If anyone can tell you first-hand about the difficulties of training for and running a marathon, it’s our resident marathon runner, Chris Woodson. Since beginning her career as a marathon runner less than three years ago, Chris has completed six full marathons and 18 half marathons, and she is planning to add a few more to her resume in 2015. Tell us about your upcoming races. This year I will be doing the Portland, Maine full marathon in October and three more half marathons over the course of this year. What has been your best time? Full Marathon: 4:49:06 Half Marathon: 1:55:38 I’m not a fast runner, but every year I keep pushing myself to do better. I chip away at the time little bit by little bit. There are so many factors involved during training and on race day that you just have to give it your best shot no matter what occurs. I’ve dealt with sickness, injuries and poor food decisions…through all of this, to me, there’s always been a great sense of satisfaction when I conquer a race. Sometimes the hard-won ones are the best. What inspired you to get into marathon running? I’ve always had a weight problem. Through trial and error, I found running to be one of the best ways, for me, to keep in shape. When I had only been running minimally for a few months, a friend asked if I’d be interested in a half marathon. I was terrified. I eventually said yes and I never looked back. Friends and I get together every week to run, we sign up for races together, and we motivate each other. Being part of such a great group is a huge inspiration. It helps me get up a lot earlier than I want to most mornings. When did you run your first marathon? My first marathon was the NYC Marathon in November of 2011. Completing 26.2 miles was an adrenaline rush that made me look forward to the next ones.
Is there anything special you do in the days leading up to the event (diet, rest, stretching, etc.)? All weeks are key for the actual event. For the week leading up to the big day I generally take it easy. I run a few miles for a couple of days but nothing strenuous, as a lot of rest is important. I do yoga a few times for stretching. Mostly I try to rest. Nutrition (and hydration) is very important. I’ve tried different foods to see what agrees or does not agree with me before a run and during a run. I’m always revamping what I eat. What works for me one year doesn’t work for me the next year. What works during low mileage training doesn’t work for high mileage training. So many studies come out these days that you have to find what is right for you. For 1-1/2 to 2 weeks before the race, I eat mostly carbs and protein and minimize the vegetables and dairy. For usual weight loss, they tell you to avoid white carbs and to eat lots of vegetables. For long distance running, the white carbs are actually good and vegetables and dairy tend to mess with your digestion. The balance between both can be tricky. My usual meal the night before a run is either a turkey burger or baked chicken with avocado and a roll. Usually rice or pasta on the side and sautéed zucchini. The morning of the run, I eat a bagel 2-3 hours before. During the run, I alternate between a peanut butter sandwich and Pretzel M&Ms.
If I have someone there at cheer zones along the course, I usually ask them to bring me pretzels or something as an energy boost. What has been your proudest moment as a marathon runner? So many! Each race is special and different. Two years ago, I ran over the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. That one always stays in my mind. As of now, though, the most memorable race is this past year when at Mile 20 during the NYC Marathon, I slipped on a banana peel (the race people were handing out bananas as fuel for runners). There was banana mush and peel everywhere. I went down on my left side and banged up my elbow and my knee but still made it to the finish line. That was one of my proudest moments. Can you give us some tips on how to train for our first marathon? One of my favorite mottos is: “Courage to start; strength to endure; resolve to finish.” Marathons are a big commitment. The time it takes to train for a full marathon is 6 months. For a half marathon, it takes about 3 to 4 months. It’s best to run four times a week—low mileage during the week with a long run on the weekend. A lot of running websites offer weekly schedules for you to follow. Include one or two days of cross training (ex. aerobics, cycling, yoga, etc.), as core strength is key. You can only rely on your legs so much. If your core is strong, it can carry you to the finish line. Join a group. A lot of people start with all the best intentions. After a while, the mileage takes its toll and you wonder what you got yourself into. My suggestion is to find a friend or a group to run with. They are a tremendous help with training and nutrition. They make the miles go by quicker, and you learn to go off on your own even when it comes down to the long miles. Chris Woodson is an Administrative Support Professional in H2M’s Civil/Survey Division. You can reach Chris at email@example.com.