Welcome to the Madness

One of the things that tends to happen when you undertake monumental challenges such as training for a marathon is a phenomenon I like to call "collateral damage." That is, the inadvertent inspiration that you pass on to people in your different social circles. I can't tell you how many people within my six degrees of separation have informed me that they've started walking, working-out, running or even training for a marathon as a direct result of witnessing my journey. I always congratulate them and tell them how awesome I think it is that they've decided to take charge of their health and fitness, etc. After all, that is why I started this blog and share these blog posts along with my training log entries on facebook, and talk about my training and marathon experience every chance I get. 

One of the most incredible things that has happened to me so far on this journey was when my friend James told me at the post-race reception after the Boston Marathon that partly because of me, he was beginning to train for a marathon and was interested in doing triathlons and ultimately Ironman Triathlon's. I was genuinely moved by this as James and his family were my inspiration for running the Boston Marathon as part of the Children's Hospital "Miles for Miracles" Team. Those of you who regularly read my blog know that James and Shanna's daughter Brenya spent most of her life in and out of Children's Hospital and died at 7 months old from a genetic brain malformation right before I found out I was accepted onto the team. I ran in honor of her memory, and she got me through many of my toughest runs and races when I couldn't have finished on my own.

So, of course when he told me of his plans, well, I really can't put my feelings into words. I immediately referred him to Coach Cap and Breakthrough Performance Coaching so I knew he would be in good hands. James got together with Coach Cap the other day and called me to tell me he's now officially a member of Team BPC. He also informed me that he is starting his training and will be running a fall marathon with the intent and purpose of joining me on the "Miles for Miracles" Team and running Boston with me next year! So, of course, when I got home I had to write him and welcome him to the team and all that is the madness of training for and running marathons. Turns-out, the e-mail was full of tips and pointers for getting started. Upon further review I realized that it would be the perfect blog post because it fits right in with my mission for "I'm really not a runner." What follows is and edited version of that letter...

I wanted to write and welcome you to all that is running and training (for marathons and triathlons, etc). I'm sure you will find it is one of the most awesome things to undertake as it is a very personal, emotional, passionate, and at times incredibly painful journey. I could get into all sorts of cliché's and get all sappy and motivational about it, but I'll spare you the melodrama. I know you will be successful because I know you and I know what you're all about and there is nothing that will stop you from achieving your goals. I just can't wait to bear witness to the process! I'm incredibly excited to train with you, to race with you in Boston 2011, and I hope to one day share in the experience of Ironman with you! 

But seeing as you are just getting started, I wanted to relay some information that I hope you will find useful. Most of what I'm about to suggest to you has come from experience and are things that I wish someone would have told me from the outset (and all the links go to pertinent info).

1) Get yourself a good pair of running shoes. Money should be of no object here. Seriously. Go to a "running store" like Marathon Sports where they will watch you walk and get you on a treadmill and make sure you are in the right shoe. At the same time, realize that there is a lot of information out there and the people at the running store don't know everything. If what they're telling you doesn't feel right, or you just don't like the shoe, try another. Personally, I'm very partial to Newton and Brooks, but I've found the brand and type of shoe is as much a matter of personal preference as it is form and functon. You should also go in with a little bit of knowledge of what they are talking about when they mention pronation, over-pronation, supination, etc. Know you own feet! A good resource of information on foot-type, shoes, etc. is http://www.runnersworld.com/channel/0,,s6-240-0-0-0,00.html Pay close attention to the articles and videos under the "Featured Content" heading. There are some great videos on pronation and overpronation, as well as "How to determine your arch type" and other useful information about shoes, foot structure, etc. Also, go to the Newton Running website for excellent videos about proper running form, injury prevention and the like.

2) While you're at it, get yourself several good pair of running socks. I found that I REALLY like the Smartwool brand. They are merino wool, moisture wicking, non-smelly, and literally the most comfortable things I've ever put on my feet. I'm quite partial to the "Adrenaline Multi-Sport Micro" but I've been told they are discontinuing them and replacing them with "pHd Running." Whatever you do, make sure they are tight (I wear the Large with my size 12 foot, even though the packaging suggests the XL) and well padded (go with mid or heavy weight, avoid the ultra light at all cost). I've also heard good things about, but not tried the BalegaWrightsock, and Thorlo (although I plan too, I've actually developed quite the sock fetish). And if you find that you develop between-the-toe blisters, I've heard that the Injinji toe socks work wonders. AVOID "Feetures" socks. They are HORRIBLE. Both pairs that I bought, though comfortable to walk in, seemed to wrap around my foot weird while running and the wool completely wore-off the ball of my foot on my first runs in them...

3) After you go to the running store and give these shoes and socks a test drive, go to runningwarehouse.com and order what you need from there (Marathon Sports, City Sports, etc's prices are outrageous). Let me know when you are ready to buy and I'll show you a discount code to get 15% off of their already discounted prices on everything. Unless you are buying Newton's because their prices are pretty much fixed and don't vary. If you decide to buy Newton's let me know and I'll give you a 15% off coupon for Marathon Sports that I have laying around...

4) Body Glide, and lots of it. It is your friend. I've also heard that Bag Balm is very good and a lot of people use it with the same success. And for your feet use Body Glide Liquified Powder. It's great for preventing blisters, and therefore life saver. Trust me. 

5) Protect your nipples man! They get very chafed and have been known to bleed on some people. It also depends on what type of shirt you are wearing and distance you are running, but, if you're wearing a compression shirt, Body Glide will work for most distances. If you are wearing a moisture-wicking tech shirt that hangs a little and thus causes more friction, you may be able to get away with Body Glide for your shorter runs, but on longer runs you will absolutely need to use Band-Aids on those suckers (or tape, or Nipple Protectors).

