Runner at Large

My whole life, I have viewed runners with a sense of awe. Now I am one of those, and I am extremely proud to be considered a runner.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Sometimes winter isn't so bad...

We've just completed Week One of Nashville Marathon training. This morning we did five and a half.

Last evening, all weather reports had a snow system heading our way. Depending on who you listened to, our little town could, get anywhere from 1" to 8". And it would start any time from morning to late afternoon. Meaning the day was wide open for anything.

We decided to just get up and go first thing. No sense in waiting for nothing or everything to happen, so we were out the door at 7:00 am on a Saturday.

It had started snowing over night, and we had a coating. It was enough to be beautiful. Weekend mornings have to be some of the most peaceful times to run, and weekend mornings after a snowfall just take it up a notch. It was quiet, it was pretty, and it was brisk. The snow added a bit more resistance (meaning I'm a bit more sore) and it was just Ted, me, the snow, and another set of footprints from another early morning runner (we're guessing because, like us, it was in middle of the road instead of the sidewalk).

I complain about cold and wind with everyone else. But mornings like this, I want to take it all back and just enjoy the weather for what it is. Winter.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Year In Review

Well, it's done. My 2008 goal of running at least a mile a day is finished and complete.

Ted ran my final mile with me at 6:00 am this morning. It was uneventful and normal, despite my attempts to make it bigger than it was--reminiscing over past runs, discussing past races. But it was just a run.

As a review of my goal, I started thinking back over the past year at this accomplishment. People I've talked to seem quite impressed that I've done this--however, I think I've been very fortunate this year.

I wasn't sick this year. I didn't have to run with a fever, or pains, or injuries. The weather was never extreme, and when I did complain about ice or cold, I had treadmills to fall back on. The mile a day was merely an inconvenience, at most. But I did learn many things.

1) People are happy to help.
Without the folks on the catamaran cruise Ted and I took in May, I wouldn't have been able to maintain the streak. I was fortunate to have fellow shipmates who understood the importance of a commitment, and made sure I found land at least once each day to run. And in some cases, ran along beside me.

2) Rest days are important, too.
And I'm looking forward to a rest day tomorrow.

3) Not every run is fun.
Before I started this, I had good and bad runs. I had times I didn't want to run, but once I started, I enjoyed the run and was glad I had gone. This year, there were quite a few runs that were miserable. I didn't want to go, and once I got out the door, the run didn't get better. I've realized that not every run gets better, and some just downright suck.

4) You can do it.
Whatever you set your mind to, if the determination is strong enough, it can be done. It's not always easy, it's not always fun, and it's not always convenient. But it's possible and knowing you accomplished what you set out to do is great.

So here's to 2009. I don't have any goals in mind for this year. Nashville Marathon is in April, and training begins next Wednesday. My 30th birthday is in September, the exact same day as the Philly Distance Run.

I'll be there. I'll be the one in a crown and a tutu and "It's My Birthday!!!" in big puffy letters across the front of my shirt.

It will be a fun year!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

With One Week to Go...

I have 8 days until my 2008 resolution to run at least a mile a day is complete and deemed a success. And, with 8 days to go, I’m being tested and tried today.

My first plan of attack was to get up this morning and get the mile in. I figured that was simple enough--then go to work, leave at 2:00, come home, clean, prepare dinner, and be ready when my mother and Kevin arrive for dinner. Then it’s dinner, church, and back again for dessert and presents. I woke up at 6:00 am, dressed, went downstairs and out the door…and slid to the sidewalk. The sidewalks, the road, the grass…all a solid sheet of ice. The back alley was also icy, therefore drastically reducing my chances of running before work. I stomped and pouted back inside, but determined to not let a change of plans ruin my Christmas Eve, I altered them to instead I would shower quickly and head in early to work and run on the treadmill, thus getting myself back on schedule and ready to leave at 2:00. Proud of my ability to adjust quickly to changes out of my control, I was on the road to work by 7:00. Fortunately the traffic was very light and the roads were basically just wet. I was in at work by 7:30, logged on, and headed upstairs before anyone could see me with dirty hair and no make-up.

