Training You Ask, JP Answers

You Ask, JP Answers


From mentally preparing for race day to recovering from a running injury, JP offers up advice that will help you stay the course.


Dear JP:

What is the proper way to DNF a race? If you are running a race that splits at the half marathon point, is it ok to pull the plug and cross the finish line early even though you are registered for a longer distance (I realize your finish time isn’t official at that point). What is the etiquette?



Dear Christa:

I must admit that I’m not a fan of those courses that require the full marathoners to pass right by the finish line at the halfway point of the race. I don’t care how strong your racing legs are, it’s always a little soul-destroying to see that finish and to know that the hardest part of your race hasn’t even begun yet!

The two occasions in which I resorted to a DNF were both in races that had me pass by the finish line at 21.1 km. In both cases, I had it in my mind that I was all set to run a fast race that day, but like so many other runners, I didn’t take into account the weather conditions on race day. I decided to pull out at the half, and I didn’t pick up a medal, nor did I post anything on social media about my DNF. I think if we take our cue from the elites, we can see that not being able to finish a race is a fact a life for every runner – I’m just thankful I don’t have the massive media attention on my race performance that the elites are exposed to.

The one lesson I’ve learned in all this comes from when I see my friends post about their DNF at a race. Without a doubt, the comments and response are always supportive and authentic. I’m not ‘planning’ for my next DNF, but if and when that happens, I won’t be suffering in isolation anymore. I’ll be sure to seek solace in the broader running community; they always know how to put things into perspective for me, even if that means making me that much more humble – or what is known as “right-sizing” me.

 Dear JP:

I was out on my early morning run, tripped and wiped out, hard, on dry pavement. Superficial wound and bruising aside, I’m all right. Not an ideal way to start a Friday morning! What’s been your worst running injury?


Anna Lee B


Dear Anna:

First, let me say how happy I am to hear that you’re ok, with the exception of a few bumps and bruises. No matter how careful I am, I always manage a few ‘spills’ throughout the winter training season. Most of my runs start at 4:30am, so it’s typically the coldest part of the day. What scares me most is not the stormy days with lots of snow, it’s the clearer days in which the roads are dotted with patches of treacherous black ice.

The worst wipe out for me happened three years ago when I was training for the Boston Marathon. I had booked my flights and hotel about 8 months in advance, and I also had arranged to fly down to Los Angeles to run the LA Marathon the month before Boston as a race simulation tempo run.   My weekly mileage was high, but I was super pleased with how my training was coming along, so I had high hopes in hammering out a fast time in Boston. Everything was falling into place, until…

Five weeks before LA, I was 30k into my long Sunday run, and I hit a patch ice under a fine dusting of snow. I came down hard on my side, got up and cursed my stupidity for another 45 minutes of running. Later that day, my ankle had swollen to the point where a visit to the ER was in order. Turns out, I had cracked my ankle in the fall, and now my future entailed a month in a cast. I managed to convince the doctor to put me in a removable cast so that I could ice my ankle every few hours. And that’s exactly what I did – I spent 3 weeks with my leg elevated, and iced like crazy!   I got out the cast in time for three easy 10k runs before heading down to LA. I was expecting to run-walk most of the race, but everything felt so good, I just kept running. Much to my wife’s dismay, I came in at 3:15!   But, I am no fool… The ‘Running Gods’ were looking after me that day… I must have caught a lucky break.

Dear JP:

I am proud to say I am all signed up this year’s race season – I’m running the Chilly Half Marathon, the Around the Bay 30k, and my first full marathon at the GoodLife Fitness Toronto Marathon. What I would like to know is how do you prepare mentally for a marathon? I have no idea, sometimes on a long run, I get freaked out and cut my run short. Are there any mental exercises you use to train for a distance like this?


Yve GB

Dear Yve:


It sounds as though you have a very ‘busy’ spring race schedule, and you’ve got your races perfectly lined up to help you successfully build towards the culmination at your first marathon.   I have run a lot of marathons over the years, but the one ‘golden rule of running’ I always follow is to respect the distance. Now that I’m focusing more on ultra marathons and high-profile multi-day race events (like my Triple Toronto Waterfront Marathon last year, and my Double-Double Ottawa Marathon later this May), I am vigilant about getting in as many quality ‘extremely’ long runs as possible. For me, this typically involves at least 4 runs of 50 km or more.

Leading up to your first marathon, it’s suggested that you incorporate a minimum of 3 or 4 long runs at 34 km, but always remember to drop the distance down every other week to help your body recover. So, first and foremost, I would recommend that you hit those long run milestones the best you can.

The final piece of the puzzle is to avoid “engraining negative running habits”. If you allow your brain to convince you that you ‘can’t finish a long run’, or that you ‘can’t cope with the weather’, it becomes that much easier to fall prey to that destructive thinking the next time you head out for your run. And even worse, come race day that engrained negativity can be toxic. Trust yourself, and believe in your resiliency. Whenever it gets ‘bad out there’, I simply repeat this mantra: “Just keep putting one foot in front of the other.”