Back of the Pack Podcast

Bad Angel guest blogger extraordinaire Chris Willis sat down with the fine folks at Back of the Pack Endurance to talk about his incredible blog post thanking back of the pack runners. (If you haven’t read it already, go do it RIGHT NOW.)

Listen here and enjoy (Chris comes in around the 29-minute mark)!


Sixth Time Around

Even though I’m still gimpy and recovering from a litany of problems stemming from bursitis in my left hip, I registered for my sixth Chicago Marathon this week.

IMG_3546My finishing time last year was good enough to earn me a guaranteed entry, so I didn’t have to wait out the lottery process.

And, you know, I can’t NOT run the damn thing. It’s just too awesome and too important to me.

(Side note: I’ve also applied to be a pacer for summer marathon training with both CARA and CES, so here’s hoping one of them accepts me!)

Registering this time around felt different. It wasn’t the grand, momentous action it had been in years past. It felt familiar and far less nauseating, but there was still that split second of hesitation before clicking the “submit” button to pay my $185 and commit myself to another summer of early Friday nights and even earlier Saturday mornings.

Because I’m coming off a major injury, I might not be able to train as hard as I did last year — or as hard as I want to — so that thus-far elusive BQ likely will have to wait another year. And that’s OK.

Either way, the Chicago Marathon will still be waiting for me in the fall, a trusty old friend with whom I spend the second Sunday of every October. — Mags

Assessing Whether to Reassess

Goals are awesome; they give us focus and keep us moving forward (sometimes literally). I often find it hard to train without a race on the horizon. Sure, I’ll always run, but casual running and training are very different. Every year, we set goals to do just this: to ensure we have a few targets to aim for, a few reasons to train.

This year, I established my plan right after a kick-ass fall marathon. I exceeded my expectations, so at the time, it made sense to set my sights higher, to try to go even faster this year. But here I am, and the motivation is just … gone.

This happens, and it’s not a big deal. Maybe it will come back, maybe not. My half marathon, which is now four weeks away, is going to be interesting. I’ve only trained half as hard as I had planned. I can finish the race, but I’m not going to crush it. I’m fine with this, but it’s forced me to re-evaluate my plan for the year. Do I really want to PR at every race in 2015? No. And here’s why:

  • 2014 was a big year. I had a big-birthday-stand-off, and I needed to prove to myself that I could still run fast. I did that.
  • My biggest running goal EVER was to qualify for Boston. I’ve done that twice, so that’s off the table.
  • PR’ing means serious training, which also means a large time investment. I’ve got a lot going on in my life right now that is just as fulfilling as a PR, so my focus is split.
  • That time investment? It’s not just mine; it’s my whole family’s. I have four kids, so I have to lean on everyone for help so I can spend time running.

I’m still assessing whether to reassess, but I can tell you this: I have no problem changing my plans, and you shouldn’t either. If you choose to go for that PR, awesome. But if you choose to run for fun, or just race to race, you’ll get no judgment from me. Setting goals is important, but knowing when to adjust and reset your strategy can be just as valuable. — Amie

Stepping Out From the Shadow of Doubt

This winter, my training has been very focused and purposeful. For the first time in my life, I’m doing actual speedwork and following a training plan that includes timed runs, tempo runs and hill training.

So far, it’s been great. I feel myself getting faster and stronger.

At the same time, I feel neurotic and inadequate.

Because this is a new training plan, I’m in unfamiliar territory — and it’s scary! I’ve been doing my long runs according to my training plan, which means they are 30-45 seconds slower than my desired race pace. In practice, it’s awesome. It’s a comfortable pace for me, and I know I can sustain that pace over distance.

But running 30-45 seconds faster than my long-run pace on race day feels totally daunting.

To add to my neurosis, my husband is following the exact same training plan, only his miles are adjusted for a full marathon. We matched mileage at the beginning of year, but now he’s running 14/16/18 miles on a given Saturday, causing me to feel woefully (and irrationally) inadequate about my own half marathon race preparations.

Then last week, I had a breakthrough.

I had a 5-mile run at race pace on my schedule, and, quite frankly, I was scared of it — or rather, of my imminent failure. I was almost positive I could not do it. See, when you set goals in January, it’s fun and exciting. When the rubber meets the road in the spring, it’s scary and sometimes disappointing. I have a few bad runs under my belt, and combined with the other things I just mentioned, it has all been messing with my head.

Cue the waterworks.

Cue the waterworks.

I begrudgingly set out for my 5-miler and figured I’d go as long as I could at race pace then call it a day. As the miles ticked by, I was … totally fine. Sure, it wasn’t easy, but I wasn’t dying, either. After I logged four miles, I knew I totally had it in the bag. Holy crap, you guys! Training works! I finished the run with a victory lap around my office and wiped tears of joy from my eyes.

Yeah, sure, it was just a little training run. But it was also the farthest I’ve ever run at race pace, and probably the fastest I’ve ever run five miles. It was more than joy. It was hope. It was pride. It was RELIEF.

I realized I might just be able to pull off this crazy thing after all. And more importantly, I realized I do not need to be scared of training runs. Sometimes they work out, sometimes they don’t. But as long as you’re willing to give it a shot, you just might surprise yourself. — Aidz


Are You A Runner?

