The Music of Running
Runner’s High: 8 Songs That Prove Tom Petty is a Runner

Tom Petty is a runner. I don’t care what you say. 

I know he wants to “…get to the point” and “…roll another joint,” and he talks of dancing with Mary Jane, but if you dig into his song list, he might just be a runner at heart.  The following songs suggest Tom Petty is one of us runners. 

1.    Runnin’ Down a Dream – I will just get the obvious song out of the way.  This is all about freedom and speed:

Trees flew by, me and Del were singin’ little Runaway, I was flyin.”

I felt so good like anything was possible, I hit cruise control…”

While it is a driving song, this will get you running.  Let’s face it, when we are running, we do feel that anything is possible, and Mr. Petty might have some insight into this.  Then again, the same feeling might apply to getting high (I would not know anymore).

2.    Saving Grace – This song is about finding oneself and finding redemption.  Is this not a perfect theme for runners, especially while trying to get over a bad race?  Also, do we not problem solve and work out our daily issues while on the run?  If we don’t do this, at least we get some temporary peace from our daily issues while running. 

 “And it’s hard to say who you are these days, but you run on anyway. Don’t you baby?

You keep running for another place to find that saving grace…”     

This is about moving forward, and not stagnating.  We are always looking to improve as runners, and perhaps Tom Petty knows something about PRs.

3.    Running Man’s Bible – This song is about tough times and weathering the storm.  We have all been there during a race. You know that moment in a race or during a workout when you think about giving up but somehow you don’t? 

Here’s one to glory

And survival

And stayin’ alive

It’s the runnin’ man’s bible

I don’t speak of the times I nearly died

Sometimes running and racing is a war of attrition, and usually this war is fought against ourselves, our mind vs. our body.  Sure, we sometimes size up other runners at the starting line, but at the end of the day we are truly racing ourselves.

4.    I Won’t Back Down – This song is simply about Badassery.  You can throw anything you want at Mr. Petty, but he will surely stand his ground.  Life sometimes throws curveballs at us, but we adjust, learn a lesson here and there and move on (hopefully).  This also applies to running. Inevitably, there will be a new situation, perhaps during a race that will catch us off guard. It could be a downpour at Mile 5 of a marathon, or bad cramping on a hot day.  This is when we learn about ourselves and how we react in such situations. 

5.    Big Weekend – This song is simple: Road trip and weekend fun, and hey, race weekends are big weekends, aren’t they?  Mr. Petty’s attitude in this song is to live in the moment…a use it or lose it mentality…

If you don’t run you rust”

I don’t know about you, but I want to run over a lifetime, and Tom seems to have a point here. Do it as long as you can.  Once you stop, bad things happen. 

6.    All You Can Carry – This is about moving on. As runners, we sometimes have trouble moving on. We analyze our races to death, even the good ones.  We are never 100% satisfied.  Well, Tom is telling us to lighten up…not necessarily to lighten our loads…but to move on…

 “Take what you can

All you can carry

Take what you can

And leave the thoughts behind

We got to run

Sage advice from someone that could get away with this look:

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Remember this video?

7.    American Girl – Come on, can’t you see Tom Petty running out on Route 441 down in his home state of Florida?  Well, maybe not, but perhaps his old girlfriend did, you know…the one raised on promises?

After all it was a great big world

With lots of places to run to

And if she had to die tryin’

She had one little promise she was gonna keep”       

So, if you know what this song is really about, you’re rolling your eyes right now (or you suddenly want to watch Fast Times at Ridgemont High).

8.    Walls – This one is a stretch but bear with me.  Often, I will describe my runs as either “diamonds” or “rocks,” depending on whether they are good or bad.  Well, this is exactly how Mr. Petty opens this song.  Okay, this is a love song, but it is about endurance and patiently waiting.  Mr. Petty is not writing about the walls we may encounter during a race, but he is taking about holding out for something to believe in…sounds like a distance runner’s mentality to me. 

