Dangle a Carrot.
When I was doing my first-ever 12-mile training run, I was struggling to get up a big hill at mile 11, and I thought, “Self, if you can finish running up this hill, you have permission to buy those fabulous green flats you’ve been eying for weeks.” So I powered up that hill — and went out and got myself those gorgeous shoes.
And yeah, I know, running and racing is fulfilling in itself, but sometimes when the training gets really grueling, you need something more tangible as a morale booster. So then and there, on that big hill in the 11th mile of the last big run, I started a tradition of rewarding myself to some sort of trinket upon completion of race training.
Sometimes, it’s running-related (like something that’s not from the sale section of Lululemon), and sometimes, it’s just something I’ve been wanting for awhile (like those red boots I’ve been lusting after for two seasons). Whatever it is, it’s a way to signal the completion of a goal as a gift to myself.
So join me, won’t you? When the going gets tough, the tough get going shopping. — Aidz
Here at the Bad Angel headquarters, we get lots of content requests and questions. And usually, we’ve got answers (or at the very least, opinions and sarcasm)! But recently, a question about rural running came across our paths, and we just couldn’t deliver.
Chrystan asks: Where I run there are rolling hills and no sidewalks because I live in the country. When I crest a hill, I don’t want a car to smash me to smithereens, so I cross over and run with the traffic. And then I cross over again once I’m over the hill. I would love to know more about country running safety. Is it safer to stay against traffic? With traffic? Hill running sure is complicated!
Great question! In fact, so great, we just aren’t sure what the answer is. If you’re running in the city, we suggest running toward oncoming traffic. But in the country? Playing chicken with traffic? Agh! We turned to expert country runner (and recent Boston Marathon qualifier!), Bad Angel Amy Neltner, for advice.
Amy answers: Running in the “country” is a challenge for sure. I really try to watch the curves in the road and go to the most visible side, whether it be with or against traffic. This being said, I have had many neighbors stop to tell me where they think that I should run, and the majority say that they prefer me to be running against traffic. They have also suggested that I wear a bright yellow road construction vest too, but well, that ain’t happening! And I haul ass on hills that have blind spots! Ha! (I worry less about cars than the amount of road kill and rural life smells that I encounter with running in the country…)
Thanks, Amy! Stay safe, Chrystan! And for the rest of you country folk, how do you navigate those country roads? — Aidz
The time has come for me to finally say thanks, to thank a lot of people I’ve been meaning to thank but haven’t had the courage. I want to say thanks for all the inspiration I got from the runners I’ve seen and talked with, but that I’ve never run with. Specifically, the people who doubted themselves in word, but inspired me through work.
This is my confession of thanks, from one runner in the front of the pack, to the runners in the back.
This year was my second year training for the Chicago Marathon with Chicago Endurance Sports (“CES,” as we call it), an awesome group of people that run year-round training for all manner of races. And when I say all races, I mean it: they have groups for people just beginning running to complete their first 5K and for experienced athletes training to complete full Ironman distances. The biggest groups are those training to run the Chicago Marathon. After the wonderful experience I had last year, I decided to sign up to serve as a pace group leader.
What an experience it has been. And it has made me so thankful.
The CES participants were always so friendly and chatty. But there was always one question I’d dread. “What pace group are you?”
When people would ask me this, I’d cringe inside. Not because I was embarrassed — far from it. The runners I have had the privilege of joining on their journey to the marathon are, to a person, amazing people who have been an absolute joy and an inspiration to get to know and to train with through all of our ups and downs.
I’d cringe at the question because, so often, I knew where the conversation would go after I said my pace group (it was the fastest pace group offered, with long runs somewhere around 7:30 minutes per mile — though usually faster — while also logging the most mileage).
Not always, but far, far too often, the questioner would immediately make some form of self-deprecating comment. “I’ll never be that fast!” or “It’s going to take me over six hours to finish, I bet that seems pathetic to you.” Or, the absolute worst, “I bet you hardly consider me a runner.” I heard so many flavors of these sentiments.
I’d say some reassuring words about us all being in it together and 26.2 miles being the same distance no matter how long you spent covering it. But I’d cringe inside for the sole reason that I knew, yet again, I wouldn’t be brave enough to say what I really wanted to say to that person.
