Girls On The Run

I am beyond thrilled to be on my way in completing one of my main marathon goals this year before true training season even begins. Each time I run the Chicago Marathon I am blown away by the support that the entire city shows to the runners. Until you have experienced it yourself you will never truly understand the overwhelming appreciation of complete strangers cheering you on and chanting your name. One of the other unbelievable factors of the day is to see all of the runners supporting charities of their choosing. Did you know that the Chicago Marathon raises over $15 million?!

Each time I have ran the marathon (including this go-around) I have been selected for guaranteed entry – meaning that I do not have to run through a charity in order to participate. It is not about the have to. It is about the want to. Through running my second marathon I learned about the organization called Girls on the Run in Chicago. The more and more I learned about them I knew that if I ever participated in the race again, I would support this organization while doing it.

Now, what is Girls on the Run? GOTR is a nationwide organization, but I will personally be supporting the Chicago sector. A group of amazing women step up as coaches and organize after school programs for girls that focus on teaching them how to be joyful, healthy, and confident. They spend time with these girls each day, over a 10 week program, encouraging them and giving them a safe space to learn how to challenge and appreciate themselves. They even train for a complete a 5k race! Unbelievable.

Now, why does this hit home? One, knowing that these women take time out of their lives to give these girls a safe space to go to after school is enough for me to begin speaking passionately about this. However, the focus of their time – on health, positivity, and being active – just sends it over the top. I say all of the time that I could not imagine being a young girl growing up the way the world is today. I fear that so many young girls spend their days comparing themselves against others and going home after school just to scroll through social media. When I was young we spent all of our time playing and creating outdoors. Heck, in the summer time if we wanted to play board games (always Monopoly) we set up a table in the garage.

My entire life I have been surrounded by the most strong, independent, and successful women. The best parts of me are definitely not self-made. They are a result of the environments and people I have had surrounding me and I am very lucky to have been given those opportunities and relationships. 85% of the girls who participate in this program need and utilize financial assistance in order to participate. If this fundraiser can help even one girl have a safe space and a smile, then it is all most definitely worth it!

Please consider donating to GOTR through my link below!:

https://www.crowdrise.com/o/en/campaign/2019-gotr-chicago-marathon/laurenheikkinen

Five Tips For Setting Attainable Running Goals

“I only have one goal in mind”….some of you may have recently thought to yourself. And that’s great! I’m so glad that you have conjured up something worth adding to your list of priorities. Unfortunately, a ‘One Goal’ mentality doesn’t seem to work out for the rest of us like it does the Chicago Blackhawks. No goal can be completed in and of itself – at least not well, I mean. Imagine saying your goal is to run a marathon just to show up in the parade of anxious athletes on the day of only to realize you have had no preparation whatsoever. But the goal was just to run the marathon, right? Nope! The joy of every goal we set for ourselves is that we get to accomplish so much more than what we originally set out to do and that is because we set such high aspirations for ourselves that these goals take time, unique experiences, and a boat load of new knowledge to complete. So let’s get to thinking. How are you going to get from A to B? And then B to Z? You may not know what C-Z stand for right now, but as you do – your perspectives and focuses will change. With that your plan of achievement should change as well. So let’s work on setting goals that will get you to your goal, shall we?

  1. Be long term, then be specific. The road to your end running goal can be a long distance (literally and figuratively). Set your end goal, but establish intermediate goals along the way that will make the task at hand seem more manageable. Rather than only saying ‘I will run a marathon in 6 months’ also say ‘I will run a half marathon in 3 months’. The “little” victories along the way will boost your momentum exponentially.
  2. Reassess and adjust goals at specific time markers along the way. My preference? Daily. I am not saying you need to clear the table and break out the reading glasses and calendar every night after dinner. All I am saying is when you are listening to the Morning Commute Spotify playlist on the El slowly making your way to The Loop as the Brown Line stops every 100 yards, reassess your goal. When you are waiting in an absurd noon-work-rush-hour line to order you Mexicali Bowl from Protein Bar, reassess your goal. It will occur more frequently than you expect that your intermediate goals will need some adjusting. Shifting your timeline and/or priorities is not failing on your intermediate goal. It is creating stronger, more sound, intermediate goals to achieve the end game you set out to seek.
  3. Set a goal for each important aspect of the larger goal. It is not enough to say “I will complete a marathon”. Think about the HOW you will complete a marathon. What will you consume and how much? When will you rest and how often? How will you track your progress? Be sure to add in here: What will make you enjoy this process? To illustrate – ‘After each long training run I complete I will add 5 songs to my day-of-marathon-playlist that inspired me.’ You might be thinking “That’s a goal?!”. It sure is. And I guarantee those are the types of goals that make the difference in the long run (see what I did there?).
  4. Pick the best training plan….for you! Do not simply google ‘Best 10K training plan’ and take that as bible. You are way too unique for that. Do your research. Ask others who have completed training. Try some out. Switch them out. Will you run in a group setting? Will you run solo? How many times a week will you run? How many times a week will you have a strength workout? Listen to your body. In reality, sometimes the best training plan is the one completely created by you. However, if you are just starting out – be open to trying different paths already forged. Feel it out and adjust your goals based on what makes you feel best. During my first marathon my goal was to increase my mile count by one each Saturday starting two months before the big day (a goal I promise you was based on one individual’s perspective I read in passing and dubbed it as gold). It proved to be too much! I got injured and I wasn’t able to give my mind enough time to crave the distance again. My second time around I increased my mileage count by two every other Saturday and my body – and mind! – responded much better. Prime example of how simple knowledge being added to your plan can cause drastically better results.
  5. Give yourself a reward outside of accomplishing the goal. Have a little fun with it! If you run your first half marathon in under two hours you get to go on the weekend camping trip at the end of the summer. If you drink your body weight in ounces of water everyday for a month then your husband is going to take you to that new, hard-to-get-into sushi place for dinner. If you finish your first marathon, you get a puppy (NOW WE’RE TALKING!). Goals are not chores. Goals stem from great aspirations and ideas you came up with to better yourself – treat them as such!

