Archive for January, 2013

Many runners spend the last few miles of training runs and races thinking about one thing…the end!  Consequently, the cool-down is the most overlooked aspect of running.

A thorough cool-down is as important as a gradual warm-up.  It’s important to allow your body to gradually return to normal levels of recovery.  Shifting the focus in the closing miles of a run or a race to a proper cool-down will yield signficant benefits.  The most effective cool-down should include at least a mile of running at less than 70% effort of your hardest miles, followed immediately by a thorough routine of dynamic or static stretching, rolling  muscles out thoroughly with the Roll Recovery R8 and a well-thought out recovery meal.  My best runs include a good warm-up and cool down on my spinning bike accompanied by 10-15 minutes of yoga.

It’s equally important to maintain perfect running form in the closing stages of each run.  You are likely at your most fatigued and probably thinking about all you need to accomplish once the run is over.  Consequently, your focus has already shifted to the remainder of the day.  The combination of extreme fatigue and focusing on things other than maintaining perfect form can be a recipe for an injury.

In terms of recovery liquids and food, I like to replace sodium quickly and pickle juice is a great choice.  I know that doesn’t sound any more appealing than an ice bath but the truth can be painful!  Chocolate soy milk or chocolate flavored coconut water also have the perfect ratio of carbohydrates to protein and have always been my top choices as a recovery drink.  Almond butter is always a great option; either on a bagel, an almond butter and jelly sandwich or in a Bananarama (i.e., yogurt, bananas, protein powder, ice and almond butter).  Whole wheat salted pretzels are another good choice.

Giving more thought to your cool-down will provide tremendous benefits to your running.  You’ll be more flexible, less likely to become injured and better prepared for subsequent runs.   Your work doesn’t end at the last step of each run, it ends after and thorough cool down routine is completed.

It’s also a great time to reflect on how fortunate you are to be a runner!

Boston Marathon Checklist

Posted: January 30, 2013 in Uncategorized

Perfect preparation gives rise to the thousand-fold forms that express physical and mental inferiority and insecurity!” -Alfred Adler

It’s never too early to begin planning for Marathon weekend and beyond. Here are my recommendations that will hopefully provide some basic guidelines to ensure you’re as prepared as possible for the marathon. This checklist has been developed over 17 years of coaching marathon runners for the Boston Marathon.

I hope that you will offer any additional recommendations!

Marathon Weekend Checklist

• Rick Muhr •

Copyright: Rick Muhr•Head Running Coach•Marathon Coalition ©

Be sure to bring your driver’s license and your Number Pick Up Card when picking up your marathon number.

ŸSave the bag that your number comes in as this is the bag that you will drop off at the buses returning to Boston once you leave the Athlete’s Village for the starting area.

ŸWhen visiting the John Hancock Sports & Fitness Expo DO NOT INGEST ANY OF THE SAMPLES BEFORE THE MARATHON!

ŸMost of the Boston Marathon apparel that you see in local stores and at the Expo will be on sale after the marathon at significant savings.

ŸDon’t wear anything that you purchased at the Expo in the marathon.

ŸTry to get your number and Expo visitation over sooner rather than later. As the weekend progresses this area becomes far more hectic. You want to minimize the stress as much as possible before the marathon.

ŸSaturday night is your most important night of sleep. The odds are that you will not sleep as well Sunday night.

ŸDon’t introduce anything new or different into your diet before the marathon.

ŸStart organizing EVERYTHING that you think you’ll need before/during/after the marathon now.

ŸCheck your shoe laces to be sure they don’t require replacing. It can be disheartening to break a lace just before the marathon.

ŸWhen you affix your number to your singlet DO NOT attach the bottom of your number to your shorts. You will understand why if you have to use the restroom.

ŸYou can improve the circulation in your legs if you elevate the foot of your bed several inches Saturday and Sunday night before the marathon. This results in your legs not feeling as tired.

DO NOT WEAR THE SHOES YOU ARE PLANNING TO WEAR IN THE MARATHON TO THE ATHLETE’S VILLAGE. I have seen countless runners walk through wet grass in their marathon shoes before the race. Wear an old pair and change into your marathon shoes after you leave the Athlete’s Village and are on pavement.

ŸDouble knot your shoes but not too tightly because your feet are going to swell during the marathon.

ŸBring several large garbage bags to Hopkinton (several to sit on in the grass and one to punch a hole in the bottom and use as a poncho. I large piece of folded cardboard to sit on will also help to conserve your energy.

Bring a marker if you want to write something on your arms or legs before the marathon.