6) With that, you need to get yourself some good Tech Shirts for running. Avoid cotton like the plague. You may have to try several different shirts until you find a one that you like, then buy as many of them as you can afford. The Champion C9 Duo Dri's that I found on the cheap at Target, and the Starter Dri-Star shirts I found at Walmart were great! But by far the most comfortable shirt I've ever worn is the Brooks EZ T although it is a bit more expensive...

7) While you're at it, find yourself some good running shorts, the kind with a liner. And go commando in them. That's what the liner is for, it's built-in underwear! I've got Nike's, Champion C9's, and Brooks. Again, my favorite are the Brooks and I prefer split sides, but again a lot of this is about feeling and personal preference.

8) Get yourself a good watch. not your everyday run-of-the-mill stopwatch, but one that can keep track of your time, distance, heart rate, etc. I found a Garmin Forerunner 405 GPS Watch with Heart Rate Monitor on eBay for around $250. It was a "factory refurbish," but I haven't had any issues with it. A little later I purchased the foot pod for it so I could track my treadmill workouts and my foot cadence, etc. It has the functionality to keep track of your data on the bike too. The only complaints I've heard from anyone have been about the battery life. These mostly come from those who do Iron distance triathlon's. I used mine in the Boston Marathon and although it started beeping at me and told me that I had "low battery" at mile 22, it made it through the whole marathon. Again, there are a lot of these watches out there and much of it comes down to personal preference. However, you can ask Coach Cap (Jeff) about it, he has some way of getting a discount for team members, though I'm unsure of what the discount is.

9) Buy yourself a good hydration system (belt) or two. I have a 2-bottle belt that I use on my shorter runs, and a 4 bottle belt that I use on my longer runs. I use the Fuel Belt systems. I have a CamelBack but found it to be too cumbersome and awkward. I think if/when I start training for an Ultra, the Camelback will be great, but until then... There are tons of them out there, and some people even prefer the bottles that you can strap to your hand. Just find what works for you and keep in mind you need something for your shorter runs and something for your longer runs...

10) Figure-out what you are going to use for mid-run fueling. I chose to use GU Espresso Love flavor. Coach Cap really likes the GU Roctane Endurance and a lot of people love the Powerbar gels. There are all sorts of fueling options out there, chews, gels, chomps, drinks, etc. My suggestion is to go to Sports Authority or some other major chain and buy a whole assortment of fueling options and flavors and try them out now. When you find one you like that you can tolerate (that doesn't give you heartburn, the squirts, or make you puke/gag) go to runningwarehouse.com or roadrunnersports.com and buy it by the case. I'd also try to find a good recovery drink, something with carbs and protein (4:1 ratio). I used Accelerade and found it to be easy on my stomach. Many people recommend just using chocolate milk as recovery drink. I did this for a while and found it pleasant and MOSTLY tolerable, but after my longest runs it tended to upset my stomach and give me the runs (I have a mild lactose intolerance apparently).

Along those lines... The day before and morning's of your long runs and races, cut back on fiber or avoid it altogether. This will save you lots of pain, discomfort, possible embarrassment and time in the toilet afterward...

And finally, as I noted in a recent blog post "I just don't think anyone can do something like this without a great support network of kindred spirits.  A group of people who have either been there and done that, or are currently doing the same thing. I've been so lucky to have discovered an awesome community of runners on twitter, which eventually led me to dailymile. I owe so much to this AMAZING community that I don't know where to start. So much to be said about the kindness of virtual strangers who are always willing to lend a supportive ear, offer advice, words of encouragement or bits and pieces of acquired knowledge based on their years of experience, or just plain commiserating." Get yourself out there. Get involved in the running community both real and virtual.

My advice to you is to create an on-line presence strictly for your running life. Put yourself out there on Twitter and dailymile. It's an endless and invaluable resource. I can't even begin to describe what it has meant to me. Start a blog and write about your training experiences, the thoughts that swirl around through your mind while out on your long runs, your hopes, fears, dreams and doubts. Trust me, it helps. And it preserves it all for posterity's sake. Once you do decide to put yourself out there and get a Twitter account and/or a dailymile profile, let me know and I'll introduce you to all of the people in this awesome community that have meant so much to me and my training/racing. That's all for now. I'm sure there will be more. If you can't tell, I'm really excited that you've decided to do this! I can't wait to follow your progress and be a part of your transformation!


  1. If you go to a dedicated running store, run on their treadmill, take their recommendations, use their expertise, run in races they sponsor, and never buy anything there, you are ensuring that there will not be a dedicated running store for the next generation of runners.

    I'm not saying buy everything there -- but my policy is that if a store helps me find a pair of shoes I like, I buy a pair there, then I search out the best online deal for subsequent pairs. I'll also buy incidentals or stuff I don't want to wait to have shipped, and I'll check out the clearance shoes and clothes every time I'm around.

    I buy my share from Running Warehouse, but I make sure that my local running store, which helped me get started, is a hub of the local running community and employs friends and fellow runners, is around for the long haul.

  2. Point well taken. I do the same thing. I've bought all of my Newton's there, and I always check-out their clearance racks, and for some reason I can't get out of a running store without buying a new pair of socks!

  3. Just came across your blog - way to break it down. I've been a runner for awhile and appreciated your tips. Definitely gonna check out some of the sites you mentioned and great to hear that the Garmin you bought from ebay has been ok. Thats my next big purchase! Can't believe I've lived without one!