Running With Coach Cane’s Crew

I never run at night.

I’m a morning girl.

See that? That's what you get to witness when you're a morning runner.

I’ll gladly wake up at 5 am to bang out a few miles while the sun comes up. But ask me to lace up my Brooks past 10 am and I’ll probably throw an adorable little temper tantrum and list the reasons I don’t like evening running.

  1. I’m tired after a long work day.
  2. I have to bring my running stuff to the office and then leave my work stuff somewhere while I run and I am not prepared to die of inconvenience.
  3. My stomach is full of food because I eat all day long. Like, I eat a lot. That doesn’t bode well for the ol’ belly when I’m trying to run.
  4. Central Park gets dark and there are tons of murderers lurking in bushes, ready to jump out at me and knife me as soon as my pace slows.

Excuses aplenty.

But on this week’s training plan, Coach Cane simply wrote, “Meet me at JackRabbit UWS at 7 pm ready to run.”

He didn’t tell me what we’d be doing. He didn’t give me a mileage plan. He didn’t say how many runners we’d be jaunting around with.

In other words, I had no idea what to expect.

I tried to find a photo of the Upper West Side JackRabbit store, but I found this picture instead. And a picture says a thousand words. So yeah... JackRabbit.

I arrived super early, of course, and left my giant work bag and even bigger gym bag in the lockers downstairs at JackRabbit. (For 50 cents you can leave your stuff there while you run. It’s a pretty sweet deal, I say.)

Runners started to trickle in, and they looked badass.

Me and Coach Cane.

You know the look: lean, lithe, ridiculously long, toned legs. I made a point to let everyone know it was the first time I was running with Coach Cane’s group, and that I was in the midst of training for my first marathon.

Everyone was super nice (Mrs. Coach Cane was there, too! Six months pregnant and she’s looking amazing and still running!) and I loved the workout we did, which was a horseshoe-loop in the park plus a warm-up and cool-down. We covered 8 miles total.

Coach Cane had the majority of the group run the first half of the horseshoe at their marathon goal pace, then negative splitting the second half running at their half marathon goal pace.

He told me to do a slightly shorter course while maintaining my marathon goal pace.

Otherwise everyone would be waiting for me for a very long time at the end! And he didn’t want me being speedy since I’m running a race on Sunday. (Battle of Brooklyn 10 miler — anyone else?)

Yes, I was the slowest person in the group last night. But I had a blast and learned a lot.

Do you want to know what I learned? OK. I will tell you.

  1. Even hardcore runners do a slower warm-up. You may think that because your regular running pace is, let’s say, an 8:30 pace, so that means your warm-up should be just a bit slower. OK fine. I don’t really know the rules of running. But I was surprised that we all stuck together during both the warm-up and cool-down miles. We maintained a 9:30ish pace before we picked it up for the horseshoe laps.
  2. Running groups are different than running friends. When I run with my fantastic Sweat Squad in the morning, we’re running, chatting, stopping for water, and generally keeping things pretty casual. With last night’s group, everyone set out on their own competitive personal pace, but because of the course we passed each other a few times. (And, well, everyone passed me at some point.) I thought it was super cool that whenever one of the group members ran by me — and keep in mind I had never met any of them before — they would speed by but offer up a motivating and reassuring “Great job” as they flew. I liked that. People were nice.
  3. If your legs are dead but you’re told to run with your Coach’s runners who win races and stuff, you will convince yourself that your legs are not actually dead. Going into last night’s run, I was feeling incredibly sluggish. Like, couldn’t get out of bed yesterday morning and resisted using the bathroom all day at work because I didn’t have the energy to get out of my chair and walk there. But when I was told to “stick with two people whose names I forget,” I pushed all the “my legs suck” thoughts out of my head and kept up. I stayed right around 8:20-8:30 the whole time. (No, that’s not my marathon goal pace. It’s way faster. But I didn’t want to get left in the dust and leave the group waiting.)
  4. I can run without music. I didn’t even bring my phone with me last night, and I kind of enjoyed the quietness (and occasional sound of a biker falling or a skateboarder flinging his board dangerously close to my ankles) of the park.
  5. Mrs. Coach Cane is the nicest person ever. She’s also good for my ego and tells me kind things.
  6. If you simply show up and do your best, your coach will be proud. Was I the fastest person in the group? Not by a long shot. Did I have the coolest sneakers? Nope. Someone had hot pink ones. But I was there and I was eager and I pushed hard. And then Coach Cane said I did a good job.
Yes, I am a teacher's pet. I want my coach to like me.

