Start your training with Runtastic!

runtastic post cover photo

One of the questions I get (and see) on a regular basis is, “How can I keep track of my runs if I don’t have a Garmin?” When I started running, I wondered the same thing. I relied on those I ran with to let me know the distance and pace or mapped out my route before I left my house and kept track of how long I was gone to get an idea of overall time and pace. I saved up after a second summer job to buy my Garmin so I understand they are expensive and not something everyone wants to go out (or can go out) and buy from the beginning. If you were debating on quality shoes or a sports bra, I would say “spend the money now,” but I don’t think you need a Garmin to start running. You can start your training with Runtastic.

It is exciting and inspirational for new runners to keep track of their workouts, especially as they start to make progress. So, what if you are looking for an inexpensive and versatile tool to keep track of your workouts? With Smartphones nowadays, which most of us happen to have, you can now download a phone app – often at no cost – to test out and start keeping track of all of your runs!

I recently downloaded the free Runtastic app and am grateful to have received the Pro upgrade at no cost for the purposes of this review. Please keep in mind, you can download the FREE version in the iTunes/app store and still receive most of the same great features to meet your training needs.

What I like most about the Runtastic app is that it is very simple and hassle-free to use and still captures a wide variety of data – even with the free version.

Start Screen edited

You can keep track of a lot of data with Runtastic inclusing route, distance, pace, speed, time, elevation, intensity, calories burned and you can even add in a heart rate monitor. One of the things I like about this app is it is very versatile in keeping track of as much or as little detail as you want. The app also has a voice component that can recap each mile (or distance of your choice) to you. You can also play music through the app from your iTunes/MP3 playlist. I especially like that you can set a powersong to play at the touch of a button if you need a little extra kick in your workout. Find out about more of the features and if Runtastic is available for your smartphone HERE.

Distance and Pace

Runtastic also keeps a log of your workouts and activity and you can upload it to the website directly from your phone or use the app as your primary source of information. I like that the website has a community component to it where you can check in with friends and post your progress to receive feedback, which is great for beginners and veterans alike. With each workout, you can add your own notes and select the weather conditions as well, which provides for a very detailed training log. I believe it is very valuable for new and experienced runners to keep a training log to reflect on your run and note the things that went well and the things that didn’t.

One workout summary

So, if you are a runner/walker who is looking for a way to track your training, but you are not ready to purchase what can be a pricy GPS device, look into Runtastic! You can download the app for free and try it.

What about you? Have you used Runtastic? What is your favorite way to log your miles? Do you use a GPS watch or an app to keep track of your workouts?

Until the next mile marker,

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Building Your Mileage Base

Without question, one of the most important things to focus on during marathon and half marathon training is to safely build a mileage base. This is why you training plans gradually increase the weekly and long distances over the duration of the plan. The basic training for all distance running and racing is endurance training. This is because, as a runner, you must acquire the stamina to run for long periods of times or for long distances. Long runs, which most people run on a Saturday or Sunday, are therefore known as your Long Slow Distance (LSD)run.

Follow Me on PinterestBase building means starting from a lower base of infrequent mileage and progressing to more frequent runs including two, three or four shorter runs and one long run per week. For the beginning runner, base building is most commonly defined by building regularity in training at consistent, easy-to-moderate effort levels while high-intensity training and speed work is left to more experienced runners who have already established a base. While base building, mileage should increase by no more than 10 percent each week (for your total weekly mileage, including your LSD) and intensity should be kept at an easy to moderate level. By following the increases in the training plan, you are steadily building a base to help you to run strong and hopefully injury free. As you progress in your running career, the base building phase diversifies to include short and long easy runs, hills runs and interval speed workouts.

This is called the 10 Percent Rule.  For example, If you’re running 10 miles a week now, and you want to increase your training, run 11 miles next week. And 12 the week after that. And 13 the week after that. This may look like agonizingly slow progress, but in just 8 to 10 weeks, you could be running 20 miles a week. Your mileage will only increase from there. For many runners, this is seemingly slow progress and the biggest challenge is often their own enthusiasm – you feel great, you want to run more and more! And at first, while sticking to the 10 percent rule may seem painstakingly slow, it will lead to astronomical amounts of running compared to where you started.