Ÿ Writing your name on your singlet may seem like a good idea if you think you’ll benefit from the encouragement but I would not recommend it. You want to recognize the people who REALLY know you when they call your name from the crowd. It gets a little annoying, especially for the people running near you, to constantly hear your name being called.

Don’t forget the sunscreen and be sure to apply it even it’s going to be overcast. The back of the neck and the back of the knees are two areas extremely vulnerable to sunburn.

Coat your feet and areas of friction liberally with Body Glide before the marathon.

Remove all jewelry before the marathon. Fingers and toes tend to expand quite a bit during the marathon.

Wearing sunglasses will keep your face relaxed and will actually conserve energy.

I carry a small sponge with me to douse with water and wipe my face during the marathon.

ŸI also carry a small straw with me to sip through at the aid stations. You want to avoid taking in excess air as it can upset your stomach.


Leave the Athlete’s Village for the starting line no later than 9:45 a.m. and enter the corral that corresponds with your race number. You will be allowed to move back to a corral with higher numbers but you cannot move forward.

ŸIf you plan to check a bag in Hopkinton and retrieve it in Boston, you should do this on your way to the starting line. The buses will have a range of numbers posted on them so simply go to the bus that has your corresponding number.

Your official running time will not begin until you cross the starting line and activate your Champion Chip. None of the times posted on the marathon course will have any relevance to you so simply monitor your watch if time is important to you.

ŸHere is my strategy for running Boston: Run the first 5 miles extremely conservatively, allowing my body to completely warm up and minimizing the damage of the extreme downhills. I will then do most of my faster running from miles 5-15. I will throttle my pace back as I drop down into Newton Lower Falls just after mile 15 and until I get to the top of Heartbreak Hill (Mile 21). I will then evaluate how I’m feeling and then push again the final 5 miles.

ŸThe best way to complete a marathon is with even or negative splits. Negative splits simply mean running the second half faster than the first. This is not very easy considering the second half is more difficult than the first. But if you run conservatively the first half you’ll improve your chances.

ŸYour goal should be to get to mile 15 in relatively good shape/condition.

ŸIf you have friends and family meeting you along the course be sure you know which side they’ll be on as you are running. I recommend having them carry a helium balloon so you can spot them immediately.

ŸI don’t recommend taking aid from any of the spectators. While good intentioned, there could be bacteria on their hands (remember the aforementioned samples at the Expo) that could adversely affect you.

If you wear a watch during the marathon please don’t shut it off as you cross the finish line. You don’t want your finisher’s picture to be of you shutting your watch off. You will get an official time after the marathon so the time on your watch is really meaningless.

ŸBe sure that your number is completely unobstructed as you approach the finish line. Otherwise, you risk not getting a picture of your finish.

ŸOnce you finish your goal should be to continue moving and eat and drink as quickly as you can. Be sure to accept the mylar blanket the volunteers will wrap around you.

ŸTake a moment to glance down and appreciate the medal they will also place around your neck once you finish!

ŸCheck it with your respective Charity to let them know you have finished and are okay. My cell phone is 508-353-6699 and I will be monitoring this number all weekend.

ŸI don’t recommend running after the marathon until the pain completely subsides.

Ice baths, hydration, clean eating, plenty of sleep, walking and cross training will be instrumental in your recovery.

Take the time to thank all the people who were instrumental in helping you accomplish this incredible achievement.

I will always be grateful for the opportunity to play a small role in your amazing accomplishment…thank you!


“The will to win means nothing without the will to prepare.”
          – Juma Ikangaa, Tanzania

Most of the runners I am currently coaching for the 2013 Boston Marathon are first-timers.  Every training run that they’ve completed for the past several months has been their longest.  The unknown of what they are capable of achieving, mentally and physically, is both exhilarating and unsettling.

When training began nearly 2 months ago they never imagined 10 miles would be an easy run. We will increase our next 4 weekly long runs by 1 mile increments before we take a significant step back in mileage. This will allow their bodies to recover and their minds to begin to believe they can actually handle the rigors of marathon training and move into the final stage of training.

I am a huge advocate of running in the moment.  It’s important not to obsess on how many miles are remaining but-it’s more beneficial to focus on your form, breathing and having a positive attitude.  Too many runners allow negative self-talk to dominate their thought process and suddenly they become consumed by how uncomfortable they are and how miserable running is.

But there are times where you need to remove yourself from the moment and visualize what Marathon Day will be like.

Imagine arriving at the Marathon Expo with your Boston Marathon confirmation card and your driver’s license.  Walking up to the volunteer and presenting your credentials provides a moment of incredible pride…you begin to realize the magnitude of the next several days.  You’ve worked extremely hard to arrive at this moment and begin to feel you’re one of the chosen ones…rightfully so!

