How to Select a Running Race

In this post, I am sharing my personal preference on how to choose my next race. It is definitely not one size fits all. You can make your own criteria to pick your first or your one hundred race.
I go online and Google running races near me. Then, I get a long list of races in my area; I narrow the search into 25 miles or sometimes less within my location. I pick the race distance that I am interested to run, such as 5k, 10k, and half marathon. Moreover, I choose the desired race, navigate their official page to look for the following:
1- The cause for what the race was organized, such as a fundraising event for homeless, orphans, or children.
2- Registration fees. It is reasonable for the fees to be around $25-$30. It also depends on your time of registration. The sooner you register, the cheaper the registration fee is.
3- Availability of free parking area.
4- Medals. Most of the races offer awards to the top three finishers (men and women). Additionally, they offer medals to the top three in each age group. For example, a race may award medals to the top three males in the age group 18-24, 25-29, 30-34 and so on.
5- Pet policy. Some races allow pets to run with their owners. I do not participate in this kind of races for safety and health reasons. Some runners are scared of dogs, and others may be allergic to pets.
6- Finally, the weather on the race day. It is not critical, but I like to be both mentally and physically prepared for my runs.

These are just my criteria on how to choose a race, and my list is not exhaustive.

 

Boathouse Race

After two months of contemplation, I decided to participate in a race. I looked online for short runs in the area, and I found the Boathouse run; it was a 5k run. I thought this could be a good start for me this year because I did not join any official race in almost a year. The 5k Boathouse race was on March 2nd, and the expected temperature was around 37 F on that date; for me it was chilly.

There was a big soccer game on that date, but it started one hour before the race time. I drove early to the race site and took my laptop with me. I used my phone hotspot to listen to the soccer game. The good thing was that I could watch the first half of soccer before the race would start. I arrived at the site and parked, while I kept watching the game, which ended 15 minutes before the run. I got out of the car and headed toward the table to pick up my bib and the race shirt. I got back to my car to pin the bib and started warming up right away.

I got to the start line and listed to the organizers to learn more about the rules; the race was a fundraising event for our homeless veterans. I appreciate anything toward our homeless populations.

The organizer whistled and the race started, and so did I. I had a good start and I was in the top 10, but I felt some heaviness in my chest and started coughing; I remembered that I had to use my inhaler when I exercise in the cold weather, but that did not stop me. Although my speed slowed down gradually, I kept running. The ground was muddy and small spots of swamps were along the path. I did not care and I jumped into these spots trying to test my newly purchased shoes.

Toward the end of the race, I pushed hard and increased my speed to pass one of the competitors and I succeeded. After the race, I had some water and a half piece of banana for recovery. I stayed waiting for the results and I came in first in my age group. I got a medal which was my first one this year. Yay!

White House Run

Yesterday morning, the temperature was around 50 F which was higher than the average, and it was chilly and sunny. I decided to go for a long run of eight miles; my destination was the White House. I chose to run in D.C. for many reasons; D.C. was beautiful, people were from everywhere, and there was a lot of energy. Once I left my home, I launched my MapMyRun application; it took the application some time to pick a GPS signal, which it did after a few minutes. This was one of the reasons that I was looking for a new run tracking devise. Sometimes the GPS signal could be spotty which could affect my run statistics. I ran immediately after that going on a running path “greenway” and crossing through different areas to get to my final destination.

The only concern I had about running in D.C. was the traffics signal; I had to stop many times waiting for the pedestrian signal to turn green. Despite that, I made it to the White House, where I took a picture of it to document my run. I ran only for six miles instead of eight because I did not run a long run in a while, so I did not want to overuse my legs.

The amount of energy in D.C. is enormous. It is contagious when you see other people working out. I got infected with one some of the energy units from other people, and I hope I spread some of my energy units to the environment to spread motivation.

New Year 2019

Another yet came to an end, and another one has just begun. My fitness journey was not as exciting as my personal life in 2018, but 2018 was a great year for me overall.

You can tell that I did not run a lot since my last post about “You VS the Year 2018” because I ran only 56 kilometers in 45 days, and this put in the top %18 of that annual challenge. Honestly, these numbers do not reflect who I am; I am competitive by nature.

The “You VS the Year 2019” is on, and I joined it yesterday. I started my new year by a short run of almost four miles. It helped me to burn some of the calories from the holidays and switch my mood from neutral to positive.

