How to become a morning runner

imagePhoto credit: Thomas Hawk

People often ask me… “How do you get up to run at 5am? I want to be a morning runner, but can’t get myself out of bed. What advice do you have for me?”

It’s tough, especially on dark, cold mornings, to get out of bed for an early morning run. I struggled with this for a long time, but here are the tricks that help me get out the door for a 5am or 5:30am run:

1. Wear running clothes to bed.

I really don’t like stumbling around my cold, dark bedroom at 4:30am, trying to look for my socks, sports bra, running shorts, long-sleeve tee, etc. I prefer to just wear these close to bed, like pajamas, so I save myself the time in the morning having to change. Plus, when I wear my compression socks to bed, I get some pretty interesting dreams. ;-)

2. Put your alarm clock outside your bedroom door.

I used to have my alarm next to my bed. However, it didn’t do much good, as I would just hit snooze button and go back to sleep. When I force myself to get up and turn it off, because it is outside the room (or on the other side of the room), it forces me to get up. I’m less tempted to stay under the warm covers, because I need to make that BEEEP, BEEEP, BEEEEEEEEP-ing noise stop.

3. Put a treat next to the alarm.

Yes, that’s right… if it works for dogs, it can work for you too. Put a cookie, fruit snacks, or a piece of chocolate next to the alarm, and ONLY allow yourself to eat it if you get up and going. This totally worked for me! After a few weeks of doing this consistently, I found it easier and easier to get up in the morning. Positive reinforcement, baby!

4. Meet up with a group, to hold yourself accountable.

Probably the biggest motivation to get up early and run has been joining my running club, Santa Barbara Running and Racing. We meet meets 3 mornings per week at 5:30 or 6am. Now I don’t want to miss workouts and geeking out with my running buddies!

5. Sleep in, so you have to do your run on the dreadmill treadmill.

I’m not going to lie… some days I miss my morning run, and have to run later that night on the dreaded treadmill. And every time that happens, every time I have to run on that mind-numbing machine, I am so bored out of my mind, that it gives me extra motivation to get myself up early and go running outside.

There you have it. My best advice for being coming a morning runner. These tips may not work for everyone, so I’d say the best thing to do is experiment with a few tricks, try them out consistently for a few weeks, and see what works best!

What gets you up on early mornings?

2012 Santa Rosa Marathon

Every marathoner wants to go out strong, hit the ground running, bank some time… But that’s not how my husband, Doug rolls. The best marathons he’s run have been when he’s been patient, ran smart, and saved his energy for the last 6 miles or so. He runs a very conservative first half, even though wants to go faster. He drinks water at every water station, takes in electrolytes religiously, even though he’s not thirsty. And the result? He runs negative splits, finishing his second half much faster than his first, and his final 6 miles are the fastest overall. He runs like a pro.

Doug’s races not only serve as tremendous accomplishments for him, but they are a classic example of HOW IT SHOULD BE DONE.

…you CAN run a marathon and feel good.

…you CAN run a marathon and not hit a wall.

…you CAN run a marathon and finish faster than you started.

So, where does this patience come from?  


That’s my husband!

"I’m never going to run this again." -Grete Waitz, after winning her first of nine New York City marathons

"I’m never going to run this again." -Grete Waitz, after winning her first of nine New York City marathons

"Every time I fail, I assume I will be a stronger person for it. I keep on running figuratively and literally, despite a limp that gets more noticeable with each passing season, because for me there has always been a place to go and a terrible urgency to get there." 
- Joan Benoit Samuelson

"Every time I fail, I assume I will be a stronger person for it. I keep on running figuratively and literally, despite a limp that gets more noticeable with each passing season, because for me there has always been a place to go and a terrible urgency to get there."
- Joan Benoit Samuelson

Wheatgrass shots - great natural energy booster. Equivalent to 5 servings of fruits and vegetables. Good stuff!

Wheatgrass shots - great natural energy booster. Equivalent to 5 servings of fruits and vegetables. Good stuff!

2012 Boston Marathon: Flashbacks

The summer heat is here, and every time I’m out on a run, I find myself having flashbacks to the 2012 Boston Marathon. Like many runners, it’s taken me some time to come to peace with what happened that day…Now, three months later, I’ve accepted that racing a marathon in the heat is not pretty. It is far from it.

Even in the most heart-breaking conditions, you can still make lasting, positive memories for yourself. This race had MANY lessons learned. If you find yourself racing a marathon in 80+ degree whether, here are a few of my recommendations based on this experience:

1. Stay hydrated, focused, and relaxed. Every water station stop for electrolyte drink (i.e., Gatorade), and water, and another cup to dump on yourself.  Run through hoses, sprinklers, and hydrants. You need to cool down, so just do it.

2. Ice in the sports bra could help too. Pack ice. Seriously. This will cool you down so much. Go to your ice machine, and fill baggies with ice. You will put them in your sports bra, your hat, your shorts, believe me anywhere will fill good. Start your race with the ice, trust me, it won’t last long. 

3. Thank each one of those volunteers and spectators helping you along. SO GRATEFUL for the Boston locals. They were all out w/hoses, ice buckets, water bottles, etc. Couldn’t have done it w/o them!

