Archive for March, 2013

Runners preparing for Boston will embark on the most important run of the training season this coming weekend. Many will be running the first 20-21 miles of the course for the first time. I’m not an advocate of running beyond 20 miles in training because the risk of injury is too great. However, I’ve been convinced to extend the long run of 20 miles by one more mile so runners can place a capstone on their training by conquering Heartbreak Hill…the psychological advantage of beginning their taper at the top of this historic hill cannot be discounted.

Most of the Marathon Coalition runners are running their first marathon, so the tapering process may prove the most challenging aspect of training. Asking a runner to reduce their training mileage so significantly the final 3 weeks prior to the marathon is entirely counterintuitive. It’s analogous to a professor asking their students to only open their textbooks a few times prior to the final exam. Nevertheless, it’s important to allow one’s body and mind to fully recover from the rigors of training the past 4 months. It’s more beneficial to arrive at the starting line in Hopkinton feeling slightly less prepared than overtrained and drained…emotionally and physically!

Runners will also learn, despite all the attention placed on the Newton Hills, it’s actually the downhills that present the greatest challenge…particularly in the beginning. The wait can seem endless in the Athlete’s Village and walking to the corral must feel like what a soldier feels when approaching a major battle. Couple that with getting into a corral with thousands of other anxious runners, hearing languages you’ve never heard before, realizing you’ve just walked to the edge of the cliff and there is no turning back, hearing the national anthem and having the fighter pilots blaze a path overhead…you are full of energy and adrenalin.

I’ve always thought this moment is the most critical of Marathon Day. Those runners that can manage their pre-race jitters most effectively have the greatest odds of accomplishing their marathon goals. However, even the most experienced marathoners in the field will likely start too fast. The downhills in the first several miles will directly impact how well you run the hills from miles 16 to 21. Many runners will be tempted to bank time in the early miles by taking advantage of the significant downhills only to lose minutes later in the marathon because the hills that were their friend in the beginning are laughing hysterically as they struggle in Newton.

Patience is a virtue…particularly in the Boston Marathon. Find comfort in letting the impatient runners pass you in the beginning. Many of the best experiences I’ve had running Boston the past four decades have been passing the runners I’ve found so annoying (i.e., whooping and hollering as well as jumping up and down next to me in the starting corral) in the later miles as they walked dejectedly asking themselves, ‘Why did I have to be so stupid?’

My goal when running Boston has always been quite simple. I run conservatively until I get to the 10K point in Framingham center. Once I find my rhythm I begin running my marathon goal pace until I get to Mile 15. I also prepare for the onslaught of enthusiasm being thrown out like free candy along a parade route by the co-eds of Wellesley College. I’m astonished by how many men run like Kenyans through this segment, only to join the ranks of those aforementioned runners also asking themselves how they too could have been so stupid. I know because one year I was one of them…it NEVER happened again! The goal of any Boston marathoner should be to get to the Mile 15 point in great shape physically and emotionally. The most challenging 11 miles lie ahead as you drop significantly into Newton Lower Falls and tackle what I consider the most challenging hill on the course, climbing out of Newton Lower Falls over Route 128…it is wide open, very few spectators and it has a tendency to be windy. This tends to be a make or break portion of the marathon.

It’s important to run at a pace that’s 10-15 seconds slower than you’ve averaged prior to the hills of Newton. Being conservative from miles 17-21 will pay dividends as you crest Heartbreak Hill (assuming you are not tempted to join the ranks of the drunken BC students by accepting the FREE beer they offer you) and head into Cleveland Circle. It won’t be long before you observe the Citgo sign (it’s farther away than you realize) in Kenmore Square and realize that you’re actually going to finish the Boston Marathon!

The adrenalin is pumping through me as I write because I know the emotion that you’re going to feel in these closing miles. People that you don’t even know will be screaming at the top of their lungs offering encouragement you’ve likely never experienced. And when you take a right onto Hereford…well, all bets are off…you’re on the dance floor. Take a left onto Boylston and you realize, likely for the first time, what it feels like to be a ROCK STAR! There will be people you know that have NEVER felt greater pride for you…they will be filled with emotion they never anticipated when they watch you finish the Boston Marathon…I will be one of them!

Go TEAM!!!

Travel Blues

Posted: March 7, 2013 in Uncategorized

It’s 4:00 a.m. in Denver and I’m starting what promises to be an extremely long day. I am scheduled to arrive in Providence tonight at midnight…provided my flight isn’t delayed due to weather between here and New England. Thankfully, I’m on a non-stop so I won’t have to spend the night in the airport in Baltimore…that was one of the longest nights of my life.

