Ready for Running

Getting prepared for community runs takes more than a strong mind

by Christina Spencer

Spring is here and the promise of nicer weather means Spokane community runs are abundant.

Perhaps the thought of running a race seems intimidating and you don’t know where to begin. Here are ways to prepare as well as tips for both beginning and advanced runners.

Prepare Properly for a Race

How you prepare depends on where you are starting and what your goals are. Elizabeth Abbey, a marathon runner and nutrition and personal health lecturer at Whitworth, said the biggest problem she sees in runners is injury from increasing mileage too quickly during preparation.

“You need a few months of time [for preparation] because you don’t want to increase total mileage by more than 5-10 percent per week or else risk of injury increases,” Abbey said.

Jordan Jennings, assistant track coach at Whitworth, said the No. 1 physical injury he sees in beginners is iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS), in which a band running from the pelvis to the shinbone becomes inflamed and causes knee pain. ITBS, a result of overuse, is common in long distance runners.

To prevent that, Jennings suggested adequate warm-ups and cool-downs, as well as stretching and rolling out your muscles. For any level of runner, it is important to listen to your body and be more cautious than not.

“I look at training like a staircase, taking one step at a time,” Jennings said. “The best training plan follows the runner.”

Progress is possible if one prepares properly. Abbey stressed the importance for beginners to set realistic goals. If you have never run a race before, start by combining walking with light jogging. She said three to four days of training each week, with at least two days of aerobic exercise, is ideal for beginners.

On days off, Jennings said it’s good to do some type of cross-training. That could be basketball, dance, climbing or whatever interests you.

If the goal is simply to have fun and finish the race, intense preparation isn’t absolutely necessary. Junior Shauna Maple ran Bloomsday last year and  said she trained minimally.

“When race day came it was so exhilarating that the training didn’t matter because running with thousands of people is good motivation,” Maple said.

As far as methods for preparing, Abbey said it is useful to include periodization in one’s training. Periodization simply means varying the types of training over certain periods of time, whether that is conditioning training aimed at building endurance or high intensity training aimed at building muscle strength.

“Generally at the beginning of the season you try to work up and increase the overall amount of volume, but the intensity is low,” Abbey said. “Then as you get closer to the event you decrease volume and really increase the intensity.

Also, try to take a recovery week every three weeks or so. That prevents the body from stagnating, which will cause your body to no longer improve as it becomes more used to a workout.

Two types of runs that Jennings said are helpful for training are fartlek runs and tempo runs. When fartlek running, the runner switches up the speed or intensity as he or she desires. That could mean alternating 30-second sprints with 1-minute runs. Jennings described tempo runs as ‘mile repeats.’ To do this, run at 20-30 seconds off your projected race day pace. In other words, running at the effort level just below maximum intensity.

Practical Tips for Runners

Several tips can help runners prepare before crossing the starting line.

Running up hills is helpful because they force you to use proper running form. Jennings said many beginners don’t use proper form and that causes them to run below their potential.

As far as nutrition goes, Abbey said it’s not necessary to carbo-load — eating an overly abundant amount of carbohydrates — for shorter races such as a 5K or even Bloomsday. In general, 50-60 percent of one’s dietary intake should be from carbs, which is enough for a short race. Only for longer runs, such as marathons, might it be necessary to eat a few more carbs than usual.

“Before the race, keep your intake fairly light”, Jennings said. “I like to have toast with a little peanut butter.”

Before, after and during the race itself, it is necessary to stay hydrated. However, Abbey said it isn’t essential to drink at every rest station, especially for shorter races. Drinks with electrolytes, such as Gatorade, are needed more for longer races. Jennings said that if you do drink Gatorade, balance it out with an equal amount of water.

Abbey said after a run it’s good to have a snack within a half hour. Try to keep a 4:1 ratio of carbs and protein. A couple glasses milk afterward is a good idea as well.

Abbey said there should be “no surprises on race day.” It’s smart to resist trying new foods and shoes right before a race because they could upset your body and cause your performance to suffer. Even different shirts than you are used to could give you trouble if they unexpectedly rub or stick to you.

Abbey and Jennings both said it’s important to get a good night’s sleep the night before the race.

Abbey and Jennings each shared some of their personal preparation and race day tips. Abbey said she packs small snacks such as gummies or energy gels in a pocket to reduce wasted time.

Jennings said he likes to drink a cup of coffee 30-45 minutes before a race to get him energized.

Whether you are interested in running a local 5K, Bloomsday, or a marathon, perseverance is key. Jennings said his main wish is for people to enjoy the run; that could take time, though. That is why it is necessary to have your goal in front of you.

“As soon as you start training consistently it gets easier,” Jennings said. “Just give it time. Running becomes addictive.”

Run Local

Community Fun Run
5K in Spokane Valley
Saturday, April 20
$14; $10 without a T-shirt

Spokane River Run 
50,25,10,5K trail run in Spokane Sunday, April 21

Recycle Run
4M run in Spokane
Thursday, April 25

CHASE Strides for SNAP
5K run in Spokane
Sunday, April 28

Lilac Bloomsday Run
12K run/walk in Spokane
Sunday, May 5

Liberty Lake Trail Run 
8-mile trail run in Liberty Lake Saturday, May 11

Breakthrough for Brain Tumors 5K in Spokane
Saturday, May 18

Retro Run
5K run in Airway Heights
Saturday, May 18

Spokane Troika Half Marathon Half marathon in Spokane
Saturday, May 18
$210 individual/ $255 team
Includes biking and swimming

Windermere Marathon & Half Marathon 
26.2 miles and 13.2 miles in Spokane
Sunday, May 19
$105-$115 for marathon
$95-$105 half marathon

* The range of prices means there is a variety of options for the length of the race or whether you want to buy a T-shirt or not. Some also have an early discount price and a normal price.

Contact Christina Spencer at

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