A marathon runner's diary
PHOTO BY CLARENCE JONES
Ellen Jaffe Jones trains at the Manatee High School track.
Editors note: Ellen Jaffe Jones is an Anna Maria resident and 5K runner, as well as an in-home personal trainer, who is training for her first marathon race. Over the next several weeks, she will chronicle her run-up to the Dec. 5 race for The Sun. She also can be reached for questions or comments at www.vegcoach.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Why do you run a marathon? As I touched on last week, I may have the worst genes in America with a mom, aunt and both sisters devastated by breast cancer. That is only the beginning of a legacy of diseases that had me growing up at bedsides witnessing chemotherapy, Alzheimer’s, diabetic disasters and every heart procedure imaginable. The real reason I’m running 26.2 miles is to show my three daughters that genes do not have to be destiny. The reality is that between us four ladies, one or more of us has an appointment with cancer and other diseases in the gene cesspool. One of my relatives who got breast cancer used to say, “I always thought it was a matter of when, not if, I would get breast cancer.” I refuse to go there. I have no time for that or any other disease. If mind works over matter, sign me up.
How do you train for a marathon? A plethora of plans are out there. I am using two that are similar. One is an on-line plan from Active.com which is the main website that coordinates on-line registration for most large road races in America. The other plan is from my fave running coach, Rae Ann Darling Reed, at RunnerGirl.com. She is also my boss as the Manatee High School Cross Country and Track Girls’ track coach. I’m her assistant coach. Although I’m certified as a running coach through the Road Runners Club of America, Rae Ann is a coach’s coach. She’s run the legendary Boston Marathon several times and is doing it again this year. Runners tend to be an inquisitive lot, looking for answers about everything from the blister cures to the best shoes. So it is no surprise that in addition to my own knowledge, I would get two more outside opinions on how to train for the big one.
With the online plan, you can enter the date of your race and then buy a training plan that “backtimes” from race day. So I bought a 12-week plan that began in August. But the reality is, I started training a year before that. I began working out in earnest in August 2010. Rae Ann opened a two-week running camp to the public at GT Bray Park. She mainly wanted to get the high school cross country team in shape before the meets began, which occur soon after school opens. She also made the camp open to adults. When it looked like I would be the only adult, she still made me feel comfortable. I brought and talked about healthy foods, and a wonderful partnership began. She invited me to continue running with the girls during the school year, which I did. My times in 5K (3.1miles) races started improving, and then in almost every race, I started attaining personal records or PR’s as they’re known by runners.
Up until I bought a Garmin GPS watch that automatically tracks how far and how fast you run, I wrote down my times and distance on a paper log. The Garmin is my second favorite device behind my iPod. To know your pace or how far you’ve run at any moment is crucial to staying injury free. There are purists who try to get others to dump all the electronics and run like the old days. It frees you they say. Having had a stress fracture, I respectfully disagree. I stress fractured when I ran the long Saturday and Sunday runs with the club and got so involved in the wonderful camaraderie, I lost track of time and distance. The big no-no in training for any event is never to increase your mileage by more than 10 percent each week. At least for me, I have to keep track of how far I run each day, and each week, to know when I go overboard. This, along with Rae Ann’s dynamic warm-up routine, core exercises and post-run stretching I believe, has kept me injury free.
Runner’s log, Nov. 13
Weather all week: beyond perfect, ideal for runners, a crisp early-morning 60 degrees, low humidity.
On Saturdays, members of the Bradenton Runners Club meet at 8 a.m. at the south end of Coquina Beach and run about 6 miles the length of the park, over the Cortez Bridge and through the Cortez fishing village. I’m there at 7 a.m. I really need to get in a 20-mile run before the marathon. That is the longest distance most plans want you to do. The idea is not to burn yourself out before you get to the start line. I am supposed to have done 20 miles by now.
I did a mediocre 20 miles about a month ago at Bayfront Park. Since I’ve fractured, I’m a stickler for soft surfaces instead of concrete or asphalt on these long runs. So yeah, I’m that crazy lady you might see running back and forth on the parking lot with its crushed shell and sand surface. But during those five hours of 20 miles, I stopped at my car, got a drink, electrolyte-loaded gummy bears, changed shoes, changed orthotics and added more anti-pain gel to my knee and ankle. In my mind, those 20 miles didn’t count. So now at Coquina, could I pack it all in today? I do three miles before the first runners arrive. I run another six miles with them. I’m done. My knee is saying, “if you run one more mile on me, I will boycott your marathon.”
Runner's log, Nov. 20
I run the 5K Harvest Hustle in Bradenton. This is only a training race for the marathon, not a really competitive one. This is my last race before the big one. I arrive an hour early, slather on my anti-pain gels and warm-up, including a one-mile jog with Rae Ann. We do our lunges, hopping and skipping in the parking lot in the vacant handicapped spaces. The race is fun and fast. Rae Ann finished first among all females running the course in just over 20 minutes. Not missing a beat, she turns right around and comes back to pace me in shouting quick phrases of encouragement along the way. She is by far, one of the most unselfish, giving, energetic people I have ever met! I PR again and improve my time from last year’s race by about 4 minutes. My official time was 27:50 – a new PR by almost a minute. Pretty unusual at my age when some women are dropping out of competing or running altogether.
My Garmin watch shows I actually ran 30 seconds faster than the official time. That is because it takes 20 to 30 seconds for the back of the pack runners to actually make their way up to the start line once the gun goes off. I hung back at the start allowing the faster runners to begin right at the start line. That is good race etiquette, but I think I’m going to be less polite next time. The woman who got first place in my age group did it by only a few seconds. So being too polite can make a difference. Here’s a new reality – I am the faster runner. Oh well, it’s only a race. More importantly, another race finished without injury. Two weeks to go until the marathon.