Advice for Long Distance Runners (the ones in the back…like me)

July 14th, 2010

I’ve had people ask me over the last few years for running tips. Sure, I’m an overweight, slow runner. However, I have learned some valuable information that I would like to share. The extremely dedicated runner (you know who you are…at the front of the race…in the seeded position….) probably won’t need to read this. That’s okay. This goes out to the rest of us. The runners that are at the back of the pack with the strollers, and are running just for the hell of it (and to keep the Love Handles away).

SHOES:
1) You need to find out your foot shape. This determines the TYPE of sole you will need in a running shoe. There are several ways to do this. The easiest is to go online. Try:
http://www.runnersworld.com/article/0,7120,s6-240-319-326-7152-0,00.html

You can also go to a local running store. We have Runtex here in Texas. I’m not sure if you have something like that where you are. They will test your foot in their store, but they will also expect you to spend $200+ on shoes. Beware of that. You probably don’t need $200 shoes.

Once you have determined your foot type, you will need to get shoes that compliment your foot. For example,
I roll my foot to the outside. I am more prone to shin/knee/hip injuries because of it. My shoes have a thick
outside sole to compensate for how my foot lands. I also have to replace my shoes more often. When I was training
for the WDW Goofy races, I went through THREE pair of shoes in 6 months. Yup, THREE pair @ $70/pair. Cha-ching!

For long distance running, I suggest getting 1-1.5 sizes LARGER than you normally wear. Your feet will swell up when you are running long distance. Larger shoes give your foot more room (i.e. less blisters, injury, etc.) I buy New Balance shoes.
I also buy men’s (if you wear a 9 in women’s, you would wear a 7 in men’s). That is just my preference. I like lots of toe room in my running shoes. I wear a 9, so I buy a woman’s 10.5 or a men’s 8.5.

If you find a brand you like, GREAT! It is a trial and error sort of thing. As I said, I like New Balance. I buy mine online with www.joesnewbalanceoutlet.com You can find shoes online, at your local sporting store, Ebay, etc. If you find a style that you adore, go online and buy another pair or go back to where you originally bought them. Unless on sale, you will usually find a better price for your shoes online. NOTE: You will need to replace your shoes at 300-400 miles OR when you are starting to notice shin/knee/hip pain. DO NOT (seriously, DON’T!) skimp here. Buy the shoes when you need them. Don’t buy the $20 shoes on sale either. Get the ones that are $50+. Your body will thank you.
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SOCKS:
I buy Thurlos. They are my absolute favorite because they “breathe” and they have lots of cushioning. Same thing applies
with running shoes & socks. Find what you like. Buy several pair. You will be surprised at how much good socks cost. I think my
Thurlos were something like $9-$11 a pair. Yikes!
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CHAFFING:
If you experience body chaffing, invest in a sport stick (Body Glide, etc.). Many folks use Vaseline too. I find that it stains
my running clothes. I had to resort to using sport tape with my last marathon season because I was rubbing myself to bleeding.
If you start to notice chaffing (i.e. waistband, armpits, breast area, etc.) buy a
sport stick.
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CLOTHING:
WEAR SOMETHING COMFORTABLE THAT BREATHES! Did I say that loud enough for you? I prefer wearing running tights, lycra long/tight shorts, etc. The Lord blessed (cursed?) me with less-than-model-perfect thighs. I prefer clothing that won’t rub me raw. Believe me, nothing hurts more than being on a long run and having your legs chafe. It sucks. Believe me, I’ve been there.
For my tops, I prefer breathable/wicking shirts. Yeah, you can wear a regular old t-shirt, but when the temperatures get up there, you will be more comfortable in a shirt that doesn’t hold moisture in.

MEN: Seriously consider wearing compression shorts for long runs. I know that many men like wearing simple running shorts. They may have an inner lining, but will that support you for 10, 15, or 20 miles?

WOMEN: Get a GOOD sports bra. I’m really top heavy for a woman runner (36DD). I wear Moving Comfort Maia or Helena running bras. I’ve tried Nike, Saucony, and several “just squish ’em down” bras. It doesn’t matter if you are large or small chested, find a COMFORTABLE & SUPPORTIVE bra to fit you. The two of you will be putting down lots of miles together. Make sure that the bra you wear isn’t too tight or too loose. Either one can rub you to bleeding. THAT is something every woman runner wants to avoid.

