Tag Archives: marathon

New Year, New Perspective, New Peace

2014 was an amazing year for me as an athlete. If you would have told me 4 years ago that I’d be running marathons and writing about it, I would have laughed at you, and then pointed my finger at you and laughed some more. But here I am.

I was always the geek in high school. More worried about getting good grades, copy editing the school newspaper and getting to drama guild rehearsal on time than any type of sports. It wasn’t until later in life that I found my athletic competitive side. I compete with myself the worst. 2014 is evidence. If I go back just a bit to 2013, the year I ran my first half marathon, I can find my starting point. I ran my first 13.1 in 2 hours 16 minutes. Not bad for a newbie. I signed up for the Rock-n-Roll Half in Las Vegas later that year, with a kinda-sorta goal of finishing under 2 hours. Not impossible, but I didn’t truly understand the training needed to get there. I didn’t hit my goal. I finished in 2 hours 12 minutes. I was mad. Pissed off, ticked, you name it. Angry mad at myself. This is where I let my competitive side take over. I wanted that sub-2 hour half. Bad. I signed up for an April half marathon, and started training my ass off over Christmas week. I blew my goal away by finishing in 1 hour 55 minutes, setting a new Personal Record by 17 minutes. That was huge. I felt great! In my euphoria, I dove right into my next challenge (competitive side really burning high now) and signed up for my first marathon.

I set myself an aggressive goal to finish my first marathon in 4 hours. I figured if I could do a half in 1:55, that a 4 hour marathon was possible. I set my training plan and started training my ass off again. It was a hot and humid summer to train over. But I did it. Every day I got up and reminded myself that I had committed to running this marathon, both mentally, and by paying the entry fee. I was going to go make a good showing of it.

And this is where I fell down. Training for a marathon is no joke. I was running 5 days a week, and at peak, 50 miles a week. This takes a LOT of time. And effort. Add on top of that the fact that I’m a busy career man, with a challenging job during the day, and putting the finishing touches on raising a 17-year old girl to be a responsible adult, and an attentive husband to my stellar wife. That is a LOT to expect of anyone. But I did it. And what I found at the end was ugly.

I got to the point where I was dreading the run. Not another run on another hot day. I was so mentally exhausted that I kept questioning why I was doing this at all. Who was I trying to prove something to? I was physically exhausted most of the time as well. My training was aggressive to try and get me into shape to achieve my aggressive goal. But my 42-year-old body, while in pretty good shape, was having a hard time rising to the occasion. I realized I hated this. Hated it bad. I didn’t want to run anymore. It was all just too much. But my sense of duty that I committed to this race would not let me stop. So I didn’t.

I ran my marathon. I felt pretty good on race day, and mostly throughout the race. I was not in the right mental place to finish strong. I was mentally tired, and part of me just wanted to get it over with so I could get on with my life. My pace really suffered in the final 10K, as most first timers do, and I finished in 4 hours 33 minutes. Which, in retrospect, is a stellar time for a first-time marathoner in his 40’s. I finished on my own power. I should be more proud of the achievement. But whenever I think about it, all I can think about is how badly I felt at the end of all of that training.

I took most of the month of November off from running. I needed the break. Yeah I packed on a few pounds after being so active and then not. But it’s okay. I sort of started back running a little bit in December, but not much.

At the end of December, I ran one of my favorite runs, the Kris Kringle 5 miler. I hadn’t been out for a while and was certainly not in peak shape, but I went out and just ran. And I loved it. There was no pressure for a finish time or a PR. No mental grief over some expectation of performance. I just ran. And that’s when it hit me. This is how my running should be. It should be joyous that I have the strength to run, that I am able to run. I do so much love to run. Anything that detracts me from that feeling of joy in motion is bad, and I need to stay away from it.

So my goals for 2015 are to simply let go of any expectation of performance and just enjoy the crap out of my running. I’m already signed up for 7 5K’s, 1 10K, and 2 half marathons before the end of July. I don’t care how I finish. I’m just going to go and run them. And enjoy the crap out of each one. Because I can run, and I love to run. I’m going to focus more on cross training, and try to exercise something every day, because a stronger me will naturally become a faster, fitter me without having to pressure myself into some artificial goal. It will be what it is, and I’m going to be happy with it. So far, so good. I’ve been working out at something nearly every day, and am still feeling the love.