I set my gym bag up on the bench. And realized I forgot my running shoes. No biggie, I said. I wore older running shoes today (thank you to the nasty weather) and could wear those…for one mile it wouldn’t be a problem at all. Once again I defeated my inability of being flexible with a second plan of action. Until I realized I forgot my sports bra. Defeated, I slapped on enough make-up to make myself look somewhat normal and left.

This is where I stomped and pouted out of the locker room, through the gym, and back down the stairs to my desk, where I continued to sulk. Until I realized I would just leave early. I’ll leave around 1:30 today, get home, run quickly, shower, and be back on schedule.

Again, defeating inflexibility.

Happy Holidays everyone! Here’s to hoping your holiday is flexible and relaxing…and you fit in everything you want to!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Trials of the Treadmill

There are things I strongly dislike. I strongly dislike ice patches. I strongly dislike heavy winds, cold rain, and drivers who don't provide a courtesy wave when you allow them to pull out in front of you (and you so obviously didn't have to). And I strongly dislike treadmills.

I have preached my detest of these machines many times. And yet, in the past few weeks, I have found myself back on them, staring out of the window of my office building into the dark late afternoon, iPod blaring, ignoring the fact that I was going nowhere.

My office building has a gym on the second floor, which I am extremely grateful for. There are treadmills, and when it is cold, and dark, and wet, and icy, and all-around miserable, I must admit, they make a great alternative.

I have slowly been working on increasing my tolerance of the things. I realize the great alternative they can provide, and there are instances when they are the lesser of two evils. I have been working my distance up, losing myself to my music and pushing my mind outside of the realization I am on a treadmill.

You know what the scariest thing is of all? I kind of enjoy it.

Friday, December 05, 2008

And some people say I'm nuts...

A good, dear friend sent me this article, thus confirming that I'm not as crazy as everyone says I am... (my apologies for the length, but it's quite interesting)

