4 Tips Wilson Kipsang Does Not Need

"Lilesa, Biwott, Kebede, Mutai, Kipsang & Abshero" (C) 2013 Julian Mason, Under a Creative Commons Attribution License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en

“Lilesa, Biwott, Kebede, Mutai, Kipsang & Abshero” (C) 2013 Julian Mason, Under a Creative Commons Attribution License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en


You aren’t going to beat Wilson Kipsang unless you can run faster than a 4:42 per mile pace for 26.2 miles. That’s what he had to do to achieve his World Record-breaking time of 2:03:23 at the Berlin Marathon on Sept. 29.

Just think: Not only did he set a PR (Personal Record), he set a PR for the entire world.

Of course, no one is satisfied with their PR for long. After the race, Kipsang told reporters that he thinks he still has the potential to run a faster marathon. “Anything under 2:03:23,” he said.


But you don’t have to be an elite runner from Kenya to achieve a PR. Anyone who has ever participated in a race has thought about setting a personal best.

Training for a personal best takes dedication and hard work…and a good coach doesn’t hurt. But, beyond that, here are 4 practical tips from top athletes and coaches to help you set your next PR:

“Often people see a great achievement and impulsively want to achieve the same goal. There are no short cuts. Give yourself the opportunity to be successful. Do this by putting in the time and earning it.” – Gail Kattouf, champion duathlete from “Achieving Personal Best: Gail Kattouf on CityCoach.org”

“Believing you can do something can help you achieve lofty goals that you once thought were almost unachievable. Set your sights on seemingly impossible personal records and then mercilessly work toward them.  There are people who think they can and people who think they can’t.  Both are right.” – Jason Fitzgerald, running coach (Strength Running) and author from “Breaking Mental Barriers: How to Run Dramatically Faster”

“If you’re looking to run a personal best, racing every weekend isn’t the recipe for success. The reality is that personal bests are often the result of many weeks and months of quality training.” – Matt Forsman, running coach from “Run Less for Your Personal Best Race”

“Decide you really want it: Visualize achieving success while you’re training. You have to really want it on race day. There is nothing stronger than an intense will, so make sure you focus on that passionate drive to achieve your goal.” – Scott Jurek, 7-time winner of the Western States 100-mile trail run from “The Long Run: Push to Achieve a Personal Record”

If all else fails, pick a fast course. Check out this guide to “The 6 Best U.S. Marathons to Set a Personal Record.”

13 Rules of Running

Occasionally, I see a runner on the wrong side of the road and I am tempted to pull over and lecture them on why they should be running against traffic,  not with it. Seems like common sense to me, but not everyone knows  the basic running rules, especially if they are new to running.

Here are 13 rules of running for when you’re out on the road or trail:

  1. Run against traffic. This is the best way to ensure cars see you—and you can see them. If a car comes from behind you, you may not know until it is too late.
  2. Stop at stop signs and make sure oncoming traffic stops before you cross. It’s the same as in a car. You never know. The driver could be distracted and miss the sign altogether.
  3. Don’t make a sudden u-turn during an out-and-back route. Stop, make sure oncoming traffic passes (or other runners, cyclists, etc.), then make your u-turn. A great tip from the Road Runners Club of America article “Etiquette for Runners.”
  4. Obey stop lights and cross walk signals, and be alert when crossing. Again, some drivers don’t think to look for pedestrians—especially before turning. Making eye contact with the driver is a good way to ensure you are seen.
  5. Don’t run down the middle of the trail (or the road), advises the RRCA article.
  6. Don’t wear head phones, and keep your head on a swivel (be aware of your surroundings). If you absolutely must run with music, at the very least, only use one earbud and keep the volume low so you can hear car noise, voices or animals (loose dogs, deer hooves, etc.).
  7. When running on a blind curve, try to get off of the road as much as possible and stay alert.
  8. If running in a group, don’t run more than two abreast. “Don’t be a road or trail hog,” the RRCA says.
  9. Choose your road-running route wisely. Try not to run on busy roads, or curvy roads with lots of blind turns, roads under construction or poorly maintained roads.
  10. Always carry identification, either a driver’s license or something like RoadID, a few dollars and your cell phone.
  11. Remember to tell someone where you are going and when you think you’ll be back, and try to run with a buddy.
  12. When running with a jogging stroller, use the safety strap. Use the safety strap even when you’re stopped and have the brake on. You don’t want your child accidentally rolling into traffic or down a hill off the side of the trail.
  13. When passing other runners, always give them a shout-out, “On your left!” before you pass. Say it loud—they may be wearing head phones.

For even more “rules to run by,” see Running Etiquette in the 2Toms Knowledge Base.

Side Cramps when Running: How to Avoid and Get Rid of Them

Side cramps. Side stitch. Side ache. No matter what you call it, getting a cramp in your side while running is just plain annoying. It hurts, too, and can affect how you run.

What Causes Side Cramps when Running?

