I’m Gonna Run A Marathon…

One of my bucket list goals is to run a marathon in my life. After much pondering and deliberation, I realized that running a marathon at this point in my life would be a great idea: I can continue my current half marathon training in the months leading up to my planned August vacation, take a 1 – 2 week break, and then come back to training in full force.

I decided that running a marathon is something that I want to do before my next birthday – and the California International Marathon in Sacramento this coming December gives me just enough time to train.

Below is my race confirmation – non-refundable and no exchanges allowed.

I’m going to run a marathon!


My race confirmation for the California International Marathon, taking place December 7, 2014.

If At First You Don’t Succeed… Run, Run Again.

Today, I woke up, put my running clothes on and reflected on my lessons learned yesterday from my failed attempt to run the long run I had planned on as part of my half marathon training.

I ate 3 pieces of toast with butter and drank half of a bottle of water. I answered a few emails as I waited around my apartment for an hour in order to let my food digest. I wasn’t going to make the same mistakes today which had held me back yesterday.

With this preparation, I left my apartment, with only a key to the front door and my iPhone on me.

As part of my warm-up, I started running up the first big hill on Guerrero Street, heading over to a corner near Dolores Park. I stopped as I reached the park, stretched for a bit, then officially started my run.

I ran, conservatively at first – an 11 minute 30 second pace, then picked it up as I got to Golden Gate Park. Running through the park, past the Conservatory of Flowers, roller skaters, Lindy hoppers and bison, I made it to the ocean – and back.

Final numbers? 10 minute 36 second pace for 10.65 miles. Success.

Ocean Beach, San Francisco

A shot of Ocean Beach, taken from my run today.

Today was a good day for a run. I felt tired but victorious at the end. Although yesterday was definitely a miss, today I got back on the saddle again and had done what I had originally set out to do.


Jen Burstedt

I Failed: A Long Run Gone Wrong

I hate to admit it when I fail, but as I’ve gotten older and experienced times where things hadn’t gone the way I planned, I’ve learned: failure is a part of life. You can read about the concept in books, see it played out in movies, hear about it from the advice of your elders, but until you’ve paid that bank fee for an overdrawn checking account or skipped out on interview preparation and subsequently bombed the interview, you’re learning lessons in the abstract.

Raffles Hotel in Singapore

If I hadn’t failed my interview with Google at the end of college my senior year, it’s hard to say if I would have ended up at Bracket (UBC) traipsing the world and staying at places like the Raffles Hotel in Singapore.

Instead of viewing failure as a personal character flaw, what if, instead we saw failure as:

  • An opportunity to improve
  • A wake-up call that things are not going right
  • As a new beginning in our lives

Today, I failed miserably in my plan to run, despite all of the planning, preparation, sleep and intention that I had to go out and accomplish it.

I’m training for a half marathon (13.1 miles), which means that I need to make time for incrementally long runs each weekend up until the time of the race. I’ve done 5 half marathons prior to this, so I know about the basic concepts: develop a training schedule, (generally) stick to it, and make sure you’re getting enough sleep, stretching and food. Following these principles has been enough to keep me going in the past.

Today, I was supposed to run 10.5 miles.

Before leaving the house today, I had a thought, “I should drink some more water.” I kept thinking, “I should have something to eat.” Instead of listening to these thoughts, I ignored them, started out on my run into the rainy Saturday.

Even when I started off, I was weak. My legs felt tired and I felt hungry, a kind of hunger that I couldn’t just forget about by jogging it off. I tried to push forward, convincing myself that I would be able to push through the run.

After the one mile mark, I couldn’t believe the slow pace I had already – much slower than usual. I was dragging myself, unhappily, through the hills of San Francisco.

I was running up a hill that leads to the Golden Gate Park and couldn’t go on any longer, so I stopped. Not even 2 miles, said the distance reading on RunKeeper, my running app.

Finish line.

The stopping point for my run – 1.8 miles in, I decided to call it quits.

What did I do wrong? How can I make sure this doesn’t happen again?