You step into the Marathon Expo and become immediately overwhelmed by the magnitude of products.  There’s a special aura to being close to so many runners that you’ll be sharing the journey from Hopkinton to Boston.  Enjoying carbohydrate-rich meals in the final days with people who have supported you for so many months and admire your commitment, allows one to appreciate how special the marathon journey is.

Arriving in the Athlete’s Village and realizing you’re on the verge of one of the most amazing experiences and significant accomplishments of your life is incredibly powerful.  Suddenly you’ve entered your assigned corral and you realize it’s show time.  You hear the Star Spangled Banner and the fighter jets fly over…the gun sounds and there’s a sea of runners as far as you can see.   The feeling that you have at that moment is what all the months of difficult training are all about.

The experience of running Boston simply cannot be adequately described in words…you have to experience it.  I have always said that,’When you cross the finish line of the Boston Marathon you will realize, possibly more than any other time in your life, who you truly are and what you’re capable of achieving!’

So when you are battling the headwinds, hills, traffic and snowbanks on yet another seemingly endless long run; remove yourself from the moment and consider ‘why’ you are training for the Boston Marathon and the impact it will have on the remainder of your life.  One day your finisher’s medal will be tucked safely away in a drawer but the benefits of enduring the challenges of training for and completing the Boston Marathon will pay significant dividends forever. 

You cannot earn this experience without the will to prepare!

The Importance Of Rest

Posted: January 27, 2013 in Uncategorized

Most of the correspondence I’m receiving is related to aches, pains and soreness after the long runs. Everyone is concerned about taking an extra day off from running and losing their hard-earned fitness.

Proper fueling before, during and after the long runs will help reduce muscle soreness as well as aches and pain in tendons and ligaments. Proper hydration is equally important. Most of the runners I coach still do not take regular walk breaks or wait too late to incorporate them. Incorporating regular walk breaks from the outset of runs will help to stave off fatigue and muscle soreness.

I’m comforted when I see a runner begin to eat and use the Roll Recovery R8 immediately upon returning from a long run. When they comment they’re planning to take a 5-10 minute ice bath when they return home, I’m convinced they’re doing all they can to quickly recover from their long runs. Focusing exclusively on the running aspect of training is only half of the marathon training equation for success.

Many runners are surprised that muscle soreness may worsen several days after a long run. This soreness is a sign that you body is healing. An extra day of active rest consisting of lower impact cross training is the best solution. A few runners are incorporating water running with a lot of success since the benefits are equal to running without any impact. Spinning and the elliptical or ARC trainer are also practical options.I have always been an advocate of erring on the side of caution with respect to soreness, aches and pains.

Not taking necessary rest can cause injuries to develop and place a major obstacle in your marathon training preparation. Listen closely to how your body is responding to the gradual increase in mileage, take the necessary rest, and you will be assured of sustaining the momentum that will guarantee that you arrive at the finish line of the Boston Marathon in relative comfort!

Everyone Is A Running Coach!

Posted: January 25, 2013 in Uncategorized

Are you surprised by how many people offer you advice once they learn that you’re running the Boston Marathon? People that haven’t even run the marathon seem to have words of wisdom for you. They can range from diet, shoes, avoiding injuries, managing the course and the list continues.

It can be so confusing and overwhelming because, aside from the volume of opinions, it’s difficult to determine what information you should follow. My suggestion is to simply follow the advice that I offer you. While these people are well-intentioned, I recommend that you rely on the information that I share at training, in our weekly communication and on my daily blog.

I’ve always marveled at the pattern of communication I have with runners. There’s always a core group that regularly communicate with me but there’s also an equal number that either don’t attend training or ever communicate with me.

If you were taking a college course and knew the professor was providing regular answers to the final exam on their blog, would you take the time to obtain that information? The primary purpose of my blog is to educate you about running in general and the Boston Marathon in particular. Inevitably I eventually hear from the runners in the final weeks that I’ve had little or no communication with and it’s never as comforting for them as I would like. Their questions tend to mirror the questions that I’m commonly asked in the first month of training, not the final weeks. This can cause a state of panic at a time where they should feel more comfortable and confident.

As the marathon approaches the volume of opinions tend to exponentially increase. You will be well-served if you focus on the training techniques that I have offered you throughout training. If you’re uncertain about any aspect of your training please notify me and I’ll provide further clarification. I’m always comforted when I hear stories like this from a former runner:

“Rick, I couldn’t wait to share this story with you! One of my colleagues, who has run more than 10 Boston marathons, learned that I was running Boston and began offering a battery of recommendations and asking an equal number of questions. He seemed particularly shocked that I had answers for every question and was also familiar with every recommendation he offered since Boston is going to be my first marathon. I just want to thank you for all the support, encouragement and inspiration that you’ve provided all of us the past several months. I’m convinced that I am in good hands and right on track with my Boston preparation.”