By the end of the run, I was pretty shot.

So I had 16 Handles for dinner. Solid.

This morning I couldn’t drag myself out of bed. I think marathon training is really getting to me this week. I’m more tired and my body feels more exhausted than it has in a long time.

I love it.

I’m looking forward to catching up on sleep this weekend and taking the mileage down a notch. As much as I love the big runs, last weekend’s 20-miler did a number on me.

Also, remember that sailor dress I mentioned yesterday?

It fits.

I'm a sailor.

And I love it.

For my next trick, I will attempt to take a nap under my desk and see if anyone notices/cares.

TELL ME: What running lessons/tips/tricks have you learned lately? I think one of the best things about training for my first marathon is that I’m constantly learning more about this odd sport I seem to adore.



0 Responses

  1. I know someone that had a desk set up that allowed him to “display” a blanket and he ended up being able to put a couple of yoga mats and a pillow underneath. He would take naps in the middle of the day and no one knew…they just thought he was away from his desk. Pretty funny!

  2. How freaking cute are you in that sailor dress!

    At the beginning of this year I learned that after 11 years of running, my body needed a break in a major way. So, I quit cold turkey and took up cycling. I think running taught me how to finally listen to my body and my hips in particular had enough. I’m now a converted cyclist and haven’t looked back 🙂

  3. I would love to do a speed workout with a group one of these days – I think it would really help me! It’s too bad there aren’t as many options for 6:00 a.m.! Go you for running at night!

    I am constantly learning new things about running and I love it too! Like the point of cutback weeks, going easy on easy days, the importance of running a lot of marathon pace miles during training. I’d love to learn more about racing strategies – that’s what I’m not so good at. Good luck this weekend if I don’t see you 🙂

  4. NICE job getting 8 miles done at NIGHT and with Coach Cane’s squad, I’d totally have been intimidated too but you did GREAT! And bonus points for learning something along the way too 😉

  5. It was a hoot to see you last night! You looked strong! And I love running workouts with a group. You get peer pressured into not wussing out. Which leads me to a recent (sort of) revelation…when you are running long distances, there are moments in which you feel crummy. However! Oftentimes, you get a second (or fourth, or ninth) wind after periods of crumminess. The trick is to gut it out through the lousy-awful-terrible periods and get to your second wind. This takes a lot of moaning and groaning on my part, but it has led to some very good workouts of late.

  6. Your badass running with a professional group! I feel the same way about nighttime runs, I’m not a “morning person,” but I am a morning runner. I always dread nighttime workouts, but once I’m into it, it never feels as bad!

    The one thing I’ve learned in running is that you can do anything you put your mind to! It’s just about committing to it.

  7. I only started running a few months ago and I have learned so much. I love that I can learn more through each run I do though. I have really fallen in love with running without music and have learned the importance is rest days and variety while training.

    Love the sailor dress 😉

  8. I’ve learned that I don’t necessarily need music to get through my run. I’ve also learned that if I push the negative thoughts out of my head and concentrate on my breathing like I do in yoga, I enjoy the run so much more.
    Oh and btw, I love that dress and you look awesome in it!

    xo Marie
    Chocolate & Wine

  9. Great job! Everything you mentioned is why I love running with groups – and what I miss most about my team. And I’m telling you – when it came to speed work days, those warm-ups were done at a crawl. It didn’t matter how slow or fast people ran their repeats, the point was to get our legs moving while still conserving as much energy as possible. Something that I’m not always so great at lately.

    Marathon training definitely takes a lot out of you. I’ve been really impressed by how well you’re handling it so far. So rest up this week and get your energy back – in fact, I think naps under desks are encouraged for those in marathon training. So go right ahead.

    Love the sailor dress and your pose!

