Meet Me At The Bar(bell)

The importance of lifting weights and adding cross training to any runner’s regimen has been stated time and time again. I didn’t realize just how important it actually was until I was beginning mile 24 of the Chicago Marathon in 2011. Everything was falling apart as I hit “the wall” and if you’ve ever run the Chicago Marathon before, at mile 26.1 you’re blindsided by a wildly steep hill. I was lucky to have survived that hill in the shape that I was in. I relied on pure grit the last 2.2 miles of that race to finish with a time of 3:28. It was as I was forcing down three sips of the “finisher’s beer” that I decided I needed to find a better way to train.


I walked into my first CrossFit gym having only seen what was on tv: big guys lifting heavy weights. I was intimidated to say the least. I couldn’t do an unassisted pull up and my squat depth needed work thanks to a little flexibility issue (hello, runners). Workouts were tough and soreness was plentiful. I stuck with it because coming from a runner’s world to CrossFit, I had what most didn’t: lungs and the ability to mentally breakthrough pain barriers. The metabolic-conditioning workouts were tough but became an obsession. The squats became easier as my legs became stronger. The length of my runs was decreasing just as my mile-split times were.



Just 8 weeks after the Chicago Marathon, I crept toward the 3:20 pacer at the Las Vegas Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon. I was uneasy because all I had known before Chicago were the slow, long-distance training runs. The previous 8 weeks, I didn’t run any double-digit mile runs and had focused on my strength training with CrossFit. I was uneasy as I toed the starting line preparing for another 26.2 miles. For the next 3 hours and 19 minutes, I ran strong. I never hit the wall, never cramped and never had a negative thought creep into my mind as I PR’d by more than 8 minutes. I was sold.



I still run. I lift more, however. I have completed a full Ironman in Louisville, KY in 2012 and I just finished my 5th marathon at the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon this past April using CrossFit as my primary training program. I now coach and train runners to become strong ATHLETES. Power and speed are critical components to success in the endurance world. By taking baby steps and incorporating weights to your workouts, you are ensuring yourself that you will be able to finish that 5k, 10k, half marathon or full marathon…. FASTER AND STONGER.


Ryan Doonkeen is a CrossFit and CrossFit Endurance Trainer at Koda CrossFit in Oklahoma City, OK. Photos courtesy of Chad Hamilton.

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