When it is really hot (like yesterday @5pm being 104 heat index here in Austin, TX), I wear a kerchief and wicking/dryfit hat. I get both WET before I go run. If the weather is going to be extremely hot, I may even get my shirt wet first too.

In cold weather, I wear gloves and a light, running jacket. After a mile, I usually put my gloves into my fanny pack and tie my jacket
around me. Winter temps don’t usually go below 27 degrees here. I tend to get warm after the first mile of running. You may be different.
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HAT:
Wear one. Period. It doesn’t matter if it is overcast. Wear one. Your eyes/skin will thank you.
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IDENTIFICATION (i.e. Just in Case something goes wrong):

Wear identification! It doesn’t matter if you are going around the block, or for a 20 miler, wear identification. One of my favorite recommendations is Road I.D. http://www.roadid.com/Common/default.aspx

You don’t have to go with this company, though. In fact, you can make your own tag and carry it with you. Make sure it says: (1) Your name (2) Your date of birth (3) Your blood type (4) Two emergency contact numbers (5) Medications you may be allergic to

I have been running for about 25 years now. I have fallen several times, and gotten a REALLY BAD case of shin splints on my runs. You NEED identification just in case. I read a story where a runner was side-swiped, injured, and couldn’t speak to the Paramedics. Her identification helped save her life. Don’t be without it!

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SUNSCREEN:
*See Hat (well, not your eyes, but you get the point ;D LOL!)
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FOOD:
When I go on a really long run (I consider over 6 miles long), I eat a light carbohydrate. Usually this is a banana, Clif bar, or 1 cup of orange juice. I also take an Ibuprofen or two. I find that taking these little pills helps me not be as sore afterwards.

When I come home from my run, I shower and then eat a HEALTHY meal. Healthy I mean: oatmeal, whole wheat toast w/sugar free jam, fruit, egg-whites, 100% juice, fat free yogurt, etc. Research is showing that if you eat a protein within 30min of a strenuous workout, you cut your recovery time in HALF. Eat protein!

While training, you want to eat healthy. Many folks will push food on you with the “You are running so much, you can eat anything” approach. This is NOT true. There are many runners out there that think they can just eat and eat. That’s a great way to pack on the extra pounds. You still need to watch your calorie intake. When I am in training, I usually consume between 1700-1900 calories a day. That is when I am running AT LEAST 25 miles a week with strength training. Running less than that? Keep your calories around 1400-1500. Men need to eat around 2000 calories a day when they are not training. They will need to consume 200-500 more if they are.

When I train, I try to eat: brown rice, whole grain pastas/cereals/breads, fat free yogurt, milk, and cheese. FRESH fruits & vegetables (I also love steamed, broiled, or grilled veggies). natural Peanut Butter, almonds & walnuts. Egg whites, fish, chicken, turkey, and lean cuts of beef (I don’t eat much beef because it is heavier on the system). Stay away from processed/diet meals as they are full of sodium. Try to
make your meals as much as possible. Limit alcohol and caffeine too.

Foods to avoid before a long run: sugar free gum (seriously…this will hit your system and you will need to rush to the porta potty at the worst possible time), heavy spices or salsa, lots of leafy greens (same thing as gum).
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WATER:
Buy a sports bottle, and wear it for anything over 3 miles. When I am doing light training, I have a fanny pack that fits a 16oz bottle beautifully. When I go over 6 mile runs, I wear my Camelbak Hydrobak. This is just my personal preference. You don’t have to run with water strapped to your side. I get very thirsty on long runs, and love my Camelbak.

Just a note: If you decide to put something into your water, consider Powerade or Gatorade G, or a GOOD electrolyte drink. Long distance runners need something more than water. They need to replace salts that they are sweating away. Also, these drinks have sugar which also help with energy levels.

