How I Got My 5K and 1/2 Marathon PRs

Make sure you read all the way through — I have an awesome Altra Zero Drop shoe giveaway at the bottom of this post!

Back in July, I laid out some of the ways that I was working toward getting a new PR at the 5K distance. My strategy was to spend more time focusing on running quality, speedwork and strength and less time stressing about my mileage.

At the time, these were the goals:

  • run less often but run HARD
  • run short but push a stroller
  • run fast intervals with short walking breaks

My training worked. Better than I’d even dreamed, in fact. I smashed my 5K PR, then went on to PR at a December half marathon…and then break my record again a month later.

And I did it all while working crazy long hours, nursing a baby/toddler and spending less time in training than before.

You can do it too. Here are some of the things that may help you become a faster, stronger and better runner in six months (remember: I’m not a trainer or running coach, so please tailor these to your needs and consider consulting with a fitness expert!).

Faster Runner

1. Work on your form.

When I joined the blogging crew at the 2013 Runner’s World event, I got to meet some incredible people and learn some things that changed the way I trained. For example: Budd Coates took us on a run and helped us work through his “Running on Air” technique for breathing during runs. That has helped me avoid the side stitches that plagued me for a month. Bart Yasso shared with us an inspirational story about his time running with a group of Amish people in Lancaster County, PA, and what it taught him about ultra distance training.

But the single most important thing that happened to me that weekend was taking part in a run clinic with Golden Harper, the founder of Altra Zero Drop shoes (more on that below, and — spoiler alert! — why I’m so thrilled to join Golden and team as an Altra Ambassador).

First race photo I have ever bought. How would I not? This was at mile 11 in my half marathon PR. Recap on the blog now. #zerolimits #fitfluential #ffcheckin

Golden had us all run around in a wide circle, and then gave us these pointers:

  • RUN PROUD. That means to keep your chest up and your chin and hips forward. Not only do you run more efficiently, you can prevent shin splints.
  • KEEP YOUR ARMS RELAXED, PUMPING BACKWARDS, AND BEHIND YOUR HIPS. Unless you’re running crazy fast, your arms shouldn’t cross in front of your body, past your hips — and being diligent about keeping my form intact even during training runs has helped it become a much more natural posture for me during races.
  • DON’T LAND IN A CHECKMARK. A lot of people are heel strikers — but landing with your foot parallel to the ground really helps with the initial impact, and can help you turn your feet over faster.
  • CHECK YOUR CADENCE. When you improve your landing posture, you can also increase your cadence, or how quickly you take your steps.

He had us try those techniques while running barefoot — and I really noticed the difference right away.

One last tip from Golden that I used in all of my PR races? When you feel yourself starting to lose momentum or energy, REACH FOR THE MOON. Lift your arms toward the sky, at about a 45-degree angle. Pretend that you’re reaching up to grab the moon, right above/in front of you. That will help you pick your posture back up, get your chest forward and your momentum in the right direction. Then when you drop your arms back into place, you’ll naturally have a little boost.

2. Find the right gear.

I have had the great fortune to try out just about every shoe brand there is. I have a closet full of models, styles and types, and I wear very different gear for different sports. For dance, it’s my Reebok UR Leads, which are super flexible and designed for pivots and jumps. For the gym, I still love my Saucony Virrata. My best walking shoes are New Balance.

But for running, I’m a changed woman. Altra Zero Drop shoes are so perfectly suited for me, and for a natural running form, that I am thrilled to share that I’ve joined them as a 2014 Ambassador. I can’t say enough about how these shoes have changed my running (and again, all of my PRs have come in Altras). The wide toe box and zero drop technology (the heel and forefoot are the same distance from the ground) have kept me injury-free, helped me work on that natural heel strike and are designed specifically for men/women’s needs.


Golden actually created the prototype for what would become Altra shoes using a toaster at his house and cutting up some more traditional shoes.

golden 37526

I love that story, and you can hear more about his journey in the embedded video below.

(This, by the way, is not a sponsored post. I just want to share this brand with you in the hopes that you’ll try on the shoes the next time you’re at your local running store.)

Whatever your needs are, make sure that you are picky. Get a shoe that fits your foot, gives you the proper amount of cushioning for your running style and supports all of your goals.

3. Don’t deviate from the plan. Except when you do.

Didn't buy it (all I own is casual/workout wear -- I'm trying to be better about not buying ALLOFTHETANKTOPSALLTHETIME) but one of you should. It's at Target.

I never really followed a running plan for my first 5K or first three half marathons. I vaguely tried to hit certain mileage goals every week, but I pretty much just ran. A lot. Whenever I could. Until I felt like stopping.

For the last six months, I was all about the plan. I didn’t skip a workout — if it was raining, I used the treadmill. If I had family in town, I ran in the morning or at night. If I needed to spend my lunch break knocking out my assigned run distance, I did. That meant that I didn’t undertrain, I didn’t overtrain — I trained just right. And did so in a smart, gradual increase of mileage.

Having said that, my most recent half marathon — the one that left me with a surprise PR — came after six weeks of winging it. I truly believe that all of the work I’d put in previous to that race helped me get to my goal.

