- This was printed in June of 2014 in The Madera Tribune, a newspaper in Madera, California. This was the 56th installment of my weekly column, Mind Over Miles.
Nothing is more crucial to goal-oriented training than motivation, and nothing is more
motivating than another runner — or a whole group of them — promising to meet you for
I wholeheartedly believe this, and I back it up with the huge improvements that I’ve seen
over the last 16 months in several members of my beloved group, the Wicked Fast
I’m sure Madera’s Team 100 Challengers, Finishers, and Posh Movement gals can attest
to the same. When others are running alongside you and holding you accountable, you
enjoy the workout more and become a better athlete.
Our group meets at 5 a.m. and it’s a struggle sometimes to get out of bed and venture out
into the (now hot and humid) darkness when my perfectly plumped pillow and cool
cotton sheets are so much more inviting to my weary and sleep-deprived body. But as I
reach to tap the snooze button on my cell phone alarm I always think of something that
forces my legs to swing out of bed.
“What if new runners come out today? I hate being the last to learn someone’s name,” I
think, or: “I need to talk to (insert name of any one of our dozens of runners) about
(injuries, last weekend’s race, or any of the hundreds of posts I’ve seen on Facebook
since the last time we ran).”
Or my favorite: “I’m going to get so much flak from the rest of the group if I don’t show
When I am really struggling to get my feet to touch the floor — and into my Nikes —
instead of staying nestled within my covers, I think about the two workouts that I had to
do alone last month. My husband was out of town and I couldn’t find anyone willing to
come over to my house at 4:45 a.m. to stay with my kids, (unbelievable, right?) so I had
to run a bit later — alone, and in the heat.
The first workout was on a Monday, six miles of grueling hill repeats. For one, it was a
course I had never done before, and even with a thorough explanation from Coach Brad I
still ended up getting lost.
Secondly, my pace was all over the place. Without my group surrounding me I am utterly
incompetent at keeping a 9:30- to 10-minute-per-mile warmup pace. Then my hill-repeat
pace was too slow (about 9 minutes per mile) and then too fast (an unsustainable 6:35 per
Then there was the heat. The difference between 5 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. is approximately
206 degrees. Okay, just kidding, but it was at least a 20-degree difference and highly
uncomfortable with the sun scorching me for an hour.
The second solo workout was a Wednesday set of Yasso 800s, or half-mile fast repeats
with quarter-mile jogs in between. I thought I was supposed to do seven of them, but it
was actually just five. Doing more than was required was not even the worst part of the
First there was the unbearable heat that caused me to shed every item of clothing that I
possibly could without getting arrested. Then there was the four-foot-long snake that
decided it wanted to chill out in the middle of the running path, forcing me to dart several
feet around it and then slow down to warn every approaching runner and cyclist about
Mr. Slithers up ahead.
Then there was the fact that someone stole the shirt I had cast off to avoid a heat stroke.
Why anyone would want my sweaty extra-small tech tee, I’ll never know.
But the very worst part was not having my running buddies around to push me. My goal
was to run each half-mile interval in three minutes and five seconds — a feat that is
nearly unachievable for me even when flanked by my speedy companions. That day I just
couldn’t do it. I went home tired, shirtless and mentally defeated.
I don’t want to feel like that again. So when my phone chimes at 4:25 a.m., I stagger out
of bed, into my running clothes, and off to the park to meet up with the best running
group a girl could ask for.