2014 is my year of running. I claimed it as MY sport and diligently worked hard on improving my game. I shelled out a hefty chunk of change for gear, training, and various registrations for races near and far with distances ranging from a mile to 50 miles and absolutely have no regrets on those expenses. They were well worth it and each race pushed me far beyond the limits of my comfort level - enough that I started placing within my age group in several races. "What? Me?! Woo hoo!" This was my verbatim return text to friends letting me know that I left before the award ceremony and that I now had a medal waiting for me at our local Fleet Feet store. Thanks Jacy and Melissa! Those were the best texts ever! I know the improvements in my race times are due to running with the thundering herd - a name that was overheard on one of our group runs. I love it! So catchy!
This is the year I gave up running all by my lonesome and became part of a "thundering herd". You know who they are. The thundering herd roams/runs the streets of Savannah before the sun rises. They're all adorned in blinking lights and reflective bright neon shirts. We run in packs of all differing paces and reunite at water stops along the route, providing motivation to one another as we crank out the miles, or we reunite after a training run over Starbucks coffee. It really is a beautiful thing.
For training, some like running solo and some prefer groups. Everyone has his/her own preference and that's okay. Ultimately, you run a race for yourself and for no one else. There is no right or wrong. When I first started running, I preferred doing it solo. There was no pressure involved and I could go as slow or as fast as I wanted. Once I got over the fear and intimidation of running with a group, I found it's the only way I like to run. I like the herds that push me out of my comfort zone that is slyly unbeknownst to me. I know I'm pushing it based on my breathing. I wear my Garmin and only look at the distance. I wait until the run is over to check out my time and pace and I am always pleasantly surprised at how hard I just pushed it. Running with an organized training group provides you with workouts including speed work sessions, tempo runs, hill repeats, and long runs. It also provides you with different pace groups - for days you feel strong, you can join the faster crowd and on days where your body is telling you to take it easy, there's always another group that you can fall into. You improve with each training run - your endurance, your stability, your speed. If you aren't running with a group or a friend, I suggest you try it.
For me, running with a group provides accountability. I have my running partner that I consistently run with and I know he's counting on me to be there for the training runs and vice versa. If there isn't a conflict on the calendar, sleeping in is not an option. We both run with our fast-paced coaches who provide us that added boost of speed. I love it.
If you want to improve on your run times, I find group running also boosts confidence. I challenge you to step out of your comfort zone and crank out some miles with a group that's fairly faster than you. What's the worst that can happen? They leave you in their dust? There's always another group behind that you can fall into or better yet - find a friend that runs your similar pace that will accept the challenge with you. If you can't keep up, you still have someone to run with. If you can keep up, it's quite rewarding. It may not be fun in the beginning, but the end result will leave you smiling once you see your improvements. That approach worked out well for me. My running bud, Larry, and I constantly encourage each other on our runs. We know we're not the fastest, but we're trying to keep up with the ones that are and because of that, there's been so much progress in our running ability and run times. I'm always surprised at what I can do. My attitude of "there's no way I can do that" becomes "I can't believe I just did that!"
I recently started coaching Fleet Feet's Bridge Training program. Some of the participants are fairly new to running. I love it when they get excited about reaching distance PRs. It's a huge accomplishment for them - as any PR is huge for runners. Our morning discussions always revolve around the benefits of running with a group. During our runs, we talk about our goals and I give them my two cents on the benefits of running with a group - which to me are improving run/race times and self-esteem/confidence, as well as fostering some long lasting friendships along the way.
How do you prefer to run? If you've run with a group, have you seen improvements?
If you're interested in running with a group and are local to the Savannah area, I suggest you link up with Fleet Feet CREW, Savannah Striders, Moms Run This Town, and Georgia Game Changers. If you want to see improvements, get out of your comfort zone. You'll be surprised at what you're accomplishing are actual feats you thought were once impossible
Wanna train for a good cause? Sign up with Team In Training! Check out more details on Team In Training on my website - ceciliaontherun.com.
Hope to see you out there within the thundering herd! Run strong!
I was asked to speak at last night's Savannah Striders' meeting regarding my first marathon experience and my involvement with Team In Training, and also what I've gotten out of being a Strider (amongst other local running clubs too). I was completely flabbergasted that I'd been asked to speak in the first place. Me? Speak to a room full of advanced runners who by far have accomplished so much more? But then I thought about my self-doubt and thought about other members who may share those same insecurities and thus my "message" was born - with the help of this brilliant inspirational quote delivered by Julie Isphording (see top picture). I joked and said this was taking me back to elementary school - SHOW AND TELL!!
Here it is for those that missed the Striders' meeting:
I'm Cecilia Arango and I've been a Strider since December 2012. I joined shortly after completing my 2nd half marathon - both being the Rock n' Roll here in Savannah. After I completed that 2nd half, I was fascinated with running and was looking for ways to improve. I also loved seeing the friendships, the chatter, the energy, and the camaraderie on race day and I so wanted to be a part of this community...and those are the reasons why I decided to join the Striders.
Before I get into my marathon experience and my involvement with Team In Training (TNT), as well as the motivation I got out of being a Strider, I want to preface it all with a quote I found online the other day. It popped up in one of my Facebook feeds. I am a sucker for a good quote! This one is by Julie Isphording - an Olympic marathon runner who ran the first women's Olympic marathon in 1984. It goes like this,
"Running has given me the courage to start, the determination to finish, and the childlike spirit to have fun along the way. Run often and run long, but never outrun your joy of running!"
