How to Be As Awesome as NYC Running Mama

Two years ago, I went to a press conference for the New York City Marathon. At the beginning, we heard from those runners doing the Five-Borough Challenge with Foot Locker.

I arrived a few minutes late, and so I heard from four out of five of the competitors in this race. Ironically, the one I missed was the one who won — and the one who ended up becoming a friend of mine.

You all know of her as NYC Running Mama, and she is one of the most determined people I know, not to mention one of the friendliest and sweetest. I have said I hope to be half as awesome as her when I grow up, but she’s only like a year older than me, so…yeah. Not happening.

She is also ridiculously fast, but has not always been so fast. Read on to learn how she got as awesome as she is today. Just in case you missed it, she competed in her first Ironman this summer. Oh, and pumped at transition. NBD.

kona dreaming.jpg

This is her running, not pumping.

I knew I’d be busy with my new job, so I asked some friends to contribute guest posts. What follows is an awesome one from her on how she got so fast.

First, let me say how honored and excited I am to be guest posting here! This was one of the first blogs I read when I first entered the blogging world!

So I sometimes get asked if I have always been as fast as I am now. First let me preface this all by saying that I think speed is relative. I consider myself decently fast but not crazy fast. I have some friends who run 10 miles for an easy run faster than I can ever imagine racing 10 miles. But I think the point of the question is more about my speed relative to me…basically asking if I have always run the times I am running now? I have set PRs in virtually every distance I have raced the last year or so and am considerably faster today than I was 5, 10, 15 years ago.

One of the most glaring examples of this is when I compare my pace for my first APFT (Army Physical Fitness Test) with my goal pace for my upcoming marathon:

The APFT is a physical test I was required to take (and pass) 2-4x/year during the four years I was at West Point and then the six years I was in the Army. My first APFT was back in 1999 (summer before my freshman year) and I finished the run portion (2 miles) in 16:02 (8:01 min/mile).

To put it in context (since a 2 mile race is a weird race distance), the McMillan calculator estimates a 2 mile run time of 16:02 to be equivalent to:

        5k: 26:12 (8:26 min/mile)

        10k: 54:24 (8:45 min/mile)

        Half Marathon: 2:01 (9:16 min/mile)

        Marathon: 4:15 (9:45 min/mile)

Over the course of the next four years, despite running longer distances and then training for my first marathon, I never managed to get my run time below 15:30 (7:45 pace). I wanted to break 15 minutes so badly but never came close.

Fast forward to today and I have my eyes on a sub-3:15 marathon (actual goal time will be determined during my taper) which is somewhere around a 7:20 min/mile pace for the 26.2 miles. My half marathon PR time is 1:31:57 which is 7:01 min/mile.

Basically, I am hoping to run 26.2 miles ~45 seconds faster per mile than I was able to run 2 miles when I first started running.

I think the drop in time is a combination of several things:

     To run faster, you have to run faster: For years, I would run 4-7 miles 5+ days/week. Every run was between 9:00-10:00 min/mile pace. So while I was staying in shape, I was not getting any faster. It was too easy to just get on the treadmill, set the pace to 6.0, zone out to something on TV and run for an hour. There is certainly nothing wrong with this mentality. But when you want to get faster, you have to run faster.

     Speedwork: I did my first real speedwork back in 2007 when I was training for the Army Ten Miler (I was on the Fort Hood team). Once a week for four months, we would head to the track to do 400m, 800m and 1600m repeats. During those months, my APFT run time dropped from a 14:45 to a 12:40. I ran my second half marathon in 1:34 and my second marathon in 3:22. Speedwork hurts but the results are worth the pain.

      Time Running: For the first few years I was at West Point, I didn’t do much running other than getting ready for the APFT each year. I spent most of my time on the bike and elliptical. Once I made running part of my daily routine, it felt easier. The easier it felt, the faster I got.

      Become a Student of the Sport: After I graduated from West Point, I spent a few months at home before heading to Arizona for my Officer Basic Course. During my time at home, I read a few running books (my favorite was Jack Daniels’ Running Formula) and learned A TON about how to train, proper form and pacing during races. I remember working on my step count and almost immediately saw a drop of a minute in my 2 mile APFT time (I finally got the sub-15 I had been chasing) and it was something as {seemingly} small as the number of steps I was taking while I was running.

      Make each mile count: After making such huge gains in 2007 (and again in 2009 when I returned home from a deployment and set a new marathon PR), I found myself beginning to slow down. I had just moved into an apartment in NYC and was working partially from home. I had a lot of flexibility with work so I took advantage and would go on long runs as often as I could (10-15 miles).My endurance and fitness were through the roof but I was sacrificing speed. I ran a half marathon during this time and was almost 5 minutes slower than I had been a few years prior. I don’t have a ton of free time these days, so I have to make each run and each mile count. I am running less miles than I was in 2009, but am faster. The difference is that I no longer waste my time running “empty” miles. Nowadays, each mile has to matter and every run has to have a purpose.


She doesn’t have as much time because she has this gorgeous little family!

      Patience: I think this is one of the most important things to keep in mind when you are looking to get faster or run a certain time. I have dreams of running sub-3 one day. My current PR is 3:21 so my first goal is to get down to 3:12-3:13. After that, I will train to run 3:06-3:08. And then aim for low-3s. Not only would I not be able to physically run sub-3 immediately, but it would be too hard on my body and my mind to make that large a jump. If you have a large block of time to cut off to reach your goal, focus on 5-10 minute increments at a time. Work on speed, build your mileage, keep your momentum. Chip away a little at a time and one day you will be within striking distance.

Are there any tips or techniques that may have helped you get faster?

11 comments on “How to Be As Awesome as NYC Running Mama

  1. Kelly

    PUMPED DURING TRANSITION? I am beyond amazed by this. Great post! I think patience is definitely key – speed isn’t going to happen overnight (if only…). I like the idea of chipping away at goals little by little and it sounds so much more doable that way! Good luck to you both this week/next month! 🙂

    1. Theodora Post author

      Right?? She is insane(ly awesome.)

      I am really excited for NYCM, but I also can’t wait for it to be over, not going to lie. Good luck to you at NYCM too!

  2. Heidi

    great post Michele! Love reading about your running experience from a military perspective – hubs is always asking me how to get faster for his National Guard APFT – just sent him this post to read 😉

  3. Ashley

    Amazing — and kind of MAJORLY inspiring. My first half was over 10 minute miles, my second just under, and my third is tomorrow. Reading this made me feel like I have NO idea where my speed can go, which is kind of cool.

  4. irene

    determination to be successful has got to the main key to many of us give up at the first hurdles.. Its raining today so I will just leave it till tomorrow attitude. NO be strong the rain will not wash you away.

  5. meghan @ little girl in the big world

    This was a really helpful post. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many really good ideas for running faster in one place. It really gives me hope that it is possible. I think I had started to get a little run down lately that my running isn’t getting faster, but I’m going to use some of these guidelines. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Kelly D

    I love this article. Thanks for sharing your original times, those are my current times so it makes me believe that I really can get faster!


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