Sure looks like a runner to me.

Sure looks like a runner to me.

My husband, Keith, is currently training for his fifth marathon. For those of you playing along at home, that is four more full marathons than I have ever trained for.

Yet there we were, after a group run on New Year’s Day, and we happened upon one of our neighbors. He recognized Keith and said, “Oh hey there! Keith, right? I didn’t know you were a runner.”

Keith looked away sheepishly, gestured toward me and said, “Oh, I dunno. My wife, Adrea, is the runner. She writes a blog.”

As runners (and as human beings, for that matter), we’re constantly comparing ourselves to others. So much so, that we often cannot see ourselves clearly. So much so, that my husband, a man who has run hundreds of miles, has a difficult time acknowledging his identity as a runner.

Sure, he runs differently than I do. I run consistently and constantly as a way to manage the pressures and stresses of every day life. Keith, on the other hand, uses running as a goal-oriented activity that helps him achieve a sense of accomplishment. But just because we go about the activity differently does not make one us any more of a runner than the other.

Does it?

This begs a very interesting question: What defines a runner?

It is miles or races or paces? Is it consistency or seniority or experience? Is it dedication or enthusiasm or enjoyment?

And most importantly, how does a person know whether he or she is actually a runner? I certainly don’t have the answer.

I know that at some point on my journey, I made the switch. I think of running less as a form of exercise and more as a way of life. For me, that’s enough. That makes me a runner.

Maybe some day — on his next marathon, perhaps — my dear ol’ husband will realize he, too, has transformed into a runner somewhere along the way.

What about you? — Aidz


2015 Race Calendar

This is what we’re planning for 2015 (so far). We have a host of repeats from last year, but after the killer 2014 we all had, can you really blame us?

Feb. 21: Mardi Gras Chaser 5K (Chicago)

March 15: Cincinnati Heart Mini Marathon

April 4: Chi Town 10K (Chicago)

April 25: Illinois Marathon (Champaign, IL)

April 25: Country Music Half Marathon (Nashville)

May 3: Flying Pig Half Marathon (Cincinnati, OH)

May 23: Madison Twilight 5K

May 24: Madison Half Marathon

June 27: Hyde Park Blast (Cincinnati, OH)

July 25: Bix 7 (Davenport, IA)

Sept. 19: Hudy 14k Brewery Run (Cincinnati, OH)

Oct. 11: Chicago Marathon

Oct. 18: Columbus Marathon

Nov. 26: Cincinnati Thanksgiving Day Race

2015 Goals

Much ass was kicked in 2014, so let’s keep it going in 2015, shall we?


1. Run a timed mile. I really have no excuse for not accomplishing this goal in 2014, so let’s do this. Just me, four laps around a track and hopefully no vomiting afterward.

2. Become a pacer. For the past couple years, when someone has asked me the classic “What would you do if you won the lottery?” question, my answer has been that I’d write, perform and be a distance-race pacer. Why a pacer? Because I love running, I’m good at keeping an even pace, and I’m a natural coach. But, you know, I don’t actually need to win the lottery to do that, so I’ve submitted a few applications to various running programs in Chicago. I am going to make it happen, even if it’s in an unofficial capacity. Anyone want help pacing for, say, a sub-hour 10K or sub-2-hour half? Holler at your girl.

3. Qualify for Boston. Yep, here we go again. I fell just short at the Chicago Marathon in October, so I’ve set my sights on the Illinois Marathon in April. Of course, I’m currently injured and don’t know if I’ll even be physically able to train properly for that race (let alone a BQ), so a fall marathon is probably more realistic. We shall see.

1. Place third or higher in my age group. I might have to run a small local 5K to do this, but I placed fifth in my age group at the Hudy 14K this year, and I think I could do better.

2. Run a marathon in the 3:30s. It would only be 4 minutes faster than I ran in Columbus this year. This goal feels within reach without having to add major mileage and speedwork, but it would ultimately blow my own mind. And isn’t that why we run?

3. Foster the love of running. My son, Owen, is a natural runner. He runs beautifully and effortlessly, and I plan to include him in some smaller races (to prevent injury since he won’t train) to see where it takes him. Maybe he will want to train for a more serious distance one day, maybe not. But he loves running and I want to plant the seed now, before he grows up and moves away. I can see running being our special bond for a very long time.


1. Run more unplugged miles. I love my Nike+, I do. In fact, coming off of our holiday running streak, I feel like I’m using social media to do exactly what it should do in regards to running — foster a sense of community and serve as a source of motivation. But this year, when I’m not streaking, I’d like to run more undocumented miles. To run by feel. To listen to my body. To just … run.

2. PR at the Bix. I really enjoyed training for the 2014 Bix, and I have a PR to show for it. This year, I’d like to do it again. I’m not going to set any land-speed records here, but goshdarnit, I will beat Brady Street once again.

3. Break the 2-hour barrier. The sub 2-hour half marathon is what you might call my white whale. I was THISCLOSE in Columbus in 2009 (2:01:49), back before I had kids and responsibilities and stuff. But I’m older and wiser, and man, I’d really like a half marathon time with a 1 in front of it. It’s a long haul, and it’ll require me to shave 9 minutes (uh, A LOT) off my 2014 half marathon time, but I think I can do it.