Friday, September 19, 2014

Fear is a Liar

I've been thinking a lot about fear lately.

I've been thinking about what I'm afraid of.

Snakes, mostly. Not much else.

But being afraid of something isn't really fear.

Fear is anxiety over what might happen.

Fear is our reaction to thinking into the future and imagining bad things happening.

Fear is literally a figment of our imagination.

Fear keeps many people from running.

Whenever I talk to people about running, people who aren't themselves runners, they can rattle of a several reasons why they don't run. It usually starts with some knee thing. Then stuff about breathing, shin splints, ankles, their back, neck, hip, or hamstring. And there's the traffic, busy schedules, heat, cold, sun, dark, rain, snow and unicorns.

The truth is that they are, at that moment, imagining all of the things that could possibly, just maybe might, go wrong, and using those bits of dark make-believe to justify not running.

That is fear at work.

It's the same fear that keeps people from dancing*, singing, and trying something new. It's what keeps way too many people from having fun, seizing the damn day, and living a life that will put a grin on your face that the mortician won't be able to take off.

What if we thought about running the way we think about eating?

When most of us see a box of donuts, or my personal favorite food fantasy, a never ending plate of fudge brownies, we imagine how delicious they will be, how creamy and yummy and sugary and good they will taste.

We don't think about the sugar rush and crash. We don't think about the empty calories that end up on our thighs. We don't think about the plaque building up in our veins. We don't think about the bad things that could... actually, will happen. We only see the upside.

Why don't we think like that about running?

Why don't we imagine the feeling of calm we'd have or how warm and loose we'd be after a run. Why don't we think about how much better our quality of life would be if our blood pressure, cholesterol, and weight were down. Why don't we imagine the peaceful experience of our rhythmic footfalls, our steady breathing, and the joy of being out, experiencing our world?

Our early ancestors needed to eat fatty, sugar foods when they could be found, which for them was rare, so we evolved to crave them. I can see how that makes sense.

But I also believe that we evolved to be great runners, and we know that running is good for us. And it feels good!

Why don't we crave it?

I know.. some of us do, those of us who have run right over those early fears and have reaped the benefits of a running lifestyle, including brownies.

But the vast majority of people fear running.

We're a weird species.

Good running,

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Mizuno Baton

The good folks at Mizuno running have a new advertising campaign: "What if everybody ran?"

I'm not sure its a very good marketing strategy, but it's a helluva concept.

Imagining a world where everyone, and I mean everyone, was a runner, starts to blow your mind.

Everybody would be happier, healthier, nicer, easier going, more productive, better in bed, and they'd sleep better afterward.

What I love about this idea is that it has the same vibe as John Lennon's Imagine. It's a concept that is absurd, but so damn appealing, and hopeful, that you start to actually think about it as if it were possible.

The problem with the campaign is that a running shoe company is preaching to the choir. I don't know that they will sell more shoes with it.

But they sure as hell will sell more shoes with one of their programs that is part of "What if everybody ran?", and that's the fucking brilliant Mizuno Baton.

Click image to learn more and to get the app.
Here's the deal:
1) You download an app to your phone.
2) For one week, you run as many miles as you can with the app counting your miles.
3) Mizuno donates $1 per mile to Back on My Feet, a national non-profit that uses running to help homeless people re-establish their lives. (I am an ardent supporter of BoMF).
4) After your week, you pass the baton to someone else - they get to run with a greater purpose, BoMF gets more awareness, and more money.

See? Fucking brilliant!

How do I know this will sell more shoes, because I am going to buy a pair of Mizunos to support this effort. I can't even runic Mizuno's! Too narrow. But I'm going to buy some anyway... expense ones. This is the type of marketing that makes me want to like a company, want to support it. It beats the shit out of "Just Do It".

I'm also going to run my ass off for a week. And then I'm going to challenge someone else to do the same.

I want to talk more about "What If Everybody Ran?", but for now, I leave you with one of the slogans for the campaign:

Running is powerful enough to transform everyone.

And it takes just one person at a time, one mile at a time.

Update 9/19/2014: Mizuno Baton has ended. It raised over $87,000 for Back on my Feet. At $1 per mile, that's 3 times around the Earth. How cool!

Good running,

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,

*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,

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,