So my philosophy? Make a plan. Stick to it whenever humanly possible. Don’t let yourself find easy ways out. But if you need to take some time off because you’re sick or hurt or just burned out, go for it. Let your plan allow for throwing out the plan.

4. Spend time in the gym and on the yoga mat.

I ran much, much less in the last six months than I did while training for any previous races. And I spent more time working on some of my big muscle groups and my flexibility. It all paid off.

Went kind of crazy buying out @oldnavy's stock of active gear last weekend (on clearance each piece was like $8!!!) and I can't get over how great the quality is. Not an ad -- I paid my own money and the company didn't ask me to say this -- just a PSA. I

I went into these races leaner than I did any other seasons, which of course helped me run lighter and faster. But I also went in with stronger quads, abs and lats, and I think it helped me support my other running muscles and have more endurance for the long haul.

But perhaps the yoga had the most interesting impact on my running. Practicing poses every night before bed, stretching my muscles and building mental strength all helped me feel fitter and more confident before ever lacing up my sneakers. I can’t stress enough how important yoga is for my running career.

5. Set challenging goals.

I wanted to PR, damn it, and PR huge. So I set some lofty, challenging goals. And I shared them with you. Here, and on Twitter. In person (my poor friends). I put my goals out there and never let myself forget them. Tired and don’t want to run? Think of that PR. Would rather sit on the couch and watch TV? Think of that PR.

I had mini goals, too. To run 5 miles after baby. Then 10. To run a mile in under 8:00. Then under 7:45. Then, miraculously, under 7;30. I made a goal, achieved it, and made another.

What have been the most important changes you’ve made in your running career?


OK, if you made it this far, you deserve a prize. Want to win a pair of Altra shoes? This is the brand I’m now working with as an Ambassador, because I feel so passionate about their products. But they’re definitely different than other shoes, so I hope you’ll give them a try the next time you’re shoe shopping. And I can answer any questions you have!

One lucky winner will win a pair of their choice of Altra shoes (see: to be shipped within the United States. I’ll notify the winner by email and help you choose which shoe is right, and the prize will be shipped directly from Altra. Only entries in the Rafflecopter widget below will be counted toward the giveaway, and while there are bonus entries for following on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, the only required entry is a blog comment. The giveaway closes at midnight on February 26, 2014. Best of luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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  1. says

    I’ve recently developed exercise induced anaphylaxis – meaning, randomly, after coming back from a run, my eyes swell up and then sometimes my throat does too. I’ve started taking antihistamines prior to running to try to combat this until I get in to see an allergist. I am NOT going to let this scary thing stop me from being fit.

  2. Meghan r says

    The biggest change has been listening to my body. It really knows more about what it needs/doesn’t need than my brain does :)

  3. says

    I have the Saucony Kinvara 3s and they have a 4 inch drop, but no support so I’m curious about these.

    When I was on travel for 2 weeks once, I decided to run one fast mile every day and up my speed just a bit each time (on the treadmill). I started at a 9:00 and ended up running at 7:30 at the end without feeling like I was completely going to die. I think that really helped my speed at the time.

  4. says

    Katy, that is so awesome! Congrats on all your PR’s. I really need to work on strength training so much more and flexibility. I keep saying it and yet I still have a hard time getting that in. I don’t want to say I am injury prone but I have had bad shin/calf issues since last year. It isn’t much of a problem now but every once in a while it flares up. Now I have that stupid IT Band acting up. I think running smarter by getting quality runs in is very important. Not always Quantity!
    Would love to win and try a pair of Altra Shoes. I’ve been eyeing them for a while.

  5. says

    This year I’m focusing on building my base appropriately. Last year I went from occasional runs straight into a marathon training plan and my base wasn’t solid enough to support the plan. I spent all of training in a viscous cycle of wanting to stick to the plan, but the plan was moving too fast for my body. This year I’m taking it easy. I’ll dial up the workouts as my body is ready instead of throwing myself into the deep end.

  6. says

    I trained for my first half marathon last year after doing a handful of 5ks and 10ks. Working with a running coach and focusing on proper form (like running at a faster cadence and mid-foot striking and all that postural alignment stuff), has made running SO much more comfortable. I used to dread running because I would get bad shin splints and just be miserable. Now with a more minimalist shoe and a conscious running form, it has gotten so much better!

    Awesome giveaway! :)

  7. Dana says

    I’ve stopped worrying about “running fast” and started just running to feel good. Got a great PR at the 10k and am hoping to go under 2 hour for my half in a few months!

  8. says

    This post came at the perfect time! My goal is to get a half marathon and a 5k PR in 2014! My first year of running (2010) went great. Then I met my husband and my priorities changed. I had a couple years of not-great running and a really bad marathon. We got married in October and running has become a priority again. I’m running a half next month that I’m hoping to do well on (though I don’t expect a PR yet) and another half in September that I hope to PR. Then a 5k in November that I hope to PR.

