Saturday, July 26, 2014

That runner or this runner?

I've said it before... starting to run can be tough, if you aren't patient.

So, too, can restarting your running.

The problem is, it's a hell of a lot harder to be patient when you are restarting. You know how fast you used to be. You remember how effortless it was. You want to get back there, to be that runner again... now!

Thing is, you'll never be that runner again.

Oh, you may be fast again. You can be fit again. But that runner wasn't who you were meant to be.

You're journey has left that runner back on the trail somewhere. Now you get to discover who this runner is.

The past can be hard to let go of, no doubt. Coated in the varnish of time and conveniently forgotten hardships, the good old times call to us.

I used to be reasonably fast. The training pace, hell the warm-up pace of that runner, would have this runner puking up his Wheaties* in a mile.

I was fast because I ran all the time. I ran hard most of the time. I loved the feeling, physical and mental, after a hard, fast, run.

That was a different time. My marriage was crumbling. I knew it was failing. I was scared and I was sad and I was miserable.

I ran, then, to feel good. I ran to leave the misery and fear for an hour or so. I was running away from my life.

Today, I don't have anything to fear. I am far from miserable. Now my life is filled with many things to do, many responsibilities, and a reborn career that excites me and energizes me.

My running has been on a slow decline the past few years, and I've found myself comparing how I run today to how I ran back then.

I do want to be that runner again.

But I sure as hell don't want to have that life again. And that runner was forged from that life.

I've left that runner, and that life, far behind.

This runner isn't nearly as fast, but I get the same joy, the same mental calm, the same physical warmth and strength from a good hard run. Screw pace, a hard run is a hard run.

We need to acknowledge, and accept, that our lives will change our running just as running changes our lives. Don't fight the change, experience it fully. Don't blame running, or your life, or your body, for not being what they used to be.

Welcome the change to all three, and value what each gives to you.

Good running,
Doug

*I don't eat Wheaties anymore, but I may start again... I love Wheaties.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Preaching to Hoosiers

I live in Central Indiana.

Being a running evangelist here is like being a Mormon missionary in Tehran.

Don't get me wrong, there is a running community here, but not a huge one. For the core population, the ones with deep roots here, the salt of the Indiana earth, running is strange.

Don't get me wrong, these are good people. It's not their fault.

Partially to blame is the lack of inspiring places to run. Long ago, a big ass glacier planed the northern two-thirds of our state flat. That's why basketball is so popular. You can drop a court anywhere in the state north of Bloomington. No bulldozer, or even a level, required. The roads are straight, flat, worse than boring... demoralizing. And the humidity and pollen cocktail, garnished with a mosquito the size of your little finger, don't make for an inviting environment.

More to blame, though, is the culture of my lovely hoosier neighbors. We as a people shy away from making spectacles of ourselves, and tsk the hell our of those who do. We do what our parents did. They did what our grandparents did. And our grandparents' parents worked hard, physical work, all day, and that kept them in good health. They were modest, simple people. They went to work, ate dinner, went to church, and that was about it. Breaking the chain, doing anything new and different was "putting on airs." Or maybe "heirs". I never understood that phrase. Running was for children, and was done outside, without dirtying one's knees.

That worked in their time. Today, nearly all of our jobs are anything but physical work. And they end at 5:00. Dinners are fatty and full of empty calories, and the evenings are spent watching television.

It's not a coincidence that IN is the 15th most obese state in the US. I don't know for a fact, but I'm guessing we are the northern most fat state. And the curve no doubt was skewed down a bit by the fashionably meth-skinny.

Trying to reason with most hoosiers about the health benefits of running is, as you can imagine, a challenge. I'm going to try something new.

Everyone in Indiana has seen a 30-something person in a motorized scooter/wheelchair who is only in that chair because they are morbidly obese. These poor people are so huge, their skeletons have given up. They also know more than one person in their 50s who can barely walk with their cane or walker after a lifetime of sedentary living and putting sugar and/or butter on everything.

These poor people get double-tsks for not only drawing attention to themselves with their uppity mobility devices, but also for taking all of the good parking spots close to Walmart's front door.

So I'm thinking one tsk is better than two.

I don't know a single person who spent any reasonable amount of time living the lifestyle of a runner who has ended up morbidly obese. Not one.

