Getting Started


Today’s post is by Coach Brendan Cournane, a Chicago-based running coach, having coached runners since 1996; helping thousands of runners compete endurance events from half marathons to ultra-marathons, utilizing both running and run/walking strategies.  He has completed a marathon in all fifty states (6 Boston finishes) and six continents, with a personal best 3:16 marathon.  In 2011 he is serving as the Virtual Training Coach for the American Heart Association Start! Running Team in preparation for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. For additional information see Coach Brendan’s website!

Hello, American Heart Association Start! Running Team Members:
I hope your spring (or what passes for spring in Chicago) is progressing nicely.
This is an exciting time, whether this will be your first or your 50th marathon.  We are less than one month from the commencement of training for the 2011 Bank of America Chicago Marathon.  

I think of these few weeks as building the foundation of a house.  And for a good foundation, we lay a base layer, let it settle and continue to build.  We do not lay too much in any one day or week.  Likewise, in training.  This period lays the foundation for what is to come in the summer.

If you are running more than 20 – 25 miles a week, continue following your schedule.  If you have recently raced a spring half marathon, be sure to allow for recovery before marathon training begins.  Keep the training light and easy.

And if you are new to running – moderation is the key to a good foundation.  Many marathoners try to run too much, too soon, with a greater incidence of injury.  At this point in base-building, we should not feel fatigued at the end of a week of training or after a long run.  Instead, at the end of each run, we should feel as if we could run one or two miles further at the same pace.

Training runs should feel comfortable – in intensity, frequency and duration.  
And we should be learning a comfortable training pace.  Most runs should be run at a conversational pace.  That is, you should be able to maintain a conversation with your running partner (or yourself if running alone), speaking in complete sentences.  If you can’t maintain a conversation and find yourself short of breath, you are running too fast.  If you want to challenge yourself, increase the pace on shorter weekday runs if you are in a continuous running program; and if in a run/walk program, increase the running portion by one minute once or twice a week.

Now is a good time to assess shoes and clothing. Running shoes have a useful life of 300 – 450 miles, dependent upon our biomechanics and the surface of our running path.  For most of us, midsoles of the shoes start breaking down in the 200 – 250 mile range.  We can’t see damage to the midsoles by looking at our shoes – but our bodies know when midsole cushioning starts to wear out and tells us with aches and pains in the ankles, knees and hips.

I recommend getting properly fitted at a specialty running store in your area.  Talk to the professionals and try several pairs of shoes (different brands and styles) to find the most comfortable and well fit shoes for YOUR feet.  Go for a run on the treadmill or down the street to see how they feel when running.  Buy your shoes at the end of the day or after finishing a run.  Feet are the smallest size when we first awaken, and swell a bit during the day or when running.  Best to buy shoes when our feet are slightly larger to simulate the feel of the shoes during a long run.

It is not necessary to buy the most expensive shoes, and most runners find shoes in the range of $90 – 100.  If possible, buy two pair and rotate them throughout training.  This helps prolong the life of the shoes and better protect our feet.

Spring fashion is in!  Dress as if the temperature is 15 – 20 degrees warmer than the reading on the temperature gauge.  Our bodies warm up quickly when we start running.
Wear comfortable clothes with wicking fabrics for more comfort while running.  Wicking fabrics move moisture from the body to the outside of the clothing which helps reduce our core body temperature in warm weather.  

Clothing should be loose fitting and light in color.  Sleeve length or singlet is a personal preference; think about how much you want to be covered when running in sunshine and warm (hot) weather.  Check for seams, especially under the arms and between the thighs.  Be sure the clothing fits comfortably.  A good finishing touch is a light mesh hat or visor with a wide brim to protect our eyes.

I’ll continue checking with you periodically with more tips along the path.  Have a great training week.

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