  9. says

    One major change for me was when I realized all it took to become a runner, was simply to run. It changed the way I think about my training and my enjoyment, for sure.

    This post was super motivating since I’ve set two major running goals for 2014: PR a 5K [Sub 30 or bust!] this summer, and run my first Half Marathon this fall. I love your talk on not overtraining or undertraining but just training. I’m in the midst of putting my plan together for spring/summer, and I’m totally going to keep this in mind as I build that calendar structure!

  10. bethp262 says

    I love Altras too! Just started wearing them this fall and they are by far the most comfy shoe I’ve ever worn.
    Great tips in this post–I need to be more diligent about strength training!

  11. says

    Hey Katy,

    Great post and the little boost I needed! I’m going to be starting to traing for a 10k then a half marathon – scary but exciting for sure!

    I have a minor shoe addiction so I’m pretty psyched about the contest too!

    Thanks for writing,


  12. SuZ says

    the most important thing i’ve done for my running is to just DO IT! sounds silly but pushing myself to go run as often as possible has made the biggest improvement in my mileage count. :)

  13. says

    Finding a running group and pushing myself to keep up with people who are faster than me. I think it’s easy to get into a pace slump, where most runs are at a comfortable pace and you don’t push yourself. Trying new workouts has also really helped. Of the two half’s I ran this season, one was really hilly and I was still able to PR. Lots of hill repeats, sprints, and easy running on hilly terrain all led to that race being a success.

  14. Katy says

    Thanks for the tips Katy. Ever since you started posting about Altra I have been interested in learning more about the shoes/brand. I run in Brooks right now, but am in need of new shoes as I have increased my running and mileage since I did a running challenge in Dec.

    The most important change I have made in my running career, if we can even call it that, is to commit. Committing to making time in my day to workout/run even if that means getting up at 4:30 in the morning. I know I am preaching to the choir when I say that working full-time and being a mom makes finding time for myself a bit of a challenge. But when I commit to making time and putting me-time into my daily schedule, then I feel better about myself and the day.

  15. says

    I’ve wanted to try altras since they came out. Plus, they’re a local company for me!
    The biggest change I’ve made is to realize I don’t have to give 100% every run. Some runs are going to be good, some are bad, and that’s ok. It’s ok to slow down and be sure to listen to my body.

  16. says

    The biggest change has been getting a running coach to help me be smart with my training. I’m taking on my first full marathon in June and hopefully my coach will help get me to the finish line injury free.

  17. Laura says

    I agree with being more relaxed about running really helps! The biggest change I’ve made is running with a buddy – I love running by myself but the occasional run with a buddy can be motivating to relax and have fun with it.

  18. Jamie says

    You know I love me some Altras! BTW have you seen the new casual shoes. I can’t make up my mind if I like them or not. I wish they were a little more girlie :-)

  19. Marie says

    Hi Katy, the most important changes I’ve made are adding both yoga and strength training to my weekly routine, as well as realizing that its not the end of the world if I have a bad run! Great post and thank you for the giveaway!

  20. Sara says

    I’ve seen ads for Altras everywhere and am really curious to try them…the 0mm drop but with cushioning is something I really haven’t seen…they look like they would also be good for CrossFit

  21. says

    I recently started working toward my sub-2 hour half marathon goal. I’ve been adding in speed work, as well as strength training. So far, I’m seeing results in my running times and am REALLY excited to see what happens in 8 weeks at the race!

  22. says

    Wish I would have known you were running Celebration as well!

    I’m a new Altra Ambassador as well, PRd at Celebration as well (Full though), and will be running workouts while pushing a stroller for the first time later this year. Freaky….

    And PS, I live over in Lakeland so if you ever want to have an Altra Ambassador/New Parents party, maybe I can get an invite?

  23. says

    Changing to zero drop shoes has greatly improved my running and my recovery. My gait is funky to begin with and using zero drop shoes allows me to run naturally.

  24. Jenny says

    What did I do? Finally go see a PT for an issue that has been plaguing me for over 2 years. I know am almost a min faster per mile than 4 months ago.

    I too love altras

  25. Kim M says

    My running career has not been long, I really started running about 18 months ago, I’m now 5 half marathons and 2 full marathons in… luckily I got help shortly after the C25K program so I think I’m on the right track at least!

  26. Stacy says

    I’ve joined a running group! I was always afraid to compare myself with others thinking I couldn’t measure up (I’m too slow, too old, etc) but can honestly say that the motivatation and the friendships that I’ve developed with the group has helped me push past my goals!

  27. Chris G says

    Transitioning to a mid-foot strike was the biggest and most rewarding change I made in running. A close second was finding Altra shoes at my local running store.

  28. says

    These tips are what I needed right now. After my next half (in 2 weeks) I am going to focus on strength and flexibility. Since Ellie was born, I have been focused on running and I really need to work on building my strength so I can break some PRs this fall.

  29. Melissa says

    My knees stopped hurting when I switched to minimalist shoes because it changed my running form. My current shoes have a 4mm drop and I’ve had my eye on the Altras for quite a while.

