Wednesday, June 26, 2013

So, you want to run a half marathon

"Ah just felt like runnin."
-- Forrest Gump

Why run a half marathon?  I have recently been asking myself that same question.  It was only last year that I took the couch-to-5k challenge offered by EARC.  After too many years from high school track, with sporadic running since, I decided that the time was right.  Through gentle encouragement from friends and support from my family, I finished the program and I finished my first 5k.  What was surprising, is that I didn’t want to stop running.  I searched out other 5ks.  Learned the “fun” of running during the winter months in Ebensburg.  As the warmer weather returned, the running desire returned.  Then my eye caught a glimpse of an advertisement for a half marathon.  Can I do that? “Yes, you can” said a friend.  How? Set a goal and find a training program.

As an university professor and a developmental psychologist, much of my professional time is spent researching and reading.  One article that caught my attention was written by Michael Putman, an assistant professor of elementary education from Ball State University.  Not only is Michael a university professor but he is also a marathon runner.  In this article, he makes an association between the skills of running a marathon and teaching students to enjoy reading.  Both of these activities he asserts rest on the idea of self-efficacy.  This concept was defined by the psychologist Albert Bandura in 1986.  The essence is our personal belief in our abilities.  Bandura makes an important distinction is between our beliefs and our actually abilities.  Our sense of self-efficacy can be either beneficial and detrimental.  If my inner voice is positive, based on past experiences and successes, then I am likely to continue with an activity, even when it becomes challenging.  However, if the voice is negatively oriented, perhaps through obstacles and perceived failures, that can create a negative self-efficacy (i.e., I can’t do that).

Putman suggests some steps to strengthen your sense of self-efficacy.

  1. Develop short-and long-term goals.   While my goal is to run a half-marathon, it would be foolhardy to just jump into that event.  My short-term goals should lead me gentle to my desired long-term goal, while providing me with measured opportunities to evaluate my progress.  Achievement of short-term goals also allows for memories of successes to be stored and incorporated into my sense of self.  For me, I am following the Hal Higdon training program.  This 12 week program allows for a gradually increasing routine towards your goal (a half-marathon), very similar to the couch to 5k program.
  2. Choices.  We rarely like it when someone tells us to do something.  Although there are times when we must tolerate these demands, it is always better if we believe that we have choices.  While the Higdon’s program sets daily and weekly goals for you to achieve, remember to make them your goals.  The half marathon advertisement that caught my eye, is going to run in Key West, Florida.  That is a win-win situation: first half marathon experience in the tropics in mid-October and a stronger motivator to keep up the training program during the heat and humidity of the summer months.  A quick check of the airline prices called for a modification of plans.  New target race, the Baltimore Running Festival.  Baltimore, Maryland is a city that holds many pleasant memories for me, including meeting my wife. While distance running is not her cup of tea, she plans to run the 5k; a weekend getaway.
  3. Feedback.  While I was one of those runners who would plop the earbuds in and play motivational music on my runs, in preparation for the half-marathon where earbuds are strongly discouraged, I have gone natural.  I must admit, it is a different experience.  As I am running the Ghost Town Trail I am more aware of my surroundings and perhaps more importantly, I am more aware of my body and my inner voice.  Higdon’s training program is widely available as an app for smartphones.  His voice replaced my inner voice.  I listened to him measure my distance and time.  In between, my music allowed me to lose myself.  In the absence of this distraction, I have found myself listening to my breathing and my muscles.  While I still use a gps watch to measure my distance and time.  I rely more on that inner voice, my personal cheerleader, who encourages me.  I establish short-term goals on my runs, so that I can feel the thrill of success, which feeds into my sense of self-efficacy.
  4. Finishing.  As with my first 5k, my goal was simple: just finish.  I look back and see where I have come from and use my successes to build a running language.  Not simply words, but stories and beliefs that I have incorporated into my sense of self.  I am a runner, expressed in my own unique fashion.

As I mentioned in the beginning, I am a novice to running.  I do not speak as an expert, rather as a fellow runner.  While my weekdays are filled with shorter runs, Saturdays are my long runs.  This past week I ran 5 miles on the Ghost Town Trail, with sight on that end goal of a half marathon in Baltimore, MD in October.  I welcome anyone who would like to join me on my Saturday morning runs at 7:00 am starting at the Ghost Town Trail.  Once again, this coming Saturday, will be a 5 mile run.

Stephen Baker is a novice runner and member of the EARC.  You can follow him on twitter @shb1991 or Facebook.

Track Night! Wednesday, June 26

Track night resumes this evening at 6:15 at the CCHS track! There's only one problem--as of right now, "scattered thunderstorms" are in the forecast. If it's just raining, plan on us being there. But if there is thunder and lightening, then consider avoiding the wide open space with metal all around it.

