Just What The Doctor Ordered!

People run for all kinds of reasons. Some enjoy the competition. Some like challenging themselves. Some live for the camaraderie that develops between people with a shared passion. Some crave the endorphins. Some desire to stay physically active. Some need to burn a few extra calories. Like most runners, all of these reasons factor in to motivate me from time to time, but staying active and burning calories are the most frequent.

All members of Red River Runners obviously run, but we also use other activities to keep us moving, like biking, swimming, golfing, and skating, to name a few. I don’t think anyone understands the importance of staying active more than our very own trainer, Martin Short. Yes, there is a different Martin Short who is a comedian and actor, but this Martin Short is an Associate Professor in Physical Education and Exercise Science at the University of North Dakota. I believe the only thing the two share in common other than their name, is that both are from Canada; something we tease our Martin about continually (eh)!

Martin knows a lot about exercise, and thankfully he is willing to share his knowledge with us at Red River Runners. He has developed the training plans that most of us use to prepare for our races, whether we are beginners or seasoned marathoners. He uses a combination of long, slower runs with short, faster ones to get runners ready for whatever race they are training for. Runners who use these plans seem to benefit from them, and we all hold Martin in high regard. While Martin’s training plans are legendary within our group, I’ve seen another side of this Boston Marathon qualifying runner that I’d like to share with you.

Last October, I was extremely down on myself after what I considered was a terrible showing at the Twin Cities Marathon. I was flooded with support from my fellow Red River Runners who all said finishing a marathon was all that really mattered. They were right, of course, but after training steadily for two years, I was still extremely disappointed that my finishing time hadn’t improved a bit. A few weeks later, there was a Saturday morning 12 mile group run, and about a dozen Red River Runners showed up. I was by far the slowest, and within a few miles, the others were way beyond me and out of sight. The fact that I was still so slow compounded my frustration, and my already negative self image sunk a bit lower. I questioned what I was even doing out here, running with all these young, fast people!

I was wallowing in self pity as I made my way down Belmont road, when I saw a figure way up ahead in the distance. It was someone standing on the berm. As I got nearer, I saw it was Martin, who was standing with his foot at the base of a tree trunk stretching out his calf muscle. My first reaction was that he had somehow injured himself, and I started planning how I would get him back safely to the YMCA. When I pulled up to Martin’s tree, he indicated that he was fine and that he was simply waiting for me to catch up so he could run with me. I welcomed his companionship, and we continued along together for another 8 miles while talking about the science of running.

I don’t know if it was Martin’s intention, but I came away with the impression that I needed to run more often and longer, but not as fast all the time. I decided to give it a try, and with my obsessive nature, “more often” soon turned into a 100 consecutive day running streak. He followed this up with a personally tailored 18 week training schedule, complete with both long, slow runs and incredibly fast interval work to get me ready for the 2012 Fargo Marathon. I finally had a plan and welcomed the challenge to get better.

Martin’s workouts are hard work! I often refer to him as “The Martin de Sade” after completing the particular difficult ones. His most challenging workout, which he calls a “progression run,” I refer to as “Martin’s progression of pain.” Other runners call his workouts “Canadian Crushers:” The “Crusher” part because of the difficulty and the “Canadian” portion because of Martin’s continual mixing of English and Metric distances in his instructions. You can call them what you want, but the bottom line is they get results!

I still haven’t had the opportunity to run a marathon after following Martin’s training plan, but things have changed for me since our run together last October. Everything about my running has improved, but the most important part is that I now have some confidence in my ability. This is partially the result of working extremely hard and actually succeeding at workouts I originally thought virtually impossible, but it also stems from somewhere else. Martin believed in my ability even when I didn’t, and his encouragement has boosted my confidence perhaps as much as anyone else’s. Thank you Martin for being my trainer, but more importantly, thank you for being my friend!