Monday, August 31, 2009

New Contest!! Winner Gets Free Entry to the Blue Ridge Marathon!

Recently I posted on one the most beautiful and challenging of the spring marathons—The Blue Ridge Marathon in Roanoke, Virginia. The breathtaking course begins and ends in downtown Roanoke. In between, runners enter the Blue Ridge Parkway, where they'll make three significant climbs and descents.

Now I have EXCITING NEWS!! The Blue Ridge Marathon is giving RunnerDude's Blog one race entry to give away as a prize! TO ENTER all you have to do is EMAIL RunnerDude at! Be sure to put "Blue Ridge Marathon" in the subject line and include your full name in the body of the email. That's it! Each person is allowed one entry.
Email entries will be accepted until midnight (EST) on Sunday, September 13, 2009. Each email received will be assigned a number (in the order that the emails are received). The True Random Number Generator will be used to select the winning number. The email with the matching number is the winner! The winner will be announced on Monday, September 14, 2009. Enter soon! Good Luck!RunnerDude

How Running Changed My Life: Tara's Story

The follow story is from Tara. Her very touching story of how running changed her life will surely touch you. Here's Tara's story in her own words:

I've been an avid runner for over 10 years now. This past summer, my Dad's Alzheimer's took a bad turn and my daily runs took on a new meaning. I used my runs as a form of therapy... a meditation and way to deal with all that was happening.

It didn't take long for me to realize that I was now running for my Dad. I was so proud because when I dedicated my runs to him, I felt like I had a little bit of control over this horrible time in my life.

On my runs, I realized that I was not alone. Most of my friends and family were also running for various reasons, so I wanted to provide a way for them to express and celebrate what they Run For. I came home one day and told my husband how I felt and how happy I was to Run For my Dad. I was so proud I wanted to write it across my chest... he looked at me and said, "well why don't you".

In January I had my first Run For shirt in my hand and was created. I've created the webist and the running shirts with the hope that others will share, and be inspired by, all that we Run For.

Not only has running offered me ways to gain strength emotionally and physically, now it's offered me a company that has allowed me to gain more knowledge and new runner friends. Pretty cool!—Tara Setzer

Be sure to check out Tara's and create your own shirt expressing what you run for. The company was founded in January of 2009 by Tara out of love and honor for her Dad. Through her experience with her dad and her running she decided she wanted to provide a way for other runners to express and celebrate what they Run For. Thanks Tara!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Taper Time

You've built your mileage base, you've been sharpening and fine-tuning your running with focused endurance, pace, and speed workouts and now it's time for the taper.

The length of the taper really depends on your running experience level and the mileage base you've built. Often beginning runners who may have a lower mileage base will need more taper time (about 3 weeks) prior to race day. More experienced runners who've logged more miles and who have had more time to condition their bodies to the mileage and hard workouts may actually need less taper time (about 2 weeks) prior to the race.

The key to tapering is reducing the mileage to about 75% of the normal weekly mileage 2-3 weeks before the marathon. The distance should further be reduced to about 50% the normal weekly mileage the week prior to race day. The long run should be reduced by the same amounts each week with the last extra long run done 2-3 weeks before the marathon. A long run should not be run the weekend prior to the race.

Remember that the three days leading up to the race will be your carb-loading days, so you'll want to avoid intense workouts in order to conserve your glycogen stores. If you've have cabin fever the day before the race and are feeling antsy, then it's fine to do a short, easy 10-20 minute jog. Some experts say it's even fine to do a short 2-minute really fast interval the day before either on the track or a treadmill.

Suggested Taper Plans
Your plan may differ from the suggestions below, but this will give you and idea of how the mileage begins to decrease the last weeks prior to the marathon.

Beginner: (base of 20-miles per week; first-time marathoner)
Three Weeks Before Marathon: Last 20-miler 3 weeks prior to race day
Two Weeks Before Marathon: 4 runs of 4-6 miles each; long run 75% of last long run
One Week Before Marathon: 4 to 5-mile run; 2 x 1600m @ race pace; two 2-4mile runs; one easy 10-15minute jog; long run 50% of last long run

Note: The 1600m intervals should be preceded by a 1-mile slow warm-up and followed by a 1-mile slow jog cool-down.

Intermediate Level A: (base of 25-30 miles per week; may have run 1 or more marathons)
Three Weeks Before Marathon: Last 20-miler 3 weeks prior to race day
Two Weeks Before Marathon: 5-mile run; 4-mile Pace run; 5-mile run; 6-8mile run; long run 75% of last long run
One Week Before Marathon: 5-mile run; 2 x 1600m @ race pace; two 2-4mile runs; one easy 10-15minute jog; long run 50% of last long run

Note: The pace run should be preceded by a 1-mile slow warm-up and followed by a 1-mile slow jog cool-down; the 1600m intervals should be preceded by a 1-mile slow warm-up and followed by a 1-mile slow jog cool-down.

Intermediate Level B: (base of 25-30 miles per week; may have run 1 or more marathons)
Three Weeks Before Marathon: Last 20-miler 3 weeks prior to race day
Two Weeks Before Marathon: 6-mile run; 6-mile Pace run; 6-mile run; 8-10mile run; 6-mile run; long run 75% of last long run
One Week Before Marathon: 6-mile run; 2 x 1600m @ race pace; two 3-5mile runs; one easy 10-15minute jog; long run 50% of last long run

Note: The pace run should be preceded by a 1-mile slow warm-up and followed by a 1-mile slow jog cool-down; the 1600m intervals should be preceded by a 1-mile slow warm-up and followed by a 1-mile slow jog cool-down.

Advanced Runner: (base of 50 miles per week; may have run several marathons)
Three Weeks Before Marathon: Last 20-miler 3 weeks prior to race day (some advanced runners may feel comfortable doing their last long run 2 weeks prior to race day)
Two Weeks Before Marathon: 7-mile run; 7-mile run; 6-mile Pace run; 7-mile run; 10-12mile run; 7-mile run; long run 75% of last long run
One Week Before Marathon: 7-mile run; 7-mile run; 2 x 1600m @ race pace; two 3-6mile runs; one easy 10-15minute jog; long run 50% of last long run

Note: The pace run should be preceded by a 1-mile slow warm-up and followed by a 1-mile slow jog cool-down; the 1600m intervals should be preceded by a 1-mile slow warm-up and followed by a 1-mile slow jog cool-down.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Stronger! Faster! Injury Free Running!

