Tag Archives: Training

Back of the Pack Motivation

I tried something different for a 5K race this past weekend. I was supposed to run the Shell Yeah challenge as part of the Crawlin’ Crab weekend here in Hampton, VA. The challenge consisted of a 5K race on Saturday and a Half Marathon on Sunday.

It was decided that I should run the 5K on Saturday as a shakeout run.  I have been dealing with some pretty severe leg and hip issues that have put a serious dent in my training block. I had actually only run one time in the past two weeks.


The other consideration was how was I going to run my race on Sunday. How was I going to place myself in the corrals — I was scheduled to be in Corral 1 for both races. This placement was problematic for me because I have a tendency to go out strong and then sag in the middle of the race.

I had to find a way to govern myself and not let my competitive nature run away with me. So on Saturday, I decided to line up at the back of the race. There were four corrals, and I was in the back of Corral 4. I then proceeded to run the race at a much slower pace than I normally do. This worked really well because at the back of the pack, there are many walkers and newer runners.

This meant that as I ran, I passed people the whole time. I may not have been going at the same pace as normal, but it felt fast. This was very nice psychologically. I felt really motivated. In the end, I wound up passing around 1500 people.

This idea of running from the back of the field came to me from an article I read about Meb Keflezighi doing the same thing at the Peachtree 10 Miler – Keflezighi runs down pack at AJC Peachtree. While I could never be like Meb, I got a chance to feel like I was.

Give this a try. It is a ton of fun and gives a whole new feel to a race. However, make sure that the race is chip-timed.

Crawl, Walk, Run

I was listening to the Diz Runs With podcast Episode 16 with Sarah Doughtry, and she was explaining how she started running.

Like myself, Sarah lost quite a lot of weight and was still heavy when she started to run. Since it was extremely tough for her, she started out by “running to the choruses.”


What a great strategy! I did something similar when I started. But I didn’t have it broken down so specifically.

I was listening to a really great song and felt to energized to only walk, so I ran a bit, walked again and then ran some more.

Over time, my walk intervals became shorter than my run intervals and eventually I dropped them. I did make it a point to continue with a good half mile or more walking at the end of runs to cool down though. That allowed me to more effectively recover.

It is very dangerous to go out, run hard and then just sit down. When you are just starting out, your body has to adjust. Running is a very intense, high impact activity. If you don’t condition yourself, you are headed for injury. And I have had a few.

In the army, they teach the principle of crawl, walk, run. You don’t become an expert overnight.

By using a method like Sarah’s running on the choruses, someone new can build up safely.

One of the keys to being a successful runner is to stay injury-free. If you hurt yourself, you won’t be able to improve. You will be stuck and never improve. Build up gradually, be safe and you will be more likely to enjoy running pain free.

Once you have built yourself up to running full time in a workout, please check out my post Training with Purpose to help extend your gains.

Perceived Exertion, Talk Tests, and Running Naked

Whenever thinking about heart rate training or training by pace, it is important to consider training by perceived exertion and running naked. “Running Naked” — with no equipment — and “streaking” — running at least one mile a day every day for extended periods of time — are terms being used lately as headlines for getting snickers, but there is an actual point.

As runners, we tend to be a little obsessive compulsive and data driven. Using perceived exertion can put us back in touch with ourselves and our workouts without sacrificing the value. In fact, many would argue that it is extremely healthy. After all, when you are in a race, a GPS watch will not dial a win in for you. You have to go with how you feel and the circumstances. Plus, consider what Tim (Lucho) Wagoneer of the excellent Endurance Planet Ask the Coaches and Ask the Ultrarunner Podcasts often says, “the winner of the race isn’t determined by the lowest heart rate.”

There comes a time that it is down to you and the runners next to you. How do you feel, how much further do you have, and can you do it?

This is where perceived exertion in training comes in. This is something that elite runners and Kenyans practice (yes, they seem to be synonymous). Perceived exertion is exercising at a level that feels like a certain intensity measured by the Borg RPE Scale. One easy method to check a run intensity is what as known as the “Talk Test.”

If you are able to have a conversation, for that matter can quote extended passages (in my case babble incessantly) for many paragraphs without any heavy breathing, you are likely in Zone 1, or a recovery zone.

If you are able to speak in full clear sentences and are not experiencing too much strain, you are likely in Zone 2. This is an ideal base building zone where you will likely run the majority of your mileage.

If you are only able to speak in short phrases of a few words at a time, you are likely in Zone 3. This is your marathon or tempo pace. You will be working in this zone a lot more as you get closer to a marathon or maybe a 50K (if that is your goal race, otherwise, you might want to avoid the zone).

If you are only able to get a couple words out at a time and it is stressful, that is Zone 4. This is above your threshold and used for speed work.

If you can’t even imagine talking at all, you are in Zone 5 or VO2 Max. Don’t talk, just run. You have very limited energy. This is interval territory.

A good source to learn a bit more about perceived exertion is in PRS Fit – Train with the Coaches Episode 68: Effort Based Training..The run/walk method put out by Coach Jeff Kline.