Advice to Fellow Runners

I’m doing something a little different today on The Souzapalooza Blog. In honor of NYC Marathon Week, I’m sharing some amazing running advice, from my good friend and seasoned runner, Brad Benson. Brad and I worked together back in the day, and became fast friends. Brad is incredibly friendly, out going, witty, talented, creative, and absolutely hilarious! He is also a running enthusiast who has been incredibly supportive of my endeavours and is incredibly generous with his time and his knowledge. As a result, he created an incredibly thorough list of tips that support both seasoned runners and novices a like. Brad has been running for about 6 years and started out hating running. He now has a total of 6 Ragnars (One of those with me! You can read about them HERE and HERE), 5 half marathons, and 3 marathons under his running belt! All the FAQs on what to wear, how to train, and what to expect race day are covered in his points below (and there may be one of two additions from your’s truly, noted accordingly). New runners, seasoned runners, or just considering starting to run, Brad’s got you covered! When I approached Brad about sharing his work, his response was simple – “I wrote it to help people, so any means of furthering that cause, I’m very happy to do!” So please, continue to share his wisdom with others that may be interested.

Brad & I at the 2013 Cape Cod Ragnar
Brad & I at the 2013 Cape Cod Ragnar
My Advice to Fellow Runners – by Brad Benson
  1. Shoes: Go to a place that will rate your gait (like Jackrabbit). They’ll recommend the best shoe and style to correct any pronation, etc. I ran for a some time in the wrong shoes and had a decent amount of foot pain by doing so; when I got new ones, it was gone in 2 days.
    • Pro Tip: If your shoes are dirty, don’t wash them in a machine washer (it can degrade the quality of the shoes), but instead, squirt some soap inside and wear them in the shower -it’s like a soapy, pleasant puddle!
  2. Clothing
    • Basic Attire:
      • General: (good) socks, shorts, short sleeve shirt, long sleeve shirt, hat/bandana (to catch sweat)
      • Cold Weather: (insulated) tights, winter hat, light gloves, pullover/running jacket
    • What to Wear: Runners World has an excellent app on their website: Generally, I wear pullover/gloves/hat around 32degrees, tights under 40degrees, long sleeves under 50.
    • Shirt: In my experience, the tighter the shirt, the less the chaffing, so I wear pretty form-fitting shirts (bonus: you look like a super hero!). Also, wicking material is pretty clutch.
    • Layering: Always smart, because you will be at a different temperature at standstill than you are in process. If you shed during a race, try to arrange someone along the course to hand-off any clothing you want to keep.
    • Socks: It’s worth it to buy a couple pairs of the more expensive running socks. They wick, cushion, and will save you from blisters.
    • **from Souzapalooza – Sports Bra: For the ladies, make sure you have a proper sports bra, especially for long distances. Look for bras that are made specifically for “High Impact”. Look for a bra that has adjustable straps and/or backing clips to help lock the girls down!
  3. Water Belt: Get one. It’s worth it to hold your wallet, any chomps/Gu, phone, and most importantly, water. Even during races with water stations, I’d recommend carrying water -you’ve got it for whenever you need it and you can avoid congestion at the water stations. Also, carry a ziploc bag to put your phone/wallet in if you’re anticipating rain. **from Souzapalooza – I carry my water in my hand (but I’m weird), and wear a SPI-Belt for all the important items Brad mentioned
  4. Headlamp: Buy a headlamp. It’s great for running in the dark and makes you unmistakable to motorists. It also comes in handy if you’re using a bathroom with no light at a race that starts before the sun rises.**from Souzapalooza – mandatory for anyone signing up for a Ragnar as part of their safety requirements
  5. Documentation: Use a service like RunKeeper, MapMyRun, or Nike+. Not only can you plan routes, but it tracks your progress and will give you an idea of your natural pace.
  6. Training program:
    • Do It: There’s tons of free ones on the Internet (here’s a few on, which I used for my first). I ran my first 1/2 not following a training program and had difficulty walking for almost a week; following one, I’ve run full marathons then went to weddings/performed later that same day.
    • Skips: The long runs are most important (usually scheduled on the weekend). If you’ve got to bounce them around a bit here & there, that’s fine to fit them in. No biggie if you have to skip a few of the shorter distances. Ultimately though, you get out what you put in.
