Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Returning to Running: Training with FootZones Half Marathon Group

By : Dr Jenny Blechman

After a year of long work hours and short work-out time, upon moving back to Bend I was motivated to get into shape, and hoped to start running again. I hadn't run consistently for many years, and though initially intimidated to consider myself a runner in a town full of über athletes, I joined the half marathon running group through Foot Zone in preparation for the Dirty HappyGirls race. It felt over my head, but being held accountable to a group seemed a sure-fire way to not wimp out. Dragging a friend along eased my nerves a bit, but didn't completely prevent having butterflies as we pulled up to our first meeting at the store.

The jitters didn't last long. Teague and Caitlin are incredibly supportive, and encouraging. They did a great job in creating a positive, fun atmosphere in which I certainly felt included. We were split into smaller groups based on a preliminary run time, and each group had a mentor who provided enough encouragement to keep us coming back each week as we started on our trail. This included running tips and delicious power recipes from Caitlin, and words of motivation from our mentor.

And start on the trails we did. Adding mile after mile felt largely effortless because of the support we had from our fearless leaders, and especially from my new friends. The running class included other work-outs through the 2 months such as hill work and conditioning classes that Caitlin teaches elsewhere.

I learned a lot both about the sport, as well as myself. Most sessions started with a short didactic about such things as nutrition, good form, or chiropractic practice. One of the best things, aside from the friendships, was learning new trails. Caitlin sent out a training schedule for the 8 weeks, including our group runs Saturday mornings. We met at various locations, and the courses were always marked ahead of time.  The group did repeat the same trails a few times -- it would have been nice to try different trails and learn even more places to go.  Caitlin was a wealth of practical tips on the runs ("push up the hills with your glutes!") about technique and strategies for improvement.

There were numerous benefits to the training group.  My entire group significantly improved our run times, and found the training easily prepared us to run a half marathon. I ran our half much faster than I could have ever dreamed.  Most importantly, running has become a joy. Aside from the physical endorphin high, loving being back in shape, and the satisfaction of wearing through pairs of shoes, running has become therapeutic. Five of us continue to run together, and even though meeting at 5:45 two mornings a week is tough to get motivated for, it doesn't take many steps after strapping on our headlamps to breathe a sigh of relief to both have the time together and take a breather from our busy lives. We are planning two more half marathons this spring, and look forward to running again in warm weather. I would still not call myself an über athlete, but I am an über fan!

Dr Jennifer Blechman is a palliative care and hospice physician who works at St. Charles Medical Center and at Partners-in-Care hospice. She and her family have lived in Bend since 2002.