Having been a runner for over four decades, I know my fastest days are behind me. Which means I have to get creative if I want a PR - like run a new distance or record “age group PR’s”. So, when an old running friend challenged me to run a half marathon, I set my goal to beat my 40-49 age group time of 2:02:48 set back in 2015.
Because my training pace has slowed considerably since 2015, I knew I needed help if I was going to conquer the hilly Cincinnati Flying Pig. I decided to sign-up for a unique half marathon training program that Fleet Feet was offering in partnership with CrossFit Hartford that blended running with cross-training on the premise that getting stronger and improving our overall fitness would make us better runners.
The training program was designed by Coach Kevin Doyle who was the strength and conditioning coach at Trinity College before co-founding CrossFit Hartford with Mark Balkun. While he is known as one of the best weightlifting coaches in CT, his wealth of knowledge about all types of training and human physiology enables him to produce results in any type of athlete. In fact, one of the best squash players in the world sought him out to coach his off-court training, and his fitness has soared even more.
There were seven of us in the 15-week program. Even though I had been doing CrossFit for 18 months, the training was out of my comfort zone. I was glad to have the camaraderie of a wonderful group of people. I looked forward to our workouts together, especially our Saturday long run. Sweating is more fun with friends!
The training plan called for two days of endurance training on a rower or assault bike (sometimes Coach Doyle sprinkled in burpees, kettle bell swings or wall sits to spice things up) that improved our aerobic capacity without taxing our bodies like running can do, one day of strength and agility training and two days of running. You read that right; just two days of running.
Our highest mileage week was 17 miles – a 5 & a 12 miler. Even I was a bit skeptical whether we would be prepared to race 13.1 miles. But midway through the program we tested our training and discovered we had more speed and endurance than usual. In fact, all of our training paces kept getting faster and faster. It was fascinating!
As usual, I was super nervous on race morning. I felt good at the start, but things got real around four miles. My heartrate jumped and I started breathing more erratically. That’s when Coach Doyle’s voice popped into my head and reminded me to breathe deliberately and slowly in order to get back into control.
A big part of his training was teaching us to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. I knew that if I could push past the discomfort, I would find my rhythm again just like it happened during so many of our workouts. That worked until I hit the hills. My secret there was channeling my training mate, Lisa, who dances up hills like a mountain goat. I imagined following her up that hill just like we did on our Saturday runs.
Before I knew it, I was at 10 miles. I could certainly hang in there for 3 more miles. In fact, I felt strong and decided to pick-up the pace; finishing the last 5k of the half marathon faster than I’ve run a 5k in the past 5 years! I even had energy to smile at the camera as I sprinted to the finish and pumped my fist when I saw the clock: 1:57:12.
Four and half minutes better than 2015! I was even prouder to find out that I ranked in the 97th percentile for my age group and placed 5th overall in a special "pump-and-run" division which involved bench pressing half our body weight before the race (that's one way to get a PR!).
I 100% attribute my success to Coach Doyle and being part of a training program. Even though I know a lot about running, I learned that having a coach – and others to train with - is invaluable. Good coaches know when to push you – and when to pull you back. They teach you ways to push past the discomfort and find your rhythm – whether that’s to slow down your breathing or sing the Ant Song as our marathon coach, Jeanne Corey, does. They thoughtfully design a training program that will enable you to peak at the right time. They take the guesswork out of training.
To Coach Doyle – and all the coaches who give their heart and soul to our training programs – THANK YOU! Thank you for giving up your weekends and your own runs to make us better. Thank you for believing in us and pushing us to do what we thought was impossible. You run our world!
Information about our summer training programs, including the Old Wethersfield 5k & 10k, Hartford Full and Half Marathon and our CrossFit Crossover programs will be available soon.
To receive an email about the program(s) you are interested in, click here.
SAUCONY RIDE ISO
Molly Huddle's favorite training shoe just got a makeover. The new Saucony Ride ISO is a long run gold medalist because it's soft, bouncy, and flexible.
After testing and insights from Huddle and other runners, this shoe delivers the most energized experience to date. With the groundbreaking debut of FORMFIT, the dynamic 3D cradle will fit and support a wide range of foot shapes meaning the Ride ISO will be a match for more runners than ever before.
