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First Friday Interview: Crystal Bacon, 2016 Broad Street Run Winner

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The 38th annual Independence Blue Cross Broad Street Run (BSR) takes place on Sunday, May 7 in Philadelphia. As the largest 10-mile race in the country, it’s an event that Philadelphians take a lot of pride in. We thought featuring last year’s female winner, Crystal Bacon, for this month’s First Friday interview would be a great inspiration before the big day.

Finishing in just under an hour, Crystal shares how she trained for the gold, what advice she has to stay motivated throughout the race, where she loves to run, and more!

PPRG: Congratulations on winning the women’s division in the 2016 Broad Street Run! Your progress over the years has been phenomenal; you moved from 8th place three years prior to 4th place to winning! How did you feel crossing the finish line last year in 57 minutes and 7 seconds?

CB: Anytime I train for a race, I always want to improve my overall time, and placing well is just an added bonus. However, last year when I noticed the camera car following me, I quickly realized this race was going to become less about time and more about strategy to make sure I stay in the top position. It was about mile three when I had this realization. But from past race experiences, I was certainly not too naive to know that a lot can happen in seven miles. Running a strategic (conservative) race and still being a few seconds from my overall PR (personal record) was actually very surprising.

PPRG: What were your goals and expectations going into the race? How do you set goals for yourself?

CB: Last year, my biggest goal was to go out slower than I had in past years. The first mile of the Broad Street Run is mostly a gradual downhill, and it’s so easy to go out fast. This year, my coach actually had someone pace me for the first two miles. After two miles, he took off and I was on my own. Our hopes were I would run even splits to set me up for a new personal best. The pace we chose was based on how my training had gone as well as past races.

PPRG: Now that you’ve come in first place, have your goals changed?

CB: I will always train to PR, but just like last year, depending on the competition I am running against, race plans can change at any point of the race.

 

PPRG: What types of training have worked for you, and what have changed throughout your training?

CB: Over the last few years, I’ve tried a lot of different ways to train but it always involves: long runs, tempo runs, interval workouts, and recovery days. (Lately, all of this will be within a 10-12 day cycle.) Long runs allow me to build up endurance to last the entire race. Tempo runs always make me the most nervous, but they are so rewarding when complete. They can be combined with a long run or be a completely separate day. You’re basically teaching your body to run at a higher intensity for a long period of time. Interval workouts help me maintain some speed throughout the training, and recovery days are the most important of all.

In fact, for the last few years, I have thrived off of running six days of the week instead of seven like I used to in college. I also make sure to listen to my body when it needs a slower than normal day. Strength training is another important aspect of my training, and this year I added yoga since it is my method of making sure I stretch!

PPRG: How long ave you worked a trainer, and do you recommend a professional trainer to others?

CB: I have had a few different coaches over the years with very different training philosophies, and I have learned a lot from all of them. Although I am also a cross country/T&F coach at Ursinus College, I still choose to have a coach help me with my training because it holds me accountable and we can all learn from each other.

PPRG: Where do you practice? Are there any trails you’d suggest?

CB: I do a lot of my long runs on the Schuylkill River Trail, because I like to simulate what it will feel like racing BSR and it doesn’t get much better than a straight paved path. Valley Green is also one of my all-time favorite places because it allows my body to run on a softer surface.

PPRG: What keeps you motivated and pushes you through to the end?

CB: In order to keep my mind distracted, I usually look ahead at objects and make mini goals. “I’m going to surge until that traffic light” or “Let’s slowly catch that guy in the blue shorts.” Last year’s Broad Street Run was very different than other years because from mile three until the finish line a stranger (at the time) willingly let me draft off of him. Whether wind is involved or not, it also allows you to mentally “rest” and just follow a front runner. Usually people will draft off of many different people during the race, but without words spoken, we worked together. At mile nine, he looked behind, saw no women nearby, and started to pump up the crowd by throwing his arms up, pointing, and yelling “First female!” Luckily, we have a mutual friend, and we were able to connect after last year’s race so I could formally thank him.

PPRG: That’s an amazing part of the story! Sounds like a very #whyilovephilly moment. What do you love most about the Broad Street Run?

CB: I LOVE the atmosphere of this race. Of all the races I have ever ran, no crowd will ever compare to what you experience at the Blue Cross Broad Street Run. The spectators will cheer with so much energy, as if they know everyone in the race. They are lined throughout the entire 10 miles. Along with that, I know a lot of people use this race as their first longer race. It is always very motivating to see what barriers people overcome to train for the BSR. Let alone, completing a 10 mile race for the very first time!

 

PPRG: What is your regimen the night before and morning of the big race?

CB: On Saturday morning, my husband and I will get a 10-20 minute pre-race run in with some strides afterwards. Then we head to the Broad Street Run expo to look at all of the vendors. I do my big carb-loading dinner two nights before, so on Saturday, I like to get protein, rice/potatoes, and some veggies. We like to pick a motivating movie to watch before bed, which usually involves one of the Rocky movies. (Rocky IV is Bob’s favorite because of the famous workout scene.) I always make sure to focus on getting extra sleep the entire week prior. On Sunday morning, we always wake up extra early to meet friends and get to the start line.

PPRG: What thoughts run through your head during the final miles?

CB: “Why do I do this to myself?” “Where the heck is the finish line?” and in last year’s case, “How far is the next female behind me?” It’s so easy to let negative thoughts take over when our bodies are feeling fatigued.

PPRG: Ha, we can definitely relate to those thoughts! Your strength to push through is such an inspiration. What other races and/or hobbies do you enjoy?

CB: I enjoy switching up the race distances. Last year, I focused on longer races. This year, I’ve moved back down to shorter ones and even some track races. I think switching it up prevents you from getting “stale.” It’s been a tough comeback after taking the fall off from training to plan my wedding.

Outside of running, I love to garden. This is something I learned from my mother, but I still consider myself a “beginner”. It’s also always a good excuse to spend some mother-daughter time together. Plus, it’s incredibly rewarding to cook the food you have grown yourself!

Although Crystal is not running in this year’s BSR race due to another commitment, she wishes EVERYONE who is a good luck on Sunday! Keep up with Crystal’s running adventures by following her on Instagram. Follow Broad Street Run on Twitter and use the hashtag #BCBSR17 to talk everything BSR this weekend!

 

Are you running in this year’s BSR? If so, share what you are you most looking forward to in our comments section?

 

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