A Better Way To Run: Jess’ half-marathon class taught CrossFit Seattleites a lot they didn’t know—including the fact that they could finish, and finish strong

By Maureen O'Hagan Margo wanted a challenge she wasn’t quite sure she could meet. David and Dora wanted to see if a coach would help them beat their previous times.  Jared just wanted to do something new–and have a bunch of friends motivating him to get up and run Saturday mornings.

They all took Jess’ half-marathon class and ran in Seattle’s Rock ‘n Roll (Half) Marathon in June. And while their reasons were varied, they all came to the same conclusion. It was a great experience all-around: physically, mentally, and even socially.

CrossFit Seattle is offering the class again starting in September.

A class, you say? To learn how to run? Well, here’s the thing. Theoretically, you could just go out and do it. You could train for a half-marathon on your own. But would you?

And another thing: it turns out there’s a lot more to long-distance running than putting one foot in front of the other.

The 9 week class, led by Jess Mullen, CrossFit Seattle’s own long-distance running expert, includes training plans, weekly talks and tips, and a regular group run.

“I learned so much,” Margo said.

Jess has been running long distances for years. Her biggest achievement so far? Completing the Badwater Ultramarathon in July. That’s 135 miles, nonstop, in Death Valley.

It was her years of experience that attracted people to the class. They wound up learning about nutrition and race strategy, shoes and stride, tempo runs and splits and more.

David said when he trained for two previous marathons, pretty much on his own, the experience was miserable.  Jess’ information, and the opportunity to run in a group of varied speeds, helped him learn pacing—and push his own limits.

“The best lesson I learned was that I wasn’t pushing myself hard enough,” he said. “On the training runs, I spent a whole bunch of time wanting to save it for the end. Then I decided I was going to run the last ½ mile fast. Then it was a mile. Then it was two miles.”

His pace improved beyond what he had even hoped.

Dora learned how to run downhill. (Yes, there’s a right way and a wrong way.) During the race, she noticed a lot of people doing it wrong—including herself. Then she remembered what Jess said and took right off.

“It felt really good passing people,” she said.

Jared ran track and cross-country years ago, but Jess’ training taught him there was a lot he didn’t know.

“In high school, they’d basically say, ‘do this’ without much explanation,” he said. “Jess walked us through why. Why it matters how you run. That helped considerably.”

For a lot of people, the long Saturday morning group runs were the highlight. Jess mapped out a course, but everyone ran at their own pace. Most of the time, the fastest runners waited at the finish for everyone else, clapping and cheering. Afterwards, the group got together for brunch. They got to know one another.

“I went from not being sure I would be able to run that far to getting a really good finish time,” Margo said. “It was an amazing experience.”

Initially, some people worried that running would cut into their CrossFit schedule. But Jess built gym workouts into the training plan. And besides, Jared realized, one of the core tenets of CrossFit Seattle is variation.

“It gave me an opportunity to refocus my athletic aspiration for awhile,” he said. “It kept things fresh.”

At the end of the race, they all had similar thoughts.  It was a challenge, for sure. But running with other CrossFit Seattle members made it a lot more fun.

Now some of them have a new goal: run it again, even faster.

The next half-marathon class starts September 28, 2011; the fee is $80 for gym members or $225.00 for non-gym members. Are you up for the challenge?  Contact Jess (jessica@crossfitseattle.com) or Nancy (nancy@crossfitseattle.com) for more details.


Tushar Jain, Annelisa Hawkins, Elena Paul, David Glick, Jess Mullen, Jared Riley, Margo Carn, and Scooter Bostick

Running Group on a Saturday morning