In an article on WebMD, Olympic runner and running expert Jeff Galloway says that side cramps when running happen due to shallow breathing, “not breathing deeply from the lower lung.” This would explain why I got a side ache during the first three miles of the Seattle Rock ‘N’ Roll half marathon the last two years in a row. There is so much excitement. I’m high-fiving spectators, cheering for bands and not paying attention to my running or breathing. Galloway says the side pain is a “little alarm” letting you know that you aren’t breathing right.

Exercise physiologist and spokesman for the American Council on Exercise Pete McCall says in the WebMD article that a side stitch can also be from “an imbalance of blood electrolytes (such as calcium, potassium and sodium) in your body.”

How to Get Rid of a Side Stitch

Here are a few ways to get rid of and avoid side cramps when running from Galloway:Galloway Training Program

Practice breathing deep: “Put your hand on your stomach and breathe deeply. If you’re breathing from your lower lungs, your stomach should rise and fall.”

Don’t start too fast: This is a good rule to follow anyway. Running too fast out of the gates is a good way to get a side stitch. “It’s always better during the first 10 minutes to be more gentle,” Galloway says in the article. He also says that nervousness can cause runners to breathe faster and “revert to shallow breathing.”

Slow down, breathe deep: If you get cramping in your side during your run or race, slow down to a walk, says Galloway. “Do the lower lung breathing while walking, maybe [for 2-4] minutes.”

Eat or drink: If your side ache is from an imbalance of electrolytes, taking an energy gel and some electrolyte-infused fluids, such as Nuun. That worked for me both times.

Do you have any tips that have worked for you? Please share in the comments!

When To Buy New Running Shoes?

Are you having sudden unexplained arch pain? Is there a strange ache in your knee? Are you wondering if you are losing your mind? Well, good news! You’re not going crazy, you probably just need to buy new running shoes!

I know because I just went through this. I’ve been running with no problems and then—WHAM!—all of a sudden I’m having strange aches and pains in my lower legs and feet. Of course, as an injury-prone runner, I freaked out thinking that I am on the verge of either a fracture or a nervous breakdown.

I’ve been running for years, but for some reason, I never remember when it’s time for new running shoes! It happens to me every time, and then I remember to check the mileage on my shoes. Palm meet forehead.

So how do you know when to buy new running shoes?

Here are a couple of ways:

Listen to your body.

Like I mentioned above, your body will probably let you know if you need new shoes. Mario Fraioli, senior editor at Competitor magazine, answered a runner’s question about new shoes in a Q&A: “Nagging little niggles in the form of sore arches, shin pain, achy knees or other small annoyances will start to manifest themselves when you’re not getting the support and protection you once were from your shoes.”

He says that while these aren’t real injuries, the persistent aches and pains could lead to injuries, so fix your footwear! If you’re not sure if this is what your body is telling you, “…go into a running store and try on a fresh pair of the same shoes you’ve been training in—assuming they’ve worked out well for you, of course—next to the old ones. If your old dogs feel flat and “dead” compared to the new ones, there you go. The best way to tell the difference is to feel the difference.”

Track mileage.

I use DailyMile to track my workouts. DailyMile has a nice feature that lets you attach specific gear to each workout. So, everytime I take my Brooks Adrenaline GTS 13‘s out for a run, I tag them so that I know how many miles I’m putting on them. All shoes are different, so it’ll take a couple times for you to figure out when your favorite model of shoe’s time is up.

For example, I’ve only been running in this particular shoe since August. My DailyMile gear-tracker said my shoes has 330 miles on them, but since I’d never been through a complete training cycle with the Adrenaline, I wasn’t sure if they were ready to be replaced or not. A simple Tweet to Brooks, and they responded letting me know that my pair of shoes should be replaced between 300-400 miles.

Aha! It was time to buy new running shoes! And like Mr. Fraioli said above, I could tell as soon as I tried on the new pair that my old pair was toast. Shoe brands and types (minimalist vs. traditional), running surfaces and body weights are all factors, of course, so mileage can vary widely. (Elite marathoner Ryan Hall, for example, gets new running shoes twice a month!) But for a general guideline, check with your shoes’ manufacturer.

Press Tests

Runner and New York Times columnist Gina Kolata says in the article, “When to Retire a Running Shoe,” that her coach Tom Fleming uses a press-test method: “Put one hand in your shoe, and press on the sole with your other hand. If you can feel your fingers pressing through, those shoes are worn out—the cushioning totally compressed or the outer sole worn thin.”

In the same article, Kolata cites Rodger Kram, a biomechanics researcher at the University of Colorado. His theory is that runners should change their shoes before the ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA), which is inside the soles of most running shoes, breaks down. “Think of a piece of Wonder Bread, kind of fluffy out of the bag,” he says in the article. “But smoosh it down with the heel of your palm, and it is flat with no rebound.” He says a moderate amount of cushioning is good for runners, but admits there’s no real proof that cushioning actually prevents injuries.

I don’t know. Cushioning certainly feels like it helps since my shins, ankles, arches, calves and knees complain when it is time to buy new running shoes. My husband also complains, but that’s a whole different blog post.

