Running

Run for the Toad Training Log #1: A Sandbag Scarecrow & Mosquito Bites

Run #1: Run For The Toad, Hitting The Road

• First official day of Run for the Toad training: the road to my first major trail race starts here.

• I'm always looking for omens, and can foolishly get into the mindset that the first run will set the tone for the rest of training. The tone of this run was "sweat and suffering".

• Coming off a run break in Italy, I was hoping for fresh legs but they ended up feeling like lead. Thankfully training schedule called for a slow fiver—”slow” was the only speed I had in the tank.

• What is it about running in the heat that makes you feel like a scarecrow made of sandbags?

• By the time I completed my usual 5k work loop, I noticed what looked like tiny beads of sweat on my arms. Turns out it was hot enough to experience milaria crystallina—a mild heat rash. I think I’m off to a great start.

Run #2: Hill Repeats, A Horror Story

• I headed into a nearby trail to take on some hill repeats, bug spray from my apartment and thank goodness I did. Closer to dusk, the woods were buzzing. Every two seconds there was a mosquito whining in my ear.

• I trotted a little over a kilometre into the woods and came to three forks in the road (a trident)? There was a longer less steep hill, a steeper hill. I chose the steeper hill and got to hustling.

• …Hustling is code for having my butt kicked by a hill. Note to self: research proper technique for running up and down hills. I could feel my body hunching and my form and posture slipping.

• Everything felt… not great. I got a stitch in my side a few times from the humidity. My knees didn't feel quite easy on the path. My calves needed stretching. I barfed in my mouth at least once (at LEAST).

• I accidentally had the GPS on my Fitbit (I’m not a tracking junkie) but may have come up with a rough average of my speed per kilometre out on the trails… Which is only important because I've been toying with the idea of training for time-on-feet instead of distance. I know some people do it for ultras, but I'm wondering if it might help me as I sharpen for the 25k.

• Need to build in some cross-training and lots of stretching to make this work. I have no doubt I can finish this race… But I’d like to finish it in one piece, strong.

• Made it back to the car. Still somehow got some mosquito bites. … Bastards. Running is going to literally eat me alive.

Run #3: Slow And Steady

• Headed out for my first long run with a double espresso from Tim Hortons and a blueberry muffin. It was early, sunny, not too hot—great running conditions.

• Lots of other cars parked at the trailhead (runners & or cyclists also up and about early).

• Ended up walking up a lot of hills and jogging down them. First off, to conserve energy. Also noticing my body hasn’t 100% adapted to tackling hills yet so trying to focus on building the muscles before trying to barrel anywhere.

• Running further and further out into the woods all I can think about is true crime and how hard it would be to find a body out in the forest.

• Which is right around when a cyclist lets out a loud whoop from behind me as he blazes by (thanks buddy) and I nearly pee myself.

• Round out the 14km with a decent amount of energy left in the tank, even if my legs are tired. Only a little bit of aches and pains the next day, which I’m hoping will ease up with training and muscle development.

• At least 14km is over half the distance I’ll be doing in Run For The Toad. Makes the whole thing seem less scary… a little.

Weekly Roundup: Running a Marathon at 100 (Or Older), Queer AF Crossfit & How to Workout in the Heat

What’s My Age Again? Running Marathons At 100+

A marathon is just 26.2 miles. Age is just a number. Dharam Pal Singh of India is just (he claims) 121 years old. Although his age can’t be verified, he’s still an elderly gent grinding out those miles—something younger runners can only be capable of as they age. Check out the short documentary about this remarkable guy below!

Turns Out CrossFit Is Queer AF

The Advocate’s David Dodge has published a great article about CrossFit’s shifting culture entitled: “How the World’s Most ‘Bro’ Sport Is Making Space For LGBTQ+ People.” It takes a look inside CrossFit’s change of gears towards more inclusive policies, the homophobic tendencies of the wider culture, and explores how that all seems to be shifting.

”…for many of us, CrossFit is the first opportunity we’ve had to discover our inner Sporty Spice free from the unspeakable horrors of a high school gym class.” Sounds good. Where do we sign?

Cool Tips For Working Out In Hot Weather

Summer is here and that means heading indoors to workout, or safely finding ways to deal with the heat. Staying hydrated and moving your workouts to times of day when the temperatures are lower are just a few of tips that can help you get your sweat on safely in the heat. Click here to read more tips over at Global News.