  30. Beverly Aragon says

    Crosstraining! Like you, I see significant improvement in my running when I’m not RUNNING all the time. Yoga and the pool are my besties :)

  31. Sarah says

    Such a great post! I’m currently in the phase of my running life where I’m trying to work on speed. The biggest challenges I’ve faced were centered on getting past my own mental blocks to my physical abilities. Every race is a race against myself. I ran my first marathon this past January and I’m looking forward to PRs at all distances.

  32. Lauren says

    After physical therapy for ITB syndrome, I changed up my routine to include strength training twice a week. My ITBS has only flared up once in nearly a year, and only very briefly. I credit strength training for supporting my hip and knee better and letting my ITB rest!

  33. says

    The biggest change I made was to take foam rolling and strengthening work seriously. I’ve always battled IT band and shin splint issues but never wanted to put in the work to actually get rid of them for good. But when it got so bad I couldn’t run anymore – I started foam rolling, doing glute exercises and strengthening my calves. It’s made all the difference in the world!

  34. Aaron Harrell says

    Nice article. I have pretty much always run by feel. With full time work and little kids, I usually end up deviating from the plan. This year I actually want to break 19 minutes for a 5k, so I will be injecting some actual structure and specific workouts into my running. thanks!


  35. cARRIE l says

    The most important change I’ve done with my running is really pushing myself. I used to allow myself to do endless 10 minute miles telling myself that was good enough. But during a race I really pushed myself and ended up doing 8 minute miles and totally had one of those moments when you truly realize what you’re capable of! Love your blog!

  36. says

    My running form is awful. I shuffle my feet and sort of kick them out to the side – but it feels normal to me so I don’t really know how to change it!

  37. Brian McCullough says

    I find it best to run hard and then walk when I have to, instead of running slower and never getting any faster. Core yoga poses and a little speed work have made me a lot faster too. I’m hoping to get my 5k pace under 7 min./mile this spring. I ran a 5k in under 19 min. when I was 18, almost 20 years ago, but I haven’t done anything to engage my fast twitch muscle fibers since. 2014 is the year where I am going to try to get fast again.

  38. says

    Big changes happening right now — I’m training for a half ironman, eek! So my training plan has gotten a lot more complicated. For shorter distances, I have just winged it … but I can’t for this one. I just made it through week one successfully, though, and I think it’s going to work out. It’s a bit different changing focus!

  39. robin says

    Strength training! Seriously, I don’t know why I resisted for so long – I’m leaner/lighter, stronger and faster as a result. Woohoo!

  40. Kris says

    I have adopted a “I run for fun” attitude so pace doesn’t really matter so much, however, 12 miles into my marathon I started experiencing some pretty severe pain and had to mostly walk the last 4 miles. I thought I was well rested from that but had the same thing happen at mile 8 of a half marathon despite my training runs being mostly pain free. I’m working with a PT to figure out what is going on

  41. Melissa says

    I LOVE Altras! The biggest (and most important) change I’ve made in my running is that I dumped my heavy ‘supportive’ shoes that I didn’t really need. When I started running, I went into a running store and was told that I needed support since I overpronated. I didn’t know any difference, so I bought them, trained in them and ultimately did my first half marathon in them. And I had knee problems and back problems the whole time. Once I figured out that the reason I overpronated was because my cadence was too slow, the lightbulb went on. I adjusted my cadence and all was golden. I eased into the Altras by spending some time in a nice neutral shoe first. I’ve also been working on strengthening my feet and ankles and working on my balance. It’s made a huge difference in how I feel the ground and in my running. I’ve never been a heel striker, but with the supportive shoes, I couldn’t feel the ground either. Now I can and I love it!

  42. says

    I’m just getting back out there after a year and a half break from running. It’s been a real challenge , both because I’ve never loved running and because with our new baby and a long commute I’m really struggling during the week to fit in workouts. My only goal now is to run a 5k race and enjoy it. I never really loved running before – despite 12 half marathons and a full- so hopefully the break is just what I needed.

  43. Melissa Romano says

    This year it’s about overcoming the mental devils and building distance endurance for me. Going to run my first full marathon in April with a smile on my face and Altras on my feet, and going to do it with a song in my head instead of a voice telling me “no”.

  44. says

    The best thing I do for my running is taking rest days even when I really want to run. It’s easy to overwork yourself if you’re not careful (because running is so freakin’ awesome!)

  45. Brian says

    I have tried several brands of shoes and now I love my Altra. I have a pair of “The One” for running short distances like the 5K. I have a pair of “Torin” for the long distance runs. Once I tried Altra I was hooked. They helped me learn to run with proper form!

  46. Jason Buseman says

    I’ve recently switched to Altras from Saucony (Kinvara 3 to Provision). Very nice fit and feel along with a little more cushion. Consistency has been the biggest help this year for training. I can’t wait for race season!

  47. Carolyn says

    Love Altras! I think this is a brand that can change a runner’s life. Can’t wait until all the new models are available!

  48. says

    I’ve seen the biggest improvements in my running when I really commit to speed work and tempo runs, and when I started running with faster friends. It was frustrating at first, but so exciting when I started to be able to keep up or at least close the gap. It’s definitely improved my running.

