Twelve Weeks of Wins: RUNGRL Training Program Highlights

 Photo: Sha'Neal Jourdan

Photo: Sha'Neal Jourdan

by RUNGRL Staff

Twelve weeks of hard work, sweat and sisterhood ended in hugs and hardware as the 12 women in our National Women’s Half Marathon training program raced for their goal on Sunday in Washington, D.C.

Back in February, the group set out to push themselves to run a better race than they’d ever individually run before. The RUNGRL founders put together the training plan and invited six other runners—Necole Jackson, Courtney Littlejohn, Aurélie Mathieu, Lizz Rene, Perri Smith and Lauren Williams—to join them on what would be an eye-opening, 12-week journey.

The Training Plan

Kicking things off with a RUNGRL retreat, the group got together to get to know one another better, discuss the details and expectations of the program and establish the “tribe vibe” that would set the tone for the coming weeks. They also established specific pacing goals they wanted to accomplish by the end of the program, to help hold themselves and each other accountable.

Each participant received a special National Women’s Half Training Plan(ner) + Journal to guide their training and provide a place to document their individual experiences. Each week of the plan was laid out in detail, with scheduled run types and distances, cross-training workouts, suggested nutrition tips and mental strength exercises. As the program progressed, they were encouraged to reflect on their feelings each week, to note what worked for them (and what didn’t) and to ask questions, should they arise.

“The plan was thoughtful and well-rounded. It provided us with guidance in all areas from nutrition to recovery and introduced new skills like fartleks and track work that not every runner is aware of (or utilizes) to gain speed,” said Lizz.

The group checked in daily via group chat, held group workout sessions and organized individual runs among those whose schedules and locations aligned.

Twos are Better

A big component of the training plan was pairing each RUNGRL with an accountability partner. This provided one-on-one focus to help boost each runner in addition to the full group’s support.

“Having accountability partners was the best idea. They not only held each of us accountable to each other, it was also a good push for days that we just didn't have the energy to run. Knowing that someone else is enduring the same challenge that you are can help change your mindset and get you out there with them,” said Lauren. “Shouts to those weekday 6:00 a.m. runs!”

The ladies made it their mission to lift one another up, sending extra texts and calls to make sure no one would forget to show up to a run or workout.

“Training with Dominique as my ‘partner-in-shine’ definitely played a major part in my progress plus, we had so much fun in the process,” said Aurélie Matthew.

“Being able to workout as a group kept us accountable but also allowed for more motivation,” said Co-founder Dominique. “Each woman had a time when the training plan was kicking her butt, but it always seemed the group workouts were meant for us to be pushed, while also providing support in person and it meant just a bit more.”

Switching it Up

“Cross-training variety was important. The fact that the group was able to do everything from yoga to HIIT workouts to cycling, gave us a new challenge every time and helped to work different muscles to aid in our training,” said Lizz.

“The group dynamic was a plus, because it provided accountability and ensured that our cross-training actually happened,” said Lauren. “Often times runners may skip cross-training and solely focus on miles, but miles alone will not make you the strongest runner you can be.”

Inspiring Others

 Photo: Sha'Neal Jourdan

Photo: Sha'Neal Jourdan

A big part of the program was documenting the experience of the RUNGRL 12 on social media. Of course, the group wanted to share the exciting challenge they were all taking on but, more importantly, they hoped to inspire fellow Black women runners and aspiring runners to get out and “get those miles” as well.

“Sharing these videos and photos on social media has had a real impact,” said Co-founder Na’Tasha Jones. “Out of the 12 of us, someone from the group was running nearly every day. There were so many people that would comment on our posts and send us messages about how inspired they were to see women that looked like them out there running and challenging themselves. That is exactly why we set out to do this.”

Game Time

After weeks of preparation, race day arrived on April 29. Anxious and excited, the girls all met up early in the cold morning to head to the race together. They discussed their goals and fears, prayed together and set off for the race.

In the end, several of the program participants met and exceeded their goals. The group walked away with 12 proud finishers and seven PRs.  

“I’m so amazed by all of the strong, Black women that I saw out on the course today,” Perri shared on social media after the race, “I’m incredibly grateful for my RUNGRL tribe.”

The RUNGRL training program showed these 12 women that although it felt great to finish the race they worked so hard for, the truth was that they had already been winning through 12 weeks of training.

“We were able to visibly see our improvements and put meaning behind training as a group,” said Dominique.

Read more about the training program and the 12 (badass) participants here.