As a coach, there’s no better endorsement than that. Keep all the advice that you’re being offered in perspective and let me know if there’s anything that I can do to support you!

Rotating Running Shoes

Posted: January 24, 2013 in Uncategorized

Rotating running shoes should be a priority for every runner. Several runners have recently complained about experiencing pain after running in a new pair of shoes. It’s very common for runners to think that a new pair of shoes is the solution to all their aches and pains. However, in every instance the problems were not a result of the new shoes but because they stayed in their old shoes too long.

As the outsole and midsole of your running shoes wear, your legs go through a greater range of motion. Eventually, even someone with a normal range of pronation will place as much stress on their lower extremities as an over-pronator. This is a very subtle process that most runners won’t notice until they transition to a new pair of shoes. New shoes will restrict this excessive movement and actually place a greater degree of stress on tendons and ligaments simply because they’re being used differently.

So what is the solution? I recommend that you rotate multiple pairs of shoes to avoid becoming accustomed to the movement of just one pair. I realize this can be an expensive prospect but rotating multiple pairs of shoes is actually more cost-effective than running in just one pair. Let me explain…by only wearing one pair of running shoes you never allow your running shoes to fully recover. It’s similar to you having to work overtime for weeks without a weekend break. Your shoes need to recover just like you do. You place nearly 3-4 times your body weight of force on your shoes with every footstrike. Most midsoles are composed of EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate) or air blown rubber comprise of tiny air bubbles that act as shock absorbers against this incredible force of running. They need at least 24 hours to fully expand back to their full level of resiliency, otherwise they compress and break down prematurely.

Rotating your shoes provides the necessary rest to ensure full recovery. So rotating several pairs of running shoes, while expensive in the beginning, is ultimately less expensive because two pairs of rotated shoes will outlast 3-4 pairs of running shoes worn individually.

Running in different shoes is also beneficial because your legs don’t become accustomed to just the movement of one pair of shoes. Incorporating variety into your running is extremely beneficial. You should be varying your distance, speed, and terrain.

You should also be rotating your shoes!

Walking To Faster Running Times!

Posted: January 23, 2013 in Uncategorized

It has been difficult to convince runners they can actually run faster marathon times by incorporating walking into their race strategy. Many of the more experienced runners that I coach feel that walking is a sign of weakness or failure. They have resisted adopting this running strategy but, because of my insistence, have given it a try.

Without exception, they have all become believers after realizing how wonderful and energized they can feel during and after their runs. I hope that you will also consider incorporating regular walk breaks into your training if you haven’t already. The primary objective of these walking breaks is to conserve energy and reduce the stress you place on your lower extremities and ultimately maintain efficient form throughout your runs. The primary benefits are the ability to maintain your efficient running form throughout your runs, significantly reduce the risk of injuries and more thoroughly enjoy your running.

I recommend that you take regular walk breaks from the outset and not wait until you begin to feel they are necessary. If you wait until you are feeling tired before walking the cumulative fatigue may never disappear. The benchmark that I follow is one minute of walking for every 9 minutes of running. I keep my stride short during my walk breaks to reduce the stress being placed on bones, tendons, ligaments and muscles. I would describe my walking pace as moderate as my goal is to maximize the recovery and rest aspects of these breaks.

The water stops are the ideal place in a marathon to take a regular walk break. Stay to the middle of the road to avoid all the runners gathered at the first several tables all fighting for the same cup of replenishment. It is so much safer and the volunteers are far more appreciative at the last tables of every water stop. By waiting until the end of a water stop I am afforded the luxury of stepping to the side of the road in an area not littered with cups to enjoy a few gulps of replenishment before easing back into my running pace.

Now is the ideal time to incorporate walking into your training program. Runners that resist this methodology will pass you in the beginning of the marathon but become believers when you pass them completely energized as they are ‘forced’ to walk.

So walk early and walk often to more thoroughly enjoy every facet of your running!

Balancing fluid intake is very important in marathon training and on race day. It is essential in maintaining good health and enhancing performance in any endurance event. Until around the last decade, people concentrated primarily on preventing dehydration. However, drinking too much fluid can be very dangerous and lead to hyponatremia, a life-threatening condition in which the blood sodium levels drop to a seriously low- level causing a possible seizure, coma or death. Immediate emergency care is necessary for hyponatremia victims. It’s important to educate yourself on the symptoms of dehydration and hyponatremia so you can be aware and know what treatment is necessary.

