In 2018, I had the goal of running 500 miles. I’ve been running on and off since 2012, and have done a few 5k races in that time. For a variety of reasons, I wanted to get a little more serious about running. I ended up achieving my total mile goal, and over the course of the year I ran the BAA 10k as well as the BAA Half Marathon. My time for the latter was 1:42:12, which I was very happy with given that I had never run a half marathon before.
I really like the half marathon. It’s challenging enough that it requires training and feels like an accomplishment, but it doesn’t come with the same health risks of a full marathon (like short-term acute kidney damage). I’ve signed up for the Boston Run to Remember race, with the goal of breaking 100 minutes. It’s now “training season,” so I’ll be posting some aspects of my training here. This isn’t going to be a definitive guide to preparing, but it will at least be a place for me to share some things that I’ve learned about running.
Routes around Cambridge/Boston
I’ve always been a map nerd, so I love creating running routes. I use the free tool from On The Go Map, which uses open-source map data. Since I live near Inman Square, most of my routes start and end there, but there are some that start and end from the gym at MIT where I sometimes work out.
5-miler, from MIT
When I go to the gym and need a 5-mile run, this is a great route that goes around the Charles River basin, and around Boston Common and the Public Gardens.
6-miler, from MIT
Nice run with a few hills on Cambridge Street, but mostly on the beautiful flat path that goes along the Charles River. Great views of the Boston skyline as well a nice pass through Harvard Yard.
Extends the 7 mile run to cross over to Boston, going down the Esplanade and then crossing back.
Adding a loop down Charles Street and through the Public Gardens.
Including a foray into Back Bay along the Commonwealth Ave Mall to the statue of William Lloyd Garrison. I also found a small way to extend the path in Cambridgeport so that it goes away from the road and closer to the river.
Here is a table showing my schedule for running. I only gave myself 11 weeks to train this time; 12 probably would have been better but I fractured my elbow and was then traveling. This schedule is meant to be mostly a guideline, as there’s always a chance that somethingg will come up that requires me to delay, shorten, or even skip a run. The main idea is to run 4 times a week, include some kind of speed training on one of those days, have one “long run” over the weekend, and do at least two 13.1-mile runs. The “speed training” consists of running 4 1-mile intervals at a fast pace. These are marked as “4x1” in the table below. Otherwise, numbers indicate how long a run on that day should be.
|11||4||4||3, easy||13.1 (Race Day!)|
I’m generally a fan of “minimalist” running shoes that don’t have a lot of drop between the back and front of the foot. For a while I had a pair of Merrells (I think the Trail Glove), but before my most recent training cycle I thought I’d get some new shoes. I ended up buying a pair of Altra Escalantes after trying them on in a store, and have not regretted that decision at all. For one thing, the toe box is larger than most other shoes, and the shoe material over the toes is flexible enough to allow the toes to spread out. This gives a nice “natural” feel when running. Additionally, although they are still a minimalist shoe, there is some cushioning in the sole that feels really nice. They aren’t necessarily good all-purpose athletic shoes, but for running they feel incredible.
I don’t really have a “training diet,” as I try to eat healthy all the time. I’m fairly flexible when it comes to what I eat, and as a grad student I’m always on the lookout for free food, but I usually stick to the following when I’m feeding myself. Maybe the most idiosyncratic thing about what I eat is the fact that I’d what you might call a humaneitarian. This means I try to only eat meat if I know that it comes from an animal that was humanely raised, ideally in an environmentally sustainable way. As a result, I pay more for meat but tend to eat less of it.
I eat pretty much the same breakfast every day. Occasionally I’ll do something crazy like buy a bunch of bagels to eat for the week, but my “standard fare” is below. For breakfast, I like to get a decent amount of protein and fat.
- Fage Plain 5% Greek Yogurt
- Frozen mixed berries
- Ground flax
- Mixed raw or dry-roasted nuts (cashews, almonds, walnuts, Brazil nuts, pecans, etc)
- Dried coconut flakes
- A cup of coffee brewed from freshly-ground, high-quality beans.
This depends on the week, as I do like to have at least a little variety in what I eat. I typically don’t eat meat for lunch anymore, mainly for environmental reasons. The general formula is as follows:
- Some kind of pulse (lentils, beans, etc) or a high-protein grain (bulgur wheat, quinoa, etc)
- Various roasted or sauteed vegetables (onions, peppers, squash, brussel sprouts, eggplant, tomato, etc)
- Some cheese and carrots. This is something I used to have as a kid and have internalized as a Good Thing To Have For Lunch.
- Chips. I love the Terra blue potato chips that are served on JetBlue planes and can get big bags of them at my supermarket. But I’ll take whatever. I tend towards less-processed chips, avoiding things that have sugar snuck into them.
I also like to have a bit of dark chocolate with an espresso during the afternoon. The darker the better.
Much like with breakfast, I don’t like to think too much about what I’m having for dinner, beyond picking different types of meat.
- Meat, sustainably and ethically sourced (local, grass-fed, free-range, and all that good stuff)
- An egg or two if I’ve exercised that day.
- Salad greens, with your choice of dressing (simple olive oil and vinegar is ideal). Maybe with olives?
- Corn chips with melted cheese on them (i.e. very basic nachos). Can be substituted with some other carb/cheese combo.
- Dessert: an apple with peanut butter.
Tech + gadgets
Later in the training cycle, I bought a Garmin Forerunner 35 to better keep track of my pace during runs. I also connected it to Strava to post my running routes.
I had a great time training for and running this race. I did two full-length training runs. On the second, I hit my timing goal of running 13.1 miles in less than 100 minutes (I did it in 98 minutes). My right foot was pretty sore for a few days after this, so I took it easy on running for the remaining 2 weeks before the official race. And on race day, I decided to go a little slower than I could have gone to run with my brother. We finished together with a time just over 1:50. Race day itself was beautiful, with sunny weather and temperatures that weren’t too high (at least in the early hours of the morning when we were running).