With the 30th year of my life looming in the not too far future I have begun to experience the sensation known as aging. For the first year in a long time I raced just once and ran sporadically and the affects have shown. To the average American being “out of shape” is inevitable, but for runners it means a race against you and father time. While I admit that my diet is less than healthy I know that running was/is my cushion between a healthy life and well, the other kind. Being a runner in today’s society generally means that the average person looks at you and thinks you’re a fitness freak or a health nut. In reality we are a community of individuals looking to prolong our lives and increase our enjoyment of life.
- Watching other succeed is more enjoyable than succeeding yourself
As a teammate in high school and college I will have to admit that seeing myself succeed may have been more important to me than watching those around me succeed. It may be selfish but I was raised to want to be the best that I could be. With that disclaimer out of the way I would have to say that coaching high school athletes over the past 5 years might have been more rewarding than the 387 races that I have run over the past 10 years. In 2012 I had the privilege of watching one of my first high school runners finally making a state xc race and running out of his mind to be the first all-state runner in the high school’s history. I had a chance to enjoy watching our girls 4x800 team win the first state track title for a school that was only in its second year with two of the girls headed on to successful college careers. For those who know me well I more likely to be egotistical or at least self centered than selfless, but as with all people I am always evolving. If you ever have the opportunity to coach, help pace a friend, or just go out and cheer for runners at a local race please take advantage and enjoy it.
- Get back to enjoying running
While taking a hiatus from competitive running I rediscovered the most coveted revelation about running… YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO ENJOY IT! Even for the individual that is sickly addicted to running, there has to be a break or a time to step back and reflect. I know running was pretty enjoyable when I could walk into almost any race and know that I could place in the top 10 no matter who showed up, but this year was different. In all I may have averaged something like 12-15 miles a week, but I enjoyed every step of every run. When there is no concept of pace, effort, or distance there is nothing but enjoyment. I enjoyed running with my new dog, turkey trotting with my new wife, and knowing that when I didn’t run in the morning before work it wasn’t the end of the world.
- If you have the chance go to the Olympic Trials
In the summer I enjoyed a second mini honeymoon to Tracktown USA. While staying with the Brooks corporate crew and hanging with the Flotrack “junkies” through the week. If there is any way to get a childlike excitement about track spending a week engulfed in the elite competitors, Olympic atmosphere, and sharing epic stories with legends of the sport is perfect. I watched a competitor from my D3 college conference compete in the 800, a hometown hero win and erase Steve Prefontaine’s 40 year old trial’s records, and the triumph of redemption when both 4th place finisher’s in the Marathon trials came back to earn their spots in the 10k. There are too many stories of triumph and defeat to know them all, but the pureness of sport that overwhelmed one North Pacific town for 2 weeks is indescribable.
- Dogs can be the best running partner, but its not easy
All my life I have had at least one dog and most of my life I have been a runner. The two paths had never crossed until this year. We adopted a 9 month old hound/sheppard/lab/???? mix from a local rescue and named him Miles thanks to our love of running. I learned early and often that jogging with a dog that is not used to being on a leash is not very easy. Nevertheless Miles and I came to an agreement, when I do run with him he pulls me downhill and I pull him uphill. When we finish we always need some H20 and even after a long run sometimes we want a little more. As a running partner a dog will not question your pace, complain about the terrain, or say ‘I can’t go any longer’. While I have had some great running partners in my life, Miles may prove to be the closest to perfect.
- Less energy spent = Less energy felt
It is an odd phenomenon. The less active you are in life the more lethargic you feel. Logic would dictate that if you run a lot you would be more tired throughout the day. In reality the more you run the more energetic and productive you will be in all of life. It is not surprising that if you sit at a desk all day without exercise or sunlight you won’t have much energy at the end of the day. We all live busy lives relatively speaking but whether we have 3 miles or 2 hours we should take the time to remain active.
- No matter what, non-runners will always think we are “fast”
This year I enjoyed one of my top running highlights in some time, I ran my favorite road race (York Turkey Trot) with my wife. While I had won this race in the past I had no intention of being competitive, but to those who knew me locally it was expected that I would be in front. When I said I would be just running for fun the response would be “yea right, you’re probably going to win.” This reminded me of a scene in a recent marathon documentary called “The spirit of the Marathon” where a first time marathoner was trying to convince her friends that she would not win the Chicago Marathon. Instead she had just hoped to finish. Although she finished some two hours after the top overall woman, she had completed her goal. However it is clear that the runner’s reality will always be worlds away from the perceived reality. With this year being the year of the “memes” it is clear that in all walks of life there are levels of perception, but running may be at the top of the ladder.
