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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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Claire

I have been in a funk myself and I am running my first marathon this Saturday – no time goal – just want to finish uninjured. I’m nervous and scared and excited. I appreciate too the tip on form and strength – I wholeheartedly agree! Thanks Jason, especially for all the ‘yes’!es and inspiration I needed to read today!

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Brian McSweeney

Hi Jason–A delicious side dish after a year of strength training, new found speed at age 59. I ran the 400 yesterday in 1:09, a five second jump from last June’s 1:14.

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Susie

And this fine reply ALSO motivates me. Thank you, Brian McSweeney!!

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Susie

I, too, have been trying to slump-bust since Boston. This article actually motivated me – thank you for sharing this. I also need to read Bart Y’s book.
I am finally on the (hopefully, fingers crossed!!) winning end of a high hamstring issue which, of course, is the result of poor core strength training and weak glutes. I have cut back on my weekly massage appts, mainly due to cost factors, but find that strength training is THE KEY to getting beyond this pesky injury.
Your article just reminded me of this again. I will stay vigilant with it this time… Thanks again for sharing!!

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Jane

My number one motivation is my dog, Thunder. When the alarm goes off in the morning and I don’t want to get out of bed and I look at his sweet face it gets me moving. I always feel great once I get out there! And it is a pleasure to run with him because he gets so excited and happy.

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Dan

I run, running fixes everything…

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Larisa Dixon (@0to26point2)

It was awesome getting to meet and hang out with you this weekend. Bart Yasso is an amazing story teller. I have his book and you will love it. Good luck on your quest for Boston and that win at Spartan. I know you can do it. You rock!!!

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Cristina

I’m currently injured and have not been able to run for over a month. I miss it so much! It is the feeling I get while running that makes me jump out of bed early in the morning, put on my running gear and go out there. Running clears my mind and makes me happy. Can’t wait to get back to it!

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Heidi Hoppe

Running keeps me strong! I was an on and off smoker for almost 19 years. I quit smoking on Easter 2013. I ran my first 10k in 1:00:18 and it was a feeling I will never forget!! I ran the same race last month in 48:45!! I am 38 and my goal is to stay strong and run a marathon when I turn 40.

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Carolyn

I hear ya man. I got through Boston okay, despite my injury. Then doc had me take a few weeks off. I’m now healed up but my motivation is gone. It’s weird, part of me wants to run (I identify myself ((to myself)) as a runner) yet I don’t feel like going for runs. Guess I need to just get back into the habit.

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Lis in Bondi

Hi jason, I was in a slump after running my first 1/2 and then deciding I wanted to improve my speed so did that stupid thing of giving up all my Xtraining(that I had always done, because I do know how important strength is ) and just running – because I didn’t think I had time for both. Lo and Behold – first EVER injury – ITB strain. So…found your website, used the excercises and am now back running after 2 weeks off(plus your exercises) then 2 weeks of careful gentle short runs and lots of uphills/steps/strength training/Birkam/spin etc etc so this weekend did a 7.5km training run faster than I ever used to! So there you go! All motivated and getting ready for City2Surf(seriously beautiful race in Sydney Aus) and then a ToughMudder(done a few, they are fun) and the next 1/2 will be on the Great Wall.
By the way, I am female, 57 and my fast is your slow, but thats OK, running clears my head and lets me eat icecream with no negative sideeffects :-)

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