One of the key things I'm learning in my classes at NPTI (the National Personal Training Institute) is that functional training is key to a strong body. Often runners avoid resistance training because they don't want to bulk up and add extra muscle that they'll then have to carry around while running.

Many runners don't realize that some added muscle mass can actually help make them more efficient runners. The other misunderstanding is that unless you're following a hypertrophy program designed to create those bulky muscles, you're not going to turn into "Arnold" by doing resistance training. Using lighter weights and more repetitions focusing on the quads, abs, hamstrings, glutes, calves, shins, and hip flexors will help build muscle endurance. Even doing upper body resistance training can aid a runner, especially an endurance runner. Think about it. Once your upper body gets fatigued, what's the first thing to go? Your form. Once your form is gone, then your performance is going to wane.

To go a step further, functional resistance training (using stability balls, bosu balls, resistance bands, foam rollers, etc.) is even better for runners. Functional training involves working the muscles (with or without) some resistance in a fashion that simulates natural movement. Adding specificity to functional training is an even a better approach. Specificity is gearing your functional training in a manner that simulates movements related to your sport.

The biggest benefit of functional training is that it leads to better muscular balance and joint stability, which will have a more positive impact on your performance as well as decreasing the chance of injury.

Coach Al Lyman has created a running-specific, functional strength, and recovery program designed specifically for runners called Runner Core.

The Runner-Core Program provides:
a Running Specific Core Training and Recovery Workouts DVD containing:
- 3 different progressive 15-minute functional & core strength circuits
- progressive warm-up exercises
- a 15-minute "Fix the Hips - Flex the Knees" bonus workout
- a 15-minute stretching and cooldown circuit
- a Bonus 8-minute core blaster workout
a 75-minute Audio CD: Coach Al's Five Keys to Fueling Your Best Run Ever!
a 4-week running plan (spiral-bound book)

The DVD presentation isn't the most polished or "snazzy-looking" exercise program I've reviewed, but that actually makes it more appealing to me. Coach Al is a real guy, a real coach, and a real runner. Somehow watching him go through the various routines is much more believable almost like I'm at one of Coach Al's workout sessions. I kind of like that. When he tells me to "squeeze that glute....hold..." I chuckle, but I actually do it. The camera zooming in on the Ironman tattoo on his calf humors me too, but then I think...hey this guy really is a runner, a hardcore runner. The unpolished feel ends up adding to the credibility.

The other thing that adds to the credibility of the program is that its purpose—using functional exercise to build a stronger core, more flexibility, better balance, and increased strength—is dead-on. More and more research is showing that performing specific functional strength exercises that mimic the neuromuscular demands of running improves running economy, lactate threshold, and resistance to injury better than any other type of training.
The program sells for $69.95, but I checked the website and it's now being sold for $49.95. I highly recommend you check out the website and consider using Coach Al's program. If you don't think Coach Al's program is what you want, check with your local gym and see if they offer functional training for runners. Coach Al's Runner-Core program gets 5 out of 5 "Dudes" on RunnerDude's new rating scale.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Body Bottle: Hydration on the Go

Because I sweat so much on a run, I have to carry fluids with me on most runs, especially a long run. I use both a handheld water bottle and a hydration belt that holds 4 smaller bottles. Both of these work great, but I'm always on the lookout for new running gear that improves upon an old standard.

The other day on Twitter, I received a Follow request from Body Bottle. The name piqued my curiosity so I checked out their website. Body Bottle is a new hydration product that's an alternative to the hip-belt and hand-held options. Basically Body Bottle is a wide Velcro band that fits around your upper arm and the plastic bottle attaches to the band. So basically your water or sports drink is carried on your upper arm and when you need a sip, you pull off the bottle, drink, then stick it back in place.

This looked like a cool idea, but I was a little skeptical about how well it would stay on my arm and how well the bottle would remain in place once filled with water or sports drink. So, I contacted Body Bottle and asked for a sample so I could test it out.

The thing I liked about the Body Bottle when it arrived was that there was nothing to figure out. I opened the box, washed the bottle (shaped more like a flask to fit the contour of your arm), filled it up, slipped the band on my arm, and attached the bottle. That was it! Then came the real test—running with it.

It actually works quite well. I was surprised how securely the bottle stayed in place. It didn't slip around and it didn't bob up and down. It did take a few times to get the hang of removing the bottle (because the quality/grade of Velcro is very sturdy), but after a few tries I had no problem detaching the bottle. Reattaching is very simple too—just stick it back on the band.

The only thing that was a disappointing was the size of the bottle (12oz). I would be able to use the Body Bottle on a run up to about 6 miles, but not on a run much further than that and definitely not on a long run. I guess you could run with a bottle on each arm, but that would mean buying two bottles. The Body Bottle sells for $24.95 each, but you do get 20% 0ff when you buy 2 or more. Also, the website says that if you're running a half or full marathon in 2009, you get a 20% discount.

So, Body Bottle Gets 4 out of 5 Dudes on RunnerDude's new rating scale. Great product just needs a bigger bottle option. Check it out on their website and give it a try!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

6 Simple Steps to Race Day Hydration

We often focus on hydration during training for a marathon, but then for some reason, sometimes that focus gets thrown out the window at race time! Listen to RunnerDude...Don't Do That!

Hydration can make or break a race for a runner. You can be carbed-up to the max, have trained your body to better utilize its fat stores, and have increased your endurance 10-fold, but if you get dehydrated during a race, it may spell DISASTER for you.

Here are a few things to keep in mind to make sure you're well hydrated before, during, and after the marathon.

1. Find out what sports drink will be provided during the race. If you're able, train using the same sports drink provided by the marathon. If your system doesn't tolerate the featured race drink or you'd just prefer to use something different, be sure to plan out how you'll carry or have access to your preferred hydration source. Some options include, wearing a hydration belt or stakeout family members or friends along the course ready to hand you your preferred fluids.

2. Never use the featured sports drink in a Marathon, if you did not use it in your training. Don't Do It! This will often cause stomach issues. The many different brands of sports drinks available contain varying amounts of carbs and electrolytes. Some contain other components such as protein. If you've not tried these products during training, you don't want to risk causing stomach issues on race day.