  49. Kristen McLane says

    I PR’d my most recent half marathon which was last month. I believe paying more attention to strength training and good nutrition during the training period played an important role in making the PR happen. I’ve also been more cognizant of my posture while trying not to over-think things! The “reach for the moon” is interesting to me – I basically do this already even though I didn’t have a name for it. Stretching out and smiling always gives me a little boost and lifts my spirit during a run.

  50. says

    Great post! I want to get a 5k PR this spring. I have been lifting a lot, but don’t want to get back to running every day bc I know it will interfere with lifting. I’m scared of only running 3x a week (but hard efforts) because I’m afraid not running enough will cause my shins to hurt even more (weird I know).
    We’lls ee if I can PR in the 5K and 1/2 this spring!

  51. Jenny Stegemoeller says

    I have just started running, and I completed my first 5K in December. The tips in this blog are very helpful and I have also added yoga to my routine! Thank you for inspiring :)

  52. Alison says

    Great blog and giveaway! My biggest change has been working with a running coach. I have been running for a few years, and I hit a plateau. My coach pushed me to spend more time on speedwork and made me accountable for my workouts. I feel stronger and faster than ever.

  53. Amy H. says

    One of the biggest things I did that impacted my running was focusing on strength training! The only half I ran that I really focused on strength training in preparation for it was a HUGE PR!

  54. Michael Phillips says

    I run for the challenge of a good time but I really hate running(I do it to help stay fit and to enjoy other hobbies like Mountain climbing, adventure hikes and canyoneering). I get so bored when I run and its hard to stay motivated on my feet. I enjoy other sports and cycling is my real passion whether that be mountain or road. I find that music helps pass time when I am running but its not always the drive I need to get running. Having a goal and or races helps keep me going the most. I do not want to run poorly or slow so the time put in is paid in return by spending less time running in a race. Greatest contributor on my running has been speed work on a track, its easy to do, its easy to track and easy to tell if you are getting faster in short and long runs; I compliment that with hilly runs once a week to build strength. I have been running on Altra shoes for two years and I will never go to another brand. My feet do not blister in these shoes, I don’t suffer injuries like in other running shoes I have used and my toes do not go numb. I am jealous you got a little help from Golden on your form!!

  55. Kate says

    The most important changes I’ve made so far are to work on my form, follow a mid-foot strike, increase my cadence, practice “the lean” and join a training group. I’m training for my second half and joining the group has been very motivational for me. Eventhough I do fall into the trap of trying to get all my miles in from time to time, I am still improving far beyond what I was doing last year. I can’t wait to try a pair of Altras!!!

  56. says

    My most important changes that really make a difference in my racing times is 1) finding the right combo of asthma meds that prevent most asthma related issues during racing and training, and 2) Designing and following a training program that includes enough distance and speed work. This worked for me 16 years ago when I was setting my marathon and other distance PRs, and it worked for med again at age 55 when I decided I wanted to get serious about training. Hopefully that will hold true for my upcoming marathon in June, my first in eight years.

  57. Jacy says

    My most important changes have been focusing on my form and getting in my strength training. Before I started actively working on those items, I was plagued with Runner’s Knee and IT Band issues. It definitely helps to add both those items into the routine!

  58. says

    Congrats on your awesome PRs! One big thing I’ve done for my running is to regularly do pilates, and when I’m in training I try to also lift once a week!

  59. Bic Ulrich says

    I enjoyed your post because it seemed to hit me at the right time. I started running last year and have been committed to putting in mileage every week. I would definitely like to improve my times and I have been interested in learning how to do that. By the way, I run in Altra Torins and love them. I have been needing a pair of trail running shoes and thought I would post on your blog since it is my birthday today and I was hoping it would make me lucky.

  60. Debbie conlon says

    Changed my running form to the good running, trying to increase my cadence, improving my posture, and wearing altra torins.

  61. Jeffrey says

    I started running longer distances and it has actually reduced the amount of injuries I’ve had. Speedwork has done nothing but torn my body up. I ran my first 50 miler last year and showed up to the race injury free.

  62. Carrie Thompson says

    I have been eyeballing these shoes and hearing so much about them. I really want to get back to running in the spring and hope to do it in a pair of these shoes. Thanks for always inspiring and a great giveaway!!

  63. says

    Excellent advice! I usually train myself, but decided to join a group for an upcoming race. The coach has us SERIOUSLY overtrained, and I’m one of the more experienced runners in the bunch! I’ve decided to do my own thing, and use his training as a loose guide. It’s working great so far, and it’s a little bit fun to be a rebel to the plan for once. 😉

    I’ve also switched to Altras, and I swear I’ll never go back to a traditional shoe! My toes feel like they’re in a vice when I wear anything else!

    Thanks for the tips and the awesome giveaway! Congrats on being chosen as an ambassador!