But, it’s never too late. So I’ll hide behind this keyboard and say it here:
You inspire me. You: the self-doubter, the first-time-marathoner, the run-walk runner. You, the “I’ve never been athletic,” the “I don’t even know if I’ll be able to finish,” the “I’m not at my goal weight yet,” runner. Every single one of you that I met. You inspire me.
And this is why.
I’m not as humble as I should be, but I’m humble enough to know that a whole lot of my success in running is unearned. I didn’t do anything to “earn” being born with a high metabolism, a skinny little frame, tiny hips and big quads, lungs and muscles that process oxygen more efficiently than most. All of this contributes greatly to my “success” (as most define it) in running, but I didn’t earn any of it. It just is.
And I know all too well that the vast majority of people, myself very much included, gravitate toward activities that they’re naturally gifted doing. Positive reinforcement is powerful. While I get a lot of innate joy out of running, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to my vanity and say that I enjoy being competitive, chasing age group wins (even overall wins in local races), and all the cheers and adulation that come with finishing in the front of the pack.
So the reason the people who would talk down to themselves inspire me more than anyone else is that I know the weakness that’s in myself. And it is not in them. I may talk strength, but I know the weakness that’s in me.
They don’t know it, but they are stronger than I am. Because while their words were muttering of their own doubts, their actions were shouting of their power.
And I wasn’t brave enough to tell them.
I honestly doubt whether I would have the dedication to run marathons at all if I were in their shoes. Some mornings, getting out the door in time for the long run is about all I can muster. Would I have the strength to get up a half an hour earlier on weekend mornings to start with the run-walk groups, knowing that I’d be out doing my long run after many of the other groups, including the groups that started a full half an hour later, would be done and back home with their families and enjoying their weekends? I know how much time I sacrifice from my family for my training. And the people who would denigrate their own sacrifice to me were sacrificing more than I.
And I wasn’t brave enough to tell them.
I honestly doubt whether I would spend the time and effort on running if “all” I got from it was the internal satisfaction, if it wasn’t something I was naturally (undeservedly) gifted at, if I couldn’t race to beat the field but instead was “just” racing to beat my own limitations, to outrun my own doubts. And the people who would downplay their own accomplishments to me were accomplishing so much more than I was, and they didn’t know it.
And I wasn’t brave enough to tell them.
I honestly doubt whether I would lace up and run if it wasn’t something that everyone always, innately, believed I could do. If I wasn’t the kind of person that people would take one look at and say “he looks like a runner,” or “I bet he’s fast.” It is the most natural thing in the world to do what everyone expects you to be capable of doing. But doing what no one (not even one’s self) thought possible is an entirely different level of achievement. And so people who were doing exactly what I was doing, with no one’s expectations to push them along, would compliment me for doing what everyone had always believed I could do. They were sprinting up a hill, while commending me for jogging down it.
And I wasn’t brave enough to tell them.
Today’s the day that I finally say it. While I may be running in the front of the pack, the runners that inspire me most are the runners at the back.
The people who were quickest to put themselves down to me were the people who I am most inspired to run with.
People who were running their first marathon and truly doubting whether they could finish. People who have struggled at times in their life with their weight and who decide to enter races despite not yet being at their goal weight. People who never thought of themselves as athletes, to say nothing of having other people praise them for their athleticism. People who train their heart and soul out with the goal of finishing before the course closes, so they can be recorded as an “official” finisher by the powers that be.
So, from behind the safety of this keyboard, I’m finally brave enough to say it. I’ve heard the words coming out of your mouths doubting yourselves during your training. But while you were saying those things about yourself, I couldn’t hear what you were saying because your actions were speaking so much louder.
I saw, week in and week out, the way you cheered each other through every run. I saw the way you would look so worried at the beginning of the run, and as the run would go on and on, even as you grew more tired physically, you’d be stronger and stronger spiritually. There would be more joy in your faces as you’d conquered yet another week of “this is the longest I’ve ever run in my life.”
And on the Sunday of the Chicago Marathon, whether you had a great day or a bad day, whether you met your goal time or didn’t, whether you finished your first marathon or just took another step on your journey to when you will finish your first marathon: I saw you out there, and your courage and passion and accomplishment and strength moved me to tears. Literal tears. You inspire me. Thank you so much for your inspiration.
