My [Revised] Mission Accomplished

12/21/2017 - 10:20

By Rae Ann Darling Reed

IMG_2095r.jpgThe night before the Space Coast Half Marathon I was dreading the race because of Achilles and piriformis pain that had gotten so bad I literally limped around when I walked the whole week prior. Each run was painful and not really enjoyable.

Clearly I needed a break from running to heal but with this Space Coast Half Marathon being the final race in the 5-year Big Bang Series, I had to do it. I mean, I guess I didn’t HAVE to do it, but I wanted to cross that finish line to pick up this year’s medal plus the special 5-year Intergalactic Finisher medal that I had been working towards since 2013. Needless to say, I was very nervous about running 13.1 miles with this much pain.

To take my mind off the race I decided to work on our weekly newsletter for the Fleet Feet Sports Sarasota training program. Our group is training for the Sarasota Music Half Marathon and 10K in February. Each week we send out a newsletter with workouts, training days and times, and training tips. My main focus is on the training tips section. I try to find something helpful each week that is relevant to what the group is focusing on or has coming up that week. This week the group has a special session scheduled with Mason, an amazing runner and our New Balance rep at Fleet Feet to work on good running form. I sent off my training tips and went to bed.

Here are those tips which may help someone else reading this:

Everyone has a unique style of running. Your body will find the most economical way for YOU to move. Every BODY is different. You should not try to emulate the running form of elite runners or even local runners you know just because they might be faster than you. There are too many misconceptions about running form so let's focus on three main areas:

1) Cadence

2) Foot strike

3) Posture


Your cadence should be at least 170 steps per minute; 180 is ideal. Take a few minutes to listen to your feet hit the pavement when you run. The more time your feet spend on the ground, the more energy is required to propel them forward. Focus on increasing your cadence, and in turn, your efficiency. Count your steps for 15 seconds then multiply by 4 to check your cadence.

Foot Strike

Many say landing midfoot is ideal, but don't focus so much on whether you heel strike, run on your toes, or land midfoot, but rather focus on landing underneath you. Each step you take needs to land under your center of gravity. Good drills to work on this are the A-skip drill and running with high knees.


Tall, erect posture with a slight forward lean from the ankles will improve efficiency and reduce chance of injury. A common mistake is slouching and bending from the waist. Imagine there is a string coming up out of the top of your head which pulls you upright and everything below is in line.

Up at 4 a.m. the next day, I was very nervous as we drove to the race site. I started my warm up in pain and went to the starting line not really sure what my revised race plan would be. I started farther back in the pack than I usually do and when the gun went off I started out slowly and comfortably – definitely not how I normally start a race. I felt comfortable as far as the shape I was in, and with my pace, but I was feeling the pain of my left Achilles and right piriformis. I still was not sure what my race plan would be.

Once that first mile split popped up on my Garmin as 8:45 I quickly said to myself “okay, I am running 8:45 pace today.” It was quite funny now that I think about it. I figured out my race plan just like that on the fly and was okay with it. I guess having to be honest and actually admitting that the pain is constant enough and serious enough that I had to call it what it is (an injury) made me appreciate the fact that I could run this half marathon at all, never mind be too picky about pace or time. I still struggled for the next three miles or so, mostly mentally, trying to be okay with my revised goal/mission which was to finish and pick up those medals and not make my injuries any worse in the process.

About a third of the way through the race I started thinking about the tips I wrote for the newsletter. It took my mind off the physical pain and my frustration and disappointment about my situation. I literally focused on cadence, foot strike, and posture the whole rest of the race. I even timed and counted my steps so I knew what my cadence was early on and then continued to work on it the whole rest of the race.

The more I worked on my form, the better I ran, the faster I ran, and it felt easy. My last four miles were 7:47, 7:50, 7:36, and 7:24. I couldn’t believe it! I finished with a smile, having averaged 8:16 per mile, which far exceeded my expectations going in. I collected my medals, finished the Big Bang Series, and felt like I had run a personal best; maybe not a personal best time, but a well-executed negative split race. [Revised] mission accomplished!

(Rae Ann Darling Reed runs, coaches, and writes in Florida. She is an RRCA and USATF Level 2 certified running coach, Glukos Energy Ambassador, and has been in the Brooks Inspire Daily program since 2010. Rae Ann is a Fit Expert at Fleet Feet Sports Sarasota and coaches cross country and track at Manatee High School. Follow the RunnerGirl’s adventures on twitter @runnergirl or

The Big Bang Series cup reads "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED

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