If we can convince people that it is an acceptable choice, to put on shoes and a pair of shorts, and walk, or jog a little, to avoid the chair, then maybe we can get up to 20th fattest state.

Good running,
Doug

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Life is not a waiting room

I was driving my boys around this evening, and decide to force on them my favorite album from high school. To their horror, I was belting out the lyrics in my best 80's rock falsetto, though between us, I "watermelon"-ed a few words. It's been a few years.

As I was singing/screaming along with my favorite song from the album, we came to the line "Life is a waiting room, I hope they don't call me soon."

"That's bullshit", I said... to myself... there were impressionable young men in the car. (But let's be realistic here... If they were asked to summarize their current state as captive audience to an insanely unremarkable early 80's rock album, I'm pretty sure they would think, if not say "That's bullshit." But still, I have to try to maintain some level of civility, if only through denial.)

Anyway... life is not a waiting room. Your mom was the waiting room. This is the show.

[BTW - I'd like some credit for not saying your mom was the "waiting womb", but also a little credit for thinking of it before I decided to nix it.]

My point is, this is our time, our time  to create things and to break things, to steal stuff and to give stuff away, to be laughed at, to laugh at people, and to make a stranger laugh out loud, to run a shitty marathon and to go straight to the hotel bar and drink a few beers and relive the misery with your buds, before you even shower, to trip on a crack and to climb a mountain, to curl up and take a nap with the love of our lives and to lay alone, heartbroken and sleepless all night, to laugh until you pee a little and to shart at  a wedding, to walk on the beach at sunset and to change a tire at midnight in an ice storm, to nuzzle a wriggly puppy and to put down your best friend, to pass your values, humor, traditions, passions to your offspring and beyond ... to love, to live, and to die.

Our time to do everything we will ever do is so damn short. It's too short to sit around waiting for this to happen, for that to fall in your lap, or regret not doing something. This is your time to make your life. No one else is going to do one damn thing for you... it's your life to live, only you can live it, and you can only live it now. Tomorrow is too fucking late. Tomorrow you will look back with disbelief at the literally once in a lifetime opportunity you let slip away.

This next bit is going to sound cliché, but I really don't care... a good friend of mine, someone I consider a brother, recently found out that he has a very treatable form of cancer. As great as the prognosis is, it's still a tazer-to-the-balls kinda wakeup call.

I've spent the better part of a week thinking about him, and his wonderful wife, and the great life they have, and how much I hope they keep right on living that great life and posting pictures so I can keep stealing those pictures and posting them as my own.

Kidding.

Mostly.

But that scrotal tazing did help me become more aware of things I'd been missing. By that, I mean I missed doing some things, and feeling some things.

One of those things, was you. Yes, you.

I missed writing about and evangelizing the running lifestyle that I love and value so much.

Frankly, I also missed the occasional email or comment from a random reader telling me that I'd inspired them or helped them. There weren't many of those... but knowing that even one person was reading and getting something from what I've learned, gave me a special purpose, and like Navin, I intend to do this a lot, every chance I get.

This is good for me. If it helps someone else, that's really cool, too.

Follow my humble blog if you wish. I will keep it mostly about running, and I will try, honestly try, to make it a positive experience for both of us. If it makes you laugh, or happy, or think, or pissed off, or feel anything but bored, awesome.

I'm more than a little rusty. So, some of this will suck, and right now, so does my running... and both will likely suck with some regularity... at least until I get back into the groove... and really, they'll probably suck a goodly amount even then. But not wanting to suck has kept me away too long, so I'll just have to work through the suck. Hang with me, and maybe it won't suck too long.

I'm back, bitches.

Good running,
Doug

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Coach Jones

I still remember my first high school track practice. I was scared to death.

The coach, Vic Jones, was loud and surly. He growled a lot. And he frowned a lot. No, it was more of a scowl.

Thanks to the biting winter temperatures, those first practices were endless wind sprints in an auxiliary gym, followed by laps through hallways. Then more wind sprints... and more laps.

They were brutal, unending, and smelly.

I tried to when every sprint, to be first to finish the laps... in the hope that Coach Jones might notice me.

Coach eventually did notice me that year. The first time he yelled my name I jumped as if a cannon had gone off behind me. He left me alone most of the time. By the end of my freshman year, I felt lucky to be told "You could have gone faster."

