Waiting for the Spring Runoff

By Don Otis –

He was born in China the son of missionaries. In 1924, he competed in the Olympics, a Scottish runner who famously said, “God made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.” Eric Liddell’s inspirational story was told in the 1981 film, Chariots of Fire.

The truth is that we aren’t all fast like Liddell was. Some of us are slow. We struggle and suffer through workouts and would rather do almost anything but run. There are, however, others who persevere through workouts in the winter and by spring start thinking about entering local races. It is a good way to remain motivated and do something with your hard work on the treadmill.

If you have never entered a race, there are many distances–5K (3.1 miles), 10K (6.2), Half Marathon (13.1 miles), and Marathon are the most popular. There are trail runs, hill climbs, charity events, and everything in between. In my home town in Colorado we have a Blossom Festival 5K and 5 mile run on trails along the Arkansas River.

I want to encourage you to set some goals for this spring and enter a local race. There are many good reasons: having something to focus your efforts toward, the encouragement that comes from joining other people in a healthy activity, or discovering how you measure up to others in your age category. These are just a few benefits beside the obvious health payback. So, how do you get started? Here are a few tips.

1. Check with your local Parks & Recreation Department to find out if they sponsor any events in your community. Then, get registered. This is the first step–commitment.
2. Depending on the length of event you select (don’t sign up for a marathon if you’ve never done a race before) prepare yourself accordingly. If you want to run a 10K, be prepared to do slow training runs of between 6-8 miles.
3. Weekly runs should include one longer run, one tempo run (shorter distance at the pace you want to run on race day), some limited speed work (shorter intervals).
4. Cross train on off days or rest. Plan on running 4-5 days a week. You should do your long run and tempo run after a light day. You can swim or cycle on off days but don’t overdo these days. You want to feel fresh on days when your workouts are toughest.
5. On race day, go out slow and finish strong. The best runners understand that going out too fast will cost them dearly at the end of the race. We call these negative splits where the first half of a race is slightly slower than the second half. This requires enormous discipline on race day because you are rested and ready to go.
6. A few weeks before you race, go easy on weight-training. Rest more in the last week or two. Good runners know that going into a race fresh is part of the balance between a good time and a frustrating experience.
7. Don’t over-train. This means that you bump up your mileage or speed slowly. Your body must adapt to any new workload. If you want to avoid injury, don’t suddenly go from running 15 miles a week to trying 25 or 30.

In more than thirty years I have done more than 100 races of all kinds. I remember when my boys were small, they’d ask, “Dad, why do you go to these races because you never win!” It was one of those teachable moments. I told them, “I run to do the best I can.”

Comment below and let me know how your journey goes!

About Don S. Otis

Don S. Otis is a personal trainer, the author of five books, including Staying Fit after 40. He stays active by running, climbing, mountain biking, and lifting weights. Don is the founder of Veritas Communications, a Christian publicity and marketing agency based in Canon City, CO.

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