Welcome to Running Shorts!
Greetings readers and welcome to the Running Shorts column on True/Slant. We are Matt and Megan: avid runners, food-lovers, and the newest True/Slant contributors. We’d like to make Running Shorts your go-to source for training advice, gear and book reviews, motivation, and of course our own witty insights.
The two of us have been virtual friends for a few months now, but there’s still so much we don’t know about each other. And since you don’t know us either, let’s start with a little Q & A!
Matt: I know you ran cross-country in high school, but did you always like running, even as a kid?
Megan: I never gave running (or exercise) much thought until junior high. I remember the very first time I ran with intention: I was staying after school with a friend to work on a project. Being 13-year-olds with short attention spans, we decided to take a break from our project and race each other down the hallways. When we were tired enough to stop, we collapsed into giggles. As I hunched over, catching my breath, my friend suggested that we join the junior high track team that next winter. It might be a good way to meet cute boys, right? Anyway, in January of 2000, I showed up at my first conditioning practice and the rest is history.
I originally started running to make friends and be part of a team and I always liked it well enough. However, it wasn’t until I was in my early 20’s that I actually started to love running. I still enjoy the activity for its social aspects, but now I do it less for other people and more for myself. Over the past 10 years, running has become a constant in my life. It’s been there through graduations and first jobs, break ups and new beginnings, crummy days and awesome days, foreign countries and familiar routes. I haven’t always enjoyed every single minute (i.e. those last few miles of the Boston Marathon, oof), but I’ve never regretted a run. I feel incredibly lucky to have found something that I love so much!
Matt: One of the first posts I ever read on your blog was your Boston Marathon recap; it made me so excited to qualify. Does running fast come easily to you or did you have to work really hard to get there?
Megan: I’m flattered that you think I’m fast, Matt! It’s funny because I still don’t think of myself as a “fast runner”. I ran for a pretty competitive Division III team in college and even when I ran my 5K PR (18:52), I was still only middle of the pack. I think being surrounded by incredibly talented runners really influenced my outlook on running. When I started college, I knew I wanted to be part of a team, but I wasn’t all that serious about my training at first (something I regret sometimes). But after a few seasons, I finally found my groove and really buckled down. Those four years were definitely a lot of work (40+ miles a week, all-day meets on Saturdays, year round), but the training worked and my times steadily improved.
About a year after college graduation, I was ready for a new goal: my first marathon. I trained hard and put in my mileage, but even on the morning of the NYC marathon, I still had no idea what kind of time to expect. I told myself that I’d be happy with a time anywhere around 4 hours. However, the crowd support of those first few miles really energized me and at the halfway point I realized I was under pace for a Boston Qualifying time (3:40:59 for my age group). Although I slowed a bit in the last few miles, I was able to maintain the pace enough to run 3:38:41. I feel kind of silly saying that I qualified for Boston without really trying, but in retrospect I know I was more than prepared to run that kind of time. Earlier that Spring I had run a 1:36 half marathon (this was 7:20/mile pace, or about a minute faster than the pace I needed to run for the full distance) and I had trained diligently with the Central Park track club all summer and fall.
I guess what it came down to was — I didn’t put too much pressure on myself. I kept the time goal in the back of my head and when I realized it was a possibility mid-race, I just went for it. Not expecting to qualify and then then having it come within reach really built up my confidence during the later miles. I was feeling completely drained physically after mile 20, but mentally I was in a great state of mind. I’m not sure that this low-pressure, “let’s see what happens” approach will work for everyone, but it worked in this instance! Personally, when I put too much pressure on myself, I tend to freak out. I really think that running is at least 60% mental – if your head stays in a positive place, the performance will follow.
Matt: Are you an iPod person or a “sounds of nature” person during your long runs? (And if you do listen to music, what do you listen to?)
Megan: If I’m doing a long run alone or on a treadmill I’ll sometimes listen to an ipod, however I’ve never used one for a marathon or very competitive race. Some of my favorite “pump me up” songs are (don’t laugh!):
- Lose Yourself by Eminem
- Gold Digger by Kanye West
- Pour Some Sugar on Me by Def Leppard
- Anything by Fergie
Ok, enough about Megan let’s get to know Matt a little better!
Megan: Do you remember your very first run? If so, do you remember why you went for it?
Matt: I started running in college as part of a general get-in-shape program. (Remember Body for Life?) But that wasn’t really about running; it was just part of the whole fitness plan. And for some reason I chose to do my runs on this awful indoor track where it took ten laps to equal a mile, so I really hated it.
But then my friends and I got this idea to run a marathon. Kind of odd, because we weren’t runners, we didn’t know anything about running, and we were much more into just being in shape than we were into the actual running. But to us, a marathon seemed like the ultimate, impossible, hardcore thing you could do, and we figured that if we could run one, it would logically follow that we would be in great shape.
I think of the first few runs of that training program as my first real runs. I do specifically remember the first long run I ever did, a six-miler. I barely finished it; by the time I got back I was totally exhausted and hurting. But for the rest of that day I was so proud of the fact that I had run that far, because in my world, people didn’t run six miles. It was extreme, and that was fun for me.
Megan: Describe your perfect post-run meal.
Matt: After a run is the time when I eat all the stuff I normally wouldn’t. Like sugar, white bread, white rice. It’s not just as a reward; those quick-digesting carbs get into your muscles really quickly so they’re great immediately after a workout. My perfect meal? I’ll go with a big piece of crusty bread, a bean and rice burrito, and a glass of chocolate soymilk. Oh yeah, and a nice dark beer later on in the day.
Megan: I love that you enjoy a good beer! Ok, now fill in the blank: If I’m not running, I’m probably ____________.
Matt: Reading. Usually nerdy, mathy, sciency stuff. Almost never anything about running.
Megan: Which do you prefer (and why!) – Long slow miles or speedy track workouts?
Matt: Definitely the track workouts. I just like working really hard for a short period of time and then being finished. I get pretty bored on long runs, but I think learning to enjoy just being out there for a long time is the next step for me as a runner. The next race I do is going to be a trail race, so I’m thinking that spending a lot of time on trails might help me come to appreciate my surroundings a little more.
So there you have it— in talking with each other and reading each others’ blogs, we’ve come to realize that we run for very different reasons, and that’s a good thing! It’s our hope that having different perspectives on running will allow us to provide you with a variety of interesting insights and maybe even some illuminating disagreements.
We don’t know exactly what direction this thing will take us. Who knows what’ll happen when you give two foodie runners a column and turn them loose? We’re excited to find out, and we hope you are too. Feel free to leave us a comment to let us know what you think.