  • Drink enough water the day before and the morning of
  • Eat food 2 hours – one and a half hours before running (I’ve found that eating 2 pieces of bread at this time gives me enough time to digest before the run)
  • Eat consistently and decently the day before (with an ultra-light menu of food the day before, this also impacted how I felt when I went out to run)
  • Stretch! Especially using The Stick on tight muscles

For me, it was frustrating that I had been the own cause of my failure in this case. But, it was a lesson in self-care: I know it’s important for me to eat regular meals and make sure I eat enough (a problem that I never had until I started running half marathons).

So, I will be out there again tomorrow morning, this time a little better prepared for success after my recent failure.

What is a major setback or failure that you have had recently, and what lessons did you learn from it to make sure you don’t make the same mistakes next time?
Jen Burstedt

Surpassing Personal Thresholds: My First 7 Mile Run

When I started running regularly in December 2011, in training for a half marathon with my (then) boyfriend, I was nervous. My boyfriend had done a marathon, as well as had run other long distances. I had never run more than 7 miles. The 7 mile threshold loomed in front of me as we progressed through the weeks of our half marathon training schedule.

We did 5 miles for our long run one weekend. The next weekend, 6. Then the 7 mile threshold came. Could I do it? Would I collapse before the finish line, hurl my breakfast or otherwise be forced to stop due to any of worst-case-scenario things my mind had dreamed up?

I remember the heat – we were in San Antonio for New Year’s, and the weather was hot, much warmer than the moderate winter of San Francisco. The day was warm as we stretched on the sidewalk, getting our muscles ready with toe touches and high steps.

The Alamo in San Antonio, Texas.

The Alamo – the famous landmark of San Antonio.

“Okay, you can do this,” I said, trying to psyche myself out.

My boyfriend offered words of encouragement as well. “You got this, Jen – just a seven mile day, nothing special,” words meant to relax me and which somewhat did the trick. After five minutes of stretching, we were off, running through the uneven sidewalks and hot asphalt, which lead us to the park at the interior of the neighborhood complex.

We zigged and zagged through the rocky dirt trail, which offered us a few rocks in our path – just enough to make it interesting. Fellow runners passed us from behind and greeted us from the front as they ran the opposite way, so we were not alone in our journey. Low hanging trees and shrubs allowed us occasionally shade from the sun, which was already hot even at 9 in the morning.

Dirt trail in San Antonio, Texas.

A dirt trail in San Antonio, much like the one we ran.

A piercing sideache struck around the 5 mile mark. Would this cause me to stop?

Luckily, it soon passed. We reached the 5 1/2 mile mark, then 6 miles.

We dashed through the path, out of the woods, past the trees, meeting the same black asphalt again as we left the trail, greeting a small hill. Pushing hard, breathing rhythmically in an attempt to conserve my breath, the two of us ran together.

Success, we reached the top of the hill! Again, we were among houses, sidewalks. A distance traffic light flashed green.
Finally, the 7 mile mark: we decided that the traffic light would be our finish point.

My boyfriend ran ahead, his long legs carrying him quickly to the end. I lagged behind, pounding pavement… nearly there… until I threw in my final burst of energy to make it to the finish.

Made it!

It felt good to reach the end; I stopped shortly after tapping the side of the traffic light pole, bending over, hands to my knees, steading my shaking thighs.

I had done it – surpassing the threshold of the longest run that I had ever done. Who knew? Maybe this mean I could run a half marathon. At that time, it was still to be seen – but if I could achieve something that I had not yet done to that point, I knew there were many more unknowns I could tackle in my life.

Have you ever accomplished something that you had previously decided was impossible? Have you been able to surpass your own self-imposed thresholds?



Jen Burstedt

Run Commuting from Bridge to Bridge

How do people manage to get up at 4:30 am and exercise for 1 hour and a half each morning? I used to envy those people, and thought that I would never be part of that group (I also used to never think that I would be able to say that I am a runner, but that is another story). The concept of run commuting has changed my life and my exercise routine. And, you can get in an hour and a half of exercise without waking up extra early.


I’m lucky to be able to live in San Francisco, and in a place where I do have a safe and fairly direct route to work. I like to think that this is part of the benefits of the arm-and-leg that I’m paying in rent. So, if you’re living outside of a major, expensive US city, take comfort – you’re probably paying as much for your mortgage as I am for my apartment rent each month.