3. Don't over hydrate. Throughout the day before the race, drink water when you are thirsty, but don't overdo it. Drinking a half a cup to a cup (4-8 oz) each hour works well. Remember, you'll still be carb-loading on this day. Make sure some of your carb intake includes salty simple carbs like pretzels. Also eat a banana or two for the potassium. This will help ensure that you're not flushing out your precious electrolytes that you'll need during the race. Do not drink alcohol the day before the race. This can dehydrate you.

4. Drink 16oz of water 2 hrs before race time. This will provide enough time for the water to pass through your system and the excess be voided well before the start.

5. During the race, drink 6-12oz every 15-20 minutes. Don't rely on the Thirst Mechanism during a race. By the time you are thirsty you are probably already dehydrated. When you are severely dehydrated, you may not even experience thirst. Water works fine the first 45-minutes of the run, but after that sports drinks should be used to help restock the body's glycogen stores as well as replace electrolytes that are being sweated out. Whether you drink water the first 45 minutes and then use sports drinks or you use sports drinks the entire race, make sure it's what you did during your training. Don't vary on race day!

6. Rehydrate after the race. Do a "Sweat Test" a couple of times during your training. Simply weigh yourself (in the buff) before a long run. Do the run. Weigh yourself again (in the buff) immediately after the run. The weight loss incurred is the amount of water you sweated out. For each pound lost, drink 16oz of sports drink. Drinking sports drink will help replace the lost carbs and restock your depleted glycogen stores as well as replace lost electrolytes. This will help ensure a better and quicker recovery. It's important to remove your clothes before weighing especially after the run. If you sweat heavily, your wet clothes could be adding weight which will keep you from getting an accurate post-race weight loss total. Doing the Sweat Test a time or two during your training will give you a good idea as to how much you'll need to drink to rehydrate after a race, since you probably won't have access to any scales until quite a while after the race.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Congrats to The Fresh Air Fund Racers!

Congratulations to the 2009 Fresh Air Fund-Racers who completed the NYC Half-Marathon and raised almost $80,000 this summer! On August 16th, the Fresh Air Fund-Racers joined 15,000 other runners on the 13.1-mile course through the streets of New York City. Over the past three years as a charity partner for the NYC Half-Marathon, our 210 Fund-Racers have raised more than $300,000!

Since 1877, The Fresh Air Fund, a not-for-profit agency, has provided free summer experiences in the country to more than 1.7 million New York City children from disadvantaged communities. Each year, thousands of children visit volunteer host families in 13 states and Canada through the Friendly Town Program or attend Fresh Air Fund camps.

Sara Wilson from The Fresh Air Fund contacted me and wanted to let everyone know how thrilled and thankful they are for everyone who supported the cause.

You can still donate to this year's runners by visiting this site:

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Monkey Butt Be Gone!

Sweat, tight pants, and a tiny seat...a problem combination for sure. If you bike, you probably know where I'm headed—chafing! Okay, there, I said it. Chafing of the bum, bottom, backside, buttocks. Whatever you want to call it, it ain't no fun. Probably a close second to a runner's chafed nipples. Ouch!

I'm RunnerDude, so you've probably figured that I'm a runner. Well, every now and then I do hop on a bike and go for a ride. One thing that has always been a killjoy for me when biking is chafing of the backside. Yes, I have bike pants that fit properly. Yes, my seat is fitted properly for my size. Yes, I change positions frequently when riding. I do all of these things to no avail.

My problem is I sweat, sweat, and sweat some more. Moisture and tight pants are not the friend of a cyclist. As a runner, I know that there are products like Body Glide that help prevent chafed nipples, so I looked for some similar products for a chafed booty. I discovered several different kinds of lotions, creams, and salves, but sitting in goo just didn't appeal to me. I finally ran across a powder called Anti Monkey Butt. It pitched itself as a "Sweat Absorber and Friction Fighter." Just what I needed! Plus "Friction Fighter" sounded kind of superhero-ish, so I decided to give it a try.

The idea of pouring powder down my pants brought back memories of diapering my three kids, so this method wasn't all that appealing either, but it was better than sitting in goo, so I gave it a try. I was pleasantly surprised. It didn't take a lot and it really did seem to work. I still sweated like a pig, but the Anti Monkey Butt powder created enough of a barrier that I didn't experience any chafing. Not sure what would happen on an extremely long ride, but I was pleased with the results I had on a moderate ride, in 90°, in 80% North Carolina humidity. Can't get a better test location than that. Well maybe Florida.

Actually it worked so well, that I've even used it on a few runs and it worked just as well. So, if you have chafing problems, be a FRICTION FIGHTER like RunnerDude and give Anti Monkey Butt a try! Man, does that sound like an infomercial or what? I've discovered that the makers of Anti Monkey Butt have some pretty hilarious ads. Check out the one below.

Monday, August 24, 2009

How Running Changed My Life: Adam's Story

Adam has been reading the blog for a while and I always look forward to his comments. I also enjoy reading his blog. In Adam's own words, here's how running has changed his life:

Running has changed my life in more ways than would be immediately apparent.

First, of course, on the surface I am more fit and have more energy to do the things that I am passionate about. But, digging deeper, I have really taken to taking care of my body. Not spiritually in the "treat your body like a temple" aspect, but more along the mechanical lines of "your body is a machine - garbage in, garbage out". I've found that if I have a long run upcoming the next day, I'll take better care to make sure that I am doing the right things. My first hungover 10+ mile run taught me that lesson very VERY quickly!

Next, in my ever busier life, running has become ME time. I am always doing something for everyone. Having a set running schedule gives me 10 hours a week to think through everything that is happening without the need to 'filter' out life's annoyances. If I want to think through an issue at work while running, I can do that. If I just want to listen to my footfalls and breath in and out, that is just fine too. Either way, I make the decision. If anything, in a life that offers me few decisions that are truly mine, running allows me to take control and dictate what, where, and for how long I go.