My goals for 2019 are more short runs. I am thinking of one short run per month, and one or two long runs, half or full-marathon. A new run tracking device may be nice to have for this year, but I have not decided yet. There are so many options out there, and I need to do some research.

Whatever your new year’s resolutions, I hope 2019 brings you fitness and speed!

Thanksgiving Run

Yesterday was a good day for me because I got the opportunity to burn some of the calories from the Thanksgiving holiday. My Thanksgiving holiday was merely about shopping, cooking, and eating some tasty foods, which I was fortunate for, although I had a long list to be thankful for. The reality hit me the day after Thanksgiving which pushed me to do something more healthful; I decided to go out for a run. I knew it was going to be a cold day, so I looked through the window to explore the parking lot, and I realize that it was raining heavily. I also noticed that non of the living objects were out, so I immediately made my mind to go for a run. If you knew me, you would tell that I would do things that not many people do, such as running when it is insanely cold. I put on my running gear: long-sleeve shirt, shorts, leggings, socks, shoes, running belt, and running jacket. I took my ID, a credit card, and one energy gel in my running belt, in case I would need them for emergencies. Once I left home, I started running with a goal to finish three miles which might not be enough to burn all the calories from Thanksgiving, but it was not too bad at all. Throughout my run, I saw four people on the street: two bikers and two runners. I did not feel cold at the beginning because I was not wet enough from the rain and my body did not lose its heat yet to the environment. Whatever the reason was, I was excited to run in this crazy weather.
With all the excitement I experienced, my legs took me to the end of a path where an international airport was located, and that was my finish line. At the finish line, I kept looking at the planes landing and taking off; something fascinating about these huge “birds.” It could be their size, sound, or the science behind flying. I stopped there for a few minutes and started recording some of the aircraft taking off. In less than a minute, a plane appeared from the fog and made its way up to the sky and disappeared above the clouds.
While I ran back home, I felt heavy not because of the weight I put from Thanksgiving but because I was soaked in water. This ran was my longest run in a while and hope to run further soon.

Annual Challenge

Under Armour has an annual challenge called “You VS the Year 2018”, which I have been participating in this competition for three years now. In 2016, I have only documented 45 runs, totaling 308 kilometers; with these stats, I was ranked in the top 28% of the participants. I liked the idea of being challenged throughout the year, so I decided to join the “You VS the Year 2017.” I was determined that I would better my numbers by diversifying my runs between road and trail, increasing distance, and improving speed. I was a ”little” crazy about my run last year.

At the end of the previous year, I recorded 95 workouts with a total distance of 902.4, and I came in the top 11% of the participants; that was two times more workouts and three times more mileage than 2016. I was even bragging about that to the people I knew.

Although this year is almost over, I feel that my numbers are not as good as I wanted them to be. Up to date, I ran 73 times with an accumulative distance of 533 kilometers, and I’m in the top 19%. Most of this year runs are of short distance for recovery purposes. Because of these short runs, I am not adding enough kilometers to hit the ultimate goal of this competition, which is 1018 kilometers.

I still have 45 days left of 2018; I will run more often with a goal of adding more kilometers to each run.

I am sure I will not be able to hit the goal of this challenge this year, but any additional workout will definitely boost my health.

I will keep you updated on how this challenge will end at the end of 2018!

P.S. for me, it is kind of weird to use kilometers instead of miles.

Shorter Days and Longer Nights!

Last night, the daylight saving ended, which means we get “shorter days” and “longer nights”. It took me a while to understand when we set the clock either backward or forward; it was easier than I thought.

This season and its time will affect my mood and running. My spirit is weather-sensitive; I feel down when it is dark, and I feel better when it is sunny whether it is winter or summer. Running has been my “mood fixer” during these dark seasons, but my running schedule will be different.

I usually run after work around 6:30 PM when the sun is still out, and I still have time to witness the sunset and capture some pictures to document my runs. Now, I need to change my schedule from after work schedule to early morning plan. It can be cold sometimes, and it may be dark, but morning runs has its advantages; it gives me the energy to go through the day even when I’m overwhelmed at work. I lose my appetite after morning runs, which can be a strategy for some weight loss. Morning run has its feel.

Another Run!