So if you think Tom Petty is singing about the munchies, you might want to dig deeper. Perhaps he is simply fueling up for his next race.  Maybe he’s been talking about Runner’s High all along. 

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Maybe he is a trail runner? 

5 Things I Learned About Trail Racing in the Half Wit Half

Welcome to pretty much the center of the universe for stupidity.  We are proud of that here in Reading, because we have nothing else to be proud of here.”

So said the race coordinator for the Half Wit Half, a trail half marathon just outside of Reading, Pennsylvania.  He said this at approximately 9:12am as roughly 500 “half wits” lined up late for the 9am start. We also had to recite the “Half Wit Oath” which began with “I are a half wit…” and got funnier from there. 

The Half Wit Half isn’t so much a trail race as it is an obstacle course, and registering for it as my first-ever trail race was probably not my brightest moment; however, it was consistent with half wit logic. I was not alone as I convinced two friends to join me in my stupidity. 

Instead of summarizing all of the incredibly difficult terrain we had to navigate, and the ridiculous, jaw-dropping uphills and downhills, which had all of us cry-laughing incredulously by the end, I will focus on some observations of trail racing. 

1 – Concentrating is exhausting

I am a road runner.  I am decent. I like to “go,” and when I am racing, I have the ability to rest my brain, go on “auto-pilot” and just race.  In the Half wit, I could never relax. The course is so rocky and full of hazards, I could never “open it up.” In fact, I had to concentrate so much to stay upright (in which I was unsuccessful – more on that in #2), I was mentally drained by the first water stop at the 5K mark.  

2 – Falling down Hurts

I went into the Half Wit with two goals: 1) Finish safely, and 2) Try not to fall or twist an ankle.  I finished, and have that going for me, which is nice; however, I lost count at the number of times I turned my ankles, and yes, I fell four times.  Falls #1 and #2 were on a steep downhill in which I needed to grab trees to avoid falling. The thing is, it is harder to grab trees while on such a steep grade than you might think.  So, I landed on my ass twice. If you have ever fallen during a race, you know it feels like slow motion as it is happening. Fall #3 I will call the “Ironic” fall because it occurred on pavement as I crossed a narrow paved path to resume the wooded path on the other side. Today, the entire left side of my body remembers this fall.  Fall #4 was just plain mean in that there were rocks hidden under the brush, and I went airborne into sticker bushes.  Ouch. The best part was having to use my hands to get up from this fall, with my hands in the stickers.  Did I say, ouch? 

 3 – Downhills are more difficult than Uphills

With the few times I had run trails, I already knew this, but the reality was more apparent under racing conditions.  I felt like I was two different runners. One runner was quite competent and in control going up hill. The other runner had to nearly walk down many of the rugged downhill sections because 1) Gravity forces you to lose control, and 2) I was so uncertain of the terrain.  So, I passed people on the uphill, and they passed me on the downhill. In a sense, I became a spectator, watching in awe how the more experienced trail runners navigated the downhill with ease.  I just kept asking myself “How do they do that?”  I wanted to be able to do that too. 

4 – Walking is perfectly acceptable

As I ran passed people that were walking uphill, I wondered “Do they know something I don’t know?” and “Should I be walking too?”  The answer was not necessarily yes; however, during the ridiculous verticals, including some crazy switchbacks, it became more obvious that running would be either 1) Stupid or 2) Not possible.  So, I learned how to walk without worrying about walking during a race.  It was safer and allowed my body to regroup because I also learned the further I got into the race, the more clumsy I became. 

5 – Trail runners are a different breed

I mean this as a compliment to trail runners.  The majority arrived in casual clothes and flip flops. I did not know this was a thing.  In general, they appear more laid back and friendlier. I noticed more beards and tattoos than I had noticed during the many road races I had done.  I jokingly wondered to myself: “If I grow a beard or get a tattoo, would it help my trail running competence?” Probably not. 

