What would it take?

(I realize that this is the second post in a row in which I’ve used a question as a title, a total cop-out, lazy thing to do, but then again, I never claimed to be the world’s most hard-working blogger!)

Last night, the Gypsy Runner asked me, “If you could do one thing to take your running to the next level, what would it be?”  I was stumped.  While I know I have plenty of room for improvement, I don’t really know if there’s any one thing that would be the game-changer.  Instead, a whole list of possibilities came to mind:

  • Increasing confidence.  Possibly one of my most self-limiting flaws as a runner, I often sell myself short when it comes to thinking about what I’m capable of.  I’m working on this one, but as they say – old habits die hard.
  • Increasing resilience/resolve.  I’ve improved a lot in this area already, but still have tons of work to do.  In the past, I had a tendency to throw my goals out the window when the going got tough during races.  That’s why the consistent splits at the end of the Kaiser Half were such a victory to me – I fought hard to the very end.
  • Working on my running form.  This one is tricky, because it’s hard to know whether the quirks in my running form are harmless or if they’re flaws that impact my performance.  One thing I’ve noticed is that when I’m tired, I run with my arms tight against my body.  Instead of swinging my arms, I rotate my upper body, which at best is inefficient, and at worst, could be too much torque and lead to injury.  (To see what I mean, go to 2:56:03 of this video.)
  • Being more consistent with strength and core workouts.  I haven’t been great about prioritizing this, and it’s always the first to go if I’m short on time.
  • Improving my overall nutrition.  I’m pretty good about eating and hydrating in the days leading up to a big race, but I tend to indulge in too much junk right after the race.  It then takes my stomach several days to recover.  Moderation is key.

This isn’t one of the major points that I thought of, but I have a feeling that my running will improve after the move.  As much as I’ll miss running around Lake Merritt, it’s very flat and no longer provides me with much training stimulus.  After we move, I’ll be running on Lake Chabot’s trails 2-3 times a week, where even easy runs will include short, steep rollers that translate into built-in strength workouts.

What about you? Is there one thing (or many things) you could do to step up your running game?  What would it take for you to get to the next level?


Here’s Oakland Marathon Week 3 training, with links to dailymile.  Sorry it’s late, but I didn’t want to post it at the end of the (already very long) Chabot 30K recap.

Mon: Timed mile #3 for 2014.  I’m happy to report that I ran a mile in 7:28 – my fastest mile ever, and 16 seconds faster than last month!  Not only that, I didn’t have any foot pain.  Hurrah!
2.6 miles @ 9:23/mile

Tues: “Strength” workout: 2 x 3 miles @ 28:30 (9:30/mile) with 0.5 mile rest interval.  Actual splits: 28:10 (9:23/mile), 28:24 (9:28/mile).  Skipped the Cleveland Cascade to rest my legs before the Chabot 30K.
7.6 miles @ 9:45/mile

Thurs: “Race pace” workout: 6 miles @ race effort.  I did most of this run with Jane at Lafayette Reservoir.  Yay for new running friends and new running paths!
7.5 miles @ 10:08/mile

Lafayette Reservoir

Lafayette Reservoir

Sat: Chabot 30K
18.4 miles @ 12:10/mile, 2800′ elevation gain

Total: 36.1 miles.  A big jump in mileage over the previous week, but it feels good to finally hit > 30 weekly miles with lots of quality miles to boot.  I’m also relieved that the sudden foot pain that hit me 2 Fridays ago went away with some rest.  Only 3.5 weeks to go until the Oakland Marathon!


Howdy! My name is Jen and I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. I like to eat, run, and blog, but not usually at the same time.

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Posted in Goals, random, Training
16 comments on “What would it take?
  1. Hillary says:

    Wahoo, fastest mile! And I’m with you on the excitement to add built-in hill training to your normal runs. That kind of opportunity CANNOT be under emphasized. You’re basically going to be able to squat a school bus. Just kidding. Am I?

  2. Mike says:

    Congrats on the 7:28 mile! Solid progress, that’s gotta feel great… sorry, hella great. Where did you run it, on the track or around Lake Merritt?

