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I’ve Never Gone All the Way

By Carolyn Palombo

13.1. Always a bridesmaid and never a bride. The ultimate running experience seemingly out of my reach…the marathon.  My personal Everest.

As I picked up my race packet for the Richmond Half Marathon, I could only focus on the fact that my shirt was red. I couldn’t tell you what it said or anything about the graphic. It was red. The marathon shirts were blue. Why couldn’t the shirts be the same color? Why did everyone there have to know that I was only running half the race? I wanted that marathon star on my belly like Dr. Suess’ Sneetches. This was ‘race’ discrimination! Where was Sylvester McMonkey McBean when you needed him?

As I finished half of the real race, my feet were throbbing and pain was shooting down my back. However, I felt no sense of accomplishment or joy afterwards. Strangely enough, if someone had put a gun to my head and said go back and run that again, I would have invited them to pull the trigger. So why do I think I should even attempt a marathon if I found 13.1 miles so brutal?

The good Lord answered my plight with an email. (Actually it was from Sports Backers, but I’m sure God wanted me to read it.) The byline caught my eye — “If you make it to the finish line, does it really matter how you got there?“. The story was written by a 55 year old woman who was preparing for the NYC marathon ( She was using the Galloway method to train; a combination of gentle running and regular walk breaks, along with checking your ego at the front door.

Heck, I could do that! After the initial excitement subsided, I wondered what Coach Brenda would think. Here’s a woman who powers through every run, digs deep, doesn’t lose focus, and beats the pants off others half her age. I suspected she would turn up her nose and snicker quietly at the thought of run/walking a marathon. I was afraid to tell her. However, I put on my big girl panties and ‘fessed up. Coach Brenda said she would love to work with me to create a plan. I was overjoyed.

I finally feel like this ultimate goal is attainable with help and support from my coach. On paper, I’m a mess — 50 yr old woman with arthritis in both feet, scoliosis, disk degeneration and asthma. However, now I feel I can get off the porch and run with the big dogs. If I get that blue shirt next year then watch out Richmond. I may start saving for a trip to Nepal.

Fun Times

Coach Brenda training with Sandy Henderson at Huguenot Park!

Look out Boston Marathon!

Peak Runner traveling the world…

Reid Taylor representing Peak Running and Fitness in Florence, Italy!

Way to go, Jason!

Congratulations to Jason for winning 1st in his age group!

Jason won gold for his age group today at city point 5k in Hopewell, VA in pouring rain

and 41 degrees with time of 22:56.  He was 29th overall in the race of at least 250 runners .

His Mom, Susan, also finished with a personal best 5k at 29:18.

Congratulations Jason and Susan!


“I did it!!!!”   I just wanted to say “Thank you Brenda” for all of your help over the past five weeks.  Your help in my time trial preparation was just what I needed.  Thank you for pushing me when I needed it, thanks for believing that I could do it when I wasn’t able to. Now I know that I can and I have!  It has been so nice to work with someone that is passionate about what they do and there is no question that you “live” running.  Your positive outlook and motivation definitely helped at 6:30 in the morning!  Continued success with training/coaching Richmond’s runners…anyone would be lucky to have you as their trainer.

~Jason Gray

Summer Football Conditioning Camp

We had a blast with this group of young football players to condition them for the upcoming season!   We worked on running endurance, strength, agility and explosive power exercises to get them ready for fall football.  Way to go, team!

Youth Football Participants

My Love Affair with Running (Not)

By Carolyn Palombo

I don’t like to run. Really. So when Brenda asked us to “think about all the wonderful reasons we run”, I drew a blank. I would prefer to enjoy a good book, the company of friends, or a fabulous meal in a climate-controlled environment. So why do I continue to sign up for training year-round with her? Maybe I should start at the beginning.

I originally became involved with Brenda because I wanted to check an item off my bucket list — the Monument Ave 10K. A couple of my friends were running, so I decided to join them in their training (after all, misery loves company). Brenda coached us through the race, and once completed, I was ecstatic. I never dreamed that I could run that far! In fact, I was so high at that moment that I made a pact with my friends to train for the half marathon.

I will sign up for my third half marathon training session in a few weeks, and I can’t for the life of me figure out why?. I thought maybe a pro/con list could help me make sense out of my strange relationship with running.