Assuming the weather works to our favor, the new runners will be doing day 2/week 5 of the C25K program. You will notice that this week's workouts change slightly from day to day. Each day inches closer to more continuous running. So for tonight, after our warmup, we will be doing 8 minutes of jogging, 5 minutes of walking, and 8 minutes of jogging.

Our advanced runners will be doing 2-3 miles of quality, to be determined at the track.  The group has not done hill repeats yet, but that might be in order. The hill next to Admiral Peary Vo-Tech is the perfect length, roughly 400 meters. Depending on your preference, you can climb the hill either on the road or on grass. At the top of the hill, there is a walking path that leads you directly to the bottom of the hill. We find that 6-8 repeats on this hill makes for an excellent workout.

Mixing hills into a training routine is a good choice for any runner. They help your form, build strength, and give you a mental edge--after you've finished a hard hill session, the "burn" at the end of any race doesn't seem so foreign. Plus, a recent study showed that hill repeats of any sort help improve 5k times.
The story goes that Kenyan running legend Henry Rono was once espousing the value of hill workouts when a listener pressed for details: How long of a hill? How steep of a hill? How fast to run up? "The hill," Rono responded. "Any hill." That's more or less the conclusion a new study out of New Zealand has reached. It assigned 20 well-trained runners to do one of five types of uphill workouts for six weeks. At the beginning and end of the study, the runners did a 5-K time trial. Regardless of which of the types of hill workouts they'd done during the preceding six weeks, their time on the second 5-K time trial was about 2% faster. For a 20:00 5-K runner, an improvement of 2% would mean running 19:36.

Read the rest of the article here.  And happy trails!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Ultra Runners and Zombies

Courtesy of my Tallahassee friend Michael LaBossiere--philosopher, runner, and now stick figure cartoonist... 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Introducing the EARC Blog!

Well, it's about time...

As more and more people become interested in running in the Ebensburg area, it has become more and more necessary for us to find ways to get the word out. So, we humbly offer to you the EARC blog.

Here, we hope to post about everything from training runs and local races, to running advice and random thoughts. So please bookmark this page, or sign up for e-mail updates.

For this first post, we thought that it might be helpful to address some frequently asked questions. So off we go...

Wearing this shirt makes you run faster
What is the Ebensburg Area Running Club?

We are a club for runners, walkers, and joggers in the Ebensburg area. We hope that our club can become a magnate of sorts, drawing in anyone interested in the sport, whether they are casual joggers or experienced racers.

What does EARC do?  

Our most notable project has been the Ebensburg Turkey Trot. Now entering its fourth year, this 5k has grown beyond any of our expectations. When we first imagined the race, we had hoped to attract 100 runners. Much to our surprise, nearly 300 participated in the first Turkey Trot, despite miserable weather. The race has grown every year since, and we have made every effort to make it a memorable experience. From live music along the course, to Vale Wood ice cream as prizes, the Turkey Trot has quickly become a Thanksgiving tradition in Ebensburg.

The success of this race indicated that Ebensburg could be a vibrant running community. To help build this community some more, we started a Beginning Runners Group.  In the summer of 2012, we used the popular Couch to 5k Program to prepare people for the Ebensburg Homecoming 5k.  Much like the Turkey Trot, response to the Beginning Running Group exceeded our expectations. The 2013 turnout has been no different. Currently, we have over 70 new runners in the group, and we are in our fifth week of training. Each one of them has been an inspiration to us.  We look forward to seeing them cross the finish line.
Track Night: It's not a workout. It's an experience.

The Beginning Running Group meets on Wednesdays, at 6:15pm at the Central Cambria High School track. At this same time/place, we also have a training group for more experienced runners. These folks do a track workout that ranges anywhere from 2-3 miles of quality. So a typical workout might include 8-12 400-meter repeats, with :60-:75 rest. It must be noted that interval work is not just for elite runners.  EVERYONE can benefit from some raising the intensity level. Plus, track night is a great social event!

How do I join EARC?

The "EARC pose"=hand on hip
We are a "club," but only in a loose sense. We don't have an annual fee, nor much of a hierarchy of officers. "Joining" EARC, then, is quite simple... come out to our events. Join us at the track, and bring a friend. Run or help with the Turkey Trot.

Or if you're feeling REALLY ambitious, help us do something new. Everything that we do now is the result of someone taking the initiative to bring an idea to life. So let us know if you have ideas for a training group, local race, destination race, novelty run, etc. At the very least, we'll help you get the word out.

I think we can stop here with the FAQs, but if you have any more questions, please post in the comments or find us on Facebook or Twitter. You can also send us an e-mail.

Happy trails!