    As for what I would do to step up my running game, I need to get me some of those winged sandals that Hermes wears… speed is not my forte. That said, I’m forgoing longer slower distance runs (except on trails) these days to focus instead on running faster for longer, which turns out is pretty exhausting. I’ve been lucky to avoid injuries so far, but I always feel like I’m walking that fine line between pushing myself as hard as I can and smacking face-first into a training wall. If you don’t see me on the start line at Big Sur, you’ll know which won out!

    • Jen says:

      I ran the mile on the track at Piedmont High School. It’s a nice track, but my Garmin shows that it’s not completely level – is that normal? Well, regardless, it’s way better than trying to dodge the people, dogs, and sidewalk cracks around Lake Merritt.

      I hear you on the fine line between getting stronger/better and injury. Let’s hope we both stay on the happy side of that line!

      • Mike says:

        Now that you mention it, I’m always amused to see the now-familiar “rolling hills” motif whenever I upload the Garmin data from my track workouts. It was true on the dirt middle school track near our house in Berkeley, and it’s true on the nicer synthetic college track I’ve been running on here. Apparently it’s no easy task to construct a level track. I haven’t taken my Garmin out to UCLA (i.e. the nicest track in town) yet… but now that you’ve piqued my curiosity, I’ll have to investigate soon.

  3. Angela says:

    Obviously, if you had read “Once A Runner,” you would know that the only answer to that question is running a speed workout of 60 quarter miles & peeing blood for the next day. BUT, if you’re not *really* committed……..

  4. Cathryn says:


    It’s a really interesting question though, and one I pondered on my long run yesterday, having just read your blog. I’m intrigued as to what we mean by being ‘a better runner’. Speed is the obvious answer but I don’t think it’s enough. Speed is partly genetics and partly training, I’m never going to be as fast as Angela for example but does that mean I can’t be as ‘good’ a runner as her?

    This is what I came up with.
    Variety – experience in running different distances, different TYPES of run, trails, track, road, relay. Running in different places/countries/states/parks etc.
    Knowledge – learning the science behind what we do and how different things impact our running.
    Infectiousness. About being the kind of runner that makes other people want to try running and about us having the attitude to welcome them, to teach them (humbly) what we’ve learned and to probably have the grace to watch them beat us eventually.
    Passion – I’ll never be a ‘good’ runner, but I can be all of the above and I can have a real passion for running which will hopefully be enough.

    • Jen says:

      When the GR first asked me that question, I had the same response — what does “better” mean? We decided, for argument’s sake, to focus on speed, but I agree with you — there’s so much more to being a “better” runner than being fast. To your list, I’d add being an injury-free runner and (related) running healthy for as long as possible. Being injury-free requires some luck but also patience, diligence (recovery, strengthening, stretching), and awareness of your body. As for long-term running, there’s a time when we won’t be able to set PR’s anymore, but does that mean we stop running? I hope not! I’d love to be able to run for the rest of my life and be that older, gray-haired lady trudging down the trail at a local race. 🙂

  5. Dominick S. says:

    Umm don’t take this the wrong way…but I guessed 3 of the 5 you posted because I know runner Jen so well. Let’s be real though…you’ve come so damn far since I have been reading this blog, its inspiring. Oh, and not that speed is a driving factor for success in running…but a 7:28 mile Jen…HOLY HELL…great job! I am looking forward to reading about your new routes in your new hood, that area is so beautiful. Great job again on that 18 miler with a ton of elevation…you’re crazy.

    If I could do one thing to improve my running, it would probably be speed work/interval training. I need to get on the track.

    • Jen says:

      No offense taken! I’m just impressed/happy that you’re still reading after all this time! 😉 And thanks for the kind and supportive words.

      I hope to hit the track more regularly as well. There’s a public track close to our new place so that should make it a lot more feasible.

  6. […] (Saucony reps, you can reach me through the Comments section below).  Maybe I’d been inspired by Jen, who’d just run a speedy timed mile of her own the week before.  Or maybe I’d captured the […]

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4/28/19: London Marathon

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