“The Ride ISO has a soft, roomy upper and plush cushioning which my feet need when putting in big mileage. That extra cushioning goes a long way to ease the pounding, especially when I am running mostly on hilly asphalt and concrete.”
—Olympian Molly Huddle
To run your best, it's important to stay hydrated - before, during and after your run. Even just being 2% dehydrated has significant effects on performance.
Don't forget to replenish lost electrolytes (like salt) and keep your fluids cold as one research study found that cyclists exercised 12 minutes longer when they inbibed cold beverages (that's why we love our HydroFlask bottles and insulated Nathan handheld).
The Glow Relays will feature a fun twist on traditional relay races to determine the winner (hint: you don’t need to be fast to win – just consistent). We’ll have an inflatable light-up arch, batons that glow, cool prizes and post-race party at Vaughan's Pies & Pints where Saucony will be buying the first round.
Bring a friend – or four. Don’t fret if you’re coming alone, we’ll help place you on a team. Wear Saucony shoes - or borrow a demo pair - to earn bonus points.
FFRC MEET-UPS (FREE):
Wed evenings (6:30pm) &
Sat morning (8:30am)
Join Kevin & the FFRC pacers for a run from the store. Wed runs are 3-5 miles; Sat runs feature two routes of 4-6 miles & 7-10 miles. Join the e-mail list here.
FREE INJURY ASSESSMENT: Saturday's @ 9:30-11am
Injured? Don't know whether you can run/play sports or if you should really see a doctor? Select PT hosts a FREE Injury Assessment Clinic every Saturday. No RSVP necessary.
ST JUDE FUN RUN
Wed, May 23 @ 6:30pm
We're joining together with Country 92.5 & St. Jude Children Research Hospital to host a fun run with tunes provided by 92.5 - followed by socializing, more music and snacks at The Elbow Room. Come run with us and learn how you can be a St. Jude running hero!
FAMILY FITNESS 5k RUN/WALK - Sat, June 2
Join the UHart Magnet School kids for a family-friendly 5k filled with fun. Adults pay $10 and kids just $5. Stick around post run for music, food trucks and games. Details here.
MILES FOR MIRACLES 5k - Sun, June 10
This family-friendly 5k along Hartford’s picturesque riverfront raises funds for CCMC. Post-race massages & refreshments. Details here.
CELEBRATE WEST HARTFORD 5k - Sun, June 10
Our favorite hometown race! Great prizes (like FF gift cards!), post-run eats & community fair with arts & crafts show, great food, entertainment, games and rides Details here.
THE BIG RUN
Wednesday, June 6 @ 6:30pm
The Big Run just got bigger! We're super excited to announce that Bluegrass Jammers will be playing live during our post run party!
We'll also have a fire pit to roast marshmallows for gourmet s'mores, fresh Philadelphia soft pretzels with stone ground mustard, as well as Thomas Hooker beer to wash it down.
Brooks will be on-site with a photo booth and will be awarding the overall winners with a pair of Brooks running shoes! Participants are eligible for cash prizes given out nationwide to not just the fastest, but those who finish in the middle, as well as social media butterflies. Plus, we've got prizes from Auerfarm for age group winners & medals for all!
Join us for a run or walk through some of Auerfarm's beautiful 120 acres (course includes dirt roads and grass fields). There is one big hill, but it affords an incredible view of CT that is well worth the sweat.
All proceeds from this race will be donated to Auerfarm to help keep this working farm a wonderful community resource open to all.
The perfect dish to bring to the Memorial Day picnic. Often heavy with mayonnaise, this version of an egg salad relies on ricotta cheese for its creaminess and gremolata for a nice lemony flavor. Get the recipe here.
WHY YOUR JOURNEY IS JUST AS IMPORTANT AS YOUR GOAL: I could run a thousand miles, pour gallon upon gallon of sweat into this endeavor and, in the end, there would be no guarantee of finding what I was looking for. Read More...
WIN A COMPLETE OUTFIT FROM BROOKS: Get ready for The Big Run with a sweet new outfit from Brooks. Enter to win HERE.