Still running after all these years
by Stephanie Simon, The Wall Street Journal

Last month, my dad celebrated the 30th anniversary of his running streak.
In other words, he has run every day for 10,987 consecutive days. The last time he took a pass — he was feeling a bit sore after a marathon — was Oct. 30, 1978.
Obsessive doesn't begin to describe it.
When he travels overseas, my dad, who is 66, plans layovers so he can get in a couple miles around the concourse, lest he miss a day to the time-zone shift. During blizzards, he wraps his feet in plastic bags, pulls galoshes over his sneakers and screws in cleats for traction. Then he waits for a snowplow to pass his front door, so he can follow in the freshly cleared path.
My father, Dr. Harvey B. Simon, practices internal medicine in Boston and teaches at Harvard Medical School. Rationally, he knows that running 10 miles a day, every day, for three decades is not great for his ever-more-creaky body. He'd never advise his patients to do it. In fact, he's written several health and fitness books stressing the virtue of moderation in exercise. And yet ...
He's run with broken toes and the flu and a nasty infected heel and near-crippling back spasms. He goes out before dawn in every kind of weather; he's become such a fixture in the neighborhood that a couple times when a freak thunderstorm has rolled in, strangers have driven out to find him. They didn't know his name. They just knew he'd be out there, plodding away, and figured he might appreciate a ride home.
My dad isn't alone in this nutty obsession. The U.S. Running Streak Association lists 31 members who have been running daily for 30 years or more. The reigning champ is a running coach out of California by the name of Mark Covert. He hasn't missed a day since he was 17. He's now 57.
Every streaker has a story of inspired persistence — or, viewed another way, lunacy. One tells of holding his catheter aloft as he hobbled out after surgery. Another ran on a cruise ship — during a tropical storm.
Ronald Kmiec, a concert pianist in Carlisle, Mass., jogged for four days through severe chest pains, until his wife dragged him to the hospital. Turned out he'd had a heart attack. He was so determined to keep the streak alive, he asked the nurse to take him to a treadmill. She nixed that idea, and his streak ended one day short of 32 years. (Undaunted, Kmiec got right back on the road and completed his 35th consecutive Boston Marathon five months later.)
Why do they do this? All kinds of reasons. Some streakers say they commune with God during their daily runs. Others think through knotty problems at work. The run structures the day; gives a sense of order to a hectic life.
As streakers grow older, their accomplishment also represents a triumph over aging. You don't give in to aches and pains; you conquer them. You don't wallow in anxiety; you lace up your sneakers. You feel, if not invincible, at least indomitable, and it's not hard to see why; if you're still doing at 66 the same thing you did at 36, you must be doing all right.
My dad started running for health reasons after my mom ordered him to lose weight. He has a family history of heart disease, and he soon found that regular exercise kept his cholesterol and blood pressure under control. I'm sure that's one motivation for the streak.
But the main reason, truly, is that he loves getting out there in the first rays of morning, letting his mind drift, with nothing to do but take the next step. He started the streak, he says, because he got tired of spending every cold, dark morning debating with himself about whether to go out. "I figured, why waste time debating? I'd just go out every day," he says. "So I did."
When people ask why he doesn't take just one day off, he shrugs and says, "I like to run."
Asked how he's kept at it so long, he responds: "Left, right, left, right."
His stride, never all that fluent, has broken down over the last 100,000 miles to the point that he now has what the family politely refers to as a "distinctive gait." His hip hurts. He's slow. And still ... left, right, left, right.
When he hit 25 years, my dad talked about pulling a "Cal Ripken Jr.," after the Baltimore Orioles infielder who benched himself one day when he was perfectly healthy, putting an end to an incredible streak of playing in 2,632 consecutive games. Mr. Ripken had wanted to end the streak on his own terms, not wait for injury to force him out. My father said that sounded good. But I knew in my heart he'd never do it.
The streak is too much a part of him.
I worry about that sometimes. He's proud of his streak, and I think his running longevity — the fact that he's prevailed against injury, weather and all the rest — has strengthened his spirit. He's a born optimist, but the streak has made him even more confident, even more resilient.
What will happen when it ends?
On one level, I know that's a ridiculous question. The streak does not define my dad. He still practices and teaches medicine; he still writes and edits. He and my mom take art history courses, study music, volunteer, travel.
But still, I worry.
In running — in streaking, in particular — my dad has found an outlet to express personality traits that might otherwise stay submerged. He's a humble and reserved man, but his streak is such a goofy accomplishment that he's given himself license to celebrate it.
For his 10-year anniversary, he threw himself a 10K race — a "ten-athon." He carried the invitations on his runs, because he wanted to hand them out to all the friends he knew only by first name — fellow joggers who would fall in with him for a few blocks or a few miles every week. My dad made some good friends this way; there is a true camaraderie on the streets at 5 a.m.
When I was 8 or 9, I started running with him, too — after he'd put in 10 or 12 miles on his own. It was my best chance to spend time with him. When I flagged, he'd keep me going by recounting the latest Red Sox game in dramatic, play-by-play detail. I'm quite sure he made most of it up, but I was always riveted.
Running with me let my father indulge his screwball sense of humor. One year, we ran in a road race just before Thanksgiving, and though it wasn't supposed to be a costumed affair, my dad talked me into dressing like a chef, with a giant tin-foil cleaver. He put on a turkey costume and as per his instructions, I spent the entire 5-mile route a few steps behind him, waving the cleaver and shouting: "Come back here, you turkey!"
I haven't run with him for years, but he recently sent me a ratty T-shirt he found in my childhood room, from a road race we ran in 1983. I often wear it when I work out, and I think back with a smile on all those runs with dad.
The U.S. Running Streak Association requires members to run at least one continuous mile a day to remain on the active list. (It's all based on the honor system, but as founder John J. Strumsky Jr. asks, "What would be the point of lying?") The association also keeps an honor roll of retired streaks. As I glanced over it, the fourth-place entry caught my eye. Lawrence Sundberg, a retired schoolteacher from Farmington, Conn., had clocked a streak that lasted exactly 30 years — from New Year's Day 1977 through New Year's Eve 2006. It looked to me like he had pulled a Cal Ripken, and when I called, he said that was it exactly.
"With something like this, either it's going to end you, or you're going to end it," he said.
Sundberg said he spent six months mentally preparing for the end, and when the appointed day came, he was ready — though he did startle awake at 11 p.m. and briefly contemplate keeping the streak alive on a moonlit run.
In the two years since, Mr. Sundberg says he has missed just four or five runs. "I still go out at 5:30 a.m. most days," he said. "But I don't have to."
He's adjusted so well that I consider urging my dad to talk with him. But then ... my dad likes to run. He's happy out on the sidewalk at dawn. Left, right. Left, right