Finally, running has given me something to be proud of. I still never get tired of hearing someone ask "what did you do this weekend?" only to see the shock on their face when they learn that I ran 8 miles on Saturday and 15 miles on Sunday. Growing up, I was not a very athletic (or quite honestly very 'talented') person. I played no sports and participated in limited activities through school. (Go marching band!) Now that I am running, my dad has something to brag to his buddies about and I have an easy connection to hundreds of other bloggers who also share in my goals, successes, and more importantly, my failures.—Adam from Arizona

When I read Adam's story, I couldn't help but smile. You see, even though I'm a lot older than Adam, I could relate to his story on a lot of levels. When I was a preteen, I too was not very athletic. In fact, I was overweight (my biggest accomplishment was eating a twin bag of Lays potato chips in one sitting). I too was in the marching band. But like Adam, today running is a part of me. Keeps me fit and sane. Thanks Adam for sharing your story!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Fueling-Up For The Big Race

Over the past couple of posts I've shared information on the two main energy sources for aerobic metabolism—glycogen (from carbs) and fat. Both are important for endurance runners. Glycogen is the main source of energy, especially during the first 30 minutes of a run. After that, fat comes into play and becomes a major source of energy. These two energy sources work simultaneously. One source may be used more than another depending on how intense or how long you're running, but it's never an either-or thing. You actually have to have some glycogen metabolism going on in order for fat metabolism to easily occur. There's a saying "Fat burns in a carbohydrate flame."

Even though it's not an either-or fuel option, the type of fuel most used at any given time depends on intensity and duration of the event as well as the training of the runner. The more readily-available fuel (glycogen) will be used during more intense exercise and the energy from fat tends to kick in more as the intensity decreases. As the duration of an event continues, a higher and higher percentage of fat can be utilized as fuel. As much as 30-60% of marathon energy can come from fat. But, like I said earlier, you have to have continuous metabolism of glycogen (carbs) in order for the fat to be used efficiently as fuel.

Here lies the problem. You only have a limited amount of storage space for glycogen (about 2000 calories). This will usually last a runner about 2hrs of hard running for an advanced runner or about 20 miles for the average runner. The 20-mile mark is usually where many runners hit the wall or "bonk." That's usually because they've run out of fuel—literally. They've depleted their glycogen stores and since the brain needs glycogen to operate too, it will send signals to fatigue the muscles causing you to slow down as well as the fact that for the fat to be utilized as fuel you still need to be metabolizing some glycogen. Kind of like having an oil well in your backyard, but no drill to get to it.

The upside is that there is almost an unlimited supply of fat. The key is to make sure you don't deplete your glycogen stores so that your fat can continue to be used as energy. The following tips will help maximize your fuel sources and help prevent depletion of your glycogen stores.

Tips to Maximize your Fuel Sources:
1. Don't start out too fast. Remember, glycogen will be used first especially when quick energy is needed. So, don't burn up all your glycogen in the first 10 minutes of the race.
2. Implement VO2Max training. This will help train your body to make better use of your fat stores (see the previous post for more info).
3. Replenish glycogen stores during the race with sports gels and/or sports drink containing carbs. Be sure to use them starting about 45 minutes into the race. Don't wait until you feel like you need them. That will be too late for them to do any good.
4. Carb-load beginning three days before the race. This will maximize your glycogen stores so you'll be fueled-up on race day.

There are several different theories on carb-loading. The thinking used to be based on a 6-day plan where for the first three days a runner depleted his carb stores so that when he/she packed in the carbs during the last three days before the race, there would be better absorption of the carbs. Current research shows that a depletion stage really isn't needed.

The recommended daily allowance of carbohydrates for the average person is 45-65% of the total daily calories. Because of the amount of running during training, a runner should probably be eating more like 60-70% of his daily calories from carbs. So to carb-load, a runner should up that amount of carbs to 70-80% of his daily calories, beginning three days prior to race day (race day isn't one of the three days). During these three days, the runner should also decrease his/her exercise. You don't want to burn off the carbs you're packing in.
Carb-Loading: Day 1
On the first day of carb-loading, try to pack in as many complex carbs as you can. Complex carbs tend to come with more fiber. Packing in the complex carbs early-on during the carb-loading phase, gives it plenty of time to be processed by your body and voided, helping to decrease any stomach issues during the race.
Carb-Loading: Days 2 and 3
Over two remaining days, begin to transition from complex carbs to more simple carbs. (Note: Beer probably doesn't make a good carb-loading food.) Be careful though; don't start packing in lots of simple carbs that you've never tried. This could cause some stomach issues. It's a good idea to do a "practice carb-load" early-on in your training for two reasons. First, it will simulate what your body is going to feel like during the carb-loading phase. You'll usually gain a few pounds due to water retention. If this happens, don't panic. This is good because it will help provide water for sweat during the race. Second, the simulation will help you determine which foods work best for you during the carb-loading phase.
Good hydration is important before the race, but make sure you're not depleting your sodium and potassium levels in the process. Including some salty foods like pretzels and eating some bananas during your carb-loading phase should help avoid this potential problem.
Last Meal Before the Run:
Make sure your last big meal is about 12-15 hours before the race. This will give the food plenty of time to pass through your body before the race. You don't want to be looking for a port-a-john at mile 3 of the race. If you plan on eating before the race (which is probably a good idea), do so 2-4hrs before race time. Make sure that you've tested out (several times) your race-morning foods. It's definitely not the time to try out something new. This meal should consist of about 300 calories coming from some carb-rich foods like bagels or toast. Keep the protein and fats to a minimum, since they take longer to process and can weigh and/or slow you down during your run.

The Carb-loading phase should not be an afterthought. Take some time early on in your training to plan out this phase and begin thinking about what foods will work best for you. Then look at your training calendar and plan a mock carb-loading phase about halfway through your training just before one of your longer runs. Remember, a simulation of the "real deal" can be a very useful tool.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Fat As a Fuel For Runners? You Betcha!

The body depends on three macronutrients in order to maintain good health—Carbohydrates, Protein, and Fat. Most runners think of carbohydrates when they think of fueling the body. They think of protein when thinking of rebuilding muscle tissue. But when it comes to fat, most runners probably think they need to steer clear of it. WRONG! Now, just like most things, fat has its time and place. A runner definitely doesn't want to eat a sausage biscuit right before a race, but he/she does want to make sure fats (the good kinds) have been a part of his/her diet during training. (Although my friend did eat pasta with cream sauce and sausage the night before a marathon and set a PR. We'll just attribute that to an Iron Stomach and an Iron Will.)

For so many years fat has been the bad guy. "STAY AWAY FROM IT!" is all we heard. Then came the day of fat-free this and fat-free that. Just like anything, if Americans can blame something for weight gain, they will, and they did and to excess. Instead of understanding that too much fat can be the culprit, many jumped on the bandwagon that all fat is bad. So fat has gotten a bad rap for a long time, but some fat is essential for survival.