Another important factor of base building for the beginning runner is cross-training because it serves as active rest for the running muscles. By alternating running days with cross-training days, your body can train at a higher frequency without the risk of injury from running back-to-back days. Cycling, swimming or any other types of aerobic activity are good cross-training activities for runners. Total body strength training one or two days a week to begin with can also contribute to your running success by building strong muscles, tendons and joints to withstand the impact of running. Complete rest days – with no strenuous activity at all – are also important in allowing your body time to recover from your workout and be ready for the next one.

The base building progression is different for everyone depending on your fitness level, exercise, sleep and eating habits. The important part is that you are increasing your mileage gradually and conditioning your body to run for longer distances and longer amounts of time. Following an easy progression of miles builds not only your cardiovascular endurance, but helps strengthen the muscular and connective tissues that enable your body to tolerate long training runs. As a beginning runner, building a sound mileage base is more important than getting faster. Take it from me as a 13 minute mile Coach, slow is perfectly fine! There will be plenty of time to develop speed and agility as you progress through your running career. For starters, you must create the building blocks to keep you running healthy, fit and strong so you can get to the starting line of your first distance race.

Until the next mile marker,

2011: A Year to Remember

I’ve been reading everyone’s posts recapping 2011. It seems like the thing to do with the New Year only two days away.  It’s inspiring to read back over your victories, races, accomplishments, challenges, struggles and goals – especially the joyful times. Last year on this day, I wrote my own recap and it was happy. My mother started running in 2010 and I said then that she [Mom] has once again reminded me that no matter what you think stands in your way – it doesn’t – you can still accomplish your dreams if you put your heart into it.

Mom and I finishing her first 5K in August 2010.
 I closed with this:
As I lace up my shoes, zip up my jacket and head out the door this afternoon for my last run of 2010, I have a lot to be thankful for. A lot to be grateful for. And a lot to look forward to. I hope you do too. My sincere wish for each of you is that you have a happy and safe New Year, and I can’t wait to see where the new year takes us. I’m already looking forward to reading your blogs. Happy New Year from us.

It’s funny how everything changed on April 21, a short four months later. 2011 was horrible. There’s not really much I wish to remember. In all honesty, I wish I could just forget. My life changed forever a little after 2:00 p.m. on that day when the local police called to tell me there had been an accident and my mother was being taken to the hospital. What I didn’t know until I got there was that she had passed away. I can’t ever change that. 2011 ripped my one of the people who loved me the most right out of my life without even a chance to say goodbye. The last time I saw her? After a six and a half mile run the Saturday before and we went to breakfast with our friend Wendy. The details of that morning? They’re fading faster. The last thing she texted to me I’m going out for a four mile run! Love you, angel!The last thing I said to her? I don’t remember.

Sure, there were some memorable times in 2011. Even some happier times, but everything is overshadowed by how much I miss her and how lonely I am sometimes without her by my side. So many questions, so many things left undone. Not unsaid, my mother knew how much I loved her, just undone.
We ran Cap City, the race she had been training for, in her honor:
Cap City Memory Bib we wore.


The Lucky 13’s getting ready for the race.


Mollie & Me after the race.


Julie finishing the Cap City 1/4 wearing Mom’s Bib #.

I ran Pittsburgh, my first full marathon, with the unexpected help of my dear friends:

After the Pittsburgh Marathon.


My friends drove all the way to PA to surprise me on the course – AND RUN WITH ME!

I kept running even though I wanted to quit:

Westerville Rotary Fourth of July 5K.


Me & Mollie on the Fourth of July.


Running in the rain.


2011 Race Club. I’m in there somewhere.


Me & Mollie after the Columbus Half.


Mollie & Me at the Veterans 5K.

I continued coaching the Lucky 13’s with MIT.

