Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Out of my element…. into a P.R in more ways than one!

Written By: Natalia Martin

Not long ago I was purely a solo runner. For the past 24 years, I had always trained alone except twice (no mystery as to how that turned out…) I assumed the head-clearing, blissful, sweaty solitude over the miles as I inhaled nature on my own terms was the ultimate running experience. It worked for me. My fear was that this experience would be tainted if I ran with others outside of a racing environment.

But when I started training for my first two marathons (Chicago ’97 & Paris ‘06) those longer marathon training runs got BORING; the motivation that never fails to get me out the door would morph into a stale attitude that clung to me, dragged me down, & occasionally muttered “Sure, slow down that pace” or “heck, stop and walk”, or “hey, look, a GARAGE SALE!!!”

It wasn’t leg fatigue, inadequate fuel/hydration, or the wrong shoes that got me, but the monotony of going on long solo run after long solo run. After finishing those two marathons I knew I could have done a lot better in my training and finishing times if I had felt more inspired and motivated throughout the training journey, as well as being more knowledgeable about strategies for running longer distances.

Running should be enjoyable and training for a marathon should be the same….but HOW? I had signed up for the 2013 Portland Marathon and was excited to train, but needed to do something different….like, perhaps, run with other people (YIKES!) I feared running with someone who was one or more of the following:

• nauseatingly chatty

• had too many annoying habits (I can tolerate up to 4 or 5)

• overly competitive (I save that for race days)

• not serious enough (coffee stops are for before and/or after a run)

• had a pace that didn’t mesh at all with mine

• unreliable

• a chronic complainer (toenail issues are only interesting for 5 minutes…)

Despite these concerns and mentally armed with one of my favorite quotes, “Everything you’ve ever wanted is one step outside your comfort zone” I signed up for the marathon training group offered by USA FIT Bend. My comfort zone was running solo and I very reluctantly challenged it. This was the best running-related decision I have ever made (second best was buying a great running watch…FootZone sells those;-) The Saturday training runs quickly became the highlight of my week, for many reasons, a large part because of my fellow runners, the conversations, and the shared experience of working towards a common goal.

Geof & Tonya, the USA FIT Bend organizers, and the coaches, have created the perfect environment for participants (seasoned runners and those completely new to the distance) to be inspired and motivated by ALL to meet the marathon goal. Participants are placed in coached groups based on running pace. There is a different training plan for each group and a track workout during the week. All of the coaches are seasoned athletes with TONS of interesting, valuable information, great stories, and a genuine interest in making the journey to the marathon fun, injury-free, educational, and motivating. They deliver! I am a far more knowledgeable runner in training and racing because of what I learned from the coaches and other runners every Saturday. But the most impressive part of the experience was the support, camaraderie, friendships I made, and JOY of running those training miles together with USA FIT Bend without boredom or diminishing motivation! This is a big change from my previous marathon training experiences running solo. My running experience has a new dimension, and I have some fabulous friends to run with year-round.

As for the Portland marathon, I got a PR, qualified for the Boston Marathon, and have training friends as I venture into ultra marathon territory. Of course, I have signed up for USA Fit Bend again! You should, too! It’s true, that “If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you”. I am excited about this personal mental and physical change from this awesome training program.

Natalia Martin, 38, is a stay at home mom to a Nicolas (5) and Keira (3). Her supportive husband, Keith, thinks she is a bit nuts with this long distance running stuff. He is grateful (and spends less time rolling his eyes at her) because she has found USA FIT Bend; consequently, he doesn’t have to listen to her talk quite as much about running shoes, hydration options, gel ingredients, race reports, salt capsule brands, and finding the best calf sleeves because she can channel all that fun into Saturday morning runs.

Interested in stepping outside your comfort zone? Join USA Fit Bend and train for the Portland Marathon or another fall marathon of your choice. For more information, go We can't wait to run with you!

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