Weekly Roundup: a Transgender Ballerina, the Heaviest Woman to Complete a Marathon Record & Megan Rapinoe's Dance Moves

Great Big Story profiles Jayna Ledford, transgender ballerina

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Great Big Story profiled Jayna Ledford, an aspiring ballerina and transgender woman. Jayna discusses growing up knowing she was trans, her young dance career, losing her scholarship when she decided to come out at 17—and her journey back towards dancing with a new studio.

Check out Great Big Story’s video about Jayna here.

Jennifer Smith becomes heaviest woman to complete a marathon

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Uh, GO JENNIFER. I only have one issue with this and it’s that the article says she covered 26 miles. Hey news people, that .2 is a LOT when it’s right at the finish! Jennifer weighs 346 pounds and completed the distance in 11 hours and 50 minutes. Freakin’ amazing. Read more about this badass record-breaker here.

Megan Rapinoe—that’s it. That’s the headline

Megan Rapinoe, World Cup Champion recently took to the streets in a victory parade through New York City. Then she made a speech about equal pay, doing better as citizens and oh yes, stole the show with her entrance. LEGEND.

How to tell if you’re in a bad group fitness class

Stack has highlighted 7 of the telltale signs you’re in a poorly managed group fitness class—if your local step class is doing any/all of these, it’s time to start shopping around for a new one or advocating for change! Classes could also offer chairs in the back for those who need to workout sitting down, and could even include systems to loop in those with hearing aids. Read the list here.

Weekly Roundup: Nike's Other Major Mannequin Drop, Australia's New Transgender Guidelines & More

Happy Trails Racing Pushes For Inclusion and Accessibility

 
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Have you read this week’s article about how Happy Trails Racing is opening up trail racing to be more inclusive?

Nike Also Released Parasport Mannequins—We Missed It

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Caught up in the controversy over the new plus-sized mannequin in Nike’s London shop, many of us missed an equally significant move—the introduction of parasport mannequins. It’s nice to know that they’re considering representing more diverse kinds of athletes. (Now the question is, when are they going to get a plus-sized male mannequin in there?)

Australia’s New Transgender Inclusion Guidelines

Australia has introduced a set of guidelines to make their sports clubs more inclusive to transgender and gender diverse athletes. It was developed by the Australian Human Rights Commission, Sport Australia and the Coalition of Major Professional and Participation Sports (COMPPS).

The guideline includes key ideas to foster safe and inclusive environments, including providing gender neutral spaces, using a person’s chosen pronouns throughout all operations and record keeping, as well as ensuring athletes have access to a uniform in their size. Some really great takeaways in here for anyone running a sports organization.

Click here to read the freshly minted guidelines!

300 Pounds and Running Opens Slow AF Community Waitlist

Runner, podcast host, writer, and powerhouse Martinus Evans has opened up a waitlist for the Slow AF community—a running hub focused on connecting back of the pack runners.

Sign up for the waiting list here!

Goat Yoga Is Still A Thing

Whether you’re frantically searching to find the nearest class, or the headlines have got your goat, this alternative yoga class continues to pop up across the globe—and the photos of it are pretty hilarious and adorable. I guess when we say “movement is for every body,” we really mean it.

Fast Runners: Back Of The Back Runners Need Your Actions, Not Your Words

Recently on our Facebook page I shared a link to an article from 2014 by a front of the pack runner about the runners at the back of the pack. Here’s a very short summary:  

• This author is a hella fast near-elite runner.

• The author says if he had to run a marathon and it took him 5 or 6 hours, he probably wouldn’t bother running those races.

• Good for the people who train that hard and run that slow, they’re “endurance heroes.”

Favourite quote: “It doesn’t matter how long it takes you to cross that finish line … you train like the rest of us train.”  

(I would argue many back of the packers train harder than some people who sign up for marathons. I know a guy who didn’t train for a marathon at all, but decided to run one for a whim or a bet or something equally stupid. I think he got a better time than me… I also know he couldn’t walk the next day.)

My boyfriend brought the article up while we were on a short trail run last week, and said he thought it had a bit of a condescending tint to it. Why did this guy feel the need to list his PR times? Didn’t it kind of sound like he was pity-praising a three-legged golden retriever? (Note: my words, not his.)

Why am I writing an article about someone’s opinion from five years ago? Because as far as we’ve come, back of the pack runners are still second class citizens in Run City.

A Couple Less “A’s”

It’s refreshing to read someone actually acknowledge that yes, running is hard and some people have to put more into it to make it work for them—more time, more patience, more emotional risk. At the end of the day, they’re still every inch runners as much as those at the front of the pack.