What are your goals for 2015? Have you ever felt this way about your training? How do you find “the happy” in each day’s run?

Time to Get Back to Work

Keeping up with a blog is a lot of work. There are lots of other people out there creating content, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel a competitive need to keep up. The pressure of maintaining my blog became a bit much, so I put this aside for quite a while. I was shocked to see my last post was March 2014. Shame on me.

A lot has happened since then. I have a lot to write about in the coming months. And my goal is to do better at maintaining my own space here, and not worry about keeping up with anyone else.

Thanks to those who stuck with me. I know, you probably just forgot. Well, thanks for forgetting :-).

Since my last post, a ton has happened to my life as a runner.

  1. I crushed my Half Marathon goal of finishing under 2 hours coming across the finish line at 1:55.
  2. I finished my first full Marathon in October; 4:33
  3. I nearly broke myself (mentally and physically) training for said marathon.
  4. I took all of November and most of December off from running
  5. I feel rested, recovered (mentally and physically), and ready to get back to training

I’ll circle back and recap those milestones over the coming weeks in more detail. I’m going to strive to be more regular with updates. I even have a guest blogger waiting for me to get off my duff and give up some space.

Here on the final days of 2014, I’m looking forward to what will come in 2015 already. Bring it!

 

Book Review: Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

Ok, I admit it. I’m late to the show on this one. I’m sure nearly every runner out there has already read this book. If you have, awesome. If you haven’t, go snag a copy and read it. If you love to run, you’ll love this book.

Born to Run (2009) by Christopher McDougall, who used to be an editor for Men’s Health magazine, started the journey that began with this book by asking a question about his own running, “Why do I keep getting hurt?”

It’s a great question. With all of our modern gear and technology, why are runner’s rates of injury so high? I won’t put any spoilers in this post, just in case you haven’t read it yet.

I initially found the book hard to follow. McDougall, like so many authors these days, writes in a “stream-of-consciousness” style; which basically means he writes exactly like thoughts flow through his mind, meandering around and jumping from topic to topic with little or no warning. I got used to his style soon into the book, and found the story so captivating that I didn’t care. I tore this book up, and finished it in just a few weeks. That’s really fast for me. I read books very slowly, soaking in every little detail.

There are a few major parts of the book I found delightful. Without spoiling the content, here were the major themes he covered:

  • Modern running gear does not prevent running injury. In most cases it makes them worse
  • The native Tarahumara tribes in the Copper Canyons of Mexico are reclusive, but are some of the greatest distance runners on Earth. And they run in thin sandals only.
  • Ultra-marathoners are crazy
  • Humans (Homo Sapiens) evolved as runners. We are literally born to be distance running machines

McDougall covers these topics in great detail, and paints colorful pictures of his cast of characters. The best part is that they are all real. I found myself especially captivated by how he wrote about the different races throughout the book. Being a distance runner myself, I could sympathize.

If you are an amateur runner like me, and you’re struggling with getting to that next distance milestone, or even asking yourself if it is all worth it, read this book. I found it so affirming. I guess lots of other people did, too, which is why it was on the best seller list for so long.

Feeling Gravity’s Pull

I ran my first Half-marathon last year (The ODDyssey in Philadelphia) in 2:15. I ran my second Half-marathon last November (The Rock-n-Roll Half in Las Vegas) in 2:12. I had an unrealistic goal for that second race, of finishing Sub-2 hours. My last training run where I did the whole 13.1, I ran in 2:09, so I really thought I could shave those last 9 minutes off and slide in to the finish. Long story short, I was disappointed.

So what did I do? I came home, figured out my next Half-marathon, and got into training. My next race is in April, so my 16-week training plan actually started the week of Christmas. I’m using the free, Sub-2 hour Half-Marathon training program in RunKeeper.  At the time I signed up, I was really focused on the goal. I reviewed the training plan and said to myself, “Sure I can fit in runs 5 days a week.” I had been training 4 days a week, so the extra day didn’t seem like too much more.

