Looking Good, Feeling Good: A Conversation with Beth Blendell
It's true, racing is hard. Whether you're looking to PR in the half-marathon or qualify for Boston, taking it to the next level by increasing mileage and/or speed is challenging for runners at all levels. And while racing may be hard, it's what we do during training that helps us become better athletes.
If you're thinking about setting big goals for your next race, you're going to love this post. We caught up with Beth Blendell, a November Project co-leader, Boston Marathon qualifier, and running coach for a Q&A about her training routines, obstacles, and tips she has for runners looking to take on longer distances.
Tell us about yourself. Where did you grow up and what sparked your interest in running?
Beth: I grew up in Maryland just outside of DC but I’ve lived in Philly 10 years now. My family was always really into sports so I played soccer growing up and competitively figure skated until I was 18. I played soccer in college but never really considered myself a runner.
3.5 years ago I moved back to Philadelphia full-time after splitting my time between New York City and Philadelphia for a few years. I was looking for something to fill my time and after spectating at the Rock N Roll Half-Marathon, I decided that I too wanted to try the whole running thing. With the help of my sister, who is an experienced runner, I found a plan and stuck to it with running the Philadelphia Half Marathon as my goal. After that race and training cycle, I was hooked!
Are you training for any upcoming events/races? If so, what does your average week of training look like?
Beth: I’m training for a fall marathon, either Steamtown Marathon or Philadelphia Marathon, with the goal of breaking 3 hours. My typical training week looks like this:
Monday - Rest;
Tuesday - Speed work/Track;
Wednesday - Recovery run (5ish miles);
Thursday - Bike Ride (hills or recovery);
Friday - Longer Tempo;
Saturday - 3-4 mile recovery;
Sunday - Long run.
What is the hardest part of your current training regimen and how do you overcome it?
Beth: The hardest part of my training regimen is finding the time to get all my workouts in. This usually means that I am waking up before the sun to get out the door. Sometimes I start runs while it is still dark and it can be hard to stay motivated. The best thing for me is to have a running buddy meet me either at the start or halfway through my runs, it breaks up the run and gives me something to look forward to during those tough sets.
What was the last race that you did? How did it go?
Beth: The last race I ran was Boston Marathon. I had big goals going into the race (I wanted to run sub 3:08) and then I checked the weather forecast - super hot and no air, yuck. I thought I still might be able to hit my time goal but when the race started, I felt awful! I got the boost I needed to finish around mile 15 when my November Project co-leader, John Combs, jumped in to pace me the rest of the way. I didn’t hit my time goal but was happy with my effort considering all the conditions.
If you could change one thing about your training for the Boston Marathon, what would you have done differently?
Beth: If I could change anything about my training it would have been to do more for recovery - massage, rolling out, self care, refueling with the right foods, more sleep, and of course more ice cream!
How has being a co-leader for November Project impacted your training/running?
Beth: Being a co-leader has motivated me to continue to push myself to my limits and to keep striving to be the best runner I can be. The group is incredibly supportive of each other which means that you can share your crazy goals and people will be there to encourage you, motivate you, hold you accountable and never think you are crazy for wanting to achieve big things. When you have a community like November Project you ALWAYS have someone to workout with. I can always find someone who is crazy enough to wake up at 4:30am to meet me for a run.
What could someone who is new to November Project expect when they come to their first workout?
Beth: November Project is a free workout that happens at 6:25am Wednesday and Friday - we do a combination of running and bodyweight exercises. Both the running and bodyweight exercises are done at your speed. We are known for being a supportive, motivational and welcoming group… that LOVES to give out hugs. Once you try it, there is no turning back!
What words of encouragement would you give to someone who is having a hard time reaching their running goals?
Beth: Running can be hard, and sometimes it really sucks. It is during those times when I don’t feel like lacing up my shoes and going for a run. When I feel like this, I try to remember to bring some fun back into running - whether its going for a run to catching up with a friend or running around with November Project or even taking an extra day of rest.
The one mantra that gets me through tough runs and races is “Looking good, feeling good” (even if it’s not true in the moment) - saying this on repeat, can trick your brain into feeling better about running.
What three tips would you give to someone who is interested in taking on longer distances?
Ease into increasing your mileage, don’t build up too quickly - this is where most injuries come from.
Find other people that are training for a race of the same distance around the same time and meet up at least 1x a week to run and talk about training (the good, the bad, the ugly)
Find a plan that works for you, write a mantra or a motivating quote at the top and put it up somewhere you can see it everyday - fridge, mirror, computer desktop - as a reminder of all your progress and your ultimate goal.
Beth has launched her own coaching business - The Speed Republic - for runners who are looking for more specific coaching tips. You can follow her on Instagram @bblendell.
Takia McClendon is the co-founder of City Fit Girls. She's a shoe expert and manager at a running store in Philadelphia and a Certified Level 1 USATF Coach. Follow her online at @takiamcclendon.
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