I LOVE THIS! It embodies how I feel about this sport because you don't have to "WIN" to win. After that 2nd half, I started to discover my joy of running. All of us have our own joys. Some find joy in the value of the experience. Some find it therapeutic. Some find it in the achievement and victory of breaking personal records, the excitement of the competition. Some find joy in traveling experiences. But, I can say that most of us all find joy in being part of a community where we're all striving for that one goal - to cross that finish line!
I strongly believe that in order to find your joy, you must find your confidence. Before I joined the Striders, I was intimidated by running with a group. Would I be too slow? Would I be left behind? Would people be annoyed at me? Would they make fun of how slow I am? These thoughts were terrifying! I had always run by myself so that I wouldn't feel pressured to "keep up", but I found that I wasn't doing myself any favors because I wasn't really pushing myself to do better. Since joining the Striders, as well as Moms Run This Town, TNT, and Crew Mile Markers, it has allowed me to let go of these insecurities and given me the confidence in my running, as well as the determination of I CAN and I WILL. With this newfound confidence and this joy I found in running, I took the plunge and signed up for Team In Training to run my very first marathon - Nike Women's Marathon San Francisco. Go big or go home, right?
It's funny because Jennie Brewster (TNT Coordinator) and I have been Ambassadors for the Savannah Chamber of Commerce for quite some years now. At every monthly meeting, Jennie would announce the TNT schedule and discuss the program and every time I would want to jump out of my seat and scream, "Oooh! I wanna do it!", but that self-doubt and not having the confidence won over - UNTIL LAST YEAR!!
I signed up, met with Jennie, and jumped into it with both feet. Most people are more intimidated by the fundraising portion than they are about training for a half, full, or triathlon. What I tell everyone is - you'd be amazed at the people who will give just by simply asking. I made it personal. My grandfather passed away from leukemia some years back and we fundraised for our Hometown Hero, a cute and bubbly 4th grader - Callie Lee - who also happens to be my TNT Mentors' niece. This really meant a great deal to me! I started my campaign on Facebook and sent direct mail letters. Doing that alone, I surpassed my minimum goal, was elevated to Rock Star status (raising over $1,000 over goal), and was Georgia's Top Fundraiser for this event!
I had custom bids created for my grandfather and Callie and also a grace wristband that I wore dedicating each mile and .2 to honor survivors, victims, and those that were an inspiration to me. It was also part of my fundraising campaign - donate and I would dedicate a mile to honor your loved one. The names came pouring in and it meant so much to me.
TNT also provides Group Training Sessions on Saturday mornings. This is when your participation is key. This is where you build your confidence and develop strong friendships. We had a group of 7 that participated in the Nike event. We had a blast!
So MARATHON!!! This was a big milestone for me! I've always said my first marathon would be a destination run. This event was HUGE - TNT was celebrating its 25th anniversary, Nike Women's Marathon San Fran was celebrating it's 10th anniversary, and did I mention this WAS MY FIRST MARATHON!?! With this being my first, I didn't have any expectations. My goals were to 1) have fun; 2) enjoy the experience; and 3) finish, but finish strong! I did however have a game plan of running the half marathon distance and then switched to intervals of 25 minutes running and 5 minutes walking. It worked out great for me and I never hit that dreaded wall!
I had friends and family at home rooting me on so I carried my iPhone in my spibelt and documented my entire journey - sending texts to update my mileage. I snapped pictures of all the treacherous hills I was about to trek up and the inspirational signs along the course (there was a sign that said, "I run for my family" which I sent to my mom who was hospitalized just days before I left for the trip). I even recorded myself screaming like a banshee running through the finish - completely ignoring my TNT family who cheered me on at the top of their lungs! Ha! I still laugh about it today.
The support along the course is unreal. There were folks decked out in purple cheering you on, runners in their TNT shirts representing the different cities and states, TNT coaches at every corner making sure you're taken care of, and the best part were the survivors, with tears in their eyes, thanking you. It was really emotional! You must do it and see it to believe it! Sign up for TNT!! My slogan for it is: Feel good. Do good!
I DID IT!! I JUST RAN 26.2 MILES!!! I will never forget this day. These memories will last forever and I have made some awesome friends. It's February and we've already completed 3 races together and are looking forward to adding more to our calendars!
Since joining Striders and participating with TNT, last year alone I completed 5 half marathons, my first marathon, my first double pump (thank goodness for those Sunday Strider bridge runs), and my first 6 hour ultra in which I completed 30 miles. I NEVER THOUGHT I COULD DO THAT! This year, I've already signed up for 7 half marathons; determined to complete a 50K; and will be running my 2nd marathon in Austin, TX on Sunday, Feb. 16. I AM HAVING A BLAST!
It's funny because I sent Tharon Lambert (President of the Striders) a text the other day excited that I had brought in another new member and he asked, "How do you do it?" It's simple. I just tell them how much fun I'm having and the benefits of gaining true confidence.
I may not be the fastest, I may not win any awards, and I may not run the longest distance, but what I do have - summed up beautifully by Julie Isphording - is the courage to start, the determination to keep trying, and the childlike spirit of having fun. I hope to never outrun my joy in running and I hope you don't either.
If you look up the idiom "on-the-run", it means to constantly travel or moving from place to place. Welcome to my life! I get asked the question - "Do you ever sleep?" at least once a week. The truth is - I am always on the run. My weeks are filled with work, training runs, dropping kids off to school and extra curricular activities, traveling out-of-town for races and soccer games, theatre rehearsals, civic duties - you name it. In addition to being an avid runner, I'm a happily married wife, mother of two, an actress, singer, a Fleet Feet CREW coach, and work full time as the Marketing Manager for Thomas & Hutton Engineering Co. I love being on the run!