By the end of 2015, I had been running for 2 1/2 years and really had my heart set on qualifying for Boston. Unfortunately, the improvements I had made up to that point were marginal at best and I couldn’t complete a marathon training plan without sustaining some sort of injury that would sideline me for a few weeks. I knew I wouldn’t be able to qualify if I didn’t make changes to ensure I avoided injuries and learned to run both smarter and faster. It was around the same time my buddy Daniel was completing a running program offered by the Runner’s Academy aptly named “Building Better Runners.”
The Runner’s Academy is run By Kris and Janie Sheppard. To fully appreciate the full breadth of services offered at their facility, check out their mission and vision statement: “The Runner’s Academy is a health and wellness studio offering Chiropractic, Massage Therapy, Personal Training and Run Technique Coaching. The Runner’s Academy is targeting the running community of all skill levels and ages, by bringing education, treatment and performance training to this speciﬁc clientele. We will teach you how to Move better and Run faster!”
Move better and run faster? Sign me up!
The Building Better Runners program consists of six sessions and groups of 1-4 people. The first session consist of an initial assessment to determine your running history as well as your future goals. You then hop on a treadmill where your running profile is recorded (posture, gait, form, etc.). Over the course of the next four sessions, you are provided the tools you need to improve your running, increase your speed, and help decrease your risk of injury. Each session focuses on a different running technique and/or drill, then adds both strength training and core workouts. I started incorporating everything I learned in my training plan right away; this is important because each week you will be asked to run on the treadmill so you can be analyzed. By the second session, I was already seeing improvements in my form when reviewing side by side comparisons! The last session is a recap of everything you learn. Consider it a final exam!
Daniel was very impressed with one of the coaches, Dr. Brittany Moran (to keep my word count down, I’ll refer to her as Brittany moving forward). By the time I was ready to register, another good friend, Dom, had registered for the program and Brittany was his coach as well. I asked Janie if I could work with Brittany, not only because she was highly recommended, because she is an accomplished runner and one very fast woman! I could write an entire blog post on Brittany’s accolades as an elite runner or you could review them on her blog. She also happened to WIN the 2016 Sporting Life 10K (1st overall woman)! I figured even if I didn’t become a better runner, at least I would learn a few things from Brittany about running at a competitive level! Aside from being one of the run technique coaches at the Runner’s Academy, Brittany is also a chiropractor and certified strength and conditioning specialist. At the start of each session, Brittany assesses whether you have any nagging injuries to ensure you’re on track and healthy. I had an issue with the arch on my right foot which Brittany addressed at the start of one of my sessions. One attribute about Brittany you won’t find listed on her blog or the Runner’s Academy site is her ability to boost a runner’s confidence. I’ve struggled with confidence partly because I was often injured and partly because I didn’t really understand my running potential. I started to notice my confidence change as I went through the program and started to apply what I learned in my races.
At the Oakville Half last September, I finished with a time of 1:35:34; toeing the line at the Chilly Half Marathon in March 2016, I decided to set a target of 1:32:00. It was my first race of the year and the first time I would be applying what I learned in the program. I felt really strong throughout the race and noticed a big difference in my running form and even noticed when my form was off; this helped me make in-race corrections along the way. I was running taller and my turnover was quicker than it had ever been in any of my previous races. I knew I had an excellent chance of hitting my goal and thought I may be able to beat it! I turned the last corner and crossed the finish line at 1:30:44! Not only was this a confidence booster, it was a testament to the Building Better Runners program and everything I learned. I finally felt as if I had the tools to be a better runner.
Prior to the Chilly Half, I wanted to be a 3:20:00 marathoner; this is the time I would need to qualify and be accepted to run the 2018 Boston Marathon. After the Chilly Half, I thought I could finish faster and started to consider the possibility of qualifying for the 2017 Boston Marathon (3:10:00 should be enough to earn a spot). I adjusted the speed workouts in my training plan to match my new marathon pace of 4:30/KM (3:10:00 finish). My next race was Around the Bay 30K and I finished the race in 2:14:21 (a 4:29/km pace average) and earned a silver medal!
We all know by now what happened at the GoodLife Fitness Toronto Marathon earlier this May (I missed my goal by 3 minutes 42 second), but considering the way I ran the race (I went out WAY too fast!) and the lousy weather, I couldn’t be happier with the results!
I didn’t discuss injuries much, but thought I should mentioned, of my first three marathon plans so far, the latest marathon plan (and the one where I applied everything I learned from the Building Better Runners program) was the first time I did not experience a single injury. In the previous two training plans, I lost 2-3 weeks each time due to injuries.
The Building Better Runners program definitely works as long as you commit to applying what you learned. I am not only a better runner, I move better and am definitely faster! I am smashing my goals this year and am confident Boston will happen! I highly encourage you to visit The Runner’s Academy. Meet Kris, Janie, Brittany, and all of the other awesome people who are building better runners every day and when you do, tell them I said hello!