Inspiration on Tap: The Runner’s World Heartbreak Hill Half & Festival

by Jason Fitzgerald

I’ll admit: I’m in a slump. Motivation is low and the only inspiration to run I’ve had recently was when the scale showed an extra ten pounds.

The desire to train after any marathon, particularly an overwhelmingly emotional one like Boston, will likely be small. It’s normal. You feel like you’re in a rut and don’t have the drive that once coursed through your veins every day.

But that changed this past weekend at the inaugural Runner’s World Heartbreak Hill Half & Festival in Boston. The Runner’s World team invited a group of bloggers to cover and participate in the seminars, events, and races. I was fortunate to be there and got to meet many of the Runner’s World staffers and others at the event, like this runner you might know:

Shalane Flanagan

Yes, that’s 2:22 marathoner and Olympic medalist Shalane Flanagan. She liked my shirt, by the way.

And after hanging out with over a dozen enthusiastic runners all weekend and being completely immersed in the running community, the drive to run hard, train smart, and start racing again is back!

I’m usually not very “rah rah” and don’t rely on inspiration to motivate my running (discipline works much better), but sometimes, you need a good kick in the pants to get yourself moving again.

Behind the Scenes at a RW Event

The most interesting part of this trip was the ability to go behind the scenes at a big event like this and meet the Runner’s World team, attend private sessions with pro runners like Shalane Flanagan and Paralympian Sarah Reinertsen, and hang out with the Mayor of Running Bart Yasso.

Bart Yasso

Photo courtesy of Matt Frazier

See those sun glasses? I wore those all weekend.

One of my personal highlights was lunch with Bart Yasso where he talked about his favorite running memories, including the Rome Marathon where he stopped to talk with his mother three times. Bart has seen life through the prism of running and it’s taken him to every continent, having run over 2,000 races.

He has a unique ability to tell stories better than almost anyone. Whether it’s how the Comrades Marathon helped end Apartheid in South Africa or how he wants to grow tea in Tanzania, his story-telling is captivating.

Especially over a few cold brews:

Beers with Bart

I previously had no interest in his book, My Life on the Run, a collection of stories from his life in the running community. But now that I know his knack for telling a helluva story, it’s in my shopping cart.

We also met Sarah Reinertsen, who  gave the weekend’s keynote and talked about her journey as an amputee at age seven to the world’s first female finisher of an Ironman triathlon with only one leg. She’s the author of In a Single Bound: Losing My Leg, Finding Myself, and Training for Life.

Sarah Reinertsen

What struck me was her story of flying on a plane with pants on and having a woman next to her say, “Oh, I could never do a marathon” because of age, time, or other disability. Little did she know that Sarah has one leg.

But Sarah insists we all have disabilities. Whether you’re an older runner, work a demanding job, are overweight, or can’t motivate yourself to get out of bed in the morning there are always things that threaten to hold us back. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still accomplish your goals.

Yes, it’s possible to qualify for Boston if you’re over an hour from the time you need.

Yes, you can start running at age 60.

Yes, you can finally get healthy and prevent injuries.

Sarah’s perseverance is a strong example that we can move beyond them and accomplish things that we previously thought we never could.

Injury Prevention at the #HHHalf (of course!)

Obviously, I attended the Ask the Sports Doc injury prevention seminar. You know injury prevention is what gets me up in the morning, right?

The Q&A was hosted by RW editor Katie Neitz (who wrote a fantastic article about her own injury struggles here in the March, 2014 issue) and included wisdom from Dr. Jordan Metzl, a renowned sports medicine physician.

There was a great discussion about how to stay healthy and train appropriately so you can prevent more injuries. I’m happy to say I passed the single-leg squat self-assessment and found myself agreeing with almost everything Dr. Metzl had to say.

He had a lot of gems to share – things I’ve been hammering home for years:

Stretching and massage are over-valued, while strength exercises and proper running form are under-valued.

Functional strength is functional if you’re 10 or 80. In other words, train movements, not muscles.

At the end of the hour, it was clear that runners who only run are destined to be injured. Runners need to be athletes first, and then they can be fast runners.

So get strong, become functionally flexible, learn to run smooth at fast speeds, and improve your balance and proprioception.

To learn more about how to prevent injuries, I’ve put together several free presentations that you can view for free here. Enjoy!

What’s Next?

The Runner’s World Heartbreak Hill Half Marathon & Festival was just what I needed to jump start my training this summer.

Heartbreak Hill Festival

Even though sleep was an afterthought and I ran a slow 5k on Saturday morning, I’m now ready to tackle the monumental task of getting back into top form. Can’t wait!

After a solid summer of training, there will be races. Maybe a lot of races. Perhaps another shot at a Warrior Dash win. Or an ultra. Who knows!

But that’s the exciting part.

When you’re a runner, the opportunities to have fun are endless.

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