I was honored to receive the Spirit Award from the Columbus Marathon in October:

My friend who nominated me Dave, Me, Michael & Dad.

We carried on the family Thanksgiving Day Tradition:

I know there are good things on the horizon for 2012.

Continued reporting for Pace Per Mile Radio:


Representing FitFluential as an Ambassador to inspire others to achieve their health and fitness dreams:

Pace Coaching, of course:

And my biggest challenge, happening soon, The Goofy:

Spending time with the ones I love. I’m not taking them for granted.

And more blogging, you blogland friends, have been with me through the darkest time in my life. Your support, love, encouragement, sympathy, understanding and friendship has not gone unnoticed.

But, I also know 2012 won’t even be the same. Every joy is laced with sadness too at all that is left undone. Opportunities lost. Death is so final. You can’t demand a redo. I never knew what that felt like before this year.

So, for as much as I wish I could forget, I will remember. For my mother. Because she would never want me to forget that I love running – and so did she.

My wish for you all? A joyful New Year filled with love, happiness, friendship and good health.

Until the next mile marker,

Top 5 Reasons to Run a 5k: Practice Makes Perfect

Practice makes perfect, right? I would have to agree – generally the more times I do something, the easier the task becomes. Take for example, my first half marathon compared to subsequent races. It gets easier every time. In the Emerald City Half – my best race to date with a finish time of 2 hours and 54 minutes – I clicked off the miles smoothly. I was strong, confident and in good running shape. I wasn’t nervous – as I was before my first half a year earlier – and I had fun the whole time! I wasn’t worried about finishing – I knew I would. I usually get a little bit of pre-race jitters, but nothing like how I felt before the first half. It’s much easier to relax now and enjoy the scenery!  

How exactly do you practice racing if you are training to run your first half marathon?

Sign up to run a 5K or two!

Most runners I know find it beneficial to not have their first race be their goal race (i.e. their first half marathon or full marathon). Racing is fun, exciting and can be daunting if you have never done it before. Signing up for a 5K before your “big” race allows you to experience the racing atmosphere on a much smaller scale and provides you with an additional opportunity to work out any kinks you may encounter on race day. From packet pick-up to finish line party, you will feel much better knowing what to expect as well as be prepared for any mishaps.

I find that racing, even on a smaller scale, keeps me motivated to run and set new goals. This weekend, I participated in the Race for Ellie 5K, a local race to raise funds in partnership with The Ohio State University for research toward a cure for Mitochondrial Disease.

It was a tough race for me; I finished in 42:12, my slowest 5K time. Not only was it tough because I don’t think I am yet fully recovered from Pittsburgh, but because I made some mistakes that really affected my ability to run. “You know better,” crossed my mind many times during that 3.1 miles. Looking back, though, I am glad I ran Ellie to remind me of these mistakes so I don’t repeat them at a later date. What can I say?

So, what did I learn from running the Race for Ellie that can also help you before your big race?

I am reminded that practice really does make perfect. By following the mileage and guidelines of a good training plan, you are already practicing for the race. Stick to the schedule and you will be able to run the miles. Once you are comfortable running four or 5 miles, I would suggest signing up for a local 5K to gain racing experience. Training is good because it allows you to figure out your weak spots and practice different techniques. For example, do you like GU or Chomps when you are running long distances? Do you prefer to stretch before or after running or both? If you find the second half of any run is increasingly difficult compared to the first half, you can begin to focus your energy on the second half while maintaining or eventually increasing your pace. By staying true to your training plan, you have a greater chance of avoiding injury and burnout. Running Ellie yesterday reminded me that I need to slow down a little bit, take it easy on myself and let the miles add up gradually. I should not feel like I have to force myself back into higher miles – I can run them when I am ready. Just like at the beginning of any training plan, the more I practice, the more the miles will start to come easy again.     

I need to make sure I get adequate rest! Sleep and relaxation are important. I stayed up a little too late on Saturday night, instead of trying to get to sleep earlier. I was tired on Sunday morning for the race and that affected me mentally as well as physically. It is not very fun feeling like you are exhausted even before you get to the starting line. The night before a race, go to bed a little earlier and don’t over-think the next day’s events or you might still be up all night. See above. You’ve trained for this; you’re prepared to make the miles!