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Rocked it.

Let's face it.

Running the marathon is not easy. That 26.2 miles will be filled with excitement, fear, anxiety, happiness, pain, pride, and relief.

My cousins ran their first marathon today, through the Kids Run Philly Style program. And Ted and I promised early on we'd be right there with them, cheering them on. We pulled up to their house at 6:00 am, and everyone loaded into the van to make it to the race before the start.

Some things I noticed:
1) The weather was not suitable for the wheelchairs to complete the full marathon, so the field opted to do the Rothman 8K instead.
2) This year was the first year the marathon started in waves, which seemed to work from a spectator perspective, but it took my cousins almost a half hour to cross.
3) I'm not sure how many people were dressed as Thing 1 and Thing 2, but they seemed to be everywhere.
4) I saw the guy in the pink tank top and tutu and princess wand...I think it's the same I've seen in my magazines.
5) Two girls were running for the husband of one who was in Iraq. I made sure I told them "thank you". When I read that, suddenly the idea of running 26 miles seemed like a walk in the park.
6) My mother realized races aren't just tall, thin people in leotards. Races are made up of people of all shapes and sizes.
7) As Ted and I were waiting for the cousins, around mile marker 24, one lady stopped and asked if we could please cheer for her and asked if she could make it. We both responded with a full "Absolutely!" and she didn't look convinced. I smiled, and said: "This sucks big time, doesn't it?" She seemed to relate to that pretty well--"Yes, this sucks!" "But," I said, "You are so close. Don't let this pain take it away from you." She smiled and headed off.
8) It was cold. Very, very cold. I warmed up pretty quickly when Ted and I jumped in and ran the last three miles with them.
9) Just as Ted's family encouraged us at the end, I hope we had the same encouragement for my cousins. They seemed to pick it up a bit when we fell in beside them, and I got a great shot of my cousins with their older sister. Even their parents and my mother got into it, and we all ran together at the end, before branching off and letting them take the glory.

Congratulations to everyone who ran today! You are all rockstars!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Daring to Dream.....????

Throughout life, many of us have goals we set for ourselves. We use these goals to get use through our daily life, and as a placesetter to give us a reason to work hard. But once these goals are reached, we find ourselves at a crossroad--now what? We either accept the accomplishment, or inadvertently set a new goal...and the entire cycle begins again.

A few years ago, my goal in the running world was reaching a distance past a 5K. Then it was a half-marathon. Then one day I held my breath, closed my eyes, and hit "submit", and suddenly my new goal was finishing a marathon.

Now I've done a marathon, and I'm looking for a new goal. I didn't realize I was, necessarily...I was content with the idea of running other marathons and leaving it at that. Then in some random conversation, the idea of Boston came up, which led me to checking qualifying times...

The qualifying time for my age group is 3 hours and 40 minutes. That's pretty fast.

But then somewhere in me I wonder if I can do it. I think I can never run that fast...then I think once upon a time I thought I could never run that can I? Can I run that fast and at some point meet the qualifying time for Boston and actually earn a spot, something I never, ever thought I would be able to do?

I find myself wondering if this is a plausible goal for me...if this is something I can do and accomplish. When Ted and I ran Philly last year, we finished in 5:07 and change. Is it reasonable for someone to shave an hour and a half off their time?

The idea of qualifying for Boston is amazing for me, and as much as I think it's outrageous, I can't imagine not being able to do it,'s not that it?