6 Tips to Becoming a Morning Runner

There are so many advantages to getting up early in the morning to exercise. Unfortunately, there is one big disadvantage that outweighs everything else: getting out of bed early in the morning.two-female-running-beach

I used to be a pro at getting my run done before the rest of the world was moving, but these days I’m better at hitting the snooze button. I try to remind myself of the advantages of an a.m. runnning routine:

  • Getting my work out done. If I try to squeeze it in during the day, I may not even get to exercise at all!
  • I have more energy throughout my day. I’m more productive.
  • I’m happier during the day.
  • I eat healthier throughout the day.

Those are just my reasons. There are real health benefits, too. Working out in the morning can jump start your metabolism and even help improve sleep (sure doesn’t feel like it when you drag yourself out of bed at 5 a.m., though, am I right?).

Becoming a morning runner requires a bit of a lifestyle change. For one thing, you can’t be up watching TV or checking your work e-mail on your laptop till midnight every night and then expect to be able to get up 5-6 hours later and exercise. That’s not even healthy. Your body needs sleep. So what are some other things that could help sleepyheads get out of bed and get moving?

Here are some of my tips, and some helpful advice from an article on Competitor, “Rise and Run: How to Become a Morning Runner,” by Linzay Logan:

6 Tips to Becoming a Morning Runner

  1. Start small. Start setting your alarm clock for 20-30 minutes earlier than you have been waking up. Keep setting it earlier and earlier until you’ve reached your desired wake-up time.
  2. Natural light. If it is light out, open your curtains right away to help your body wake up. If it’s winter or doesn’t get light out when you need to get up, try a light box.
  3. Go to bed earlier. (Try the same “start small” exercise for getting up earlier to help you go to bed earlier.)
  4. Plan ahead. Get out your workout clothes the night ahead and lay them out so that all you have to do is get dressed in the morning. Untie your shoes and set them next to your clothes. Also, put out any accessories you might need (your running watch, your exercise DVD, your keys, etc.).
  5. Don’t think. Don’t let your brain think about your workout when you get up. Just rise and get dressed.
  6. Redirect. If you do start to think about it, think about how fantastic you feel after a work out (energized, happy, hungry, etc.).

Think you can do it? Try getting up early just 1 or 2 days a week at first. If you’re successful, add more days! Are you a morning runner or exerciser? Share your tips in the comments below!

Watch Boston Marathon in Person or at Home

Some people never get the chance to run the prestigious Boston Marathon. But anyone can watch it, and from what I’ve heard, that’s a sport in itself!

On Monday, April 15, thousands of runners will toe the start line (or at least line up behind the elite runners that get to toe the start line) to run the 2013 Boston Marathon. This year marks the 117th running of the world’s oldest annual marathon. In addition to the thousands of runners, the Boston Marathon attracts just as many, or more, spectators.

In the article “How to Watch the Boston Marathon” on Cool Running, columnist Don Allison says this about spectating the race: “It’s dog-eat-dog, every man for himself out there, the epitome of Darwinism at work. Only the strong survive when it comes to viewing a mega-marathon such as Boston.”

Yikes. Luckily, he offers some great places to watch the race—Ashland, Framingham, Natick or the Newton Hills—and some tips for viewing the marathon in his article –

Tips to Watch Boston Marathon in Person:

  • Stay stationary: No zipping around at this race—it’s too crowded.
  • Find a good spot and get there early: The start of the race does not qualify as a “good spot.”
  • Watch the finish: Get to Boylston Street very early for a good spot, and know that you’ll be waiting a loooong time till the runners come in.
  • Bring your bike: Allison says the easiest way to get around if you want to change spectating spots during the race is by bike.

It’s a good idea to look at the course ahead of time, too, if you can and maybe even drive to the place or places you want to watch from beforehand. Click the link of a map of the Boston Marathon course.

Start times are staggered for Boston runners. Here’s a list of all the start times from the Boston Athletic Association’s website:

  • Mobility Impaired: 9 a.m.
  • Wheelchair Division: 9:17 a.m.
  • Handcycles: 9:22 a.m.
  • Elite Women: 9:32 a.m.
  • Elite Men & Wave 1: 10 a.m.
  • Wave 2: 10:20 a.m.
  • Wave 3: 10:40 a.m.

The BAA site also has a handy Spectator Guide with road closures, parking areas and even a prediction of the times elites will pass certain locations along the course.

But not everyone can be there in person. Luckily, there are several ways you can virtually watch the Boston Marathon.

Tips to Watch Boston Marathon from Home:

  • Live TV coverage: Watch the marathon on national TV with Universal Sports Television Network’s broadcast beginning at 9:30 a.m. (ET) on Monday, April 15.
  • Live Web coverage: Go to www.BAA.org to watch live web coverage of the race. I watched my fried cross the finish line on the webcast a couple of years ago. I even cried a little.
  • Athlete Alert: Get text alerts about your runners! Register for the AT&T Athlete Alerts by texting RUNNER to 345678. On race day, you will receive an alert as your runner reaches the 10K, 13.1-mile, 30K, and the finish line! (Click the link on how to download the app and for the fine print on this service.)

Have you ever spectated the Boston Marathon? Please share any advice or tips you may have!