I am trying to get back to running gradually after my injury. Today, it is was chilly and windy; temperature was 59 F. Two hours after having my black bean burger, I have decided to burn some of the calories, so I put on my running gear with a jacket to keep me warm throughout the run; If I found my gloves, I would use them as well. Head out and start running with no warming up; I do not warm-up for short runs. It was refreshing to run in cold weather. No many runners were out there because it was cold. I do not do what other people can do, but I do what many people can not do, such as running when it is cold or rainy. I started my run slowly, and I increased my speed a little bit to avoid any further injury. The first mile was fun because it was slow, the second mile was freezing because I crossed the bridge when I was hit by a a cold breeze, the third mile was easy because it was flat, and the fourth mile was hard because it was uphill. I was excited to finish my short run with no injuries; I also had some cool pictures during my third mile.

Consistency is the key for successful running; speed and distance will come later.

It Has Been a While

It has been a while since I wrote my last blog. It has been a while since I ran my last marathon which was in April. It has been a while since I had an injury-free run. I have been busy lately; I have started a new life, different work, and new area.
It took me one month to recover from the last marathon (Blue Ridge Marathon), and I felt great to start running again; but for some reason, I got obsessed with speed. Speed runs can be deceiving because you can run faster and your stats look impressive momentarily, but it is only for a short distance. I increased my pace gradually, or so I thought, and I started running more often. I could not even wait to finish my run and look at my time in my app. My fastest run was 7:09 min/mile and I was happy about that. A few days later, my knees began telling me that they would not keep up with my excitement. I gave myself a break to rest and recover, and that was enough for my left knee. My right knee was demanding more time, so I stopped running for almost two months.
Meanwhile, I began swimming because it is a low-impact exercise that I could enjoy instead of running. Swimming was fun for me, but it was not as fun as running.
After two months of the no-run period, I finally tried yesterday to go out for a short run. I was concerned that my knees would relapse. I started running slowly and with caution. Outside, my smile grew with each pain-free strike, and there was a sense of relief inside me that reassured me that I was doing great. I ran for 4.30 miles, and my pace was 9:46 min/mile; my stats were not great, but I was happy to get back to running. I hope I can run for a short distance and be injury free.
Don’t speed when you run; it is like speeding when you drive!

Bearspective vs 2017

Today is the end of 2017 which brings an end to my running challenge, “You VS the Year 2017,” which is sponsored by Under Armor (UA). I completed this challenge with the excitement of finishing 902 kilometers of running throughout 2017. This is almost three times what I ran last year for the same challenge. “You VS the Year 2017” has nine incremental goals of hitting certain kilometers: 1 km, 21 km, 42 km, 100 km, and 300 km. Then, it increases every 200 km until the end aim of 1017 km. You get a badge every time you achieve any of the above goals.

I signed up for this challenge on January 11th, 2017 and recorded my runs sporadically because I did not think that I would achieve these three-digit goals. I reached the 300 km goal on June 4th, 2017 when I ran my first half-marathon. It took me six months to reach the 300 km goal, and from nowhere, my obsession with this challenge began. I started recording every run, whether short or long, as long as I met the challenge requirement of at least 20 minutes. This approach has progressed well as I have noticed that I earn a new badge every two months – two hundred kilometers every two months until December 30th, when I surpassed my 900-kilometer goal.

I have taken a major leap toward adopting a healthful lifestyle in the past few years. I can say that I am an active person generally but I do not stick to a healthy diet for longer periods of time. Maintaining a healthy diet is hard for me because of my major weakness: I love food. Eating is one of my coping mechanisms for stress; I wish that I were the kind of person who does not eat during stressful times.

Running definitely helps me to unwind and keeps me in a good spirit, but it also gives the opportunity to enjoy having a little extra of the food I love. In March 2017, I had a routine doctor’s visit and I got to know that my cholesterol numbers were off the charts. However, my overall risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD) was minimal because my good cholesterol was high, but still, the abnormal numbers freaked me out! I decided to watch my diet while keeping running as my preferred method of exercising. In a few months, after cutting down on my drinking and smoking, my cholesterol numbers dropped dramatically; most of these numbers were almost normal, which motivated me more to maintain my healthy lifestyle… until the holidays. Holidays and peer pressure have had a great influence on breaking some of my healthy eating rules lately.
I will not have any resolutions for 2018 because I know that I will change my goals as I go through 2018 based on emerging circumstances, but I will join “You VS the Year 2018” for sure to see how far I can go in the year to come.

Bye 2017, and welcome 2018!
Al Janabi - Pic.