Committing To Your Running Goals

The Chicago Marathon 2019 will mark my third marathon overall – all taking place in the city that I love most. In 2016 this endeavor began as a bucket list item – running 26 miles (don’t forget about the .2) when I was 26 years old and crossing a marathon off of my list as one of my greatest accomplishments. Throughout training for my first marathon I was exhausted and anxious while putting way too much pressure on myself. I had convinced myself (and others) that this was going to be a one time occurrence only. Well, that all changed the moment I conquered the dreaded uphill turn into Grant Park and crossed the finish line for the very first time. I signed up for my next marathon before I was even fully recovered from the first. I found a special kind of love in marathon running, and more importantly, I found a new level of commitment to myself in the training.

There really is something to be said about dedicating 4+ months to push yourself to limits you never thought were even possible. To wake up before the sun at 4:00 in the morning and complete a double digit run before anyone you know has even had their alarm clock go off. What is even more rewarding is the fact that once accomplished I find myself saying things like “Oh, I only have to run 15 miles?” Only 15 miles?! What on earth?! But it is true with everything in life – it only sounds impossible until you do it.

The key to all of this, however, starts before one foot even hits the pavement. It starts before you even jet off to pick your new pair training shoes or designate your favorite route. Training begins the second you commit to a goal you set for yourself. THIS IS KEY. It is far too easy for us to get excited over a new adventure just to start it and stop it all in the same breath. That is why you need to stare your goal in the face every single day and have something to answer to when that goal is not met. This may not seem as important at the beginning when just pure adrenaline is getting you through your first few training runs. It is going to be the days where you want to eat your whole fridge, can’t bend down far enough to sit on the couch, and are sweating in places you didn’t even realize were attached to your body that you are going to need this goal to fall back on. We will have plenty of discussions on this (don’t you worry) but I have laid out a very simplistic foundation below. I am not reinventing the wheel here – this I know! But a little refresher never hurt anyone…

  • Write down your goal; Stare at it. Hang it up in your closet. Post it on social media. Tell it your best friend. Display it as your phone background. Place your goal somewhere you cannot ignore it.
  • Think about all of the obstacles that you are going to have to overcome to achieve this goal; Be realistic! Be thorough! Do your research!
  • Accept; Accept each and every challenge that lies ahead of you.
  • Commit; Do not commit until you get too busy or an obstacle makes it too difficult. Commit until you can cross this goal off of your list – or bucket list! No matter how long it takes.
  • Revisit your goal constantly (I bet you thought that commit was going to be the last item on the list!); Daily! Every time you open your phone! Every time you walk into your closet!
  • Rethink about all of the obstacles that you are going to have to overcome to achieve this goal; Are you off of your timeline? Are you going to have to put in more work into a shorter period of time? Have more obstacles presented themselves than previously known?
  • Recommit; Every single day.

Never stop committing. Every time this goal gets harder to obtain you should get more serious about the commitment you made to yourself. Now, I understand that people hold themselves accountable in all sorts of ways. Sometimes having a buddy to achieve the goal with can assist. Sometimes telling your spouse to chime in and keep you accountable can help. For me, for example, letting my friends and family know my goal (whether that be through conversation or some hint of a social media post) aides me in holding myself accountable. Even if they do not say anything in return I know that other people have heard my goal. It makes it real. It makes the possibility of not reaching my goal real and there is no way that I am going to let myself come back and say that goal was not met. Whatever it is that helps drive you – do it.

Through this, though, know that the strongest commitment you make is to yourself. When it is mile 24 and everything in your body is telling you to stop moving the only voice in the world that is going to keep your legs going is yours. Your voice. The one that for 4 months of training runs has been suffering and aching – asking yourself why on earth you got yourself into this in the first place. That is the only voice that is going to tell your legs that you have come this far. That this is your victory lap. That you earned this. Commit. Even in those last two miles – you need to recommit. Start training your mind how to NOW! After all, running is 90% mental.