Running my first trail race, I was reminded I am competitive, but it also hit me that I am not a laid back racer.  This laid back attitude is worth pursuing some more; however, I am not sure I am wired that way, so I will learn how to become a better trail racer instead. 

Five Reasons I’m not a Product #Ambassador

Don’t worry, this isn’t a “Get off my lawn!!” post, but I would like to share my thoughts on product ambassador programs.  I’m not here to talk you out of becoming an ambassador, but I will tell you the reasons I choose not to become one.  

For your benefit, I will limit my reasons to five: 

1) I feel like the participants/ambassadors are being used -  There is an obligation on their part to say good things about products because they are getting free items.  How can the ambassadors be objective?  Is this set up to be more beneficial for the ambassadors or for the company?  It seems like free advertising to me.  
2) It sometimes comes off as Fraternity-ish / Sorority-ish / Elitist - Some people get selected as ambassadors and others don’t. Why? What is the criteria?  I’ve seen people on Twitter that were devastated when they weren’t selected as an ambassador for a particular company. It comes off as exclusionary.  
3) I’m not sure where fashion fits in to running -  I’m more of a “just run” person. Do I want to be comfortable while running?  Yes, the performance clothes / sneakers should fit properly. I won’t begrudge others for injecting fashion into the running process.  If it attracts people to the sport, fine.  I always get excited when a person starts running, and if “fashion” gets them to do it, so be it; however, is the product the right product for someone simply because that consumer thinks it looks good?  Also, I want to know if fashion keeps people running over a lifetime.  I would hope, but I’m doubtful.  I hope I’m wrong.    
4)  The term “Flock” itself - Oiselle uses this term, and it troubles me.  Flock is defined by Merriam Webster as:
1  - a group of animals (as birds or sheep) assembled or herded together
2  - a group under the guidance of a leader; especially a church congregation
 
It implies a collective “herd” mentality, or that we can’t think for ourselves.  Running is a very individualized sport.  Yes, there are running groups and running clubs, and we often want to feel like we are part of something bigger, but at the end of the day, nobody runs for us. We do the work.  Despite the running community being an amazing group, running is basically a very “me” thing.  
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5)  The hashtag - Ambassadors hashtag their brands / brand’s slogans to death.  I get inundated with this, and suffer from product fatigue before even trying the product.  In fact, this “pushing” of the product makes me want to “run” the other way.  

In the world of social media, we get much more than the 30 second advertisement for a product. At times, we are exposed to a product every time we open a particular App.  Companies have more exposure, but we become the victims of this product fatigue.  
#GetOffMyLawn

 

Top Crying Moments from the 2014 Boston Marathon

 I’m an unapologetic crier.  I’ve said this before.  So, in heading back to Boston to get some closure after last year’s tragic events, I knew tears would be included; however, triggers from something traumatic are strange: You don’t know they are going to be triggers until you start crying, and I’m talking crying out of nowhere. 

I cried when we ascended from the T subway and walked toward the finish line, literally moments after arriving in Boston on the Saturday before the race. Plus, my heart rate shot up which threw me for a loop.  PTSD is a real thing.  I can’t imagine what soldiers must go through on a daily basis.  The finish line area was packed with people taking photos the whole weekend which was nice to see. 

I cried when Boston by Augustana came on my playlist. Also, It’s Time by Imagine Dragons and Homecoming King by Guster…these songs will always make me cry now, and that’s ok. 

I cried during my shakeout run when passing the church which ended up being the makeshift meeting place for catching up with my wife after the bombings last year.

I cried at Easter mass then the priest (who was awesome) asked Boston Marathon runners to stand up. He said a prayer for the runners and the congregation gave all of us a long round of applause.  Tears.

I cried while in line for the Porto-John in the Athlete’s Village during the moment of silence for last year’s victims…thousands of people in Hopkinton, and you could hear a pin drop. This makes me cry as I type this (true). 

I cried just before the Start during the National Anthem and Flyover.  National pride and remembrance were collectively swelling in Hopkinton, and throughout the race route.  The crowd support was indescribable. I will never forget the collective spirit of the day.  

