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how to train for a 50k

running-2

I signed up! But let’s be honest – that’s the easy part. I have a little over 3 months now until I run a 50k.

I’ll be going out to California (because if you are going to run why not do it in a gorgeous place) for the North Face Endurance Challenge December 5th + 6th. Oh right. Drastic Elevation Change? My stomach is starting to turn. Don’t congratulate me until I complete it! Anyone can register for a race, the hard part is to learn how to train for a 50k… and actually do it by getting out of the house at the end of the day when you just want to sit inside and eat.

oh no.

Been there, how about you? Honestly that’s a big reason why I signed up in the first place. I needed a goal, and I needed one big enough that I had no choice but to train. One of my goals for this year was become a runner again. Having a baby places a lot of demands on you, and a myriad of physical and mental changes. At times it can feel impossible to return to but with a lot of support and determination it is starting to happen. I literally wouldn’t be able to do it without Matt.

Before you start to tell me how crazy I am let me tell you how I arrived at this decision. It really started when I tried to find a race that Meg and I would be able to do together. We have been friends since high school, ran xc + track together and have been close since. She lives in Colorado so our times together are few and far between and it was about time we planned a reason to meet up. When we started to look at races – with my wedding photographer schedule and her teacher schedule – December kept looking like the best time to run. We had weekends free, it wasn’t quite into holiday season yet, and so we started to look at available races. We found the north face series and first I said no way – I’m not going to do a trail race – partly because we were thinking of a half marathon or marathon. In my mind, as a runner, it was hard to think about my first marathon (oh yeah I haven’t run one yet) being on a trail. I felt like I would compare how I did to times I could or could not run and try to fit within that framework. A 50k on the other hand, while only 4 additional miles, feels like a completely different space. It’s new. It’s unknown. I have expectations to train as best I can and hopefully enjoy the race, but no personal pressure to fit within a certain time or framework. So in the end I convinced Meg that a 50k would be the best choice. Honestly it will be 4.5 hours (or so) of time together – something we get very little of. Crazy how your perspective changes when you have kids and live far away from friends. I honestly am looking forward to the race.

The real reason why I’m not crazy for signing up is because of my secret weapon : my husband Matt Dougherty and my coach Matt Dougherty. They are the same person but sometimes it’s easier to talk about them as different people so I can keep both relationships strong. (cue laugh cry) He has not only spent years doing endurance sports – snowshoeing, marathon canoe racing, 4-day adventure racing, Ironman distance triathlon and the like… but he has been encouraging and coaching people to do so. He spent a large portion of time working with college athletes until the bureaucracy of a school forced him to make a change. It has been a choice we have never regretted. He coached me for a year in college (not scandalous but you can pretend if you want) and knows my ability probably better than I do, so when I asked if he thought I could do it and he said yes I knew I would be okay.

Perhaps even more importantly, he is writing the training plan for me to follow to prepare for the race. It’s interesting how many people recognize the benefit of a coach when they are involved in athletics through school – elementary through college – but once they graduate they tend to either give up on their ambitions or think they can go it alone. Let’s be honest. You might be a good runner, a good athlete, but even the best doctors don’t do surgery on themselves. They trust someone enough to do it for them, and that’s what coaching is. We often have a hard time seeing in to ourselves and recognizing what it is we need to move forward, let alone what workouts will actually get you to the point of being able to run a 50k trail race. It’s a lot more back and forth, analyze where you are at and what you need than it is sending off a pre-written sheet you could have copied down from runner’s world. Anyone could do that. It takes intuition, strategic thinking, and a vast knowledge of training and the body to help someone achieve a goal athletically. We aren’t all starting from the same place. In fact, Meg is coming back from a hip injury and obviously her training is adapted to meet that need, I’m six months out from having a baby so a lot of my initial training was just trying to become a runner again.

You don’t in fact have to run 20 miles daily in order to train for a 50k – or a marathon for that matter. Sure, the more serious and advanced athletes will take on higher mileage and need to demand more of themselves… but honestly athletes like Meg and I – who are currently working a lot, trying to find time to prioritize workouts and do so without injury – are not so different from you.

So do you want to see my training? Or maybe you want some of your own because you have goals you are ready to dust off and make a reality. Sign up to Matt’s email list and we’ll be sending out my first 4 weeks of training on Friday. Who wants to come out to California and join us??

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August 25, 2015

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