I think I was wrong. Here I am 6 weeks in, and I find myself beginning to struggle. The runs are getting long, which in and of themselves is not unreasonable, but trying to fit a 9 or 10 mile run in on a weekday is getting harder and harder. The schedule has me running Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, then Saturday and Sunday. Tuesday is usually some sort of strides (sprints), Wednesday is a steady, medium paced longish run, Thursday is Intervals, Saturday is short and slow, Sunday is race-paced long runs. The weekend stuff is fine, it is the weekend. It’s the weekday stuff that is starting to crush my soul. Mornings are hard, because it takes so long. It is very cold and dark outside, and really risky to try and get in a run right now. Lunch time is better, but again, it takes over an hour to get the plan run in, then shower and get back to work. Evenings are tough, but not impossible.

So now that I’ve over-shared my frustrations, I guess my questions out to the world of runners are:

  • How do you fit your training into a busy workday?
  • How do you stay committed to a goal when the training starts getting tough?
  • How do you become an accomplished runner and still hold down a demanding career?

I’m sure all of this can be done, and part of me knows I can do this. It gets hard to see the forest for the trees sometimes.

I’m really interested to hear what others have to say. What do you think?

Inspiring Australian Couple runs 365 Marathons in a Year

A good friend of mine forwarded this on to me, and I couldn’t help but be inspired beyond belief.

A couple in their 60’s started on New Year’s Day 2013 from Melbourne, Australia, and ran a marathon distance every single day. They finished their coastal circuit of Australia earlier today, one year from when they left out.

And if that wasn’t enough to be impressed about, both have been diagnosed with cancer, and are fighting it off through lifestyle changes and exercise.

And if that wasn’t enough to be impressed about, they have done this on a raw, vegan diet.

Wow. Just wow.

Watch the interview and read the write up for yourself, and may your 2014 be inspired.

The Goodness of Us

The world watched a week ago aghast as two bombs erupted at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. The madness of the ensuing week were difficult to grasp as reality. It almost seemed like a movie to me. The people of Boston endured and now a mere week later, one suspect is dead and the other is in custody. Race running has been changed forever.

It is easy to focus on the horror during events like these. We tend to focus on these terrible people and what could drive them to inflict such pain on innocent people. Especially against a running event. This event was very personal to me, and in many ways, I feel like I’m going through this for the first time when the rest of the nation was able to go through it after September 11th, 2001. That was a different event for me, since I was still on active duty in the U.S. Air Force. My mind was in a different place back then, and I don’t think I experienced the full weight of the tragedy like most everyone else did.

In my previous post, not even 24-hours after the Boston attack, I think I was feeling much like I did when I was in the military. Anger, vengeance, defiance. I still feel those feelings, but they have been sidelined by a sense of hope and community. On Sunday, April 21st, 2013, I participated in the annual Valley Forge Revolutionary 5-mile Run. Less than a week after the tragedy, many of us went out to run in a place sacred to the Freedom of this country to show solidarity. It was stated during the opening remarks of that race, that our fraternity of runners was attacked. This was against us all. And so we ran. While the weather was a little on the cold side for a Pennsylvania April day, it was beautiful. And you can’t ask for a better venue than Valley Forge National Park. I’m guessing it was 3-parts hard training and 1-part inspiration for the day, but I got another personal record for this 5-mile race. My RunKeeper stats:

Valley Forge Revolutionary Run 2013

And then just one day later, on Monday, April 22nd, 2013, I had the privilege to participate in a local fundraiser run where all of the proceeds were donated to the Boston One Fund. I wasn’t sure what to expect for an event like this in Reading, PA. I was very pleasantly surprised. Over 800 runners showed up to donate to the fund and show our community we are not afraid. Among those 800 were 12 who had run in the Boston Marathon. It was moving to me that they were present, as probably the 12 among us most affected by this event. And yet, here they were, proudly wearing their marathon gear and running with us. The local news media was out as well. Channel 69 News aired a small segment about the run (the last 3 minutes of the video on this page). Our local newspaper, The Reading Eagle was also there, and also published a short article and 10 photos of the event. Another inspiring event, and it shows in my times:

