Running with Coach Bobby Szabo: Tackling the NCR 20 Miler

We took a few minutes to chat with Bobby Szabo, Charm City Run Training Group Coach, about his experience racing the NCR 20 Miler on September 25. Check out what was running through his head before, during and after conquering his first long distance race.


CCR: What motivated you to run the NCR 20 Miler this year?

Bobby Szabo: This was my first time running the NCR 20 Miler. I have done half marathons and shorter races but really wanted to test myself to see if I would enjoy something a bit longer, perhaps gasp, a marathon! I thought the NCR 20 Miler was perfect test because I heard it was fairly flat to downgrade, shaded, and the atmosphere of the race was very community like. 


CCR: What was your training like leading up to the race?

Bobby: Training was tough but rewarding. The toughest part was training in the summer heat with the infamous Howard County Hills. We have so many great places to run in Howard County- Centennial Park, Patuxent Branch Trail, Grist Mill, however they're all very hilly. But, I figured if I could beat those hills then the race should be no problem.

I am the 5K coach for CCR Columbia. We have a super awesome group down there and my training team always held me accountable to my training! Most proven way to train with success is to be part of a group. If you're going to train for a long race you really have to commit to it and finding time was hard with having a young daughter.


CCR: Describe your race day morning.

Bobby: Race day is always a time of excitement for me. Usually a day or two leading up to the race the anxiousness builds and I'm ready to go. Although I did have one massive hiccup when I woke up that worried me. I got out of bed and started having some pretty bad back spasms. I just made sure I took extra time to stretch and prepare before beginning the race and made sure to stay in tune with my body during the race.

Once we got to the start of the trail it was great to connect with all the familiar faces from the Charm City Run community.

Bobby's view at the start of the NCR 20 Miler.

Bobby's view at the start of the NCR 20 Miler.


CCR: Walk us through your race.

Bobby: The whole race was enjoyable- perfect weather, great trail and awesome volunteers at each stop. My favorite part of the race though was seeing all of my running friends that I have made through CCR coaching. We had a STRONG contingent running from CCR Columbia. 


CCR: What was the most challenging part of the 20 Miler?

Bobby: The most challenging thing was fighting off the back spasms and making sure to keep in my pace.


CCR: Were you able to run with other people at any point or did you mostly race on your own?

Bobby: For the first few miles everyone is packed together since it's a tight trail. After that, you kind of settle in to your pace and find people that are pacing consistently with you. The best thing about running such a long race is you get to talk to people along the way. Many people use this race as a training run for marathons they have coming up. So this race felt a lot about the journey and comradery throughout the 20 miles. Definitely a cool vibe.


CCR: How did you feel as you crossed the finish line?

Bobby: Awesome. Although in pain (the spasms didn't go away) I paced much better and demolished my goal. I remember coming through the final turn and superstar health coach Lauren heckled me because I sand-bagged what time I thought I was going to finish.

Bobby poses with daughter Ryan and her festive sign.

Bobby poses with daughter Ryan and her festive sign.

The best part of the race was the finish line because my wife and daughter Ryan were waiting to cheer me on the final hill! They even made a sign. Every time I go for a run, we sing the beginning of the Black Eyed Peas "Get It Started" where it goes, "and runnin runnin and runnin runnin" then Ryan yells the "woo-hoo" at the end. Seeing that sign with the lyrics on it made me forget about my tired legs.


CCR: What did you do to reward yourself post-race?

Bobby: Very big props to CCR for having Swedish Fish at the finish line, that was my immediate reward for this one. But I love beer. So watching the Ravens game after with a Jailbreak beer was the perfect reward.


CCR: What will you remember most when you think back on the NCR 20 Miler? And, qae you planning on running it again next year?

Bobby: Really just how much fun it was and how well I did. I would think if any of my current CCR Columbia runners plan to get to the 20 Miler starting line next year, then that's some pretty good motivation to do it again.


CCR: Do you have any advice for runners thinking about doing the 20 Miler next year?

Bobby: I encourage anyone who is thinking about running it to do it! I also encourage people who are currently running half marathons to think about setting it as a goal for next year. It is a very enjoyable and achievable 20 miles with the right training. And of course what better way to prepare than to train with us!

Thanks for sharing your NCR 20 Miler race experience with us, Bobby! We hope to see out there again next year.

Did you run the 20 Miler too? Share your favorite part and/or biggest challenge during the race in the comments below!