Back to run commuting. The idea dawned on me after I felt frustrated and exhausted after making the one hour commute by bus from my apartment to my office. Can you imagine – 1 hour of commute when you’re commuting within your own city? That is the joy we call Muni in San Francisco – though, all jokes aside, my apartment did spill out onto a quiet street with a stunning view of the international orange-painted Golden Gate Bridge.


Market Street during a run commute

The view of Market Street, where I run commute.


I had walked to work from previous apartments, which had seemed more reasonable – a 2 1/2 mile walk to work, downhill, is not too bad. But running to work for a total distance of 7 miles?


I’ve noticed the similar vein of reactions that I receive when I tell people that I run 7 miles to work once a week.


“What? Don’t you get all sweaty and gross for work?”


“How do you show up for work like that?”


The Distance.

I explain that the distance isn’t too bad – as someone who has run half marathons, 7 miles is a moderate long run, and there is only a bit of uphill in the route I take. I get a scenic tour of San Francisco as I run through Golden Gate Park and a colorful journey when I traverse Market Street from the Castro.



I bought a hiking backpack, thanks to the influence of an ex-boyfriend, about two years ago. I nearly donated it a few times, but luckily had some idea that I would hike again some day. The backpack, a 30 gallon backpack purchased from REI, offers a waist and upper body strap to keep the weight on my hips and to stop excessive bouncing. With the counter intuitive packing technique of light things at the bottom, heavy on top, I do strategize carefully to bring only the essentials – likely a dress, flat shoes, other necessities and only my wallet plus padlock.


The Gym.

Crucial to making the run commuting work, I belong to a gym where I’m provided a shower, towel, soap and shampoo. So, no need to show up to work gross, and I’m even provided a place to store my smelly clothes and backpack.


Voila – run commuting. It’s a strange sport that I love – functional and not yet mainstream.


Have you thought about run commuting? San Franciscans, would like to join me in my current run commute from my new home in the Mission District to SoMA?

Tips & Tools for Half Marathon Training

Before February 2012, I had never run a half marathon – or even more than 6 miles, for that matter. I remember the first time that I ran more than 6 miles; the excitement I felt, in knowing that I was training to run 7.1 miles more. Breaking the 10 mile mark was one of the best milestones I’ve had so far. The achievement oriented side of my personality gleefully celebrated the fact that I could even brag to someone that I had run 10 miles in one day.


Running didn’t come completely naturally, but a few factors helped me complete my first half marathon and finish in a decent time:


Exhausted but smiling after my second half marathon in Napa Valley, CA. It was a hot day and I managed to mess up my knee about half way through – though still finished in around 2 hours 25 minutes.


* A Hal Higdon training plan [yes – for those people who were like me and didn’t have a clue about how training works, getting into shape means planning to run. If you’re like most people who might not be able to instinctively feel how long you should run each time you go out and want to reach a certain mileage goal, a training plan is essential.]


* Journaling my training plan [adding on to simply having a training plan, the next step is keeping track of what you’re doing. By creating a simple Google spreadsheet, you can create a calendar and for each week, separate rows for “Planned Exercise”, “Actual” and “Notes” so you start to track and reflect what is contributing to successes or failures.]


* A running buddy [for me, half the battle is getting up on a weekend morning, getting in gear and starting. Having someone else strongly encourage you definitely increases the success that you’ll actually get out there.]


* Diet changes [though not necessary, I challenged myself to go 2 months without ingesting caffeine, refined sugar and alcohol. Though it was rough, and I didn’t have 100% success, this temporary challenge helped to guide me to better food choices. Plus, never having the excuse for hangovers means it is a lot harder to miss weekend runs!]


Of course, apps are great for tracking distance and pace; RunKeeper is one of my favorites, though I generally like to leave my phone at home at this point in my running career.


My Fitbit One keeps me company and is great to be able to see actual distance.


To plan runs:


* Use Google Maps or USATF.com (USA Track and Field). The USATF website as of now is a bit easier to use; you can type in your zip code and draw out a route of where you want to run to figure out distance and elevation changes.


Feel free to comment below if you have any half marathon training tips. I’m contemplating a marathon in my future, but for now, the half marathon is a great challenge to get in shape and feel a sense of accomplishment.

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