    • Speed/Hill Work: I rarely do speed/hill work, but if you want to get faster, think about it. Running outdoors in a similar area to the race should give you the elevation change you need. Lean ever-so-slightly forward to aid running uphill, and when running downhill open-up and take longer strides to take advantage of the momentum. Keeping a steady pace will make that level-out feel that much better!
  7. Treadmill Running:  Knock the incline up to 1.0 to give your knees/joints a break, and as a bonus it makes running on flat courses slightly easier and you faster!
  8. Food/Drink
    • Chomps: I like the chomps the best (as opposed to Gu, sports beans, or Gatorade). There’s tons of flavors that are basically fruit chews with electrolytes & stuff. If you’re doing chomps, don’t do (much) Gatorade, etc.; it’ll mess with your stomach. I usually eat a chomp every 2-3miles, but test it out for yourself -too many can cause indigestion. **from Souzapalooza – I use sport beans or Gatorade chews at every 3-4 miles depending on how I feel. Everyone is different and these things can be tested on your long runs
    • Water: Don’t drink too much (it can give you cramps). I usually take a swig each mile, which also gives you a systematic action to break up the miles. That means for a half marathon, I prob don’t even drink 12oz total during the race. It’s more important to hydrate the day before and a little the morning of! **from Souzapalooza – Unless it is insanely hot, I try not to start drinking water until mile 6 because after a while I get a sloshy tummy (where you can feel the water bouncing around). Do feel free to dump it over your head if you are getting hot and need to cool down. 
    • Protein: I’ll usually follow-up with a protein shake after 8mi run, or a solid 1hr of running.
    • Pre-meal: I usually eat about 2hrs before, generally a light meal of protein/carbs/fat.
  9. Music:
    • Headphones: I usually run with only 1 headphone in order to 1) still be aware of what’s going on around you, and 2) to be able to hear the crowd cheering you on -it’s one of the best parts!
    • Curated Playlist: Have your friends/family suggest a song to add to your playlist; it’s a nice little pick-me-up thinking of them when you’re tired & sore!
  10. General
    • Running Plateau:  I hit my running plateau between miles 6 & 8 (but it’s different for everyone). From that point on, you feel pretty unstoppable (the runner’s high). Up until that point, meh.
    • Stretching: Some people do it, some people don’t (I do not). Stretching won’t do much for those who don’t typically do so and vice versa. Just stick with what works best for you.**from Souzapalooza – I believe in the power of my foam roller post race!
    • “Fakes & Pains”: For the first 1-2miles, your body will psyche-you-out with what I like to call “fakes & pains;” don’t worry, they (usually) fade away. If they don’t and you’re in pain, don’t push it and stop running.**from Souzapalooza – This is also where you start to question your sanity for running….that fades too.
    • Bathrooms: Just warning you, a 3-5mile run works better than coffee. Know where there are accessible bathrooms.
    • Bridges: They tend to offer more of an incline than you’re expecting, and also an unobstructed path with decent mileage, so they’re a great resource!
    • Running Loops: If you’re running loops, alternate between clockwise & counter-clockwise; it mixes up elevation changes and the encourages balanced muscle activation.
    • Running as a Mode of Transport: Use running as a means of getting from one place to another (work to home, practice to home, etc.)… that way, it’s a means, not a chore. Wearing your running clothes makes you that much more committed to following through!
    • Run Towards Traffic: If you’re running along a street with no sidewalk, run on the side TOWARDS on-coming traffic so you have a full visual.
    • Start/End: Strategically start AND end routes at your apartment, especially in bad weather- to minimize transport time. Nothing like finishing a long run and immediately jumping in a hot bath!
    • Pauses: If it’s super hot, I stop every couple miles to collect myself, sweat, and drink water. Stopping allows your body to fully sweat, which when you restart offers a nice cool-off. If you’re worried about conditioning yourself to stop during races, don’t worry: your adrenaline will prevent that on race day!
    • Temperature: I saw a great infographic (not sure that’s exactly it, but it says about he same thing) a few years back about temperature and running; basically (don’t quote me on this), 53degrees is ideal and every 10 degrees above/below can make you as much :30/mile slower… just good to be aware of that!
    • Explore: Run through new areas/neighborhoods. It’s one of my favorite parts of running and really gives you a feel for your area!
