How They Train! Lisa Unger

December 2012


  • 45

How many years have you been running?

  • I did not compete in high school or college cross country or track. I have been running for 15 years.  I started running as an adult at the age of 30.  My first running experience was at the Godby High School track and all I wanted to accomplish was a single lap without stopping.  12 years later I had worked my way up to completing the Tallahassee Ultra Distance Classic 50k. 

Lifetime personal records

  • 1 mile – 6:58 (BOT ’01)

  • 5k – 23:52 (Palace ’05)

  • 10k – 49:58 (Azalea Trail ’02)

  • 15k – 1:21:09 (River Run’02)

  • 20k – 1:59:55 (Pine Run ’05)

  • 30k – 3:05:10 (GWTC ’05)

  • Marathon – 4:23 (TLH ’05)

  • 50k – 6:13:59 (Ultra ’09)

What are your training goals?

  • Currently, my running has become more like training for life rather than for events. My main goals are good health, stable weight and setting a positive example for my daughter. In order to accomplish those goals, I try to run 4 or 5 days a week, but I try to not get too worried about missing a day when necessary. I’m trying to keep my running pleasant while enjoying the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.

Consider your training over the past 6 months to one year.  How many miles a week do you typically run when not injured and consistently running?

  • This past year has brought a drastic change to my running.  Work and family obligations have forced me to adopt an early morning time frame to squeeze in my run.  With such limited time during the week, my mileage has dropped from an average of 30 miles to an average of 15-20 miles per week.

What does your typical week of running look like?

  • Monday: 3 miles easy or rest  
  • Tuesday:Hot yoga (heated room)        
  • Wednesday: rest
  • Thursday: 3 miles, 2 easy/1 tempo
  • Friday: 3 miles easy
  • Saturday:6-8 miles, increasing as the 10 Mile Challenge approaches  
  • Sunday:4-5 miles easy

How does your training vary over the course of a year?

  • I usually run longer distances in fall and winter and begin to back off in the summer. In the summer I run in my neighborhood early in the morning at 5:15 AM, and then hurry on to work.  In the winter I run on a walking path that is near my office.  I change at work and run at 5 PM, and then hurry on home. 

How has your training changed over the years?

  • Over the past 15 years my training has had peaks and valleys. 2002 started very well for me, but I had a baby at the end of the year, which caused a major change. I gradually regained my fitness and in 2005 I had another really good year. I spent the next several years focusing on longer distances and then changed again to the more moderate running plan that I now follow.

Do you take recovery or down time?

  • Each week I take at least one day of full rest, sometimes 2 or more.

Do you peak for certain races?

  • I find I run my best in the spring after running longer distances throughout the winter. I look forward to the Springtime 10k and Gate River Run 15k.

How much sleep do you usually get at night?

  • I try to get 7-8 hours of sleep each night.

What time of day do you normally run?

  • During the week my run begins at 5:15 AM, on the weekends I enjoy a leisurely 9 AM or later run.

What injuries have hampered your training over the past year? 

  • I have been dealing with an inflamed piriformis (hamstring attachment to buttocks) for the past several years.  It has been uncomfortable and has caused me to slow my pace considerably, but otherwise has not been debilitating.  I just have to adjust my pace and occasionally walk a few steps to relieve the temporary pain in my leg.

Do you take any dietary or medical supplements?

  • I do not take any supplements and rarely use anti-inflammatories or other medications.  I do try to watch my diet and consume the standard 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day, as well as healthy dairy, carbohydrates, and proteins.

What type of running shoes do you prefer?

  • I wear Asics shoes almost exclusively.

Do you race in a different type of running shoe?

  • Sometimes. I have one pair of light weight Asics DS trainers and one pair of Brooks shoes that I wear for races.  But when my piriformis is acting up, I usually resort to regular training shoes such as GT- 2160’s.

Do you use weight training?

  •  No, I do not use weight training, unless you count lifting my daughter, Lilly.

Do you stretch? 

  • Yes.  I use static stretching a few nights a week and have started doing “hot” yoga (heated room up to 100 degrees) once a week.

What are your favorite running routes?

  •  My favorite place to run is Forest Meadows, but I haven’t been able to get there for some time.  I also like running on my neighborhood roads, which lead to a landing on Lake Jackson and the Indian Mounds state park.  I have run at the Miccosukee Greenway a few times and would like to get there more often.  

What running resources do you like that would benefit someone else?

  • I read Runner’s World cover to cover each month.  I also read Women’s Health and scan through Running Times and of course, the Fleet Foot!  I also view the GWTC web page almost daily.

What examples can you give of specific training methods, and what were the results?

  • For several years I ran the Tuesday night intervals and I definitely posted faster race times while doing so.  There is a noticeable difference in my race times now that I don’t run the intervals anymore.  I found trail running to increase my overall strength, especially in areas like my knees and ankles which are sometimes overlooked when running only on paved roads.  Distance events require long, slow, distance training.  During the different phases of my running, I used the different training techniques based on my desired running goals. I found each of the different techniques to produce the expected results of faster times, better form, and increased endurance.

What advice do you have for beginning or experienced runners to help them with their training?

  • I just finished reading an article in Runner’s World by Amby Burfoot in which he discusses maintaining a lifetime running program.  He mentioned the quote by Robert Browning, “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp–or what’s a Heaven for?”  I think each runner should learn his or her own limitations and then strive to move past them.  But a runner should also listen to their body and not push so hard as to break down.  It’s a fine balance, but with goals in mind, it can be achieved.