This is not a new revelation for any runner or myself but the best stress reliever is exercise. This past year I got married and started a new job, which had resulted in new kinds of stress. My marriage has yet to be stressful but the preparation for our wedding was enough to make my wife and I want to literally or theoretically run away and elope at times. And there were mornings were I didn’t sleep a wink thinking about a project or meeting for work, but as soon as I woke up and ran a few miles at sunrise I felt like a new spiritual being. Its simple running makes people happier and more relaxed, check the scientific data.
- The local running community is a basic model of how society should function
With the end of the world looming, an election for president pending, and society going to hell in a hand basket this year it’s hard not to reflect on how we are doing as a society. With that being considered I couldn’t think of a better model for an ideal society than the running community. Most races are put on by volunteers and for the benefit of a charity or local community; and although individuals are focused on their success, along the way they help pace, cheer, and support total strangers. Our friends and family come out in the summer heat and winter chill just to help us emotionally finish that big race we’ve been training for and no matter how we perform they are exponentially proud of us. Once a week or month everyone toes the line as an equal not considering financial or social class. Once each runner has crossed that coveted finish line they join friends, family, and strangers in a stress free jovial environment rarely found outside of the holiday season. While I know culture and society can be described in a much more sophisticated manner I would venture a guess that some of the nicest and most intriguing individuals I have ever met in life were dripping with sweat and eating a ‘recovery’ banana.
- Track will never be a mainstream sport, but we have a spotlight every 4 years
For those considered to be track geeks there will always be an ongoing battle for increased exposure of the sport. In reality we are the only ones who will fly to Eugene, Doha, or Monaco to watch people run in circles. We are that person watching Usain Bolt setting a world record in 2012 and feeling the need to throw out an obscure reference to how Justin Gatlin had failed a drug Test while at Tennessee in 2001. We are that person that can list each individual on the US 4x100 team from the qualifying rounds to the final over the past 4 years. But once every 4 years personalities like Usain Bolt or Ezekial Kemboi and inspiring stories like Oscar Pistorious or Meb Keflezighi take center stage, and for someone like myself its like Christmas, the super bowl, and the world cup rolled into one. With running centered websites and streaming video available online the running world has reached new levels of exposure and in depth perspectives into the life and training of the top athletes in the world. Unfortunately Lo lo Jones being a virgin will always get more press in America than David Rudisha’s absurd accomplishments over the past 3 years.
- Try to convince new runners that it can be fun if you know what you’re doing
When a new runner approaches the daunting task of training for a 5k or marathon the first question is generally “How do I start?” Everyone needs guidance when venturing into an unknown area of life so I feel it is our responsibility as people who have run a race or two to help ease the pain. Help them with proper running shoes, mileage progression, and for the love of God tell them that running does not mean you have to go fast. I recall my first 5k XC race in high school where I had no idea how to run because I had never been involved in a competitive foot race like that, so I just stayed with the team’s top runner and we finished side by side. That gave me an idea of how to race and led to a long career as a runner. Everyone can use a little help whether it discussing mileage or literally pacing a friend through a race or training session. Every runner should take time to talk to or help a newbie, I’m sure everyone had that assistance at one point or another.
- Be thankful
The holiday season is a time to reflect and be thankful for everything in our lives. In 2012 I followed and watch someone close to my wife reach an epic milestone in his path from recovery to greatness. Rob Jones is a graduate of the High School that I first coached XC at and he is the brother of one of my wives bridesmaids, but more importantly he is a Marine Corps veteran serving for our country in Afghanistan when an IED cost him the use of his legs. After amputation and a lengthy recovery process Rob found a new interest in rowing. Just two years after losing his legs he and his new mixed skulls partner not only qualified for the London 2012 Paralympics but also earned an Olympic bronze medal. While I can never comprehend the path or determination that lead from Afghanistan to London, it certainly forces me to reconsider what I perceive to be struggles or hurdles in life.