  64. STEPHANIE Jensen says

    I agree completely! When I first started running, I didn’t have a plan other than a relay race I had signed up for. I increased my mileage too fast and ended up with tendonitis in my knee. My doctor said the only way to get rid of it completely was to stop running (and any other high impact exercise). It was then that I realized how much I REALLY loved running. So I rode a stationary bike for several months, which I enjoyed but I craved the road. When I was finally ready to run again I decided to switch to a minimalist shoe and I will never go back. I discovered Altra a little more than a year ago and I love them! The thing I really needed to work on was my form and it’s so much easier to get it right with a zero drop shoe. For me, following a training plan, yoga & strength training are super important. Thank you so much for this article! Great tips!

  65. Cate says

    This was a pretty awesome blog post. I’m also kind of a free runner – so setting some goals and getting some cross training in sounds like a really good idea. I’m also a few days from having my first baby, and signed up for my first half in May – which may be a little ambitious, but I hope with a training plan and goals that I’ll be able to manage it.
    I made the jump to neutral shoes in 2009 myself, and have never regretted the decision since, but I ALWAYS seem to struggle with toebox issues because my feet are too wide in the front – I’ve now got a pair of the Intuition 1.5 and the One’s – and I love them and want some more!

  66. says

    I currently have the Altra Lone Peak 1.5s and really love them! I also recently converted over to Hokas for some of my other runs, so I’ve really been wanting to try out the Altra Olympus (perhaps the best of both worlds?).

    The biggest change in my running has been to start running what I love and not what other people tell me I should love – I’m just not into the big races like R&R, NWM, etc…I like running trails and escaping the city…so I went straight from a R&R 1/2 PR to a trail ultramarathon and never looked back. I’m a happier runner because of it, and a better runner because of that.

  67. Madeleine says

    Incorporating different paced runs during a given week was very beneficial in helping me run faster and further (45-50 mi wks): interval, long distance mod/fast, easy recovery, etc. Additionally, building flexibility into your marathon training plan really helps to buffer days when you need more recovery days or when work just gets in the way – if you have plan Bs, missing some planned runs shouldn’t derail you. :)

  68. says

    Realizing the importance of cross-training, rest, and foam rolling have been HUGELY helpful for me. Plus, the knowledge that every single run doesn’t have to be your very fastest. I love this post – tons of great tips – AND (even though I think I said it, or at least though it, on Instagram) – your back looks amazing in that photo!

  69. Kristen says

    I’ve been running for YEARS but never followed much of a plan and have never worried about particular times. However, I have a lot of races on my calendar this year and I’d really like to be proud of them so I’m following a plan for the first big one (a half marathon in May) and have added some very light core exercises to my routine which I can already see running results from. I will have to sprinkle in some yoga too! I’ve been thinking about hiring a personal trainer, but I’m not there yet!

  70. Carol Landry says

    I’ve always turned my head away from reading or hearing anything about zero drop shoes but I’ll admit, you have me intrigued. I have struggled with my piriformus/hip area for awhile now and I’d like to try something new. I’m also a big fan of Yoga! :)

  71. Lauren B says

    I’m getting back into running shape after having a baby 6 months ago. I’m training to do another 1/2 marathon, and would love to try these shoes!

  72. says

    What a informative post! Great tips here, Katy :)
    The biggest change for my running speed was when I started doing speed work. Ironically, it has been the hardest on my body… So glad I have found Altra shoes!

  73. says

    This is my first visit to your blog and I’m so glad I stopped in to check it out – GREAT POST!!! Okay, with that out of the way, my running career is very short so far as I’ve only been running for 4 years now, but the biggest thing for me has been making sure I spend time recovering the RIGHT way and making sure I stretch it out. I have always stretched post-run, but so many times it was just a quick 10-second hold and then on to the next one. I now make sure I stretch for at least 30 seconds in each hold and I think it has made such a difference in little nagging injuries that don’t necessarily sideline you, but make it less fun. When I trained for my second half marathon, by the end I had major IT Band tightness; but when I did my third half (making sure to stretch religiously) I had absolutely NO problems at all.

  74. Kristin says

    I LOVE Altras. I started with the Intuition, and moved to the Torin, which is my all-time favorite running shoe. I’m intrigued by the Olympus!

  75. ElizABETH says


  76. Katie says

    Right now I’m coming from a 3 month lay off after a hip injury with no clear diagnosis. I am backing off my beloved ultras to try to just get healthy so the biggest thing I did was take time off which for runner addicts isn’t easy!

  77. Lauraie Epp says

    My biggest change has been switching to minimalist running shoes, love it, the zero drop matches my running style and I no longer feel like an elephant when I run. I have also incorporated my love of yoga into my training.

  78. says

    I’m a beginning runner, but I’m training for a July half marathon. One of my goals is definitely to get faster, so I really appreciated all these tips. I’ve heard a lot of good things about Altra. I haven’t found a shoe that feels great yet, so I’d love to try them out.

  79. Kelsey says

    Biggest change has been running faster and shorter instead of long and slow. Helped me drop 45 minutes off my first marathon time! And also joining Crossfit!

  80. says

    I am training for my first half, and my 2nd grade students are holding me accountable for sticking to my training plan!