My sophomore year I started to win, which meant I heard more from Coach. I was still scared to death of the man, but I wanted desperately for his approval. When I thought winning now and then was enough, he kicked my ass.

The next year I won most of the time, and Coach had a lot to do with that. He pushed me hard, challenged me, and kept his praise a scarce commodity. I did get the occasional raised eyebrows and slightest hint of a smile when I set a good time. But he knew, somehow, that there was more in me, and he worked me like hell to get it out.

By my senior year, I was as good of an athlete as I would ever be. I'd absorbed the work ethic that Coach had soaked me in over me for the previous 3 years. I was fast, and strong, and knew my races better than anyone I would race against until the state meet.

After four years, Coach was my biggest supporter. The scowl was gone. There were no more harsh words meant to push me further. He knew he didn't need them anymore... they'd served their purpose. That year, Coach smiled, a lot. He'd joke with me, give me a wink to let me in on the tough-guy act he was giving the younger boys. He'd even put his arm around me while we talked about a race.

By the end of my senior year, Coach Jones was more than a coach, more than a mentor, he was my friend.


The last time I saw Coach was many years ago. He'd heard I was in town and came way out into the country to my parents' house to see me and catch up.

That evening he paid me the greatest compliment I have ever received. I will keep it private, between me and Coach, but it has stayed with me, and lifted me, to know that such a wonderful man thought so highly of me.

Coach Jones quite literally changed my life simply by believing in me, challenging me, and helping me become a better athlete, leader, and person. And he didn't do it with words. He did it the hard way, with action, time, attention, presence.

It's a rare person who can recognize potential and bring it out of someone who doesn't even see it in themselves. 

Thanks, Coach.

Good running,
Doug

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Sadee

Dear readers, may I introduce…


Sadee

Good running,
Doug

Friday, January 17, 2014

Meg's Miles

I didn't know Meg Menzies, but I mourn her loss.

She was one of us. A runner. A marathoner.

She was a wife and a mother.

She was killed Monday morning, hit by a drunk driver, while on her run.

I've got nothing to say that will make that any less horrible.

What I will say is that you, my dear readers, really need to lace up your shoes and go for a run on Saturday.

I'm not kidding.

Run, walk, or stroll on Saturday to honor the memory, and to contemplate the loss of one of our own.

You won't be alone.

Over 70,000 runners, walkers, regular people will be doing it with you as participants in Meg's Miles, a Facebook event that costs nothing, asks nothing, except to get outside and appreciate the fact that you can move across the earth.

From the event description:
This Saturday, January 18, 2014, no matter what your distance, no matter where you live, run for Meg. Take in the fresh air, be aware of your surroundings, keep your headphones on low, feel the heaviness in your lungs, the soreness in your legs, and be grateful for it--for all of it. The sweat, the pain, the wind, the cold…everything. Be grateful for that moment. 
Also think a bit about runner safety. What can you do to be more safe? How can you help newer runners to stay safe? What can we do as motorists to keep runners safe?

Post your thoughts in comments below (or to your running club's Facebook page, or email them to your running buddies). I will collect all of the ideas left here in comments as well as those emailed to me, add some of my own, and post them next week.

We need to look out for each other, folks, just as much as we need to keep an eye out for drunk drivers, texting drivers, unintentionally-bad-but-just-as-deadly drivers.

Meg and her family

Join the event, run your run, and while you're out there, think of Meg, and her family, and how lucky you are to be able to do what you're doing.

Good running,
Doug

Pictures borrowed from Facebook pages of Meg and Meg's Miles.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Foul mood

I woke up with Violent Femmes in my head. No matter how much I like the song, waking up with punk rock in your head is not a good sign.

I woke up today in a seriously foul mood. It lasted all day.

Those of you who know me know that that is unlike me.

I blame the dog.

She left me without her mood altering wet nose, whip-like tail, and unnaturaly soft furry head.

I miss her terribly.

More, I am tormented by the quiet in my house. Haunted by the lack of hair on the bottom of my socks, incessant demand for attention, unconditional love, and unwarranted adoration.

I wanted to punch the old lady who held up the line at Starbucks this morning digging for exact change.

I think I need another dog… for my own sanity... before I hurt someone.

Good running,
Doug