I cried during the race when I saw a sign that said: “Thank you for coming back!”  and, yes I laughed when I saw a sign that said “No Time for Walken” complete with a photo of the quirky actor.  I needed that laugh. 

I cried when I saw my brother, who surprised me with his visit, near the Newton Fire Station (Mile 17ish).  I hugged him, and I warned him that my hamstring was shot and not to worry…I’d just be running the rest of the race slower.  I had one working hamstring, but I still had two legs.  I was reminded this as I passed a runner with a prosthetic leg.  I briefly wondered to myself if that was one of the bombing victims or perhaps a soldier. 

And, yes, I cried the whole way down Boylston Street (I always do), and I mean a full on blubbering cry this time. Ahead of time, I planned to run straight down the middle of Boylston Street to take it all in (and I thought I’d feel safer in that space); however, I impulsively went all the way to the left side of the street (the side of the bombings).  I turned to the crowd, put my hand on my heart as I passed the two bombing sites, reflected and remembered. I thought of Martin Richard, who will never turn nine years old. Then, I headed to the finish line because that is always the goal: to finish

Yes, extra hydration was required Boston Marathon weekend. 

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 Down one hamstring at Mile 17

WINTER TRAINING WARNING:

A NO WHINING ZONE is in effect for the rest of the winter.

I love Twitter.  It helps us connect with people we want to connect with.  It’s also valuable for information updates and resource sharing, as well as getting inspired by fellow athletes.  Sometimes, however, Twitter is reduced to a repetitious weather report from many (present company included). 

You’ve seen it: A screen shot of the frigid temperatures, a photo of a snowy yard.  I’ve been guilty of this myself.  We are sharing what we already know: it’s cold and it snows in winter.  Can we get over it? 

Here’s the thing: We are athletes.  We train twelve months of the year.  If a big spring race is coming up, we must train.  Yes, a foot of snow will force us to get creative and flexible with our training plans, but at the end of the day, we must get in the workout.  Whether it’s using a treadmill, Yaktrax, or running on a planned rest day (if that day turns out to be the better day weather-wise), our training plans must be “breathing training plans.” We mustn’t ruminate if we need to adjust.

The other thing I won’t do: I won’t complain about the weather. Yes, on the inside, I might be worn down or frustrated by it, but I can’t waste my energy worrying about it.  Whining doesn’t get the workout done.  The race date doesn’t get moved, so neither should our training. 

To help cope with the bad weather, I’m sharing some of the things that help me deal with it:

Wind Chill Factor (the “Feels Like” temp):  Wind just reminds us we are alive. When it smacks you in the face, smile back at it.  What else can you do?  Sometimes I yell too…it’s cathartic.  Try it.  If that doesn’t work, cursing is acceptable. 

Snow:  Remember when we were young?  The snow excited us.  We couldn’t get outside fast enough.  Throw on the Yaktrax and greet the snow head on.  Instead of sledding, hit a trail or right-of-way path to stay away from cars.  Otherwise throw on your Hi Viz gear or hit the treadmill.

Darkness: Personally, I have more trouble with the shorter days than the actual weather because of my poor vision.  This year, I bought a headlamp and I have my NB jacket, which glows in the dark. These things help, but it’s still hard to catch the potholes.  I’ve turned my ankles at least three times.  Perhaps, try a midday run when temperatures moderate and the darkness is gone.

Group: If I know I have to meet a friend to run, it gets me out of bed to do it.  Plain and simple.  If it’s just me running, there is more risk of hitting the snooze.  So, if you can find someone as crazy and willing as you to brave it, I’d try it. 

I’m not saying to be stupid or be a hero out there, but it’s possible to make it through winter and come out in great shape for the spring.  Also, we can do it without whining about it. 