Sited from The McKinley Health Center at the University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaigne, according to the Dietary Reference Intakes published by the USDA 20% - 35% of calories should come from fat. We need this amount of fat for:
Normal growth and development
Energy (fat is the most concentrated source of energy)
Absorbing certain vitamins (like vitamins A, D, E, K, and carotenoids)
Providing cushioning for the organs
Maintaining cell membranes
Providing taste, consistency, and stability to foods

There are three main types of fat—Saturated, Unsaturated, and Trans. Saturated fats are found in foods like meat, butter, lard, palm oil, coconut oil, and cocoa butter. Saturated fats remain hard at room temperature.

Unsaturated fats can be divided into two groups—Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated. These fats tend to be healthier for you. Monounsaturated fats are found in foods such as nuts, avocados, olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, corn oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, and whole grain wheat. A good way to tell if something contains monounsaturated fat is that if it's put in the refrigerator it remains a liquid but becomes cloudy. Polyunsaturated fat is found in foods such as grain products, fish and sea food (herring, salmon, mackerel, and halibut), soybeans, and fish oil. Polyunsaturated fats remain a liquid and clear when put in the refrigerator. At least 2/3 of your fat intake should come from unsaturated fats.
Trans fats truly are the "bad guys." This type of fat is found in some prepackaged baked goods, snack foods, fried foods, and margarines. Hydrogenated or Partially Hydrogenated oil are the key terms to look for in the ingredients list when determining if something contains trans fats. This can be confusing though when you look at the fat content and don't see trans fats listed or see "0" beside trans fats, even though you see hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil listed in the ingredients. This is because if the food contains less than .5g of trans fat per serving, legally it can claim that it contains no trans fats. So, if you want to be 100% trans-fat free, be sure to read the ingredients list. Trans fats have been shown to increase your risk for heart disease by raising LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) and lowering HDL cholesterol (the good kind). Replacing saturated and trans fat in your diet with unsaturated fat has been shown to decrease the risk of developing heart disease.

Okay, so know you know just about everything this is to know about fat, you're probably wondering how and why is this important to runners? Good question. The biggest difference between carbohydrates and fat is that fat packs more power per punch. Technically speaking every gram of fat provides 9 calories (energy) vs. each gram of carbohydrates providing only 4 calories. Fat provides almost twice the energy. But unlike carbohydrates, a runner shouldn't "fat-load." Instead the runner needs to condition his/her body to make better use of the fat stores he/she already has.
Whether runners know it or not, they are using fat as a fuel in lower-intensity exercise (less than 70% max). However, running at this lower intensity over and over will not help with better utilization of fat as an energy source especially at increased speeds or later in an endurance run when you tend to get fatigued.
So, you may be wondering how to determine your VO2 Max and then how to increase it? The best way to determine your VO2Max is through a stress test. It used to be that stress tests were done mainly in a clinical setting, but now some running stores such as some of the Fleet Feet Sports stores are providing VO2 Max testing. But if you don't have access to such testing, the next best thing is to do a timed 1.5-mile run test on a treadmill or on a track. Run as fast as you can for 1.5miles (6 times around a track). Divide 428 by the minutes and add 3.5 to that number to calculate your VO2 Max.
3.5 + 483/time in minutes = VO2 Max

3.5 + 483/9.83 mins (9:50 converted all to minutes; just divide the seconds by 60 and add to the minutes)
3.5 + 49 = 52.5 VO2Max

Runner's World's Amby Burfoot has created the 5 Principles of VO2Max Training that are great in helping you on your way to increasing your VO2 Max and better utilizing your fat as energy.

5 Principles of Max VO2 Training
  1. Maximum oxygen uptake, or max VO2, is a scientific measurement of the amount of oxygen your body can deliver from your heart and use in your major exercising muscles. As you get fitter, your maximum oxygen uptake increases.
  2. All running increases your aerobic capacity, but the most efficient workouts for increasing it are those in which you run slightly faster than your 5-K race pace. For example, run 4 x 800 meters at 10 to 30 seconds per mile faster than your 5-K race pace. Jog for four to five minutes between repeats.
  3. You can also run aerobic-capacity workouts off the track by running hard and fast (but not all-out) for three to five minutes at a time. Jog for four to five minutes between repeats. You may also know this type of running as Fartleks.
  4. Do aerobic-capacity training only once a week, and skip it on a week when you have a race. Otherwise, you risk overtraining and increasing your fatigue rather than your performance.
  5. After six weeks of max VO2 training, take a break from it for four weeks. Concentrate instead on longer, more relaxed runs.
Periodically check your VO2 Max by redoing the 1.5-minute test to see if your VO2 Max has increased. So now that you have the skinny on the fat as fuel, get out there and try it!

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Looking for a Beautiful and Challenging 2010 Marathon?

If you're not registered and currently in training for one of the many upcoming fall marathons, then it's probably too late. But, if you're starting to ponder running a spring 2010 marathon, you may want to consider the Blue Ridge Marathon On The Parkway in Roanoke, VA (April 24, 2010). If you're looking for a challenging course, this is the race for you. The course begins and ends in downtown Roanoke. In between, runners will enter the Blue Ridge Parkway, where they'll make three significant climbs and descents.

The course begins easy enough with about a mile of rolling hills before it begins the 2-mile climb up Mill Mountain where at the top the race enters the Blue Ridge Parkway. It is here where runners will encounter several lengthy and challenging hills over the next 2-3 miles. Then comes the most challenging (and most beautiful) part of the run—climbing Roanoke Mountain.

During the 780 feet up Roanoke Mountain (over 2 miles), runners will see beautiful views of the region's mountains and valleys. The run down Roanoke Mountain is just as beautiful and just at challenging.

I don't want to give all the race's secrets away, so check out the website for more details on the course, travel info, registration info, and post race events.

Proceeds from the Blue Ridge Marathon will benefit the FRIENDS of the Blue Ridge Parkway. FRIENDS is a non-profit, volunteer organization that is dedicated to preserving and protecting the Blue Ridge Parkway, a national treasure. FRIENDS programs focus on preservation, protection and education.

So, you've got plenty of time to build that mileage base and get in shape for this challenging race! If you've run a challenging marathon or one in a beautiful location, I'd love to hear about it. Email the name of the race and link (if possible) to RunnerDude at Be sure to put "Challenge/Beauty" in the subject line.

