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,

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.



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,

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,

Saturday, January 18, 2014


Dear readers, may I introduce…


Good running,

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,

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,

Wednesday, January 8, 2014


My house was too quiet this morning.

No tinkling dog tags. No gnashing of teeth on a big cow bone. No lapping up water. No crunching of kibble.

I didn't wake to a paw on the bed and a look of eager hope that it was finally time to play.

When my feet hit the floor, there were no jumps with 360 spins, no dash to the back door with looks back over a shoulder to make sure I was still there. No pause once back inside the door for vigorous pets and affirmation that she is, indeed, a very good girl.

My Mandelbrot, my Mando Calrissian, my puppy schnup, my puppies-dog... my dear, dear sweet Mandee, died last night.

Those of you who are long-time readers know how much that amazing dog meant to me. She was a full-fledged member of the family, and, I know it's a cliche, but she truly was my best friend.

Mandee and Andrew, her first day in the family.

Mandee just a couple days later with a very young Duke.

I could go on for 100 pages listing all of the things that are missing from my life now that Mandee is gone. But I hate maudlin pet death stories as much as you do. Probably more.

So here, I will simply describe the loss of the best running partner I've ever had.

Mandee was the most natural runner I've ever seen...
and the most joyous.

Mandee absolutely loved to run. And she was a badass. It was her life. Running brought us together and made us best friends.

She knew my running clothes from all of my other clothes, no doubt made pretty easy for her by the smell. Once she smelled those clothes, she couldn't control her joy. It really was a sight to see - the jumping and mid-air twirling and whining and yipping with delight.

After an excited spin or two, and once I was in my gear, she would sit to have her collar changed and her leash clipped on, but just barely. Her tail would whip back and forth, cracking like a whip. Her front paws would knead the floor, her eyes wide open with overflowing anticipation and boundless joy. She managed to control herself for those 2 seconds, but as soon as the leash clip snaped, she was back to her jumping and twirling and desparate urging of me to hurry the hell up.

Let's go already, old man.

She was a natural runner. Lean, strong, fast, steady, with a stride as smooth as silk. She'd pull me a bit the first mile or so, she just couldn't help herself. She just wanted to go! Eventually, she'd match my pace, glue herself to my left side, and together we'd knock out the miles, loving every second of it.

Mandee loved running in the woods, or the roads, or grass…
anywhere but a treadmill

She was much faster than me, but she rarely showed it. She dragged me up hills, but she'd also drop anchor, with no warning, when nature called, more than once coming close to dislocating my shoulder.

Mandee drops a deuce in a snow-filled fountain.
No doubt this was my dog.

She knew our regular routes as well as I did, turning with me, without any input. She knew when to cross streets. She knew when she needed to slow down for a bit, which was very rare. She leaped over storm grates and puddles and logs with effortless grace. Over thousands of miles on uneven streets and sidewalks, and over hundreds of miles on trails, I never once saw her trip, or even put a foot wrong. And her eyes were always on the horizon.

In the early days, Mandee would pace me through a 47 minute 7-miler, and beg for more. Her longest run was 14 miles, at the end of which she looked up at me as if to say "Is that it? Oh, ok. Cool."

Mandee wondering why the hell we've stopped in the middle of a quick 7-miler

Lately, we both slowed down a bit, me more than her. But she never lost the drive to run.

She was one of us.

We were a bit slower, but still had a great time.

Mandee  was a share-pei/lab mix, and quite simply, the best dog I have ever known, mine or otherwise.

She came from the humane society.

Please don't buy dogs from breeders (unless you intend to show them) or pet stores. Go to the humane society or any rescue, and find your perfect dog before their life is wasted. You will be rewarded with unwavering loyalty and love. And your dog won't be an inbred freak show.

The Duke and I took Mandee out to lunch

Every time we finish one of our home-based runs, when we crossed the finish line by the mailbox, she'd look up at me, waiting for the affirmation that she knew she deserved, but needed to hear anyway. I'd reach down, pat her head or her ribs, and tell her the same thing. Always the same phase. And really, I think that phrase pretty well sums up my (too short) time with this sweet, lovable, gorgeous…

quick as a rabbit, faster than a squirrel…

Proud as could be, "Hey Dad, look what I have for you!"

intimidatingly fit, unintentionally hilarious…

Mandee would stand like this for 15 minutes at the vet… no movement… at all.

loyal constant companion, and the world's best running buddy of almost 7 years. Yeah, it sums up our time together perfectly...

Good girl, Mandee... great run!

PS - Bonus material

Mandee's co-starring role in our short video (she steals the show): Doug White, Everyday Runner

Mandee's guest blog post:  Day 285 - Guest Blogger

Her trademark wispy belly hairs, with snow after a long hard winter run: