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I am Newton: Tor Swenson

Posted by on Monday, March 11, 2013 @ 12:39 pm | Leave a reply

Little TorOriginally born in New Jersey my family and I moved around often when I was younger. See, my mom was a true flower child and my dad was as free and easy as the Colorado winds… OK we were hippies and dad played drums in a band. Yep that’s me in the sweet pants around Christmas.

We settled down in Raleigh, NC and that’s where I spent most of my youth.  I grew up playing soccer, surfing and swimming. Soccer was my favorite and I ultimately went to college to play. After college, a season ski bumming in Killington and then some more college; I followed my Dad’s footsteps and went into the restaurant/bar industry.  Eventually my wife and I became owners in the industry for over eight years. We had a blast and it was a huge success, but horrible on the midline!

Five years into the biz…. I saw a picture of myself (that I will not share). With the thoughts ofTor Broder-resized-600 having children it was time to make a change. Our ultimate goal was to lead by example and show our kids a healthy way to live. A little time and several pounds later…. It worked! That’s my son Broder and I training for his first 5K.

During that time I had been fulfilling a love for competition with triathlon. This is where  the running comes in… soccer players only run when told. Swimming came naturally, cycling is awesome but running? Ugh. But even not being a runner by trade, it wasn’t long before I developed a passion for the trails and longing to tick off the miles. Running became my favorite discipline.

On a visit to a local triathlon shop I happened to try on a pair of Newtons. They felt amazing  and despite receiving discounted shoes from another brand, I purchased a pair. Not only did they feel great but that end of the season IT band ache disappeared. Needless to say it’s the only shoe I have worn since!

In July 2011 I was able to marry my lifestyle passion with an opportunity at Newton Running.  As Regional Sales Manager of the Mid-Atlantic I’m able to surround myself with incredibly passionate people and continue to feed that competitive drive.

Many thanks to my wife Carolyn, Lilla and Broder

Tor Swenson

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From the Expert: Danny Abshire Talks Foot Placement

Posted by on Wednesday, January 23, 2013 @ 2:37 pm | Leave a reply

Runners often exhibit form habits that can be attributed to  prior injuries, limited range of motion, and movement patterns. This generally results from years of sitting, standing and running with less than optimal alignment and running form.

Moving at a slow cadence and with sub-optimal movement patterns often results  in inefficiencies and, in some cases may lead to injury. Many runners strive to improve their running efficiency, to improve running speed or seek to have less wear and tear to the body. In the context of the above traits, some things can be improved on and other traits cannot. The goal would to be the most efficient runner YOU can be.

More parallel foot placement to the ground is going to be more efficient than a straight leg heel first landing. This is because the lower legs and feet are in a poor position to help attenuate impact and utilize the spring in the leg and foot muscles.

Slight heel landing with flexed knee is more efficient than landing with locked knee and extended heel strike. In a full foot / whole foot / midfoot landing the runner should feel the entire foot touch the ground at the same time. This means you will feel the heel touch with the rest of the foot. A midfoot strike should be more efficient than heel first because the foot and body can get in and out of maximum loading quicker. Maximum load occurs in mid-stance phase during a running gait and this is where the foot/ankle is stable and locked. The ankle and knee are flexed and the muscle/tendon complex is re-coiling like a spring.

A midfoot landing is relatively safe and efficient, but to maximize the benefits, you should have sufficient range of motion. This includes ankle dorsiflexion where the foot is raised upward. If you have past injuries of the ankle with limited dorsiflexion and over tightness in the calf muscles, a midfoot landing might be difficult to achieve..

Landing slightly on your forefoot and letting your heel relax to the ground is a very efficient foot strike and works well for faster and more efficient runners. Again, do you have the individual traits that allow you to land the way you choose or do you have some restrictions and limitations?

The mind and body connection, agility and coordinated whole body movement that comes from running form drills, an efficient cadence, core strength, core movement and relaxed foot placement can help runners become more efficient. Remember a good goal is to be the most efficient runner YOU can be to enjoy a lifetime of fun and fitness. 

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Running in Tech: Zombies, run!

Posted by on Friday, January 18, 2013 @ 3:17 pm | Leave a reply

In this age of smartphones and wrist mounted training computers so powerful that they would have filled an entire warehouse two decades ago, many runners are constantly looking for a new way to track or record their running and in some cases, make it go by faster! Enter “Zombies, run!”.

The inspiration for the game came when one of the co-founders (Naomi Alderman and Adrian Hon) was at a running club meet-up. The group was saying why they were there and wanted to run more. The answers were the fairly to-be-expected, “To get into better shape”, “To lose weight”, “Training for a race” and the like, until they got to one person who said something completely from left field. “I’m running to be in shape for when the zombie apocalypse happens. I need to be able to outrun them!”.

Zombies! Run!

“Zombies, run!” is an interactive, running based game for your smartphone that brings fun to running for those whom running itself isn’t much fun. In Season 1, there are ~30 “Missions”. Within each Mission there are 6 or seven chapters. These chapters tell a bit of story throughout your run, interspersing the story-telling with music from your own library. Within each Mission there are “Zombie chaser” sections where you (according to the story) are being chased by zombies. These sections seek to get you to increase your pace by about 20% for up to 2 minutes. Think of it like a fartlek…with zombies chasing you!

Thus far, “Zombies, run!” has sold about 300,000 copies (the 5K training version is $3.99 and the “Epic Adventure” is $7.99) and is available for iOS, Android and Windows Phone. Season 2 is currently in the wors and will be out soon. In season 2 there are over 60 missions, an improved user interface and new game play modes which include location based gaming.

Check them out now HERE!

Screen Shot 2013-01-18 at 4.10.02 PM-resized-600

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Andrea’s Final Countdown

Posted by on Friday, October 5, 2012 @ 9:36 am | Leave a reply

Time flies much faster than I can run, and now my half marathon is, as I write this, a mere 6 days away! This is the first time I’ve really put a lot of effort into preparing for a race. I’ve always trained (and by training, I mean running a few times a week with no prescribed schedule) and each time I’ve managed to pull off a respectable, middle of the pack finishing time. But it was always a huge struggle to finish each race, and I always ran the last quarter feeling depleted and too exhausted to enjoy the finish. But this race is different. I want this race to be BETTER! As I’ve mentioned before, I’m really not expecting a PR in this race, but I am expecting to run a BETTER race. I expect to run mindfully, maintaining good form. I expect to run a negative split, paying attention to my pace and how my body feels.  Although a half marathon is difficult, I expect to finish without a struggle, and with enough energy to enjoy the race, and savor my finish (not to mention my post-race brunch!)

I’ve already talked about how I’ve been training for this race with a combination of speed work and distance runs. I am confident that my endurance has increased dramatically since I began incorporating speed work into my regime. If I’m able to pace myself well during the first half of the race, I will be able to draw on this power of endurance to run the last half strong, and pour on the speed in the last few kilometers.

Now that the race is less than a week away, my entire regime has changed dramatically. All the training guides and forums I’ve read agree on one thing: what you do the week before a race will have almost as significant an impact as what you do in the weeks and months of training. With this idea in mind, I put a lot of thought into how to spend my last week in order to make this race better than any that came before.

THE TAPER:  I started tapering last week. My longest distance run, 18 km, was last Monday. It felt good, and I wanted to do another one this weekend, but I resisted the temptation and spent a day with my much neglected road bike instead. I ran my speed workout in a lower pace group. It was still challenging, but it didn’t reduce me to my usual quivering, sweat soaked state of collapse. Yesterday’s work out was an intense (VERY intense) session of hill repeats that left me feeling limp, but confident. That was my last hard session, and I went full out, but kept it short. I plan to fit in a relatively short tempo session on Wednesday or Thursday, mainly to maintain a good sense of pace, and to keep myself sharp.  Friday will be a rest day, with, at most, a brisk walk at lunch to keep the blood moving, and Saturday evening will include a 2-3 km easy run to keep my muscles warm, loosen everything up, and calm my nerves. Many training programs advise a longer period of tapering, especially when training for a full marathon. Unfortunately, because my training season was cut short, I simply didn’t have time for a longer taper. My main concern and objective is simply to be warm and limber, but also well rested and ready to run hard.

Andrea's Hill

EATING (and eating and eating):  I’ve read a LOT of conflicting information on carbo loading leading up to a race or long run, and everyone seems to have a differing opinion. Some advise not to bother carbo loading at all. Some say you should eat as per usual for the last week, and only carbo load the day before the race. Others recommend increasing carb intake by a significant amount for the entire week leading up to the race. Not being an athletic trainer or a nutritionist, I’m really not qualified to venture an opinion this subject.  As with most aspects of my training, I’ve done what feels best for me. For the most part, I tend to follow a relatively low calorie, balanced diet. Most of my meals are pretty light, and I tend to eat frequently. This week, I’ve continued to eat frequently, but increased the amount I intake during each meal. I’m still taking in plenty of protein and veg, but I’m eating a lot more carbs than is normal for me. I’m not eating more than I feel is healthy, or more than is comfortable. My aim is to feel full and satisfied, and give myself enough energy to fall back on during my run. I’ll also admit that I love to eat, and carbo loading is a great excuse to do so with relative abandon. Favorite meals include whole grain bagels with cream cheese, yogurt with berries, honey and oats, kamut pasta with tomato sauce, and open face beef fajitas with low fat refried beans. I’m going to enjoy it all while I can!

Sleep: As much as possible. That’s all I have to say about that.

The Mental Side: For me, running is at least 50% mental. I like to prepare myself mentally for a long run at least a day ahead. I decide ahead of time that I’m going to run a certain distance, visualize the route, how I’m going to feel at certain stages, and how i will overcome any challenges such as fatigue, boredom or bad weather. If I have any doubts in my mind when I start out, they seem to magnify as I go along, and can actually derail my run. It’s crucial for my performance that I BELIEVE my run is going to go well, and I really have to focus on maintaining this belief leading up to the run. I’ve spent this week focusing on building and maintaining confidence in my endurance, and an optimistic and positive outlook, which can be challenging when you’re tired, sore, crabby and anxious. I visualize the excitement of lining up in the corral with hundreds of other runners, that amazing moment when I find my pace, slip into my stride, and become one with the pavement. Most of all, I visualize that magic moment when I cross the finish line, beat up and exhausted, but in possession of a personal triumph that no one can ever take away from me. Oh, and of course I visualize the delicious, ridiculously oversized brunch that I insist will be waiting for me after my triumphant finish!

When my energy really starts to flag during a long distance, I find it extremely helpful to have a mantra to repeat over and over. Just a few positive words that I need to remind myself of, and that I can focus on to the exclusion of everything else. For this race, I’m going to go with “I’m ready, I’m strong, I can, I will”. Cheesy? Perhaps. Effective? For me, most definitely.

Everything else: Logistically, there are a thousand tiny details that go into preparing for a run in another city. What to pack, what to wear on race day, transportation, picking up the race package, what to eat before the race, where to meet friends and family after the finish line, and NOT forgetting your running shoes (as I managed to do for my first half marathon). My philosophy regarding logistics is simple. Prepare as much as you can as far ahead as possible. Then stop worrying, because the rest will fall into place eventually. And so far, it always has!

In the end, only time will tell if all of this preparation will prove to be beneficial. My methods are far from scientific. Some of it may help, some may have little to no impact. However, despite the fact that I anticipate a slower finishing time than my last half marathon, I know deep down that this race will be better, because I’ve done what I need to do to achieve the goal I set for this race; to run a strong half marathon, and enjoy every second of the experience.

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Andrea’s Need For Speed

Posted by on Thursday, September 27, 2012 @ 8:56 am | Leave a reply

I will fully and happily admit that I’ve never been a technical runner. I’ve never owned a Garmin, never run intervals or tempos, never had a training plan, and never really cared about pace and time. I’ll also admit that in some ways, I’m a bit of a lazy runner. I’ve never really been one to push myself, other than when it comes to increasing my distance. To me, it always seemed a reasonable assumption that if I kept upping my distance, and putting in the miles with consistency, I would eventually become a better and faster runner. To a certain extent, this assumption is not completely off base. As a running neophyte, you need to focus on creating a foundation of endurance to build upon. However, when you find your self lingering in a comfort zone for too long, at a certain point you have to either start pushing yourself, or face that fact that your performance is simply not going to improve.