Happy Running!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Why Are Carbs So Good?

One big reason carbs are so good is that it's the only fuel that the brain can use. That's actually one of the reasons why you hit the wall around mile 20 in a marathon. When your brain realizes that you're just about about out of glycogen (the form in which carbs are stored in the body for fuel) the brain can actually send messages to begin fatiguing your muscles in an attempt to slow you down. It's basically a self-preservation mechanism kicking in because the brain needs some of that fuel too in order to function.

Carbs are stored in the muscles and liver in the form of glycogen. Glycogen is the most efficient fuel your body burns for energy. Carbs are also loaded with B vitamins, chromium, fiber, iron, magnesium, and phytochemicals (which come from plant nutrients) all of which are important to good health and can even help prevent many cancers.
Pick your carbs wisely. Most of your carb intake should be from complex carbohydrates. Complex carbs are usually from unprocessed, unrefined, whole grains. So instead of white rice, eat brown rice. Instead of white bread each whole grain bread, etc. They take longer for your body to digest and because of this complex carbs will stay with you and provide energy for the long haul. Most of the early part of the carb-loading phase before the race will consist of eating complex carbs.

Simple carbohydrates are food products that are made of processed and/or refined grains. Because they have been processed and refined, they are digested very quickly and provide quick energy. Sugary soft drinks, white rice, sugar, candy, and fruit are examples of simple carbs. Don't avoid simple carbs completely, however. For example fruits are simple carbs, but they are nutrient dense foods that provide many different vitamins as well as fiber. Simple carbs, because they are processed so quickly, do raise the blood sugar levels really quickly. That's why when you eat a candy bar you feel a quick boost of energy, but then soon after crash. Simple carbs tend to have a high GI (a rating using the Glycemic Index) and complex carbohydrates tend to have a lower GI. Foods considered high are 70+ on the GI scale, 56-69 are considered medium, and under 55 are considered low. [Click here] to find out more about the Glycemic Index.

As a runner, eating foods with a lower GI will provide you a better source of energy for the long haul. But simple carbs do have their place. Eating simple carbs shortly before a race can provide quick energy that will be used and if you have stock up prior to the race on complex carbs, you shouldn't feel that crash. Also during the race, using gels and sports drinks (which usually contain a combination of simple and complex carbs) and be used quickly by the body and provide that needed energy later on in the race when your glycogen stores begin to get depleted.

Note: If you are diabetic or have other health concerns, consult with your doctor before making any dietary changes.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Protein Myth: More Is Not Better

If you go into any supplement shop you'll see protein this and protein that! If you pick up any muscle or fitness magazine, you'll find ads pitching products loaded with protein that promise to build bigger and stronger muscle. Hate to burst their bubble—protein's good, but not that good.

Protein is vital to life. It provides the amino acids needed for building and maintaining your body tissue. There are 20 amino acids. Eleven of these amino acids (dispensable) can be made by the body. Nine of them however (indispensable amino acids), come from a variety of food sources. Foods that are high quality or complete protein sources have all nine of the indispensable amino acids. Animal food sources are complete proteins. Soy is the only plant food source containing complete proteins. Other plant food sources are considered incomplete proteins because they are missing one or more of the indispensable amino acids. Combining plant food sources can create a complete protein such as combining beans and rice or peanut butter and bread.

So, now that you know all about where protein comes from, what do they do for the body? Protein makes up the bulk of muscles, internal organs, brain, nerves, skin, hair, and nails. Protein is also a part regulating substances like enzymes, hormones, and blood plasma. In addition to protein playing a part in tissue building, it also helps regulate energy, water balance, metabolism and the immune system. So, bottom line...protein is important. The question is how much do you need? Will more be better for you?

Well in the case of protein, more is not better. Basically if you are a sedentary person, you only need about .8g of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. If you are an endurance runner you'll need about .8-1.5g of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. If you are a resistance trainer, you'll need 1.5-2g of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. So if you weigh 150 pounds that's equivalent to ~68kg. If you're a sedentary person at that weight, you'll need 54g of protein per day. If you're an endurance runner at that weight and in heavy training for a marathon you might need the higher end of the .8-1.5g. So you'd need ~102g of protein per day. If you're a heavy resistance trainer you might need the higher end of the 1.5-2g. So you'd need ~136 of protein per day.
This may sound like a lot of protein, but remember you're getting most of this throughout the day from the foods you are eating. That's why supplements may not even be needed. For example, 3oz of white-meat chicken breast contains 26.7 g of protein. 3 oz. of Tuna (canned in water) has 21.7 grams of protein. 2 scrambled eggs have 13.6 grams of protein. So if you had these three food items for breakfast, lunch and dinner you've already eaten 62g of protein. This isn't even counting if you drank milk (8g for 1cup) with your eggs, had Greek yogurt for a mid-morning snack (15g for 8oz), had bread with your tuna to make a sandwich (10g for 2 slices of whole grain bread). Now you're at 95g of protein. And what about the almonds you had for your afternoon snack (6g for 1oz), the corn you ate with your chicken (2g) and the lowfat chips you had with your tuna sandwich (2g)? Now you're at 105 grams of protein! Guess what? If you're an endurance runner in training for a marathon, you've just reached and surpassed your 102 grams of protein for the day without any supplements.

Research has shown that going beyond the 2g of protein per kilogram of body weight per day has no benefits. Once the body has received it's dietary requirement of protein, any extra protein is deaminated (the nitrogen is removed) and what's left is either stored as fat or used as energy. Protein does not build muscle. Only exercise with the required amount of protein will build muscle. Excess protein can also cause kidney problems because it puts extra work on them in trying to get rid of the excess nitrogen.

As a runner it's more crucial to replace the glycogen supplys with simple carbs shortly after an intense workout rather than load up on protein. Protein may help speed up recovery but you only need a small amount. A good rule of thumb is 4:1 (4 grams of carbs to every 1 gram of protein) some studies say a 7:1 ratio is good too. Taking in too much protein after an intense run can actually slow down the absorption of the water with which you're trying to rehydrate your body.
I'm not bashing protein drinks, shakes, or powders. Just be sure however that when you're using them, that you're not exceeding the .8, 1.5, or 2g per kilogram of body weight per day rule depending on your activity level as well as what you're already getting from regular diet.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Running But Not Getting Anywhere?

