I spent all of last weekend in an RRCA coaching certification class taught by Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS, ACSM-Registered Clinical Exercise Physiologist and author of Running Strong & Injury Free, and Mike Broderick, certified running coach and personal trainer. While I was very glad to be taking the class, I almost dropped it at the last minute because of my job change and lack of sleep. I dragged myself to the class at 7 am on Saturday and Sunday... half awake... and stayed for the full class until 5 pm both days. Luckily I perked up when I started diving into the content. Especially the parts about ALL OF THE MANY running mistakes I've made throughout my years of half marathon and marathon training. Here are my top 10 in a nutshell.

My Top 10 Running Mistakes (not to be repeated in the Providence Marathon)

1. Crash and burn
That surge of excitement that churns before a marathon makes me want to rush out of the gate. During those first few miles my running feels light and easy -- like a 7:45 pace is no problem! Unfortunately, it comes back to haunt me later. According to my RRCA coaches, running even 30 seconds faster than my anticipated pace at the start of a marathon will add 2 ADDITIONAL MINUTES to my pace by the end of the marathon. I checked my NYC Marathon splits and, sure enough, that's exactly what happened. No thanks. I'll be starting right where I should be in Providence.

2. Not enough fuel
My stomach is not the best when I run sometimes, so I tend to avoid eating anything before a race or long run. The problem is that lack of fuel leaves me with little energy by mile 15. I was quick to jot down some tips for better fueling preparation: I'll be waking up at around 3 am next Sunday morning to eat about 5 hours before marathon race time, then I'll eat something light about an hour before the start. During the race, I was also told to have 200-300 calories per HOUR! I've never done that before, so I'm practicing this week with GUs. Hopefully my stomach will be good and my energy levels will stay high.

3. Running long runs too fast
Maybe this should be #1 on the list. Running long runs fast does NOT make me a better runner. In fact, the world's elite marathoners run their long runs 2-3 minutes slower than race pace. This is necessary to train the body to store enough glycogen so it can burn fat when you're almost out of fuel. Fat can't burn without at least some glycogen left in the system. "Hitting the wall" is what happens when you're out of glycogen and are unable to burn fat. (This also relates to #2 -- going out too fast burns all that glycogen up so you have nothing left at the end.) I could go on and on on this topic, and probably will once I can call myself a certified coach! But the biggest lesson I learned from my class was DO NOT RUN LONG RUNS FAST! Who knew?

4. Not enough strength training
There's really no point in trying to improve form. Changing running form requires effort and thought -- and running should not involve that sort of forced coordination. I learned that the best way to improve form is to strength train. My body will then just settle into the right form because my muscles will be stronger and more supportive of my joints and ligaments. Wish I'd done more strength training, but I always wish that the week before a marathon. I need to SERIOUSLY get on this next time around, so my husband doesn't ever have to call me out on bad form again!

5. Not enough water
My husband would probably put this at #1 on this list. He is on me all the time for this -- for good reason. I don't like drinking water. I also never feel thirsty. This is a big problem for me as a runner. I'm CONSTANTLY dehydrated and my body has adapted to this state. It's not a good thing. I can go for many many miles without a drink, but it depletes my energy and makes me feel sick at the end of some long runs. I have to force myself to hydrate more, no doubt about it, starting right now.

6. Ignoring pain
My RRCA coaches STRESSED not running with any sort of injury. Any. Sort. They said if a lingering pain shows up, I should stop running for 4 DAYS then test it with a walk/slow jog. If it still hurts, I should see a doctor and possibly stop running for a longer period of time. Runners hate not running. I hate not running. So I ignored my hip pains for weeks. At this point, I'm taking my chances and running the marathon with the pain, at the risk of more serious injury later. If I'd been smarter, I would have rested it better at the first sign, then maybe I'd have no pain at all now. This is something I have to be much more careful about in the future.

7. Not running consistently each week
My schedule has been all over the place recently. Between work, going to interviews, fundraising for Run to Home Base and volunteer jobs, I missed a few runs and ended up loading up my mileage on the weekends. That didn't help my injury, especially combined with my fast long runs. Ugh. Not smart. For the next marathon, I am committing to a week-long schedule not just a weekEND schedule.

8. Not enough miles
The best marathoners have a huge mileage base. HUGE. Now I'm not about to go out and run 100+ miles per week. I won't even run 80+ miles per week. But running 60 miles per week can work wonders. It just makes everything easier and more effortless. My highest mileage week was 48 miles this winter. Last year it was only about 35 miles. I'm definitely getting better, but I could be doing more to build my base. That's for the next training session.

9. Not enough sleep
I rarely get more than 6 hours. I'll try to keep working on this, but I'm not holding out a lot of hope. I have to be good and go to bed earlier every night this upcoming week, if no other time.

10. Too much stress!
Changing jobs is a stressful thing. It's all worth every bit of the stress in the end of course! But it's a stressful process that cuts into sleep and messes with the usual habits. Marathon prep programs always say to avoid stressful situations at all costs during your training. Of course, that would mean I could never enter into a stressful situation, since I'm always training for something! But I understand the reasoning and I do feel the effects. That's why I'm spending most of this weekend and every night this week right here on my couch. :) Time to R-E-L-A-X!

One week till Providence.... one week.... one week... one week... one week...