2012-09-24 18.13.281Injuries aside, I’ve been running in the comfort zone for an embarrassingly long time. I’ve developed a pace that is comfortable for me, feels great, and allows me to complete my long distance runs without exerting undue amounts of energy. But over the summer, I became increasingly aware that I’d come as far as I could without finding a way to push myself. With two half marathons on the horizon, I also realized I needed the structure of a training plan. Not being exceptionally good at planning, organizing and implementing any kind of a scheduled routine, or motivating myself to try anything outside of my routine, I decided my best course of action would be to enroll in a training clinic. I spent a good amount of time researching and considering my options. Some clinics I found were simply too technical for my level of interest, throwing around jargon like “threshold” and “zone”. Some were simply an increasingly long run once a week, and I balked at the idea of paying money to do what I was already doing on my own. When I stumbled upon the Forerunner’s summer clinic, I knew I’d found exactly what I was looking for, and I knew it was going to hurt. In a good way.

The Forerunner’s clinic offered a full training plan; every week included a group speed session, a group long run, and one or two guided “homework” runs to be completed on your own time. I decided to forgo the weekly distance group runs, as I prefer to complete my long runs solo, and don’t feel like I require either guidance or additional motivation to do so. The weekly speed session was what I most needed to incorporate into my training, and something I didn’t feel I could accomplish on my own. I can say, without reservation, that the Forerunner’s clinic is the best thing that has happened to my running since I discovered Newtons!

The first session was horrific, commencing with a 2 kilometer run uphill. We did some running drills, then proceeded on to 800 meter repeats at 25% more than 10k pace. I ran in the 60-65 minute 10k pace group, which also happened to be the slowest group, and I was certainly nowhere near the front of the pack. I struggled to keep up with my group members, and by the end of the last 800 meters, I was more exhausted than I had been after my last half marathon. I was defeated and discouraged, and pretty sure I wasn’t going to repeat that exercise in humiliation the next week. I dragged myself home, and after a soak in an ice bath, found myself recounting the excruciating details of this torture session to my roommate. “Wow,” she said, “it sounds like you really pushed yourself hard!” And with those words came clarity. Yes, I HAD pushed myself hard to complete the session (although admittedly out of a perverse refusal to be the slowest in the group). It had been unpleasant, difficult, and strenuous, and that’s everything a speed workout is supposed to be! It’s not supposed to be comfortable like a distance pace, and it’s certainly not supposed to feel easy. The point of a speed workout is to go hard for a short amount of time, and push yourself to the outer limits of your endurance. You should feel utter exhaustion when you finish, because you should give everything you have. If it feels easy or comfortable, then you’re doing it wrong.

So i went back the next week,and the week after, and after a few sessions I was hooked. Every session was different. Hill repeats, 200 meter progressions, pyramids, mile time trials. Each workout presented me with a unique set of challenges, forcing me to adapt and push myself in different ways. Each workout left me feeling wrung out and decimated and, paradoxically, energized and elated. There’s really no feeling on earth like pushing yourself up to and beyond your limits, then enjoying the well-earned exhaustion that follows such an effort. Most satisfying of all were the improvements I began to see in my running. My endurance increased rapidly and my recovery time decreased. Having become more aware of how my body feels at different speeds, I learned how to pace my runs in order to finish in a certain time or run a negative split. And yes, my speed began to increase, slowly but steadily.

Fortunately for me, Forerunner’s also offers a fall clinic which conveniently leads up to my second half marathon, the Fall Classic. By the end of the summer clinic, I had moved up a pace group.Three weeks into the fall clinic, I feel ready to move up another pace group, and the speed workouts are starting to come more naturally to me. Due to the injuries I’m still working to recover from, I haven’t been able to train for this half as long or as hard as I would have liked. My longest distance run this season was just shy of 18 km, and I had to begin tapering this week. I’m certainly not expecting to produce a PR this time around. However, due to how hard I’ve been able to push myself in my speed workouts, I feel more prepared for this race than for any event I’ve run to date. I have confidence in my endurance, my ability to pace myself for a faster second half, and my capacity to dig deep when my energy begins to flag in order to push past my limits and finish strong.

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60 Days of Better: Daily Inspiration

Posted by on Wednesday, September 12, 2012 @ 1:59 pm | Leave a reply

When 60 Days of Better began we had planned to have your inspirational stories here and there in our line up. However, we’ve gotten so many stories from those of you who’s lives have been changed that we’ve decided to make them an almost daily occurrence! This email is from Jon.

Greetings Newton Runners!

This is a sensitive subject for me, but I feel like I am not alone when it comes to being overweight.