In the days and weeks and years ahead, you’ll be out there running and I will too, and we’ll cross paths. I’ll be running my pace while you’re running yours. When you see me nod in passing, know this: I’m certainly not looking down on you. I’m not even looking back at you. I’m looking up to you.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
— Chris Willis is a husband, toddler-wrangler and dedicated runner who practices law in the remaining hours in the day. His best race distance is probably somewhere between the mile and the 5K, so naturally, he mostly runs marathons. He lives in Chicago.
“If Rap Gets Jealous” by K’naan
A friend chose this as part of my Chicago-Marathon-playlist-song-for-a-donation deal. Before the race, I gave it a brief, superficial listen and picked a spot for it on the playlist. During the race, it came on around mile 7 (a quieter section in the Lakeview neighborhood), and I really listened. It’s so damn good — decidedly NSFW but absolutely perfect for running. — Mags
When we run races, we can’t resist the urge to tell our friends and family to come and watch us run the race of our lives. This is especially true when it’s your first time running a marathon, and sometimes, even when we don’t want them there, friends and family still find a way to show up.
But let’s face it: marathons are LONG by nature, and a lot of time can pass when you’re watching from the sidelines, waiting for your racer. Because of this, Susan Lacke of Competitor Running has come up with a fun game of Marathon Bingo that your loyal spectators can play.
Just like races, bingo games have been adapted to fit a variety of themes and causes over the years. For example, we see Race for the Cure events in support of breast cancer awareness, and Free Bingo Hunter reports “Pink Fridays” being held in some bingo portals throughout the month of October. So, this particular bingo game helps ease the monotony of waiting for a marathon to end — and adds a fun twist to just watching all those racers run by.
To play Marathon Bingo, your spectators just need to keep an eye out for all of these funny things – a nipple bleeder, obnoxiously bright shoes, a power-walker, etc. You can create several bingo cards using Print-Bingo.com’s services, too, and invite fellow spectators to join in the people-watching-palooza.
What do you recommend to your spectators to help pass the time while you’re running a marathon?
Inevitably, a week or two before every half marathon I run, my shoes crap out at about 300 miles. Sometimes it’s more, sometimes it’s less. But when your shoes are done, you KNOW. And I always know right before it’s race time.
This is a frustrating thing because a few weeks before you race is not exactly an ideal time to be breaking in a new pair of shoes. For this reason, I’ve been switching to a new pair of the same model of shoes for a couple of years now. And those shoes — my beloved Brooks Pure Cadence — have been very good to me.
The last pair of Pure Cadence I got felt lovely on first run. I met my spring half marathon goal wearing these shoes, and even PRed at the Bix with these cranberry kicks. But there’s also an ugly secret. My poor, poor toenails have been black and blue since May.
So when my Nike+ told me we were nearing the mileage capacity for my shoes three weeks out from half marathon time, I was faced with a tough decision. Should I get another pair of Brooks Pure Cadence … or *gasp* try something new?
So off I went to the running store. I found a helpful employee at the local Cincy Fleet Feet and launched into my diatribe. I rapidly rattled off my laundry list of foot issues, running history and other neurotic things that probably made said employee wish someone else had asked to help me first. Then, I tried on no fewer than 12 pairs of shoes. With each pair, I went for a short jog outside. After about an hour and countless short sprints outside of the store, we had whittled down the pile to a new pair of Brooks Cadence (the devil I know) and a pair of Nike Zoom Structure (the wild unknown).
DECISIONS ARE HARD!
But why are they so much harder when it comes to running shoes? I toil and torment and hem and haw over which pair to get. And if I think about it, they’re not all THAT different, and I’m going to need a new pair in a couple of months, anyway. So why do I stress so much about which pair to get?
They’re JUST SHOES.
But they’re not. Running shoes are so much more than just shoes. After all, the wrong running shoe could lead to discomfort, blisters and sometimes, injury. And the right running shoe can make running easier, more effortless and, by extension, more enjoyable. That’s a lot of pressure for one measly pair of shoes, isn’t it?
It almost feels like my running hopes and dreams are figuratively tied into the laces of my shoes, both physically and mentally.
So what did I choose? Tried and true (and toenails blue)? Or uncharted territory?
