Running was never something I was good at, and definitely not something I ever enjoyed. Growing up, I vividly remember being one of the last guys to finish sprints in basketball practice, dreading ‘mile day’ in PE class, and swearing that I would never run more than a 5k as a young adult. But I decided that needed to change after finishing chemotherapy.
After my last round of chemo, I felt strange. Different. The best way to describe it, was that my mind and my body were not connected correctly and out of sync. It also felt difficult to finish and accomplish anything. While I had continued to lap swim during my treatment, I was ready for something new. I wanted a challenge. I needed something that could get me into flow. I had to be able to see and feel results. Running was the obvious choice.
A month post chemo I finished my first run – 2 miles. It wasn’t easy, fast, or pretty, but I accomplished my small goal to just run. I was also able to get lost in the rhythm of my stride, and my body felt good afterward.
After a month of running a couple times a week, I felt like I wasn’t making progress in my endurance or my pacing. Katie convinced me that the best way to push myself was to sign up for a race, so we found a race that was the right timing, distance (quarter marathon) and location (only 30 mins away). Now that the date was set, I did some brief research on how to best prepare. Just as I had learned about the Immersion Swimming style from Tim Ferris, I began learning and practicing the Pose Running method. I created a training plan using the training feature on the Nike Run Club app (NRC), and began setting up my weekly training schedule on my calendar.
Five months after my last round of chemo, I not only finished my longest run ever in the Oregon Fall Quarter Marathon, but I also did it 15 seconds per mile faster than my targeted 10 minute mile pace! Crossing the finish line felt like I had really accomplished something. While finishing chemo was an accomplishment, that was something I had to do – and I had no choice in the matter. Completing the 6.55 mile race was something I wanted to do, and was the result of being successful in my training plan and each individual run.
To continue my momentum, I decided I needed to run a half marathon. I chose a race about 6 months out, and set a new training plan. I did not follow the plan as closely as I had before, but I was able to complete the 13.1 miles at a pace 30 seconds per mile faster than my quarter marathon pace!
A few weeks ago I was given the opportunity to join a team for the Hood to Coast Relay – the “Mother of all Relays” – a 199 mile relay race completed by teams of 12 runners in 3 segments each. I was able to run the 16 total miles without any major issues or challenges. I even was able to run a PR pace for my night run at a 7:15 / mi pace! (See Instagram for more on HTC).
Running has become a core part of my routine and therefore life. Although I do not consider myself a runner, I guess I sort of am. Running to me is personal. It’s me in my head, with nothing but the run ahead. It’s freedom. It’s where I’m in control, calling the shots and pushing my body beyond its comfort zone. And to top it off, I feel the nice boost of endorphins.
Bryston’s running tips + tricks
Set a major target or milestone and create sub milestones to push yourself and keep you motivated with the progress. Can you shave a little time off your mile pace? Can you run further than you have recently (or ever)?
If the plan is to run in the morning, prepare ALL of your gear. Eliminate all distractions and potential excuses. My gym bag is always packed the night before a morning run.
Have a purpose and define success for each run. What are you trying to accomplish? How do you want to feel at the end of the run?
Get running gear. Don’t worry about where it’s from, but make sure it’s the right gear for your needs. Find shoes that help your style. Try a few pairs in a rotation. Get clothes that will help keep you comfortable and visible.
Holding my breath is something I do when I’m stressed out or trying to focus, but being out of breath is the quickest way to end a run short. Find ways to remember to breathe deeply. I’ve found that counting works for me
Keep a log of your runs and basic information. Not only does this allow you show your progress, you can also gather insights from your running data. This is one of the reasons why I love the Nike Run Club app, it tracks my runs and shares that information with my group of friends. I have an ongoing rivalry with my brother in law that provides great motivation!
Once you get going, overtraining is easy. Listen to your body and what it needs. Shortly before Hood to Coast, I was experiencing a lot of knee pain and I realized that I wasn’t doing yoga or stretching as regularly as I had been while training for my half marathon. My knee pain is nearly gone now that I’ve implemented a stretching routine. Finally, if you feel too sore to run, find something else active to do.