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ENERGY WHILE RUNNING:
There are TONS of sports foods out there. I prefer gel when I run over 8 miles. I really like the Hammer Gel Chocolate. I also like Clif Blox or Jelly Belly electrolyte beans. They work great too. This is sort of a personal preference thing. You have to remember that you will probably need something, but want to make sure that it is something that is easy for you to consume.
You will have a dry mouth (mostly) while running. You don’t want to be eating a granola bar or crackers. Many during running foods contain sugar and sodium. Sugar for energy and sodium to replace what your body is sweating. Make sure that your during run food (I use 1 item on a 13 miler and 2-3 on a marathon) fits into that category.

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DOING SOME SERIOUS TRAINING FOR AN EVENT:

I know that there are TONS of half/full marathon training programs out there. It is all a personal preference in what you choose. My two favorites are Hal Higdon and Jeff Galloway. Both of these men are legends in long distance running. Jeff’s program encourages you to take short walk breaks throughout your long distance run. Hal’s program is also wonderful. Both men have run a bazillion (no, really, it’s true) marathons. Hal even did 7 marathons in 7 months for his 70th birthday for charity.

If you are training for your first half or full marathon (and have no idea how to go about it), I HIGHLY recommend the book: The Non-Runner’s Marathon Trainer by David Whitsett, Forrest Dolgener and Tanjala Kole. This book got me through my first half marathon, and I’ve never stopped wanting to run since then.

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CARE OF YOUR BODY AFTER A RUN:
Take a nice, warm shower or bath. Many runners take an ice bath after a marathon (or a very long run). I know…it sounds insane. However, I did this for my last 3 halves & 2 marathons. It does wonders. Sure, it feels HORRIBLE when you are in the tub, but you won’t be as sore the next day.

The day after your longest run, make sure to take a rest day. Your muscle tissues need to repair themselves. A great thing to do on this day is yoga or light stretching. Don’t run more than 5 days a week. I have also found that doing strength training (especially CORE MUSCLE building) works wonders for my running time. As you get tired, you will tend to lean forward. Strengthening your tummy & back will help you run upright longer. Using a stability ball, hand weights, or bands are great aids for these exercises. I recently bought a weight vest too. I put it on when I am doing chores around the house. When I bend down to pick up socks, for example, I am using my tummy/back muscles. My vest is 10lbs. It doesn’t take much weight to get your muscles working hard. I found mine on Ebay for something like $20 + shipping.

The thing with most of these items is trial and error. You want to make sure that you are wearing comfortable shoes & clothing. As your race draws nearer, there will be other preparations to make.

Find a running schedule that is designed for first/intermediate time runners (Hal Higdon or Jeff Galloway are my favorites). If you miss a run day, don’t freak. Try to do something for exercise that day. You could speed walk, put in an exercise DVD, jump rope, do squats/lunges & crunches, etc. Just can’t fit in any exercise one day? It happens to us all. Continue with your schedule the next day.

One more thing, running isn’t always about how fast you get to the end. When I am training, I run 10 min. miles. During a race, I run 9 min. miles (sometimes less, but that is usually my pace). That’s slow for most dedicated runners. You know what? WHO CARES?! Getting to the finish line is what matters. You can walk, jog, skip, sprint, or crawl to the end. The journey is half the fun. YOU WILL DO GREAT!!!

About Shan – She is the slow, chubby mom in the back of every race, and she is still smiling. She’s completed 3 marathons, 5 half marathons down (including the Walt Disney World 2009 Goofy Races), and countless 5k & 10K races. Her goal is to do 5 marathons and 20 half marathons total by age 50 (8 years away). If she can run, so can YOU!

5 Responses to “Advice for Long Distance Runners (the ones in the back…like me)”

  1. Marshall Marrone Says:

    Just found your site while browsing on yahoo for some slimming information. Really interesting posts and comments, looks like a lively community. Thanks for the input.

  2. Freeman Mattox Says:

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  3. michelle Says:

    I have been doing 3 miles and want to do more and increase spead. I am very short, 4ft 11 in. so what time should I shoot for in a 5k then 8 mile run?

    Thank you for the info, it was really helpful.

  4. Judyfrance Says:

    This is super interesting!! I found you from SP. I am a novice runner (I started about 3 months ago) and just realised that the pain I have in my armpits is chaffing. I thought it was deoderant irritation or from shaving. So many other wonderful tips. Thank you so much for spending the time and energy to put this together.

  5. Shan Says:

    FANTASTIC! I’m so glad that I could help you. Run Strong! -Shan

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