My name is Jon and my Newton’s saved my life. August 2011 I stepped on the scale: 278 lbs. Enough is enough. I was miserable, unhappy, lacked self confidence and had no direction.

Following a 5 day juice fast, I began running. I started with 30 second intervals followed by 2 minutes of walking. After a few weeks I was able to run a lap, sometimes two laps. 5-10 minutes of continuous running was an amazing accomplishment for me. I couldn’t run for more than 10 seconds when I first started which is why I began slow and allowed my body to build the strength and endurance.

I bought the Isaac Newton shoes in January 2012. Newtons saved me because I had to carry a lot of weight when I ran and because of that, my knees and joints would hurt. After watching many tutorial videos and running with my Isaac’s, eating tons of fruits and vegetables, and having confidence in myself I was able to lose 77 lbs in a years time. I also ran a half marathon in May with a time of 2:14:00. Not bad for a man who couldn’t run one lap 10 months prior :)

I’m currently on my second pair of Newtons and training for another half marathon. Newton Running has saved me from all sorts of diseases that I would have obtained if I didn’t start running. They also saved my muscles and joints years of running because of the technology put into them. Thank you to the Newton Running community for the support. You have a Newton runner here for life.

Jon T.

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Breathe Like a Singer!

Posted by on Monday, July 2, 2012 @ 2:57 pm | Leave a reply

Christopher Holloway is a classically trained professional opera singer and musical theater performer from Tampa, Florida.  In addition to performing, Christopher is also a private voice teacher with a Master’s Degree in Opera from Rice University.  He has been running for three years, and he made the switch to Natural Running and Newton in February of 2012.

Not surprisingly, when I tell people that I am an opera singer, voice teacher, triathlete, and runner, they look at me like as if I am an alien…  “Wow, I thought you’d be a little less, uh, FIT!..” hahah!  Singing is definitely an athletic activity, and I really believe that my knowledge of proper breathing techniques helps my running tremendously. 

In the past six months of running in Newtons shoes, the Natural Running technique has been a process that I have really enjoyed studying and implementing.   I am one of those success stories that are coming out about amateur runners moving to a zero or minimal drop shoe after experiencing extreme muscle and soft tissue pain in shoes with much greater drop from heel to forefoot (14mm drop in my shoes during training for my first marathon last November..it was AGONY!).  As I continue to get stronger, more efficient, and faster (and running without soreness or pain),  I am finding that proper breath is just as crucial as  the forward lean, landing on the lugs or flat footed, letting the heel settle, and lifting the legs from the core all at 180 strides per minute. You can have the most efficient and perfect footstrike in the world, but if your shoulders are up around your ears or if you are flexing your abdominals around your ribcage during inhalation or exhalation, you are going to be susceptible to a whole host of issues while running, especially with any speed or distance.

How does breathing in an efficient and relaxed way assist us in training and in racing?  The freer and more relaxed the breath is, the more efficiently you are going to be able to oxygenate the blood, and you will be able to take in more breath without wasting energy while running. 

Many will say, “But, Natural Running calls me to engage my core…like this (flexes abdomen revealing a stunning six pack of abs).”  Well, guess what?  Yes, we must engage the core, but we have to know WHICH muscles support the body and those which help us move more air in and out effectively.  The core of your body according to yoga and eastern religion is a few inches below your navel and 2-3 inches inward.  This means that we are to engage the lower abdominal muscles to hold ourselves upright not by flexing the abs!  It is definitely possible to engage the lower abs or core while relaxing the rest.  It is the same with classical singing and being able to make sounds without the need for amplification. The power comes from engaging the LOWER abdominals and compressing the air on exhalation.  Just as in regular life, when you speak, you don’t need to take much breath to make sound—when singing opera, the singer must inhale and exhale more air than “normal” humans take in.  Along the same lines, when we run we must take in and exhale much more air than when we walk. There is a lot of power in the breath. 