  1. Leaving my comfort zone
  2. Feeling like I can’t go another step
  3. Humidity
  4. Getting up early to run
  5. Races
  6. Sweat stinging my eyes


  1. Leaving my comfort zone
  2. Feeling like I can’t go another step…and then doing it
  3. Conquering the humidity
  4. Getting up early to run and having your exercise behind you for the day
  5. Post-race brunches with Bloody Mary’s
  6. Sweating
  7. Solving world problems (usually takes 3+runners and an hour)
  8. Learned how to use an ipod
  9. Friendships I’ve forged
  10. Brenda

Funny, it seems like much of what I dislike about running is actually in the “Likes” category, with a twist. I guess any affair is complicated, and my relationship with running is no different. I don’t see double rainbows at the end of every run, and more often than not, curse the fact that I could be laying in bed instead of driving to Huguenot Park at some ridiculous hour of the morning to run so many miles that are too long and hard for me to achieve. But I do it. And Brenda knows I can and I will. And I guess that’s really enough for me.

Hill Training: Athletes wanting that extra edge

I’m a fan of hill training, believing that this training method can make a difference in your running and keeping you injury-free. Here are a few benefits for endurance athletes.

Did you know hill training:
1) helps develop power and muscle elasticity
2)improves stride frequency
3)develops coordination, encouraging the proper use of arms during the driving phase and feet in support phase
4)develops control and stabilization as well as improved speed (downhill running)
5)promotes strength endurance
6)develops maximum speed and strength (short uphill runs)

Lastly,  running hilly courses is a good way to increase mental toughness and train your body to endure sustained effort.  As with any endurance sports,  it will take time to see the benefits.  And doing more can lead to burn out or injury.  Consistent and progressive training is the best method; along with a little patience, which will help take your running to the next level.

This is the ups and downs of running hills.

Coach Brenda

Double PR

As I approached the start line of my very first off-road marathon, I couldn’t help but be a little apprehensive. I knew that I’d trained harder than ever, felt stronger than ever, and was toeing the start line with the best coach ever, but all of those little thoughts that go through a runner’s head at the start line crept up in my brain anyway. What if I couldn’t find my groove? What if I had to use the bathroom? What if it started to rain? What if I fell? What if I just gave up at mile 18 (I have, in fact done this, so it wasn’t entirely ridiculous to think it)?

The starting pistol went off with a jolt. No, literally: people were milling about and then, BANG!, someone announced we were starting. I started my watch and took off, trying to keep a nice, even pace knowing I’d have to pick it up at the half. The first several miles were uneventful, until I had to pay a little visit to the bushes around mile 4. But no sweat, I was back on course in no time. Somewhere around mile 21 or 22, I could see a wall in the distant horizon. I wasn’t quite upon it, but it was there lurking, calling me to it. “This is where the real work begins”, I told myself. So instead of staring at that wall and running straight into it, I called into focus all of the training I had done and the race I had run just two week prior: a ½ marathon at which I set a 3 minute PR!

So after several internal monologues in which I told myself repeatedly, “Just hold whatcha got”, I made it to the finish line. I was in shock as I realized I’d set a 4 minute PR. Also, of five marathons, this was the first of which I ran all 26.2 without at least one 30-60 second walk break at a water stop. So really it was double PR day for me.

Wow. As I reflect back on this racing season, I’m still in awe that I was able to set two back to back PRs. I would not have been able to do either one without the training plans and continuous support Coach Brenda gave me throughout the season. I am so fortunate to have worked with her; she helped me see the potential I have within me and has shaped me as an athlete in numerous ways. Coach Brenda is the best!

~Alison Manning


There are certain moments in life that leave a mark.

I ran my first off-road marathon on Sunday, May 1. There is always a lesson to be learned in running a marathon; a lesson that can only be learned in the 26.2 miles. Many athletes, myself included, find it hard to get past the fear and doubt that creeps into your mind before and during a race— especially a marathon. However, I am learning; I am learning to trust my body, trust my training, trust my heart, and mostly trust God. I am learning that, instead of pushing so hard, I should focus on finding my rhythm, relaxing, listening, smiling and enjoying. I am learning not to be afraid to put myself out there without expectation. I am learning to be grateful to finish a race–any race–and know that it may not go the way I expect. I’m learning to embrace the challenges and use them to propel me forward. I’m learning that you don’t have to be afraid of pain. Because it hurts! I am learning that it’s okay if you’re not running the pace you planned. I’m learning that you never, never, never give up! Because, if you stay steady, stay alert and focus, you just may come home with that sweet victory!

Some friends and I ran the Potomac River Run Marathon on the first of May. It was a cool, clear day for running; we were excited with a few pre-race jitters. But we ran, we raced, and we persevered to the finish! All of us came home winners! I placed first overall in the women’s division. Alison, who’s been working with Coach Brenda at Peak Running, placed third overall, running a 4 minute PR.  Maribeth, another Peak Runner, placed third in her age group.

Race day is always a mystery unfolding; that’s what’s so humbling and exciting about it. The mystery is what keeps athletes coming back…because you never know what might happen.


~Coach BA