    P.S. These shoes have been on my list to try for awhile! :)

  81. Katie says

    This post has been so inspirational to me! I have run in 3 half-marathons already, and like you mentioned, I went into them having run alot, but not with any specific plan of action. Each time, my time was about the same. Now, I’m in the process of training for my fourth half-marathon in July, and I’m determined to get a new PR. This post has inspired me to adopt a plan and to work hard at it. I know that I can so a big thank you to you!

  82. Ben J says

    The biggest change I’ve made is starting to run in the first place, about a year ago. This spring I’m going to start incorporating speedwork into my training more often. Up until now I’ve been more focused on building endurance.

  83. says

    Wow for all of you. I subscribed to comments here and it’s exciting to get so many positive and inspiring messages in my email every day. Thanks to all of you for those bright moments.

    I trained hard for Elbrus Race 2013 and helped coach my friend, athlete Todd Gilles to a 3rd place finish. That was extremely satisfying. We’re training together for Pikes Ascent and Elbrus Race 2014 now. My body prefers primarily vertical style races, which took me a long time to figure out. I did a trail marathon (Aspen Backcountry) and it took a lot out of me, but I learned a lot about training from that experience.

    Again, thanks everyone.


  84. says

    Ive been trying to do more well rounded weeks in workouts (3 days running, 3 days varying other random things like yoga, spin, etc.) and it has helped a lot along with more strength training in general!

  85. Scott says

    I am still working on my biggest change: my form, specifically a mid-foot strike. I am a natural heel striker, but I want to be able to run as long as possible. This means taking steps to avoid injury, and transitioning to a mid-foot strike reduces the impact on the joints and low back. So, I’m trying to make the change. It’s hard when I get tired, but my Altras are helping! I would love another pair, maybe their new Altra Everyday!

  86. says

    Altra Zero Drop shoes COMPLETELY changed my running life! I no longer feel like I’m trudging through several inches of cushion and I can run with much greater ease and efficiency! Altra, combined with a strength training regimen has improved my running greatly- leg strengthening workouts take stress off my knees and core work does more for a runner than you can imagine! I am running the NYC Marathon on Nov 2nd, 2014 and I hope to take at least 10 minutes off my current PR of 3:34!

  87. Wade says

    Working on my form has been the most drastic change for me, I have yet to try the zero drop style shoes though. Was there much of an adjustment?

  88. Guillaume says

    After running for a long time in guidance (overpronation) shoes, I decided last year to switch to neutral, low drop shoes. Since then, I ran faster, smoother. Recently bought my first Altra pair (3-sum), can’t comment yet due to weather, but hopefully this is the beginning of a long relationship!

  89. says

    Learning to let go and just run. Most of the time the best runs are those when you have the least expectations. Lose the watch, music, and just go!!

  90. says

    The biggest way I’ve been improving on my PRs is by documenting the details. I’ve been trying to pay special attention to everything I do off the trails/track- this includes IT Band flexibility, yoga, stretching, foam rolling, and a lot of core work. In addition to building a strong base foundation to take into spring training.

    Congrats on your PRs and best of luck!

  91. Melinda says

    I had hip surgery 18 months ago for a labral repair, psoas release, asetabuloplasty, femoroplasy and capsular closure and I will be running my first half marathon at the end of March. I am happy to report that I am running pain free for the first time in years. Completed an 8 mile run last weekend and it felt amazing!

  92. says

    I think my biggest changes are yet to come. I’ve always tweaked my training after races. Now I am just about ready for a coach, as opposed to generic training plans.

  93. Nancy says

    For the past year I have been working on the “Running on Air” breathing technique. And for the past six months have been working to transform from heel strike to midfoot strike.

  94. Terra says

    I just got my first pair of Altra’s last week and I really love them. I’m new to running and am looking forward to the challenge of becoming a runner!

  95. Jamison says

    I liked your post and I am going to try incorporating some of your suggestions into my training. Sticking to the plan as close to possible has really helped me

  96. Tracy says

    I developed a neoroma during my last marathon while running in the saucing triumphs. I had been running in brooks Ravennas before I liked them. After doing some research on my problem, I found the altra torins and I have found my dream shoe. My foot does not bother me when running. I am looking forward to running another marathon this weekend in Little Rock. I can’t say enough good things about this shoe other than it does exactly what they say it does. They are awesome!!!!

  97. says

    i’d been battling shin splints for years, but i switched to the altra intuition just a few weeks ago. i LOVE them. i have no shin pain now and am excited to be training for my first trail race: the smoky mountain relay.

  98. Alison says

    Lifting weights has definitely improved my running. I’m much stronger which made me faster and the overall process easier/more enjoyable!

  99. Felisha says

    I think my biggest changes are about to happen this year. I have been training since January for a half in June and I really want to focus on a full marathon this fall. I have been incorporating other exercises such as, insanity, lifting, pilates (killer workout) and trying to stretch and focus on my breathing more. Super excited for this year!!!