The other extremely long nights included sleeping on the floor of the Museum of Science in Boston, on a battleship in Fall River at Battleship Cove and on another floor at the Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut, all with Rider’s Cub Scout troop. Don’t get me wrong, I loved spending time with Rider and wouldn’t trade those nights for anything. They were just extremely long.

These experiences all similar to running a marathon. There’s a lot of effort involved but the reward is more than worth it. Nothing is more worthwhile than spending time with our children even if it does require some discomfort at times 🙂 Nothing compares to completing a marathon, particularly Boston, even though it requires incredible sacrifice…that’s what makes the reward and sense of accomplishment that much more meaningful.

I travel extensively this time of year. This week I’ve driven more than 15 hours just between Albuquerque and Denver. Next week I’ll be in Salt Lake City, Provo and Boise. The following week I’ll be in Florida and Georgia. The benefit of my travel is that I get to visit some incredible places and spend time with some amazing people.

Yesterday I had lunch at Whole Foods in Boulder, Colorado with Adriana Nelson Pirtea. Adriana is from Romania and has a Marathon PR of 2:28. She and her husband (Jeremy) are the founders of Roll Recovery ( and the incredible R8. I met Adriana and Jeremy at a running trade show in Austin, Texas and have enjoyed our friendship ever since.

Adriana is running the Rotterdam (Netherlands) Marathon the day before the Boston Marathon. Here goal is to improve upon her current PR and is fit enough to run in the 2:24-2:26 range. During our conversation we spoke about her marathon debut in Chicago 2007, the year of blistering heat. Adriana had a 30 second lead with 600 meters remaining. Defending women’s champion, Berhane Adere, was shielded by a cadre of men and slipped past Adriana for the win. That cost Adriana $100,000 in prize money…wow! It was her slowest marathon ever (2:33). I didn’t have the heart to tell her that her slowest marathon time is my Marathon PR…ouch!

Here is a picture of Adriana:

Adriana Nelson

The downside of my travel is spending time away from Lori, Rider and Macie. Similar to the Boston Marathon, there is light at the end of the tunnel. My travel will subside in approximately 5 weeks and I return to a more normal existence.

Traveling extensively and training for Boston requires a herculean effort. Despite some challenges and inconveniences…it’s more than worth it in the end!

Mastering The Art Of Running

Posted: March 4, 2013 in Uncategorized

Investing in mastering the art of running will provide major dividends. Improving your running efficiency will provide years of enjoyment and reduce the amount of stress on your body, thereby minimizing the possibility of an injury. Seeing someone run effortlessly is a thing of beauty-but it’s extremely rare. Runners tend to be inefficient and loud with their running and it’s always a constant struggle…physically and mentally.

It’s extremely gratifying to spend time with a runner interested in improving their running form. It’s an opportunity to teach and coach on an entirely new level. And nothing is better than witnessing a runner experience an epiphany that running can actually be easier and more enjoyable with less effort. The act of running is so simple and easy in theory…but ask any runner how many runs that truly feel effortless and the silence is deafening.

It surprises me how many runners assume that running is always going to be a struggle and not attempt to improve their form. Laura Gassner Otting is NOT one of them. She has been inquisitive from the moment I met her…always operating in the spirit of continuous improvement…the consummate student of running. Here is what she had to say about our time together:

“I ran my first mile ever less than two years ago. On April 16, I will finish the Boston Marathon. And, when I do, my heartiest thanks will go to Rick Muhr, running coach extraordinaire.

It would be a fortunate thing if Rick was just an excellent diagnostician of form and master mechanic of technique. It would be amazing if he paired this talent with an unmatched knowledge of fuel, hydration, and gear. And it would be yet even more unbelievable if he combined the two with a can-do spirit and joy of the sport that is infectious beyond compare. And, how incredibly lucky for me that he has all of these in spades.

It’s simply impossible to be around Rick and not want to run better, faster, and farther than you’ve ever run before. And lucky for you, he’ll help you do this as he did for me, by teaching how to run more efficiently and effectively. It is no exaggeration to say that Rick has single-handedly changed what I am capable of doing come the marathon, and for that, I can’t thank him enough!” -Laura Gassner Otting 2012 Boston Marathon

Thank you for allowing me to be your coach, Laura!