It’s validating… but then, some parts of the article hit this message with at a slightly wrong angle.

The author writes that he probably wouldn’t bother running a marathon if it took him so long: “if you told me that I needed to go on a 20-mile run … and it was going to take me 4-6 hours, I would probably say nope, that’s just waaaaay too long!”

Maybe a couple less “a’s” in there, bud.

The Good, The Bad, and The Running Elitists

The fact is, running calls to a lot of people; we’re not all elites or gazelles but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t belong to us too. Personally, I feel I was meant to run, even if I’m not built to scrub any distance as fast as other people can.

Saying a speed like mine, or that of someone in an even more marginalized body, would discourage your from running doesn’t come off as a praise of strength and determination. It reads as, “good job buddy, you inspire me, but boy am I glad I’m not you!”

The writer had good intentions, which is more than I can say about some other people and their opinions.

For example, a female runner in a 2009 New York Times article who said it’s “a joke to run a marathon by walking every other mile or by finishing in six, seven, eight hours.”

She was also kind enough to add her opinion that “it used to be that running a marathon was worth something — there used to be a pride saying that you ran a marathon, but not anymore. Now it’s, ‘How low is the bar?’”

Progress is Progress No Matter How Small

Sure, the running world has come a long way since then, with athletes like Mirna Valerio, John Young, Martinus Evans and others trailblazing the way for more people who want to get into running for the love of it and don’t fit the mould.

These cultural shifts are beginning to create actual change too. Some marathons are offering longer cut off times. Many running groups are available for a wide variety of paces. The world is beginning to open up—however—the struggles are far from over.

Even today, when back of the packers push for basics like the course staying clear and for water, gels, or sports drink to be available for the duration of the race within the cut off, they’re often shut down. 

I’ve read stories from many runners who have been told to lose weight and get faster, or just stop running races entirely by front of the pack runners when they tried to advocate for these basic amenities which they paid for in their race fee like everyone else.  

So, yeah. I’ll give some points to a fast runner because he doesn’t question the right of slower runners to be out there on the course and respects our process. I’ll take or leave being “inspiring” to someone who could lap me in pretty much every distance any day of the week.

Using Your Influence To Achieve Running Equality

Faster runners, if you want to really want to advocate for the people in the back of the pack, there are a few ways to do it.

If you run a race and you hear people at the back had issues with course operations, write to the race directors and express concern—even if it doesn’t affect you, your voice can help the issue be taken seriously. 

Make a running buddy with someone slower than you. If you’re a fast runner and your friend is a slow runner occasionally, offer to go running with them. They’ll probably deny the offer because they don’t want to “slow you down.” Tell them it’s cool. Meet them at their pace. It might be a good relaxing run for you and some companionship for them.

Bonus points if you drag your back of the pack friend out to a local running group that they’ve been dying to try, but have avoided for fear of being left in the dust. Leave your ego at the door and run with them if there’s no one else their speed. Make them feel a part of something.

There’s a reason we like to call it the running community, after all.

Every action you take in solidarity with back of the pack runners doesn’t mean YOU have to slow down on your way to the finish line. It just means more people get the race finish they truly deserve, and that they feel welcome there.

Race Recap: Hamilton's 2019 Around The Bay 30K

Around The Bay 2019 is OVER… like—way over. I’m already in the middle of an existential reel as I attempt to figure out my next move.

BUT, I wrote my way through many. Weeks. Of. Training! I owed it to myself to churn out some thoughts on the experience, and to document it—especially for any middle or back of the pack runners like me who are curious but cautious about entering this legendary Canadian race.

Around The Bay RACE RECAP:

all the physical challenge of a marathon without being so far from the finish line you question whether you’ll ever see your family again

1 - 10 KM: The Most Hamilton Race Ever

• This is the race’s 125th year, which is… pretty wicked. Swag in my race kit included a baseball cap, long-sleeved tech shirt, a special ATB magazine and a copy of iRunNation, Aveeno and Roc samples… who care let’s get to the running part.

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• Mid-run thought: Around The Bay is the most Hamilton race that ever raced because you start in the hip downtown, and then run away from the safety of 15 brunch places through the industrial district. Some people poo-poo this part, but honestly, running past the factories and the junkyards in a huge pack of people on a cold, grey March morning made me feel like a character in a dystopian novel. #KatnissEverrun

• The media will tell you this section of the race is flat, but I’m here to give you the truth—ATB keeps it spicy with a few overpasses that you have to haul up and over on your journey through to 10K. A nice little appetizer for your calves and thighs.