  100. Heather says

    The biggest change for me is actually running. I used to think I couldn’t run. I was the girl in high school that always walked the mile and I hated every second of it. Now as a 30 year old mom of 5 running is my stress relief. I’m still a beginning we but I’m enjoying it more and more every day. I love the challenge it is to my body and my mind. Right now I’m training for my second Ragnar and I plan on being better prepared, stronger and faster. Oh and I’m totally an Altra fan :)

  101. says

    Hey, congratulations on the ambassador gig! Altra’s saved me from chronic ankle sprains due to their amazing stability and natural layout. Great points on building speed. I have found so many runners just sit in a comfy pace and never randomize. Speedplay and changes in terrain and elevation (similar to your comments on pushing yourself) have given me big gains in endurance and speed. Keep on keepin on!

  102. Nicole says

    For some reason I never thought of me as a “big” girl. Even when I was 140+ lbs. Now, 3.5 years later and 20+ lbs less I have never felt better in my life. And not only because of the weight loss but because of the healthier lifestyle that I have now. I used to smoke and eat bad food.
    Don’t get me wrong – I still love French fries and Pizza. Probably even more now than 4 years ago. Because it’s a special treat that I can enjoy once in a while.
    So the biggest change for me is probably the change of my lifestyle. I am finally at the point where I am not on a diet all the time. It’s a lifestyle! I enjoy eating healthy, running and working out. I have so many goal for the future that do NOT include the number on the scale and I feel great about that.

  103. Reid says

    Trail running has really helped me. I feel like I’ve gotten a lot stronger–not just for hills, but all the little stabilizing muscles getting the extra workout.

  104. Stephanie H. says

    This year is all about cross training! I have run many races in the past and never once did I cross train…on those days, I didn’t do much of anything. Sooo, I am hoping to see some improved times now that I am actually doing something other than just running! I am also signing up for my first full marathon….Cross training seems VERY important right now! HA

  105. sarah says

    The most important changes I have made are to focus on my form while I am running, especially to make sure I am not landing on my heels. This has helped me save my knees from more injuries.

  106. Alisha Trapp says

    I started running this year to just run. I have tried to focus less on how far, how fast, how many calories. I am trying to remember why I ran in the first place. Sometimes we forget the simple things we love about what we do.

  107. Daphne says

    I started strength training during winter and looking forward to get back to more running and see the difference it will make.

  108. Sharon Erwin says

    Just discovered these shoes when researching ‘wide toe box’ running shoes following recent foot surgery…I like light weight, zero drop shoes & my surgeon is insisting on more cushioning so these cover all my needs!

  109. says

    Great writing. I have been reading alot about zero drop shoes but have been afraid to purchase a pair for fear of the unknown. What if I do not like them? What if they just aren’t for me? How will they handle the trail running I am getting started in? but maybe’ with a lot of luck, I can try them. And by reading this I have come to realize I have not blogged in over a year. Time to get back at it.

  110. clarino querido says


  111. Chris says

    Gym time has helped me get some of my speed back. The run proud I have heard over and over. It finally sunk in and things got easier. I did it naturally when I was younger and then somehow lost it. I’ll have to try Yoga.

  112. Matthew Brady says

    There were a few important changes that I have made in my running career. I decided to take my running to the trails, lose the iPod, and listen to my body more. These changes really helped me work on my running form and make the outdoors a lot more enjoyable.

  113. Matt says

    I took a clinic from Runner’s Corner (owned by Golden’s family) when I first started running. The clinic covered the same points for technique as Golden taught you. This has helped my form and as a result my efficiency as a runner tremendously. Great post!

  114. says

    I just had a similar “tipping point” and realized how much I want this PR. I have my entire plan laid out on my calendar even during fun travel weeks. Strong mind, strong heart!

  115. says

    I have a lot of weight to lose, I gained most of it within 8 months of starting a new medication and haven’t been able to get it off. My strength is still good, like I can easily run up the stairs or pick up a 60lb child but I used to run my dogs and over the last few years of being overweight I have been scared to run outside because if i injure my ankle or foot I am left waiting with no cell service (lots of land that i walk them on) until someone comes looking for me. So I have stuck to walking and while that doesn’t wind me it depresses me to feel so limited. I also used to be able to do and did do pilates and yoga daily but now with the weight I just can’t get into the positions because I am just too fleshy. I don’t eat much and I drink a lot of water and consume a lot of milk and dairy, I always have. So I am considering getting an ugly treadmill so I can feel safer while walking/running/building stamina back up, but I am not sure if this is really worth it or if i should just try and brave the outdoors? I want to lose weight but more importantly I want to gain health. I have about 80lbs to lose, more if I am really wanting to be as lean as I can be but 80 is the goal. I just feel beyond confused as to how to actually achieve this. I would love some of your tips because you are quite obviously successful at this whole goal setting thing! Thanks Katy!

  116. says

    Hello! First of all, Id like to say that I loved your website layout, and the posts are very awesome. All of them.
    For people who can speak portuguese, I would like to invite to visit my website. I’m from Brazil, and I work with infoproducts in the loss weight area. There are all kinds of programs, since about diets, till exercises, and even pilates at home! Thanks!

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