Post #5: It’s a Zoo Out There

If you can visit the zoo, you can run a marathon.

Zoos come in all shapes and sizes. As a Columbus, Ohio native, I grew up spoiled in the zoo department. The Columbus Zoo is the home of Jack Hannah and one of the best zoos in the world. I could go on…but this isn’t a blog about zoos.

So, how do zoos relate to running marathons? Well…let me take you through my recent experience.

The North Carolina Zoo is located in Asheboro, North Carolina. This is probably…maybe…definitely the last place you would expect to find a zoo. We drove the back way in (which looks an awfully lot like the front way in) through farms, fields, country roads, and a spattering of local wildlife including cows, horses, sheep, and overall-wearing bearded men on John Deere tractors. Then all of a sudden, there’s a zoo. One side of the road, barns and “Jesus Loves You” signs, the other a massive parking lot for patrons wanting to see lions, bears, and elephants.

Billed as the “World Largest Natural Habitat Zoo,” the park is laid out in a straight line with Africa on one end and North America on the other (obviously not drawn to scale or as a geographic representation). In between lies dozens of animal attractions, thousands of North Carolinian visitors of all shapes and sizes, and miles of pavement.

So what does this mean? A dangerous combination of people forced to travel for hours up and down hills in the blistering sun. Sounds strikingly familiar to a marathon race huh? The difference? People train for months for a marathon…people wake up in the morning and decide to go to the zoo.

We walked from one end of the park to the other and back in about four hours. We laughed at the people standing in line for the tram bus when we first entered…why do you to stand in line for an hour for a two-minute bus ride? It didn’t take us long to understand the need.

As the afternoon heat beat down on us, we saw people keeled over on benches, arguing with each other about how much further they had to walk, and sweating profusely in all the wrong places. Obviously, not everyone was in zoo shape.

Why hasn’t someone come up with the six-week zoo visitor training plan yet?

Today, I aim to provide some help to fellow zoo-goers.

The Fat Guys Running Marathons Tips for Visiting the Zoo
– Bring someone fatter than you… you’ll never have to worry about keeping up with your friends
– Use what your mama (and McDonalds) gave you…that body mass is perfect for carving out paths in crowded areas
– Remember…if you have to look straight up to see it…it can poop straight down on you
– The snakes may not all be behind glass, especially on the North Carolina Zoo’s paths
– Buy your tickets early online…there’s nothing worse than having to wait for an hour in the sun…well the walk from North America back to Africa is definitely up there
– Be sure to hit the ladybug playground with your young children…that will tire them out enough to sleep through the rest of the walk
– Bring a stroller for younger children…if you can barely make it back to the car yourself, adding 50 pounds may bring a different outcome

Fat Guys Running Marathons would love to hear your zoo trip story or any other comments about the blog. Feel free to comment on the site or send an email to

Attitude and Effort Award

This section is dedicated to acknowledging someone or something that has displayed incredible attitude and effort. If you have ever worked with me, you likely are dumbfounded by how long it took me to use these words on this blog. Attitude and Effort is a motivating concept focused on controlling the controllable aspects of a person’s life. People have the opportunity to learn and improve at any skill, but attitude and effort are two intangibles that must come from the heart and mind of each individual to be successful.

The Boston Marathon took place this past Monday…how could I not pick a story from the race? It is, after all, the whole point of this blog. That, and my KFC fetish.

Kathrine Switzer completed the Boston Marathon on Monday at 70 years young with a time of 4:44:31. Most fat guys, including my former self, would be ecstatic to stand up continuously for 4 ¾ hours. But a 70-year-old marathon finish is just the tip of the iceberg on Kathrine’s story.

Fifty years ago, as a 20-year-old journalism student, Kathrine became the first woman to run the very same race. Today, Kathrine might be celebrated as the first woman to complete the greatest race in the world. Maybe she would be interviewed by Matt Lauer (Go Bobcats!) on the Today Show or maybe she would win an ESPY.

But, 1967 was a very different time.

What happened then? Not only was she not allowed to register as a female (she had to use her initials instead of her first name), but the race director literally tried to drag her off the race course. Can you imagine the Twitter storm that would have caused today?

You can read more about Kathrine’s incredible story here.

Training Time

In this section each week, I will provide updates on my training for the Boston Marathon qualifying race. If you are looking for tips on heart-rate zones or the physiology of running, you may want to look elsewhere. If you want some content on chafing prevention and pre-race Pop Tarts, you’ve found your place!

It’s time to take out the trash.

Trash miles…that is.

Training for a marathon can take many different forms. You can find a training plan online, pay a coach to customize a training plan just for you, or simply just go out and run a certain number of days each week until you can run far enough fast enough. The latter has been my plan of choice over the last three (and only) years of my running career…well, minus the “fast” part.

To qualify for the Boston Marathon, I can no longer rely on my mediocre-at-best natural athletic talent to carry me through. I need to train smarter and with a purpose.

In the past, I have planned training runs based simply on the number of miles per run, or per week. Some days would be at a slow pace, other days would be at an even slower pace.  If I was tired one day, I may have ran a 10-minute mile, if I felt really good one day, I may have ran a 8:30-minute mile pace. It didn’t matter…the goal was to get my ass across the finish line regardless of how many hours it took.

This is different.

To qualify for Boston, I need to train my body to run faster. To do so, workouts need to be focused on improving specific aspects of my performance…or finding some sort of performance to begin with. Aspects include speed training, climbing, descending, cross-training, strength training, etc.

Below is what I’ve come up with. It is not scientific…it’s a start.

Monday: Strength Training/Ellipticizing
Tuesday: Tempo Run 6-8 Miles at specific pace
Wednesday: Speed Training (3 Miles) + Strength Training
Thursday: Hill Repeats (4-6 Miles)
Friday: Strength Training/Ellipticizing
Saturday: Long Run
Sunday: Recovery Run (Half of long run)

Each workout has a specific purpose with no more “trash” miles that serve little training purpose. Let’s see how this goes…


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