  11. Race Day
    • Carb-loading: The night before is a myth -what you really want to do is eat a carb-heavy meal 2 nights before (to give your body time to process). The day before, still eat healthy & balanced.
    • Lay Your Clothes Out the Night Before: You’ll likely be tired & nervous, so better to have everything ready.**from Souzapalooza – This includes your belt, your number (and pins), sneakers, socks, ect. If you have spectators coming to see you run, take a “Flat Me” picture of your outfit so they know what to look for race day. 
    • Morning Meal: I usually eat no later than 2hrs before running. The ideal meal is 1/2 bagel smeared with peanut butter (mostly carbs + some protein & fat). I drink coffee too.**from Souzapalooza – I pre race with Cheerios and coffee.
    • Allow ample time to get to the start: You’ll be surprised how many people and how congested things can get.
    • Don’t check a bag: If you need something post-race, have someone meet you after the exit. Checking a bag is a waste of time (even if it’s for a jacket, you have to check it well before the start of the race, so it will only help up to a point)
      • Alternately, a lot of cool weather races will collect discarded clothing at the start line to donate, so grab a 2nd-hand pair you aren’t worried about parting with.
    • Restrooms: They’ll be lines of port-a-pottys that get pretty gross, pretty fast. If you need ‘em, go there first (see coffee note above). Take a small bottle of hand sanitizer and always confirm there’s toilet paper!**from Souzapalooza – If you know that a potty has no paper, let people know, especially men who just need to pee. It helps thin down the lines more than you’d think
    • Pack Mentality: You’ll start much faster than you think. Avoid the pack mentality and try to stay at pace! **from Souzapalooza – I tend to stick to the mid/back of my corral in order to avoid going out too fast.
    • Navigating a Crowded Course: Races tend to have a lot of congestion, especially at the start. Be aware of people around you, especially when moving left/right across the course.
    • Be Aware: Half-marathons, especially, bring out amateurs, in a sense people don’t properly train, hydrate, or run so they’re unprepared for the actual event. People will cut you off, stop, and generally flop around because they’re pushing their limits, are tired, & sore. Not much you can really do, other than know it will happen. **from Souzapalooza – It is recommended that if you have to stop, move to the closest side and put your arm up to signal that you are slowing down. 
    • Splits: Aim for negative splits, i.e., save your energy for the 2nd half. If halfway through you feel great, speed up a bit ‘cause you’ve only got half left!
    • Name: Put your name somewhere on your shirt/hat so people can cheer you on by name (FYI: duct tape doesn’t work because it falls off with sweat)!**from Souzapalooza – Disney puts your name on your bib. I can’t tell you what a difference it made hearing people call out my name during my first run!
    • Water Stations: Are typically a slippery mess of people crossing the course, stopping, dropping cups, spilling water, etc. If you run with a running belt, you can likely avoid them (or only deal with the ones you need).
    • Scheduled Spectators: Based on your average pace, give people an idea of where you’ll be & when. Know their cross streets and which side of the course. Popular races get A LOT of spectators, and it’s difficult to pinpoint friends randomly.
    • Enjoy it: You’ve worked to get there, don’t let a goal time/pace prevent you from enjoying the moment. Also, a lot of factors will be out of your control (congestion, temperature, weather, etc.). Just enjoy the moment! **from Souzapalooza – This is the fun part!! Have a good time! If others on the course around you look like they are struggling, toss them a few words of encouragement as well, they will appreciate the motivation. 
    • Exit: Depending on the size of the race, it can take some distance/time just to exit (the NY Marathon exit was a 2mile walk that took 40min). Just be prepared… there will be fruit, bagels, and lots of water along the way.**from Souzapalooza – If there is bling at your race, finish line area volunteers are usually more than willing to take a picture of you so don’t be shy to ask for that, or anything else you might need in the moment. They are there to help you, make sure you are safe after your race, and that you have a great experience.
  12. Post Race:
    • If you’re sore: pop an ibuprofen and soak in a hot tub (I rarely ice, but some say it helps).
    • RICE: Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate any injuries.
    • Wear your medal all day. You trained for months, people can deal with 1 day! **from Souzapalooza – Carry it around to show to all your friends and family. You sacrificed time with them to train, you should get to show off your accomplishment!

Thank you Brad for sharing your wisdom! Follow Brad on Twitter @badbrad002 If anyone has any additional tips, please feel free to add them in the comments below!


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