So let’s break down what happens when we breathe.  Just for reference sake, the diaphragm is a dome shaped muscle that at rest is below the ribcage and the lungs.  On proper inhalation, the lungs fill completely as a result of relaxed abdominal muscles (including the diaphragm).  In classical and in proper technical singing, this movement of air is punctuated by an engaging or expanding of the lower abdominal muscles to keep the abdomen and ribcage from collapsing during exhalation.  The only difference between classical singing breath and proper breath during running is the AMOUNT of engagement and lean out of the lower abs and the velocity of air that is exhaled (the air during singing is much more compressed, and the muscles of the abdomen don’t move as quickly back to their original position with empty lungs.  While running, airflow should be constant, and the diaphragm should be constantly moving). 

Okay, so now we know what happens when we breathe properly.  Let’s explore some exercises. 

One of the best ways to try this type of relaxed/easy breathing is by lying on your back and just breathing deeply through relaxed throat muscles as if you are yawning.  If you focus on relaxing the abdominals during the breath, you will see the diaphragm and the abdomen rise and fall, and your shoulders will not rise up and become tense.  Try to fill your lungs completely. Exhale completely. Notice the movement of the abdominals. I would also suggest that you try to inhale and exhale through BOTH your mouth and nose.

Inhale over 4 counts of approximately a cadence of 180 beats per minute, hold for 4 counts, then exhale over 4 counts.  Really move that air with the diaphragm, especially on the exhalation.

 To incorporate into your Natural Running form: Breathe in through your nose and mouth.   Expand the abdomen during the inhalation and do not flex.  Your lungs have reached capacity.  Now exhale, and at the same time try to pull the diaphragm and move the expanded musculature up and inward until the next breath is necessary (air often just falls in at the end of an exhalation as long as your abdominals are relaxed!!).  With the lower abdomen below the navel engaged or expanded but with the rest of the abs released you are going to feel extremely fat while implementing this technique.  This is inevitable and OKAY!  Vanity must go out the window!  You may not look as killer in that new racerback halter top or shirtless (for the guys out there) but you sure are going to be using the air more efficiently.  Forget about how you look; focus on how you breathe.  The low engagement of the “core” keeps the pelvis level from front to back, which is hugely important, but flexing the abs does nothing but waste valuable energy.

Running cadence should be 180 strides a minute (again, if you are running in the 5:00’s or 12:00’s it’s the same), so, 4 strides breathe in, 4 strides breathe out is ideal for the breath.  If you can inhale more that is wonderful–just make sure that the inhalation is the same duration as the exhalation (same is true for speedwork/racing—you may only get 2 strides in and two out). 

As is true of natural running technique, it will take some coordination and adjustment to master this kind of breath because along the same lines as heel striking goes against how we were born to run, tight abdominals and constricted breath have become the norm how we breathe because we mostly use our abs to hold ourselves upright. 

Add this focus on the breath to your Natural Running practice and implementation on the road or trail, and you will notice a significant change.  I sing better because of my running, and you can bet that I run better because of my singing!!!! #HelloBetter!

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Running Form Friday: Tight Calves

Posted by on Tuesday, January 3, 2012 @ 9:22 am | Leave a reply

If you’re new to natural running one of the first and most noticeable things is how your calves and achilles are engaged differently than before. In this video, Danny explains why this is and how to move past it. Enjoy!

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Change of Pace

Posted by on Friday, July 22, 2011 @ 2:30 pm | Leave a reply

Stephen Gartside, COO Newton Running

32 years of running marathons, I thought it was time for a change of pace and living in Colorado I turned to the trails and discovered I like ultra running.  This past weekend I did the North Fork 50, only my 6th ultra, but with a plan in mind.  That plan is to try the Leadville 100 once in my life.  This is the year and the training has been both challenging and fun.  I miss the roads a little bit, but the adventures on the trail have been great.  My strategy has been simply more miles, slower pace, lots of trails and some high elevation training.  I run a lot early in the morning before work, so a lot of my runs have by on trails lit only by my head lamp and the moon.  Living and training in the mountain above 8,000ft I have come across raccoons, deer, elk, coyotes, foxes and even one mountain lion.  I have run a lot of miles solo, but enjoy when I can get friends to head out early with me.

Just a few more big training weeks and it’s time to start a little taper.  On race day, I have a few of my best running buddies including my wife pacing me for the last 50 miles.  It’s a 4am start four Saturdays from now, and I hope to finish before the sun rises that next Sunday morning.

We all love running at Newton and put the shoes to the test ourselves.  I can say I have gone through a few more pairs of Newton Running shoes this year putting in the 100 mile weeks.

Happy trails.

 

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