The BAA usually supplies complete information about Hyponatremia in your race packet- READ IT THOROUGHLY. The following are guidelines published by the American Running Association and the American Medical Athletic Association

Dehydration and Heat Illness Signs:

Headache Fatigue
Dizziness Nausea
Muscle Cramps Weakness
Irritability Vomiting
Heat Flush Abnormal Chills

Hyponatremia Signs (Look for a combination of symptoms):

Rapid Weight Gain Bloated Stomach
Nausea Wheezy Breathing
Seizure Dizziness
Apathy Confusion
Severe Fatigue Swollen Hands/Feet
Throbbing Headache Cramping
Lack of Coordination

Risk Factors for Hyponatremia Include:

-Drinking too much fluid without adequately replacing the sodium lost in sweat

-Endurance athletes- exercising more than 4 hours

-Athletes on a low sodium diet

-Salty sweaters- often have an obvious white residue on face and skin

Hydration Plan

-Drink to Stay Hydrated- Don’t Overdrink- Overdrinking before, during or after a race increases the risk of hyponatremia dramatically.

– Determine Your Sweat Rate- The best way to prevent over-drinking is to determine your hourly sweat rate. Simply weigh yourself, naked, before your run. Run for an hour, and weigh yourself on your return, naked. Every pound you lose is equal to 16 oz. of water. If you take water in during the run, add that to the weight loss to determine how much water is safe to drink per hour. For example, if you lose 2 pounds, that’s 32 oz. you can drink in an hour (so 8 oz. every 15 minutes). If you drink 12 oz. of water in that hour, then you add the 32 oz. (for 2lbs. of weight loss) and 12 oz. for (water consumed) to equal 44 oz. total per hour (or 11 oz. every 15 minutes). This method gives you the best estimate of how much water you can safely consume during your event.

– Maintain a Salty Diet- to make certain you replace all of the salt lost during training during training. During a long race (e.g. more than 4 hours), eat salty snacks such as pretzels and saltine crackers, especially if you are a salty sweater.

– Favor Sports Drinks like Gatorade over water during your event to help keep your body hydrated, fueled and salted. However, sports drinks alone will NOT prevent hyponatremia- any fluid, if consumed in excess, can cause a drop in blood sodium.

– Recognize Warning Signs of both heat illness and hyponatremia and learn to distinguish between them.

Writing your pre-race weight on the back of your bib number can be a helpful precaution if hyponatremia is suspected during or after the race. An increase in weight is a sure sign of hypontremia. Also, knowing your approximate sweat rate will give you confidence in your hydration plan during the race. When in doubt, stop drinking and seek medical help fast.

The Time Of Your Life!

Posted: January 20, 2013 in Uncategorized

When you run a marathon you will inevitably be asked what your time was. This is normally asked just after the question of whether you won.

We live in a very quantitative society that often overlooks the qualitative aspect of an experience. I prefer to measure most things, particularly my running, by the quality of the experience.

A finishing time doesn’t necessarily reflect the excitement I feel when I arrive at the start of a marathon, the fear and anxiety of not knowing how the race is going to unfold, the determination required to continue when my mind and body are begging me to stop, or the inspiration that I feel when I cross the finish line. My finishing time won’t reflect the sense of accomplishment or commitment I feel to be a better person and enjoy the abundance in my life.

So the next time someone asks what your time was, simply say….It Was The Time Of My Life!

Enjoy The Journey

Posted: January 18, 2013 in Uncategorized

Everything in life will seem easier after completing the Boston Marathon…but only the complacent will find any comfort in this. Most runners, particularly charity runners, will be inspired by the experience and will embark on even greater challenges and accomplishments.

Too often we focus on the destination at the expense of all the small details that define the experience…the journey. It’s difficult to balance our desire to enjoy the rewards awaiting at the finish line of the Boston Marathon and beyond with the commitment necessary to get there.

The daily challenges of preparing for each run teaches discipline and the importance of sacrifice and commitment. The reward is becoming healthier, more fit and getting together with the Marathon Coalition TEAM each Saturday to share in a common effort and to be reminded of the most important aspect of this journey…to provide opportunities that will improve the lives of so many!

Yes, I know that crossing the finish line of the Boston Marathon is the crown jewel and having the finisher’s medal is a prized possession. But those that enjoy the journey will not view Boylston Street as the finish line. The finish line will actually be the beginning of a much longer journey of believing you can make an even more significant difference in the world!