Yes, it’s winter, thank you for the reminder

The Track Feels Like Home…

The track feels like home, and sometimes you must break into your own house  

Saturday morning.  Crunched for time. If I was going to be able to handle the rest of my responsibilities that day, my track workout needed to start by 7am.  As I approached the entrance to the track area, it was clear that it was locked. 

“Now what?”

Option 1: Drive to the next township, and see if their track is open?  That would eat more precious time.  No. 

Option 2: Climb the six feet high fence, and enter the track illegally?  Smiling…Yes.

As I started my climb, my inner monologue was: “What the bleep are you doing?” However, as one leg went over the top, I shifted to: “Breakin’ the Law, Breakin’ the Law” from Judas Priest with eyes wide open and grinning.  I know, a minor infraction, but when I landed on the other side of the fence, freedom was before me.

The track was mine, and nobody else’s.  It would stay that way for the entire workout. This. This place feels like home. Familiar: With a sense of place. Finite: yet so many possibilities…memories to be made, work to be done.    

I’ll spare you the details of the actual workout because you’ve done your own such workouts; however, I’d like to share some of the sounds of the track from that snowy, windy morning with you…

On the turns: The relentless sloshing sounds of my feet from the wet, slippery track

Back Straight: The unforgiving, dissonant howl of the winter wind blaring in my ears and face. 

Front Straight: The transition to the quiet serenity of the tailwind, with silence broken by my labored breathing. 

Across the street: The metronomic clanging of the flagpole, mocking my temporary pain. 

That inner voice: “200m more - don’t leave it here.”

Breaking the law to do this was worth the effort.  As I climbed my way out of there, I cut myself just below my left knee.  This was a small price to pay for the opportunity to be there.  To be home. 

I found the picture for my icon (on google--shh) but I think the source is your blog, so, credit where credit is due: thank you for a picture to match my url :)

Oh, no worries, feel free, I’m sure I got it on Google too.  :-)

2013 - Running Year in Review

Strange year: There was the good, the bad and the scary.  The scary dominated, but the good won out in the end.  As far as the bad? We always learn from the bad.

The Good:

·         Adult PRs in the 5k (17:43), 10k (38:26), Half (1:20:43), and Marathon (2:55:10)

·         New High in annual mileage ( 1,601 and counting )

·         Got up enough nerve to join a running group

·         #BostonStrong (more on that later) 

The Bad:

·         Barely finishing the ½ Sauer ½ Kraut after being sick all week

·         Melting at the Wilkes-Barre Half turning in a “Positive” split like none other

·         Summer injury JUST before ramping up training

The Scary:

·         The irregular heartbeat DNF at the Runner’s World Half

·         Boston 04/15/13 (this was the scary bad)

On Boston

Boston taught me a few things:

1.       I’m never going to be fully ok (and that’s ok)

2.       I’m an unapologetic crier

3.       People ARE inherently good, and runners rule … #BostonStrong

2013 taught me a few things too:

·         PRs do NOT translate into satisfaction and fun

·         Happiness and fun matter

·         See your doctor

·         Maybe I’m not an island after all (Running Groups are good)

That being said, in 2014, I’m cutting back my racing (maybe) and PR attempts (hopefully). I would say I’m going to have more fun with running, but saying things like that doesn’t work.  Forcing fun doesn’t work.

I’m just not going to think so much.  I will start by not wearing a watch in 2014.

One thing is for sure:  I’ll be in Boston on 4/21/14, and I plan on taking back Boylston Street. 

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 Before added security

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 PR

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Delaware Marathon 05/12/13

Cemetery Running is NOT Scary

There is a beautiful place a mile from where I live.  It is a serene, wooded 3.2 mile loop complete with built-in wildlife. It is quiet, safe and free of automobile traffic.   I run and I find peace there. It’s called the Ardsley Cemetery.  Up until New Year’s Day of this year, it was only a cemetery to me.  However, a friend of mine invited me to go for a run, and today I see it differently.  It all started something like this:

(At a New Year’s Eve party)

Friend: “Hey want to run tomorrow?” 