• Shout outs to the kid in the lawn chair playing the tuba.

• Overheard in the pack, “I figured if I run 100 miles in a week, why not run 100 miles in a day?” Uhhhhhhhhhhhmovingon.

11 - 17 KM: In Which I Also Feel “Older Than Boston”

• This is the TRUE flat section of the Around The Bay course. The wind coming off the waterfront made it chilly, but some people lined up with signs, or beating pots and pans with wooden spoons to cheer on runners and it kept the cold at bay.

• Was that a castle?

• The course offered lots of water stations. I’m not sure how long they were kept up for slower runners or walkers—people further in the back of the pack.

• Another note, this course doesn’t offer gels. Which is… kind of odd. I figure it’s some sort of “Hamilton is hardy” and “we’re older than Boston” tradition. I should Google this. (I won’t Google this.) BRING YOUR OWN GELS.

At this point I was beginning to resent the relay runners who were zipping by with Fresh Legs(tm).

• Running over the lift bridge at the half way point was dizzying and exhilarating. Not only are you half way to your goal, you’re running on a steel grate over water. So uh… Don’t look down if you have a fear of heights.

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18 - 26 KM: The Hills Are Alive (And They’re Coming To Get You)

• Around The Bay is infamous for its final leg being hills for DAYS.

• Did I mention the hills?

• There are some hills. Even the greyhound-human hybrid whiplash people who I follow on Instagram were complaining about ‘em.

• I pictured vast rolling monsters, but the reality is that many require a long, slow, dedicated ascent that had my calves screaming like Alexisonfire. They do provide some shelter from the wind, and you warm up quickly here after the Beach Boulevard stretch.

• It’s also a bit of a trip to look across the water and see the industrial district you just ran through on the other side of the bay as you run… Around The Bay.

• There are a few more aid stations and spectators along this stretch of the course. Some people had fruit or pretzels, along with the usual water and gatorade—race day angels!

• Heading off North Shore Boulevard, you run past lots of graveyards… just in case you decide finishing just isn’t an option.

• By this point though, you’re close to 25 KM, which is far enough that you can feel the rumble of the finish line in your bones and it starts to drown out any discomfort you might be in.

27 KM - Forever: THE HILL

• A woman at my work has done ATB ten times (literally) and told me once you make it past the Valley Inn Road hill, you’re good to go. She was right. After that point, the course is basically flat and or downhill.

• But here’s the thing.

• You have to get up this hill first… and it’s a HILL, right when you don’t want there to be one.

• Breaking it down: It’s a two parter, an upward grind with a flat section in the middle and then a slightly steeper incline that will have you panting to get to York Boulevard.

• I’ll say this: if you’re thinking about running this race, but you’re hesitant—don’t let the hype scare you. It’s just a hill. It’s got a bottom and a top and it does end. EVENTUALLY. I promise. Take it from another slow runner who doesn’t take any step for granted… you can do this!

• There were plenty of people on the hill to cheer the runners on the way up! (Shoutouts to Rachael and Nick! HEY!)

• Once you make it to the top, there’s a heady sort of delirium that takes over. You pour onto York Boulevard and it’s time to change gears for the last 3k.

27 - 30KM: The Home Stretch

• Heading back into the city you see the Grim Reaper, the gruesome mascot of the race. He had kindly put out signs like “The End Is Near.” He’s also on the race swag which is… pretty cool.

• Should have stopped for a photo. Didn’t stop for a photo. Too busy chugging along to the finish. Guess I’ll have to run it again sometime.

• To cross the finish line you run down a ramp into the FirstOntario Centre stadium, which was COOL. For those of us who never ran in competitions, or who will never make it to the Olympics (sad but true), you get a once-in-a-lifetime feeling of running into an arena full of people cheering for you. IT WAS WICKED.

Around The bay: The Aftermath

• Calves and thighs definitely feeling the work, more than after the Scotiabank Marathon in Toronto.

• John Stanton pulled me aside to interview me in front of the whole stadium, so that’s fun. I follow him on Twitter.

• I had to wander a long way down the finisher’s chute to get it the medal, but it was finally worth it.

• Shoutouts to Merit Brewing for making and giving me a delicious beverage. #Startedfromthebottomnowwebeer

• I would definitely run this race again. Just… maybe not next year, and with even MORE hill training in my program. It’s a challenging, fun run at a middle distance between a half and a full marathon!

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Quartet Photos: @joshteewhy