Hydration is paramount. Before you even begin racing, make sure you are well hydrated, as with all training runs too. Usually, I start “channeling my inner camel” at least the day before the race, if not two or three days before. This makes a huge difference! Basically, I thought before the race this weekend, “It’s just a 5K, I’ll be fine.” WRONG. I should have stuck to my regular hydration plan – drink water until your pee comes out pale yellow or clear! Drink. Drink. Drink. And then drink some more. Store it up like a camel preparing to trek across the Sahara. A mile into Ellie I was thirsty and once you are thirsty, it is really really hard to rehydrate and feel normal again. By the time I reached the water station at mile 1.5 or so, it was too late to quench my thirst. Drinking an excess of water would have just created cramps and an unsettled stomach. I drank a normal amount of water and continued on, but I had to stop for a few walking breaks on the way in to the Finish Line. I was tired, sluggish and had a headache for the rest of the afternoon and into the evening. Not fun at all.

My next biggest mistake? Not pacing myself when the race began. It is easy to get caught up in the excitement and speed of the other runners and take off out of the gate at too fast of a pace. This will only cause you to lose momentum in the end (or in the middle, like I did, when I suddenly looked down and noticed I had been running at an 11:47 pace – yikes!). When the race begins, pace yourself. If you start off your first half mile pacing yourself, your finish will be much stronger. I knew I was starting too fast, but I did it anyway. I thought I might make it at that pace the whole way until 0.73 miles into the race when I was spent. Combined with inadequate hydration, the rest of the race was miserable.

If you pace yourself in the beginning, you can give it all you’ve got at the Finish. Save your strength for the finish! When you approach the halfway mark you should be picking up the pace to finish strong. Give it all you’ve got anywhere from your last quarter mile to the last few hundred yards and sprint it in if you can. I did this, for the first time in a long time, during the Race for Ellie thanks to Heather, who coached me through to the finish, and it was extremely satisfying. I felt like in spite of a tough race, I was a superstar crossing that finish line. I didn’t have much left, but I left it all on the track. In this race, we started and finished on the track, which was cool because I felt like I was fast for about 39.4 seconds!

All in all, Race for Ellie was a great race – well organized and supports a cause that we can all believe in. The post-race festivities we also pretty cool – we had pizza, wings (for some reason they tasted so good!), Italian Ice (should be served after every summer race from now on), water, bananas, rolls, and coffee. The shirt is light pink in color and is a womens technical shirt. I wore it after the race and it is just roomy enough to be comfortable without feeling like it is too big on me. This race had a water stop halfway, a kid’s race (complete with finisher ribbons), a mile long family fun walk, and awards for the top 3 male and female finishers. The volunteers were really helpful and clearly wanted to do all they can to support Ellie and her family. A great race for first-time racers, a fun, casual event for more experienced runners and a truly family-oriented event.   

Race for Ellie 5K Shirt

My Top Five Reasons to Run A 5K:

(in no particular order)

  • For the racing experience! If at all possible, don’t let your goal race be your first race! Run a 5K to get some experience and to have some racing fun too!
  • To support a charity or a specific cause. You can choose to support almost anything you want to from breast cancer research, to homeless animals, to civic associations, to diabetes, to pancreatic cancer. Support the cause you believe in and sign up to make a difference today!
  • To achieve a PR. You can focus increasing your speed by running smaller races, like the 5K. This helps to build confidence in your ability to break your own records. Plus, it is really exciting to feel the accomplishment of running faster than you did the last time.
  • Because crossing the Finish Line is motivating! You will be more inspired to run your goal race once you have crossed a finish line or two. Imagine crossing the finish line of a local 5K or 10K x a hundred million! You will never forget the experience of the ‘Runner’s High.’
  • To run for fun, with friends, and without the pressure of a big race. Once you have been running for a little while, especially during half marathon or marathon training, your body will become accustomed to the 5K distance and you can decide to run a 5K or meet up with a group of running buddies with short notice. It does not take nearly as much time to train and get “in shape” for a 5K as it does a half marathon! 