Me: “Sure, where?”

Friend: “The cemetery on Jenkintown Road.”

Me: “Cemetery, really?  Isn’t that creepy?”

Friend: “Not at all, come check it out.”

So, bleary-eyed, I joined him and two others, and surprise: a runner’s oasis. 

Though, it did take some time to see it as an oasis.  Initially, I focused on the names and dates on the headstones.  I was uncertain if what we were doing was disrespectful or not.    

“Should we be doing this?” 

“Should we be talking?” 

“Should we use a lower voice?” 

Well, now the residents of the cemetery haven’t seemed to mind (although I do have a no cursing rule for myself when we are there. I’m not always successful at following that rule though). 

Nearly a year later, the Ardsley Cemetery is a regular route for three friends and me.  We meet at 6:30am, and we set out to the quiet place.  Each of us has very busy, hectic lives, but for 45 minutes, we are sheltered from stress in the pleasant environs of the cemetery. 

The grounds aren’t completely occupied by the deceased.  There are woods and paths filled with countless deer, including a large buck that has no fear of us.  He is a majestic fellow, and I fear him slightly.  He appears to be the leader of the herd, and when the herd runs, it is a sight to witness. 

In a recent post, I admitted to being morbid.  I’m not sure if running in a cemetery falls in line with that, but I can say this: I am at peace when running there, and I hope its residents are all at peace too. 

Runner’s Amnesia: A Lesson from the Philadelphia Marathon

Two years ago, I ran the Philadelphia Marathon with my wife, as she attempted to qualify for Boston.  It was very memorable.  I even did a long, very detailed Race Recap (see archives).  I remember a ton from that race, even the most intricate details. It was a very special and fun experience. 

This year, I ran the same race; however, this time, I had a PR in mind.   The good news:  I got my PR; however, the bad news:  I don’t remember much from this race. 

Yes, I remember some fragmented sensory details:

Sounds: A bad song – What Does the Fox Say?  A good song: Welcome to the Jungle. The occasional “Go Jared, Go Gerald” cheers from awesome spectators (great crowd support this year).

Sights: A race sign: “Tired? Honey Badger Don’t Care.” Also, I got to see my wife and some friends on the out-and-back portion of Kelly Drive; however, I don’t remember what I said to them. 

Smells: The amazing aroma of food in Manayunk, and the beer emanating from the Drexel students on 34th Street. 

That’s about it.  Other than the above, I remember the “pre-race” stuff and the “post-race” stuff.  The “during-race” stuff: Not so much. 

I have tried hard over the last three days to think of specific moments or memories in the race, and I can only come up with two:

1)  Mile 1: Accidentally bumping into a runner, who replied rudely “JESUS CHRIST!” – Thank you rude runner.  You are partially responsible for getting me fired up from that point onward.  

 2) Mile 9ish (near zoo):

Me: (Burp) “Oh that felt so good.”

Fellow Runner: (Burp) “That was awesome.” 

So, aside from a negative interaction and burping, nothing else.  No other memories (Oh wait, two Gu fell out of my pocket on Delaware Avenue, so I had to turn around and pick them up - I just remembered that). Perhaps I’m in a temporary state of Runner’s Amnesia and maybe additional memories will come back to me (just like the Gu story). 

For sixteen weeks, I was laser focused on a PR. Mission Accomplished. Yes, there is some satisfaction to it, but at what expense?  First of all, I don’t remember much from the race.  Second, I’m sure I was a grump, especially in the final weeks leading up to the race.  Third, I might not be physically burned out from training, but I’m mentally burned out from Spring-Fall-Spring-Fall marathons over the last two years.

Major Lesson Learned: A PR does not equate to more fun or wonderful memories

In five weeks, I start another marathon training cycle, and I plan on enjoying every moment of this down time.  Also, I’ve decided there will not be a PR attempt in this race.  In fact, I might run it with my wife. It’s time to have fun again (although, this might not be fun for her)!! 

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(Photos help us remember)