Well, friends, I got crazy and went with something different. I wore my old shoes for the last long training run of the season and broke in the new guys slowly over short runs before the race. And you know what? Different can be good. — Aidz
The Columbus Marathon is the race of my PR dreams. First, for my half marathon PR, and now, (drumroll, please) my full marathon PR.
I was a little worried since I’d never run the full 26.2, but I had no reason to be. The course was challenging enough to hold my focus, and fun enough to keep me entertained. The flat, fast course, the awesome crowd support, the fireworks and AC/DC blaring at the start — this race will forever be my favorite.
As I’ve said before, this year has been one of celebration and personal trial — am I still me, now that I’m 40? It’s such a milestone birthday, ask anyone. Some people quit smoking, some people decide to lose weight, some change careers, but very few let 40 pass them by without some form of self-reflection. For me, it was the marathon. Can I still do it? Will it break me? Can I keep up? Are my knees wrinkly?
Going into this race, I was very conservative in my goal: just break four hours. I knew I could do that. I worked hard for three and a half months to get to the starting line injury-free. My training went well, and adding Body Pump 1-2 times a week was undoubtedly the key to my PR. For the first time, maybe ever, I was strong all over, not just my calves and quads. (“You have abs, Muffin!” Yes, husband, because I worked my ass off!)
But still. I’m 40 now. I hadn’t run a marathon in three years. Everyone — including the voices in my head — knows that as you age, you slow down. Things get harder.
Several people have asked me if a PR was my “secret goal.” What does that even mean? That I have an ulterior motive? Sheesh. No, my goal wasn’t to PR, it was to have a great race. My mantra was to run comfortably, maintain the effort. Uphill, downhill, flats, turns — no matter what, I was not going to elevate my heart rate or burn out before 20 miles.
Mile 6 came and went. No issues, feeling great.
Mile 11, came and went. Nothing, still feeling great.
Mile 15, awesome (what the hell, I feel amazing!).
Mile 19, good, but starting to fatigue.
Mile 22, no pain, only fatigue.
Mile 24, a glance at the time, HOLY CRAP, IF I JUST KEEP MOVING I COULD PR!
Miles 25-26.2, a blur of exhaustion.
I checked my pace three times in the beginning: 9:38, 8:07 and 10:16. I decided to stop doing that because it wasn’t telling me anything, it was just making me nervous. I started between the 3:45 and 4:00 pace bunnies, and I pulled back whenever the 3:45s got close. At mile 17, I lost the 3:45s but the 4:00s never passed me, so I just kept shuffling. Run comfortably, maintain the effort. I walked my water stops, every three miles. I walked an extra stop between 22-24 because I really needed it.
In the start corral, I was talking to an older man, who wanted to do a 3:45. It was his first marathon. His only other race, a half marathon, was a 1:55. Not totally impossible, but I had my doubts. He was wearing cotton knee socks and a sweatband, and I questioned his judgment. I lost him in the first mile, and then at mile 25, there he was. Wearing his cotton knee socks and sweatband — running his heart out. I caught up to him, ran beside him and told him he was awesome. Together, somehow, we closed in on the 3:45 group, and we finished with matching 3:43s. I learned my lesson: Don’t ever judge a book by its cover.
All Jacked Up – Gretchen Wilson
Enter Sandman – Metallica
Dixieland Delight – Alabama
“If Britney Spears can survive 2007, you can finish this race!”
When I ask my husband if he knew my official time, he said, “Around a 3:50, based on where you were at mile 24. The 3:45 pace group was out ahead.” I guess my watch was wrong after all. A minute later, Shannon texted me my results, and you woulda thought I won the lottery.
- The start is first-class. Fireworks!
- There were TONS of port-o-potties at the start, yes!
- There seemed to be music and crowds the entire way
- The Corny Field, a half-mile stretch of bike path that ran right through a cornfield. It had the potential to be horribly boring, but some freakin’ geniuses put up speakers, blared Bon Jovi and lined the path with cheesy inspirational signs like, “Stay classy, Columbus Marathon!” featuring Ron Burgundy, of course.
- Running through Ohio Stadium.
- The Children’s Champion miles, especially mile 11, the “Angel Mile.”
- The “Fluid Ahead” signs that alerted you to the water stops, so no more surprise dodging and weaving.
- The guy who ran near me for most of the race, wearing a Dingle Marathon jacket.