  10. Nice workout, Ali! Love the positivity. Love the sailor dress, haha.
    Lately I’ve been learning a lot about proper recovery techniques (massage, compression socks, nutrition, etc.) whereas before I would just go out and run, thinking the “running” was the most important part of training. Now I’ve come to realize the behind the scenes stuff is equally important.
    Have a fun wknd!

  11. I love this post! I’d imagine running in a group like that would be similar to the track workouts I did on the high school track team. For regular runs, everyone would chat and it was very casual. But for track workouts, everyone was going their own speed and very focused (and also encouraging). It’s nice to have both! Great job! 🙂

  12. Nice work! I think I would be pretty intimidated but you jumped right in to the group! Interesting tip about going reeeeeally slow for warmup/cool down.

    Good luck this weekend! xx

  13. 1 – that easy pace is as easy as you want and to make sure to take those days super easy
    2 – dont read too much into one run
    3 – no one run or workout will determine if your race goes well
    4 – do not start out too fast…on any run
    5 – look back at your improvement, it makes you feel good!

    What you said about running with a group is why I love having my running club (West Side Y – we run in the park M and W at 6:30 pm). We always cheer for each other, always wait for each other at the end (a legitimate worry for me when I first started, I was worried I would keep everyone waiting), we form high five tunnels when people finish a workout, and we go out for drinks. Its fun.

  14. 1) I am terrible at holding back the pace for warm-up/cool-down miles.
    2) I should be a morning runner! I’m like you… by the time the evening comes around I have thought of every excuse in the book not to run.
    3) I like your name.
    4) I wish there was frozen yogurt in Ohio. I am actually driving somewhere today 45 minutes away just to get frozen yogurt. I mean, to be a responsible adult.

  15. Ali–you didn’t mention that I did half the workout. I always tell the crew that their goal is to finish the workout before I do. It doesn’t matter that I turn back way before the do. They say something to the effect of my cheating. Whatevs! As usual, you did great. Coach Cane was bragging to Devon, the Central Park Coach, about you. Among other things, he said, when you have an athlete as enthusiastic and hard-working as you are, he instantly wants to respond to your e-mails, etc. We all agreed that you are the type of athlete a coach loves and how good it feels to see your improvement. Three more things: the sailor dress looks so good on you. I bet last night’s dinner was excellent. Definite approval. Lastly, folks follow you because you are such a happy and positive person. It’s not an act. It’s a real pleasure to hang with you. Have a great day, N

  16. Wow, nicely done!! I would have been pretty intimidated but you took it like a champ and let’s be honest, you are NOT slow! Not by a long shot. Nicely done!

  17. I’m the same way about evening runs! Right now I run on Tuesday nights with work friends, which I actually look forward to. But otherwise, solo evening/afternoon runs always feel endless to me!

    Haha, love the real jackrabbit pic.

  18. I am just finally understanding that it is okay to run the first mile extra slow. I always dislike myself for doing it and find myself naturally speeding up. But after a bunch of runs really concentrating on slowing down the first mile to warm up – I am finally just doing it without thinking about it~

  19. God, I can seriously NOT stop laughing every time I read a post of yours. I particularly enjoyed the last bit of taking a nap underneath your desk. Let’s both try it and see who gets fired first, yes?

    Things I enjoyed from this post:
    – Learning about the 50 cent locker rental (seriously? SO COOL!)
    – The perfect imitation of the sailor picture
    – The first sunset picture (which looks ridiculously magical)

    That is all. HAPPY FRIDAY! Thank god. I am prepared to sleep this awful cold off all weekend, in between begging random strangers to live with me. Confused? See today’s post. (Cries.)

  20. Great job on the evening run. I feel the same way about running beyond the morning, especially outside. It gives me anxiety all day. I am also running Battle of Brooklyn on Sunday, but with your 8:30 pace, you will likely whiz by me and if I’m lucky I’ll see you back for a quick second. 😉 Are you brunching afterwards? If not, you are welcome to join me, my cousin and my kids for some yummy local brunch. 😉

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about ali

I’m the creator of the Ali on the Run blog and the host of the Ali on the Run Show podcast. I’m also a freelance writer and editor, a race announcer, a runner and marathoner, a mom, and a huge fan of Peanut M&Ms, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (way better than the first one!), and reliving my glory days as a competition dancer in the early 2000s. I’m really happy you’re here.
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