Run For Boston 2013

 

I started to run in June of 2012 because I needed a new way to achieve my personal fitness goals. I’d tried diets, gym memberships, all kinds or gear and tech, but nothing was getting me where I wanted to be. I remembered struggling with running while I was in the military, but never really gave it a second thought after I separated. I never anticipated the community aspect of running, and today I sit here in awe. I have said before that runners are some of the best people I know. They are competitive and tough, sure. But they are also encouraging, supportive, and welcoming. The outpouring of the goodness of us leaves me humbled. It reminds me of an excellent posting I saw on Facebook right after Boston. I can’t sum up how I feel any better than comedian Patton Oswalt did:

“Boston. Freaking horrible.

I remember, when 9/11 went down, my reaction was, “Well, I’ve had it with humanity.”

But I was wrong. I don’t know what’s going to be revealed to be behind all of this mayhem. One human insect or a poisonous mass of broken sociopaths.

But here’s what I DO know. If it’s one person or a HUNDRED people, that number is not even a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the population on this planet. You watch the videos of the carnage and there are people running TOWARDS the destruction to help out. (Thanks FAKE Gallery founder and owner Paul Kozlowski for pointing this out to me). This is a giant planet and we’re lucky to live on it but there are prices and penalties incurred for the daily miracle of existence. One of them is, every once in awhile, the wiring of a tiny sliver of the species gets snarled and they’re pointed towards darkness.

But the vast majority stands against that darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and weaken and eventually wash away the evil doers and, more importantly, the damage they wreak. This is beyond religion or creed or nation. We would not be here if humanity were inherently evil. We’d have eaten ourselves alive long ago.

So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, “The good outnumber you, and we always will.” – Patton Oswalt

My Thoughts on Boston

Like most of the world, I’m still reeling from what happened at the Boston Marathon yesterday afternoon. The various news networks are all on-site showing every detail of the sheer horror that this cowardly act has wrought. I sat watching the news last night, debating if I should write this yet, or wait a while to sort out my thoughts a bit more. I decided to sleep on it.

I woke up this morning to the news pouring in. Instead of sitting and staring at the news, I put on my gear and went for a run. It’s really when I do my best thinking. That act alone decided for me that I needed to get fingers to keyboard right away. There are a few things that need to be said that aren’t being said yet in the major media.

While I have no idea who did this, or what their motive was, I can tell you that if whoever did this was trying to scare runners, they were sorely mistaken. Distance runners are not just physically tough, but mentally tough. Really, really tough. Short distance running is all physical. Long-distance running is all mental. These marathoners know how to pace their bodies and keep on running when that little voice inside their head starts screaming for them to stop. Twenty-six miles is no joke. Think about it. Most people I know think driving in their car somewhere that is 26 miles away is “too far”. Marathoners RUN that. Without stopping.

Another thing not being discussed is how runners are a community. A strong community. Most people who don’t run distance races might not know this, but runners are extremely positive and encouraging to other runners. This was something I didn’t realize until one of my first “long” races, where complete strangers were giving me high-fives and words of encouragement as I completed my run. I found myself starting to do the same. The pattern perpetuates itself in a very affirming and positive way. You can’t shake community like that with anything.

To me, running is a celebration of life and health. I’m 40 years old, my hair is turning gray, but hey, I’m out there and I can still run. Nothing is going to turn me away from that. I’m pretty sure that most of the runners in Boston feel the same way. So whoever did this, you lost before you even started. Nothing you did is going to stop runners from running, or stop the Boston Marathon (or any other big run around the country) from happening in the future. We are runners, and we’re tougher than you. We are runners, and have faced down injury, fatigue, and long miles. You don’t frighten us. Not even a bit. Now that you decided to mess with our pinnacle event, this community is going to do everything it its tough power to bring the full weight of justice to bear on you. I hope you can run fast and long, because you’ll have to if you think you’re going to outrun us. We’re going to catch you.