Helpful Tools:
Search nearby race companies and running stores, such as Fleet Feet to get a list of upcoming 5K’s in your area. If you’re local, check out Premier Races for a list of 5K’s coming your way!

Think about a 5K you would like to run. Look for one around July or August – there are many races on the 4th of July and generally people also have the day off. I love to race on holidays! Check with some of your running buddies to rally some company out on the race course.

Inspirational Quote:

“I expect to pass through this world but once; any good thing therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now; let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.” – Stephan Grellet

Until the next mile marker, 


What’s it all about, anyway?

I’m a firm believer that, assuming no major problems or injuries, most healthy people can train themselves to complete a 13.1-mile race. Take me, for example, I went from the extreme bare minimum (I could only run about a mile and a half at the time) to training for and completing my first half marathon in just about 21 weeks or 5 months.  

My goal for my first race was to cross the Finish Line – a perfectly respectable goal for any first-timer. And just think – the next race you’ll have a Personal Record (PR) for sure! It wasn’t until I started running subsequent halfs and then a full that I really started paying attention to pacing. I wish I knew more about how to pace and what pace to follow much earlier on in my training.

I get a lot of questions about pacing and how fast (or slow) to run and believe me, while it is not a specific science, there are a few key elements that can help you train to your full potential without getting injured or burned out. Below you will find some information that has helped me, and I hope you can find it beneficial too!

Most importantly, don’t worry about how fast you run your regular workouts. Run at a comfortable pace. If you’re training with a friend or running with the group, you should be able to hold a conversation. If you can’t do that, you’re running too fast. For those wearing heart rate monitors, your target zone should be between 65 and 75 percent of your maximum heart rate. The Long Slow Run (or LSD, as we like to call it), usually on Saturday or Sunday, forms the basis of all of your training.

Here is an example of one week of the MIT training schedule for beginning half marathoners:

While it may seem overwhelming at first, the beginner schedule is fairly simplistic compared to an intermediate or advanced schedule that incorporates speed drills and hill workouts. As a beginning runner, you should be focused on “time on your feet” and not how fast you can run. As with most things, speed will come with time and practice.

On this schedule, the LSD is coded in yellow as the Endurance/Long Run/Walk and should be 60 – 90 seconds slower than your race pace. This training is done in a moderate-intensity zone and is used to improve overall conditioning and endurance. Our long Saturday runs form the basis of everything we do. Keep in mind, you are not running at your goal race pace! You should be running at least 1 minute slower than race pace. For example, many people who train in our 13-minute per mile pace group actually run a 12:45 or 12:30 in a race scenario. Still others, me included from time to time, run a 13:30 or 13:45 during training and stay closer to an even 13 minutes on race day. For these reasons, it is not only fun, but beneficial to run a 5K or two or even a 10K before your goal race to stimulate race conditions and learn how your pace is affected in a competitive setting. You will be able to use your times to predict your finishing time in the half marathon, and what pace to run that race. Plus, it helps to eliminate a lot of pre-race jitters.

The key to getting ready to finish a Half Marathon is the LSD, progressively increasing in distance each weekend. Your runs will range from 2 to 12 miles. And inspiration will carry you to the finish line, for the last 1.1 miles! You should not feel rushed or pressured to finish your long run in a certain amount of time, what matters is the time you spend on your feet covering the miles.

Coded in blue are the Rest Days when you should refrain from running. Yes I said it and I will say it again – DO NOT RUN. Even if you feel fine, don’t run. If you feel better than ever, please don’t run. Rest is as important a part of your training as running. You will be able to run the long runs on the weekend better–and limit your risk of injury–if you rest before, and rest after. While training for my first few halfs, I did not even worry about cross training on my days “off.” I focused on hydrating, eating right, and not running. Was it hard? Absolutely! Especially when my mileage was low, but I took the time to let my body recuperate and did not struggle with injuries, illness or burnout as a result. Rest days are the key to staying healthy.