Has your running become stagnate? Are you not the type to keep to a rigid training schedule? If so, try the "Hard-Easy Method." It's as simple as it sounds—run hard, run easy. Hard doesn't have to mean fast. A hard run can be a fast short run or it can be a long slow run. Both are working your body "hard." Easy Refers to a slow short run or a rest day. A basic rule-of-thumb with this plan is to never have two hard days back-to-back.

A Typical Hard/Easy week:
Sunday: Easy (Rest)
Monday: Easy (5-miler)
Tuesday: Hard (10-miler)
Wednesday: Easy (5-miler)
Thursday: Hard (8-miler; with some fartleks)
Friday: Easy (Rest)
Saturday: Hard (15-mile long run)

Mix and match. The schedule above has two longer slower runs, but one of those could easily be swapped out for a shorter harder run. It's entirely up to you. Bottom line, if you break up your week into different types of runs, whether they're really formal such as in the form of intervals, tempo runs, and long runs, or if you're just thinking "hard" and "easy," you'll begin to see improvement in your endurance and speed. Give it a try and let me know how it works!

Also another rule-of-thumb is to keep about 20-25% of your weekly mileage at speedwork, tempo-run, and/or race pace. So if your weekly mileage is 35 miles, then about 7-9 miles should come from faster runs.

Monday, August 17, 2009

How Running Changed My Life: Lorenda's Story

Lorenda is a frequent reader of the blog and I always look forward to and enjoy her comments. She has an awesome story about getting older and running and what a wonderful thing the two combined can be. Here's Lorenda's story in her own words:

Since I started running races and going to group runs I am meeting people 10, 20, 30 years and more older than me who still run and some of them run faster than me. This has made me not so afraid of getting older. I used to worry about it, I wasn't happy about turning 30 and was a complete mess when I turned 40!! I will be 47 this fall and 50 just keeps getting closer. I keep reminding myself of these people who are in their 60s and 70s who still run and who still run well.

Two years ago after finishing a marathon I was sitting at a table eating when a man came along and sat down and began eating his food, I figured that he had just finished. We got to talking and I found out that he had not just finished, he had been finished for some time, in fact he ran the marathon 33 minutes faster than me. He had recently turned 70 and this was his 70th marathon!! The 70 yr old man had just run a 3:36 marathon! I remembered his number and looked in the results later just to make sure!

One of the women in a running group I belong to is 63, she won her age group in a huge half marathon last year and her time was faster than my half marathon PR.

I work in a medical career and see so many people in poor health. I see many people who have lived a sedentary lifestyle and are obese and can't do much of anything—some of them are my own age. It's not uncommon for me to transport nursing home patients in their 60s and 70s during the night shift; then the next day go to a race or a group run and see people the same ages as my patients running a 5K in 22 minutes or do a 15-mile long run!

I love talking to the "grand masters" runners and asking them about their years of running. I have asked many of them if running has given them a better quality of life in their later years. They all say that they believe it has. Many will tell me that their friends who used to call them crazy for wanting to run long distances are now in wheelchairs. I know an 82 yr old man who runs in many 5Ks all summer and still does one triathlon every year. His running has slowed (his 5K time is now 40 minutes), but he says that he is in very good health and can still do all of the every day things he needs to do and enjoys life and he credits his active lifestyle.

Anyway, my point in all of this is that because of running I have met these people and now I am not so afraid of aging. I know that some people will have health problems even though they have lived a healthy lifestyle but I have every hope that I will have a good quality of life for many many years to come. My goal is to still be running everything from 5Ks to half marathons (maybe even marathons) and still doing triathlons in my 80s and beyond!! My youngest kid just graduated and is heading off to college, so now I can start my half marathon in every state quest!! Because I have met these older runners, I look forward to many years of running and enjoying life and living it to the fullest. I have learned that getting older is not going to be so bad. —Lorenda from Michigan, a masters runner not afraid of becoming a grand masters runner!

Thanks Lorenda for sharing your story! I'm not far behind you (I'm 44) and I'm learning everyday from some of my older more experienced runner friends. One thing I've found as I've gotten older is that the competition seems to be getting tougher! That's a good thing!

New Contest! Prize!

Where are some unique locations you've run? What's the longest run you've done to date? What's your total cumulative miles? Have you accomplished an awesome challenge such as running across your state? Running the Appalachian Trail? Running Badwater? Getting up off the couch after 40 years of no activity and running a marathon? Fundraising and running in honor of a sick loved-one or friend?

RunnerDude would love to hear about your worldly running stories and unique accomplishments. Email your story and a picture of yourself (jpeg format) to by midnight on August 31st. Be sure to enter "My Running Achievement Contest" in the email's subject line. Your email will be entered into a prize drawing. The great people at have graciously offered a $50 gift certificate to the winner which will be announced on September 1st. The winner's story will be featured on the blog first, but eventually each submitted story will be a featured post.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Taper: What? When? How?

The tapering part of any marathon training plan is often either looked forward to or dreaded. Those enduring harsh training conditions or who have had a particularly rough base-building and sharpening phase of their training may laud the day their taper begins while others may fret and worry that they're not doing enough during this phase of training and may lose their edge.

The taper is the final phase of training and a very important part of the marathon training plan. However, runners often question: How long the taper should be? How much should I run if any during the taper? What should I eat?

Most marathon training plans are 16 weeks or longer. If you train up until race day, you've not provided your body any time to recoup and repair. Research has shown that many runners run their marathon overtrained and overtired. Sorry to say, though, that there isn't a cookie-cutter tapering plan the works for everyone. A runner, depending on his/her fitness level and experience level may need more or less of a taper than another runner.

RRCA certified coaches and co-directors of the Portland Marathon Clinic, Patti and Warren Finke, outline in their book Marathoning: Start to Finish several key principals that should be considered when choosing your tapering method:
Rebuilding depleted nutrient stores in the body (such as glycogen) to their maximum requires 2 to 3 days of lowered activity.
Rebuilding minor injuries in muscle or connective tissue takes a minimum of 5 days.
The body's store of oxidative enzymes diminishes in 72 hours if not stimulated by aerobic exercise.
Any training effect you get from hard activity during the last 10 days before the race will be minimal.

