarf and sit by a heater.  If it’s warm, find a table under the awning, or just bask in the French sunshine!  Outside is the place to be!

Our favorite cafés have all the chairs facing out to the street. Sometimes, you just can’t find that setup, but when you do, grab a spot! People-watching is a favorite Parisian pastime, so a table with both seats facing out means that everyone get’s to take part. Sit back and watch the action of Paris.

Please note: European (and, Parisian) restaurant etiquette and procedures are a little different than how it works in the U.S.  Keep an eye out in the next week for our post on tips to make you seem like a local.

Have you tasted Swiss wine? If you answered “yes” then you must have visited Switzerland! Over 98% of the wine produced in Switzerland is consumed in Switzerland. The Swiss know how good it is, and they keep almost all of it to themselves.

Your tour to the Swiss City Marathon will give you an opportunity to try it! After your scenic ride through the Alps from Lucerne to Lausanne (on the shores of Lake Geneva) you’ll spend a day touring vineyards and wineries with our private guide.

Switzerland produces some varieties you are probably familiar with, like Pinot Noir, but their most plentiful white is a relatively unknown grape – Chasselas. It is a dry white wine which pairs perfectly with, you guessed it, raclette and fondue. (You will be hearing all about raclette and our private, post-race raclette dinner in another post.)

We are very excited to share this delicious little secret with you on your next running tour to Switzerland.