Finally, you will see a red code on the schedule. These are Over-Distance of Recovery Runs and should be 90-120 seconds slower than your race pace. This is a low-intensity zone used to establish a strong cardiovascular base. It promotes increased oxygen absorption, fat-burning capacity, capillary and mitochondrial density. This zone is also used for active recovery after intense or extended durations of training. Typically, your recovery run comes after your LSD/Long Run with a day of rest in-between. Again, what matters is time on your feet – gets you out there and gets your body moving, work the stiffness out from your previous long run.

As you transition from a beginning runner to more experienced, you will also add in a Progressive Long Run/Walk. For this, you should begin 60-90 seconds slower than race pace and progressive to  15-20 seconds faster than race pace by then end of your run. This should incorporate your over-distance/active recovery pace, endurance training pace and tempo/race-pace training. Start slightly slower than average run pace, progressively increase pace to end your run at a faster than average (race) pace. This zone increases tolerance to lactic acid and increases aerobic threshold. Typically, you will see this type of run on an advanced schedule. You will also begin to add in Lactic Acid/Tempo Runs as you progress, but you should not engage in tempo runs if you in your first year or so of running. There is plenty of time to take up this type of training later on! This is a high-intensity zone used to improve aerobic conditioning while introducing and aerobic component. Lactic acid is produced, but not in sufficient quantities to immediately degrade performance. This zone increases tolerance to lactic acid and increases aerobic threshold. You will not see any Progressive or temp runs on your first-time half marathon or marathon schedule, which is how it should be.

Some other important factors in a reliable training schedule?

Flexibility: Don’t be afraid to juggle the workouts from day to day and week to week. If you have a commitment to work or your family on Monday nights, do that workout on Tuesday instead. If your family is going to be on vacation one week when you will have more or less time to train, adjust the schedule accordingly. Be consistent with your training, and the overall details won’t matter. Get your overall weekly miles in, even if you have to rearrange the miles run on what day from time to time. For example, there were several times during our last training season that a number of people who had commitments on a particular Saturday met on a Friday night or Sunday afternoon to get a long run in. You can be flexible in your training and still not have to run alone!

Walking: Walking is an excellent exercise that a lot of runners overlook in their training. Feel free to walk during your running workouts if you feel overly tired or need to shift gears. For example, while training with MIT, we typically stop to hydrate at the water stations. This practice translates to a race and we make sure to walk through the hydration stations, helping to ensure adequate hydration and nutrition. What matters is that you will finish your race, even if you take a few walking breaks to get there. In fact, there are specific training plans also devoted to run-walk an entire race. Don’t be embarrassed by listening to your body and giving it what it needs!

Cross-Training: While running is probably sufficient while training for your first half marathon, cross-training can be an effective way to try something new or beat burnout if you are feeling frustrated with your running schedule. For example, you could swim, bike, spin or take an aerobics class if you choose to take a break from running every once in awhile. Sometimes it is nice to try something different and you will find your renewed interest and passion in returning to running. What cross-training you select depends on your personal preference. Most importantly, do not cross train too vigorously. Cross-training days should be considered easier days that allow you to recover from the running you do the rest of the week. Cross-training can also factor in nicely with flexibility, for example, if you are going to be spending the afternoon with your children at the pool, you can get in a swimming workout if you know you will not have the opportunity to run later in the day. As you become stronger and more accustomed to running, you may also choose to gradually incorporate strength training into your weekly workout schedule.

Goal of the Week:

Experiment with your pace. Begin to learn what is too fast, or too slow, and what is comfortable for you. Try to focus on the schedule, including resting when appropriate, and vary your pace according to the color codes.

Inspirational Quote of the Week:

“If running marathons were easy, everyone would be doing it – but they’re not. You’ve got to be committed to your training. If you’re not focused on being a success, you won’t be successful. You’ll never succeed if you’re not willing to prepare.” – Bill Wenmark

Until the next mile marker,