The Music of Running
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)

A Tale of Two Race Days: Runner’s World Hat Trick*

When you are in the race medical tent, they give you a card, and this card lists levels of severity. One of the categories is “deceased.”  Even though I was bummed out by my first DNF, this card put things in perspective:  I was still alive to read it.

As far as the heart palpitations and shortness of breath at Mile 8 of the Half Marathon portion of the Runner’s World Hat Trick?  That put a scare into me for sure.  It takes a lot to get me to stop during a race, and being frightened for my life was a good enough reason for me. 

Maybe my comments to Bart Yasso the night before the DNF were ominous, but at the pasta dinner, I told Bart that I felt like I was pushing my luck with the Hat Trick.  Also, in speaking with Meghan Loftus, Senior Editor at Runner’s World, we were discussing our goals for the upcoming Philadelphia Marathon.  I mentioned that if “I can survive the next eight days, weather-permitting, I should be in good shape for a PR attempt.” 

Pushing my luck” and “Survive

Who knew those comments would take on such heavy weight?    

Aside from this scare, there were reasons to be relieved and happy.  Just the day before my DNF, I had an adult PR in the 5k (17:43), and came within 3 seconds of an adult PR in the 10k (38:29).  Second, it was a wonderful weekend spent with my wife in Bethlehem, PA, a great place to be in October (or any month for that matter).  Third, Runner’s World puts on a great show. We had a blast.

But…

…it was hard not to worry about my health and the uncertainty of my next run.  As runners, we want to get out there and…well…run.  Also, I knew dropping out of the race was the right decision; however, I was down about the race.  I felt like I didn’t close out the Hat Trick (hence, the asterisk).  

Then, just the day after my DNF, my wife showed me an article about a runner from Northeast Pennsylvania who died of a heart attack after a 5k on Saturday. Her name was Jen Stec, and she was only 38. Well, that woke me up.  I felt silly and selfish for dwelling on my own race.  In hindsight, I was lucky. Jen Stec was not so lucky.  When she laced up her sneakers for that local 5k, she had no idea it would be the last time she would be lacing up her sneakers.  There is no other word for this but tragic. 

Sometimes I am morbid.  My wife will tell you that.  In my last post, I joked that the Reaper is undefeated, and our time here is temporary.  Also, I have been guilty of telling my wife that if I ever died during a run, that would be fine with me.  The truth is: this is a load of crap.  My race-scare only confirmed that I am petrified of death.  The jokes are a way to deal with this fear. 

Since the race, I have followed up with my doctor, and I even ran again.  When I laced up my sneakers for that run, I was nervous.  I thought about Jen Stec.   She was no different than you or me.  She loved to run.  We love to run. 

I am still here, and, if you are reading this, you are still here too.  Let’s not take that for granted. 

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The Good Day

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The Scary Day

The End of the PR

I accept the fact that my PR days will be behind me soon, but it’s nice to know I can still grab one…” 

Recently, I wrote that after getting a PR at the Half Marathon distance.  The truth is, I don’t know how many more years I have left in which a PR is a possibility.  Two years?  Five years?  Ten?

Part of me wants the possibility of a PR to always be there.  This possibility means a lot.  It means I’ve still got it, or I’m still competitive with myself.  To run a race distance faster than you ever have is a great feeling, but what happens when we plateau or slow down as we age?  It is inevitable.  

On plateauing

I once overheard two runners discussing PRs on a shuttle bus before the Bolder Boulder 10k. One turned to the other and said:

If you’re able to run the same time every year, you’re actually getting faster.” 

Initially, this didn’t make sense to me.  To me, his words meant stagnation; however, he was right.  Age is a factor, so when we reach the point of not getting faster, if we’re not getting slower either, this should be considered a victory for the aging, right?   If age wasn’t a factor, there would only be one qualifying time for men, and one qualifying time for women for the Boston Marathon. 

Yes, we’re all aging.  The next race you run will be the youngest you’re going to be in your remaining races.   It smacks you in the face, doesn’t it? 

On slowing down

So, what happens when we get slower?  What becomes our motivation in a race then?  Is it to keep moving?  To stay fit? To maintain a social life? These are admirable motivators.  For me, it would be to relieve stress, but personally, I might be more relaxed during a race if I knew I wasn’t PRing that day.  Who am I kidding? I’ll never be fully relaxed during a race. OK, so maybe it would be to relieve a different kind of stress. 

Should we stop trying to PR if there is no possibility of a PR?    One of my friends on dailymile, in response to my initial quote, had an encouraging quote of his own: 

Hey I’m 57 and still trying for PRs. Never stop trying.”  Thank you, Glenn.

Look, we are lulled into a false sense that running and many other things in life are permanent.  I wish they were, but, let’s face it, the Reaper is undefeated.

So, let’s run now, and let’s take Glenn’s advice: Never stop trying. 

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Yes, it flies