4. Know that days like this make you stronger. The heat was a real bummer, but grateful my husband and I walked away healthy (well… hobbled). :) It was brutal. Grateful my husband and I had no medical tent visits. Hope future races are in MUCH cooler temperatures! 

5. Wear as little as decently possible. Before the race started I made the smart decision to ditch my racing bib, and race in my sports bra. Best. decision. ever. Wear a hat and sunglasses. I wore a hat, but forgot the sunglasses. I was straining the entire race.

6. Adjust your goal pace. 20 seconds slower BUT DON’T LOSE FOCUS. Use a mantra, choose something to focus on. Break down the miles into quarter or half miles. Do whatever it takes… play a game with yourself… ride out a few more miles at your goal pace. Don’t give up. I lost my concentration in the race, and thoroughly regret it. Tried hard to hold onto those 7:25-7:30s, but I kept slowing- losing my focus and concentration… I hung on the best I could, drinking at ever water stop, passing as many people as I could. Happy to finish with 3:23, a new PR (previous PR was 3:27), but really bummed it wasn’t a 3:15 day.

7. Have some cannoli in the North End, I beg you. Any time a record is broken, its time to celebrate. We had RECORD HEAT for marathon Monday - the hottest Boston Marathon ever! Jess ate a cannoli the night before the race, and ran a 3:12 PR. I opted to eat mine after the race, and I was ALL OVER those cannoli. Proof:

What was then biggest lesson I learned in the heat? Maintaining focus and concentration is a problem for me, especially in the heat. Looking back at my previous marathon races, I noticed that I’d hit these patches when my times would slow down. I really think that if it wasn’t for running the Boston Marathon in 80+ degree heat, I wouldn’t have learned that I need to find ways to stay in the game, especially in hot conditions! 

What surprised me the most? I was most blown away by how wonderfully supportive people are of this sport. Even when 20,000 runners looked their worst, the entire city of Boston Came out to support us. I’m also SO GRATEFUL for the wonderful support system I have in my life. Even my work buddies were cheering for me… in fact, when I was away, this happened to my cube:

Thanks to:  =)

——————————-The Nitty Gritty Race Details——————————

Here are my splits and thoughts I wrote down from that day:

1- 7:42 - “Oh, man it’s hot, are we all headed to a water slide?”
2- 7:44 - “Sweet, right on pace.”
3- 7:49 - “Oh no, four seconds off. It’ll be ok.”
4- 7:47 - “Oh no, I’m off again. Meh, at mile 5 I’ll really pick it up.”
5- 7:49 - “Alright time to pick it up.”
6- 7:40 - “We’re only 6 mi in?!!”
7- 7:23 - “Not bad. Loving these down hills.”
8- 7:33 - “Natick where are you?”
9- 7:29 - “Ugh. It’s getting hot.”
10- 7:30 - “Come on Jill, focus.”
11- 7:35 - “Uhhghh.. its so hot… spray me down!!”
12- 7:31 - “Where am I? Who are these girls screaming at me?”
13- 7:46 - “Halfway done yay!!”
14- 7:38 - “Hey that looks like Deanne! Maybe we can run together.”
15- 7:47 - “Oh no, quads don’t like these downhills.”
16- 7:35 “Getting dizzy. Need water dumped all over me.”
17- 7:54 - “Can’t wait to see Rusty.”
18- 7:48 - “Where’s Rusty?”
19- 7:41 - “Oh man it MUST be in the 90s. SPRINKLER TENT!!”
20- 7:42 “I think the asphalt is steaming. Have we hit Heartbreak hill yet?”
21- 7:55 - “Where the *** was Rusty!!??”
22- 7:31 - “Well, I guess heart break is over. I feel like I’m running in slow motion.”
23- 8:04 - “Oh my goodness. It is HOT. This is so not healthy.”
24- 8:02 - “When is this thing going to end!?”
25- 7:33 - “What the heck? A second wind? I’ll take it!”
26- 8:09 - “Yeah, that didn’t last long.”
.2- 6:35 -“Boylston, I love you.”

I also created a marathon highlight video to celebrate getting through that day!