- The PR gong! There was a huge line because this race is so badass.
If you need a fun, fast fall marathon, I highly recommend Columbus. The weather is almost always perfect, and the race itself is fantastic. (Although, my toes would disagree as they are livid pissed about this whole experience, but they’ll forget soon enough.)
Most of all, I found that turning 40 doesn’t really change anything. I did keep up, I smashed my own expectations. I not only PR’d at 3:43, I qualified for Boston again — something I never thought I’d be able to do — and this time I did it by myself, I didn’t have a pacer.
And you know what else? My knees aren’t wrinkly! I’m still me, except maybe now I’m a little bit smarter, a little more patient and a lot more humble – Amie
“Mind Over Matter” by Young the Giant
It’s a slow burn, one of those songs that helps you stay calm and steady, especially at the beginning of a race when your nerves and excitement make you want to bust out of the gate. Also, I mean, it’s called “mind over matter,” and with running, that’s a no-brainer. — Mags
For the Columbus Marathon, I am wearing an iPod Shuffle, which I plan to actually shuffle, so the order of these rad tunes doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that every song was chosen with care, some of them with special people in mind. It really helps for me to connect with my people during a marathon because they remind me of why I’m able to run in the first place.
I only have 3 hours and 40 minutes of music here, so I’ll need the Shuffle to recycle the tunes for an extra half hour or so. I’m confident the music will keep flowing, and I won’t lose my mind in the process. If I do lose my mind, the music won’t matter anyway.
- Dixieland Delight, Alabama (for my mama, who’s been cheering for me since day one)
- Fake ID — Big & Rich
- More Than a Feeling — Boston
- Crazy Bitch — Buckcherry
- Fighter — Christina Aguilera
- Born to Run — Bruce Springsteen (for Douglas, who has always believed)
- Survivor — Destiny’s Child
- Counting Stars — OneRepublic
- Latch (feat. Sam Smith) — Disclosure
- Turn Down For What — DJ Snake & Lil Jon (for Owen, who never fails to make me laugh)
- Sing — Ed Sheeran
- Burn — Ellie Goulding
- ‘Till I Collapse — Eminem
- Work B**ch — Britney Spears (for my loyal-as-f*ck girlfriend, Shannon)
- Basket Case — Green Day
- Womanizer — Britney Spears
- When I Come Around — Green Day
- Welcome to the Jungle — Guns N’ Roses
- Tick Tick Boom — The Hives
- I Love It (feat. Charli XCX) — Icona Pop
- Bang Bang — J, Ariana Grande & Nicki Minaj
- History of Rap (feat. Justin Timberlake) — Jimmy Fallon (for Maggie)
- Peacock — Katy Perry
- Come With Me Now — KONGOS
- Defying Gravity — Kristin Chenoweth & Idina Menzel (for Mackenzie, who defies gravity every single day)
- No Mercy — L.A. Guns
- Applause — Lady Gaga
- Daylight — Maroon 5
- Don’t — Ed Sheeran
- All About That Bass — Meghan Trainor
- Enter Sandman — Metallica
- Somethin’ Bad (with Carrie Underwood) — Miranda Lambert
- Classic — MKTO
- I Melt with You — Modern English
- Kickstart My Heart — Mötley Crüe
- Smells Like Teen Spirit — Nirvana
- Tennessee Bound — Old Crow Medicine Show (for Xavi, my little ball of energy )
- Lucky Strike — Maroon 5
- Love Runs Out — OneRepublic
- Titanium — David Guetta (for Jen, who’s bulletproof)
- Lose Yourself — Eminem
- Ain’t It Fun — Paramore
- Gone, Gone, Gone — Phillip Phillips
- Black Betty — Ram Jam
- Remember the Name — Styles of Beyond, Fort Minor
- Shake It Off — Taylor Swift (for Max, who shake-shake-shakes)
- Africa — Toto
- Blister In the Sun — Violent Femmes
- Here I Go Again — Whitesnake (for Kate, just because)
- Come As You Are — Nirvana
- Maps — Maroon 5
Wish me luck, Angels! It’s been three years since I’ve run a full marathon, and while I’m an expert at planning, we all know the marathon can take before it gives. Here’s hoping that my random-ass music mix can keep me distracted and focused, all at the same time. — Amie