In a nut shell, the Finkes are basically saying to back off before the event but don't quit running completely. Basically the taper consists of decreasing the long run 2-3 weeks prior to race day and the mid-week mileage is reduced during the last 2 weeks—down 25% the first week; then down by 50% the week prior to the marathon. No long run should be done the weekend before the marathon. The last long run should be no longer than 8-12 miles.

Some studies have shown that doing some speedwork a few days prior to the race can be beneficial. The Finkes say this may keep you sharp and reinforce the neuromuscular facilitation of marathon pace. They also suggest that if you're feeling "hyper or edgy" the day before the race from all the carb-loading, it's fine to do an easy run of about 10-20 minutes.

The carbo-loading phase is done during the last week of the taper, but only during the last three days leading up to the race. A person not in training should be getting about 45% -65% of their calories from carbs. Someone in training for a marathon should be getting about 60%-70% of their calories from carbs. During the last three days before the race, the carbs should be increased to 70%-80% of their total caloric intake.

The first day of the carb-load should be made up mainly of complex carbs from whole grains. This should be the day of the heavier meals and the traditional pasta dinner. Complex carbs usually come with more fiber. So, by loading up on complex carbs the first day, you have time for them to be processed and voided well before race day. During the last two carb-loading days, you should taper off the complex carbs and switch more to simple carbs. Be careful though. Don't load up on tons of fruit and the like if you're not used to eating lots of fruit. Eat your last major meal 12-15 hours prior to the race. This meal should be comprised of easily digestible foods that will pass through your system before the race.
Be forewarned...each gram of carbs can store 3 grams of water. So to make sure you get complete carb storage, drink 4-8 glasses of water. You may very well gain a pound or two during this carb-loading phase. Most of this is water and will be sweated out during the race.

Eating before a race can be a tricky thing. I highly recommend testing out different foods for your carb-loading phase well before race day. Pick one of your longest training runs and pretend it's race day. Try a mini-carb-loading phase before this run. This will give you the opportunity to see how long different foods take to pass and which ones to avoid because they "hang around" too long.

Note: Diabetics and others with specific health problems should consult with their doctors about the best foods to eat during their carb-loading phase.

Check out Ryan Hall's video clip below and his suggestions for the marathon taper.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Motivation of Friends: Beats a Sports Drink Anytime!

Today I had a great 18-mile run. Okay, that's a lie. I felt like I was gonna die around mile 14. What was great, however, was that I was running with friends—Dena, Josh, Royce, Jack, Marshall, and Neal who all motivate me to keep on going in lots of different ways.

I ended up running most of the 18-miler with Dena and Josh. Dena's in our group of runners that's using the FIRST marathon training method. We run our weekly interval and tempo runs together and often the long run. Dena's a wonderful writer and has helped me tremendously with my writing, the blog, and exploring different writing avenues. I met Josh for the first time today. He's a friend of Dena's and a really cool guy.

It wasn't Dena's and Josh's verbal motivation that spurred me on. Instead, it was motivation by example. I'm supposed to be the "faster runner," but today I was feeling fatigued from the get-go. I'm already behind on my marathon training, so I hauled myself out of bed and got myself going.

I started out fine, and felt pretty good until we stopped around mile 10 for water. I kept telling myself that when we got to the next turn-off (which was a 2-mile out/back stretch) that I'd just keep going straight along the greenway back to the start and cut off those 2 miles. But Dena and Josh were running so strong, so I kept going. Dena was really bookin-it today and Josh, well Josh was running the 18-mile route barefoot! He did slip-on a pair of Vibram Five Finger shoes once or twice at some gravel and trail sections, but other that it was barefoot all the way!

I kept telling myself that if Dena can be running so strong and be 5 to 10 minutes faster than pace and Josh can run barefoot, then I can complete the 18 miles. And so, I did. Actually we ran 18.14 miles!

Afterwards, we headed for bagels and coffee. I ended up meeting several readers of the blog while enjoying my egg-and-cheese bagel. It was great hearing them talk about the blog. I greatly appreciate their support!

Right now I'm whaled up on my bed, watching the IAAF World Track event in Berlin on TV while wearing my CEP compression socks. My kids are laughing at me, but I really don't care. I got in my long run, accomplished my goal, spent time with friends, and met some new friends. All is good.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Runners Around the World: Amazing Locations and Accomplishments

It never ceases to amaze me the number of visitors that come to the blog from all over the world. This morning I checked and there were readers from Morocco, United Kingdom, Sweden, Czech Republic, Canada, and Australia. At other times, there have been readers from China, India, Kenya, South Africa, Brazil, Mexico, Singapore, Ireland, France, Italy, Spain, etc.

It really is an awesome thing to have something in common (running) with someone halfway around the world. Through the blog, I've met awesome people such as Jeff in Canada who is an awesome wheelchair athlete and the founder of the Boiling Point Wheelchair Track Classic and Nathan who I first communicated with while he was stationed in Afghanistan. Nathan has since returned to the states and is running triathlons. And then there's Phil in Northern Ireland, Otto in Mexico, Christine in Canada and the list goes on and on. I may never meet these people in person, but they are treasured friends none the less.

All of this worldliness got me to thinking. Wouldn't it be cool to run around the world? I've heard of people running across the United States. Charlie Engle lives just down the road from me. He's the amazing endurance runner that ran across the Sahara Desert. But, what would it take to run around the world—in miles that is? I Googled this question and I discovered that is actually sponsors such a challenge. The total mileage is 24,881 miles (40,043 kilometers). If you ran 10 miles a day, it would take you 6.8 years to complete the task! If you're interested in taking RunThePlanet up on their challenge, check it out at their website. Over 30 runners are currently enrolled and one person has actually completed it—Dave Kunst. His journey with his brothers is quite an amazing story.

Some other great places to connect with runners across the U.S. and from around the world include social running sites like,, , and
Where are some unique locations you've run? What's the longest run you've done to date? What's your total cumulative miles? Have you accomplished an awesome challenge such as running across your state? Running the Appalachian Trail? Running Badwater?

RunnerDude would love to hear about your worldly running stories and unique accomplishments. Email your story and a picture (jpeg format) of yourself to by midnight on August 31st. Be sure to enter "Around the World Contest" in the email's subject line. Your email will be entered into a prize drawing. The great people at have graciously offered a $50 gift certificate to the winner which will be announced on September 1st. The winner's story will be featured on the blog first, but eventually all the stories will be a featured post.