9 Tips to Running the Race of Your Life

"Suck it up buttercup"
This was the racing mantra I used for the 2011 Oxnard Santa-to-the-Sea half marathon. I wrote it on my hand on the drive down to Oxnard for the race. Every time I felt tired, or wanting to slow down, I would think to myself, “Suck it up buttercup.” And push forward.
This race was particularly special because it was the first time I ran relaxed, strong, and was extremely happy with my performance. I raced better than I could have ever dreamed. Here are nine ways that made the race so special for me (written as tips for your next half marathon).
1. Sign up for a race last minute… spur of the moment.  I signed up for the race last minute, just three days before. I didn’t have any grand expectations. I didn’t know much about the course, except that it went from the Santa to the Sea. All I knew was that it was time to race…I hadn’t raced since Boston, but had been training hard. I wanted to run a 1:35, to qualify for the New York Marathon. My best time was 1:36, so I really needed a PR.
2. Pick a course that is flat. The course was flat, and slightly downhill. I didn’t know much about the course, so I was really happy when there weren’t any hills.
3. Use pacing groups as a bench mark. After the gun went off, I held back, ran with my music, and took it slow. I didn’t know my pace because I wasn’t wearing my Garmin GPS watch. But I could see the 1:30 pacing group ahead of me…”Oh shoot!” I panicked. I need to slow down… I’m going to burn out… I did my best to pull back a little. But I was feeling really good, so I just tried to maintain my pace. It’s only a half marathon, I thought… You can’t burn out during a half!? Right?! Just try to keep behind the 1:30 group… you’ll break your 1:35…
4. Bring a spectator.  Even with a perfect flat course, and gorgeous weather, nothing beats having someone you know out there cheering you on. For my race, my father in law came along… Every time I saw him, I got a bust of energy to go faster. I saw my father in law at the bottom of this overpass…
5. Make the decision to break your PR or not… during the race. I didn’t go into the race with any grand expectations. I wasn’t trying to keep any particular pace, except what might help me qualify for the NYC Marathon. But suddenly, half way through the race, I decided wanted to break 1:30. I saw the 1:30 pace group a head of me, and knew that if I caught them, I could at least finish in 1:30. I thought about what Chad said to me… “Rusty told me to just real them in. Just keep your eye on them, relax, and soon they’ll come to you.  I did it, running 8:30s, and soon I was running 6:30s.”  I wanted to replicate this so badly… My husband would be so proud of me if I broke 1:30!! I love making him proud.  After several LONG, boring miles… I caught the 1:30 guy. It was about mile 10, and I could-not-believe-it. I was running faster than them to catch them, so I just kept up my pace. Just 3 miles to go… I got this…

6. Know the last two miles before the finish… backwards and forwards.  The last 2 miles, it felt harder and harder to keep the pace. Felt like vomiting, the lactic acid was setting in, I was t-i-r-e-d. I wanted to stop, and had no idea when the end was coming. I wished I had studied the course better, or walked the end of the course… I was so grateful for that 1:30 pacer… Just tried to stay ahead of the 1:30 pack. Gotta love those pacers!! I used my new mantra: “Suck it up buttercup.” :-) I was definitely tired, but my legs were fine.

We made our final turn for the home stretch, and I heard the 1:30 pacer say, “Almost there. You are going to break 1:30.” I couldn’t believe it, I was sort of in shock. I was gritting my teeth, hurting in pain, but didn’t want to miss breaking 1:30 because I gave up. I sucked it up, and picked it up for the last 300 meters or so. I turned the corner and sprinted to the end. I couldn’t believe it! 1:29:23!! 

I saw Doug and started jumping up and down. He gave me a BIG HUG. Love that guy so much.

Four more lessons learned from this race:

5. Be patient with your threshold training. It will take time to build up, but enjoy it. It will pay off… I paced a marathon at 9min pace, and it brought me strength. Run 26.2 as a fun run leading up to your next race. You’ll be surprised how much fun you have, and how much it will help you improve.

6. Don’t eat beats the day before the race. I didn’t mention this part during the post, but we ate beats with our pasta the night before. I didn’t feel sick until after the race. I DEFINITELY don’t recommend it!

7. Run with a mantra. I’m surprised how well this worked for me. Focusing on one quote, saying, proverb, verse… it can really help you make it a reality. Tell yourself to “Suck it up, buttercup,” or “it wouldn’t be a marathon if it wasn’t hard.” Google them, pick one, and write it on your hand. You’ll be glad you did.

8. Run with music. If you haven’t done this yet, you really don’t know what you are missing. Every time a good song came on, I felt like dancing. Pick music that has a good rhythm, beat, and/or makes you want to dance. I normally feel distracted by the music, but it really helped me relax. When I wanted to slow my pace down, I told myself to just keep moving my legs to the beat of the song, and it really helped. Songs came on that I LOVE to dance to… it felt like a dance party out there!

9. Suck it up buttercup. You will feel tired, but for a half marathon… if you have been putting in your long miles, don’t worry about burning out. You’ll be fine, you won’t hit a wall… Or at least you won’t hit it until nearly the end, so you won’t have to run too long on tired legs.

When you’re hurting in the middle of a workout or race, it’s easy to hold back or let yourself off the hook from running faster. But regret is the worst feeling to me. You want to challenge yourself. The more you get out of yourself, you start wondering, Maybe I could get even more. It’s fun to see what you can get your body to do. — Kara Goucher (via runningtoescapethetruth)

Watch more video of Kara Goucher on

Wise words from Kara Goucher, describing how she decided to leave the Oregon Project, and start training with Shalane Flanagan in the Oregan Track Club Elite. Her words are honest, authentic, and genuine.

"I just had to make a choice: I can continue being a good runner, or if I really want to achieve the things I really want to achieve, I have to face the fact that I’m not doing everything I could do. I’m not working as hard as I could be working. I just had to look in the mirror and admit to myself I wasn’t doing all that I could do. It’s embarrassing, honestly.” ~Kara Goucher