Thursday, July 26, 2012

Joe Kendrick

We lost one of our own this week, Joe Kendrick.

Joe was a runner.

He was also a member of Back on My Feet, which faithful readers know I am a supporter of and volunteer for. (If you didn't know that, read my BoMF story here.) Back on My Feet uses running as the foundation of a program to help people who have become homeless, and who are often also fighting addiction, to reestablish their lives.

I met Joe a few months ago, just after hearing his "story". Hearing what he'd been through, where he'd come from, and seeing the man he'd become made his warmth and genuine care for everyone he met startling, and wonderful. And knowing the amazing man that had emerged from that layer of homelessness and addiction, I shutter to think of how he might have died had he not been given a chance to shed that unnatural layer.

As sad as it is to lose a good person, it warms my heart to know that Joe died in his sleep, naturally, clean, sober, in a bed, his head on a pillow, in his own apartment.

He also died knowing that he had friends who cared deeply for him, loved him, and who were inspired by him.

I encourage you to read more about Joe here.

I also encourage you to consider a donation to Back on My Feet so that they can continue to help good men like Joe... well... I guess to help them get back on their feet.

Good running,

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Treadmill inventor dies

His name was William Staub. He was 96.

And he was on one of his abominations, I mean machines, just 2 months before he died.

Familiar readers know how I personally feel about treadmills. (Read it here).  But on my run today, I spent some time reflecting on Mr. Staub's creation, and I decided that it has it's place.

Treadmills are most useful when you are injured, or just starting your running life. At those times, fear of being unable to continue and far from home can keep you from running at all. A treadmill let's you test the waters without leaving the safety of the beach. And for that, we should thank William... though it's actually too late to literally thank him, since he's dead, but you know what I mean.

Where treadmills turn less good is when they become a habitual safe haven. To fully experience being a runner, to get the full benefit, you have to venture outside. You have to experience the world in all its glory and goo. You have to face your fears. And by overcoming your fears, you see what you're really made of.

In fact, I faced a fear, on the very same run... my biggest fear... a snake.

I have an unnatural, innate, unreasonable, uncontrollable fear of snakes. Snakes completely and utterly freak me out. Seriously, I totally lose control. I scream. I run away, all high stepping and kicking my feet. It's hilarious to everyone but me. To me, it is akin to sitting on a live wire in a wet bathing suit.

I saw the little rope of evil half curled at the edge of the trial just as I was passing it, too late to turn around. After 20 seconds of freak-out and hyperventilating, I concluded that the snake was dead, likely vanquished by a valiant eagle, or hawk, or some other bad-ass bird who'd swooped it up, bit off its head, and let the rest fall to the ground as a warning to the other slithering vermin.

Knowing that I'd have to retrace this bit of trail on my return to the office, and that seeing the snake again, even knowing it was dead, would send me into another fit, I moved a stick across the trail 10 yards or so up trail from the corpse so I'd have some warning and I'd know to look for it.

Surviving my greatest fear, I went about my run, feeling more than a little proud of myself. When I'd made the turn back and returned to what looked like that stretch near the snake, I kept an eye out for the stick, sure it was just around the next corner, or the next, or the next.

When the stick didn't appear, a new fear crept in... someone must have come in behind me and moved the stick! Now I was looking franticly for the stick AND the dead snake. The anxiety soared. I wanted to run fast to out run the fear and to just get out of the woods, but I didn't dare run fast toward the snake.

After a couple hundred yards that seemed like 2 miles, I saw the stick, right where I'd left it, straddling the trail, sounding its silent alarm of dead but still startling ickiness ahead. I took a deep breath, moved to the far side of the trail, kept one eye on the trail (the last thing I wanted to do was trip and fall and land face-to-face with a dead snake) and one eye one the sna- "Holy F'in Mother of Reptilian Resurrection! It's gone!!"

It had moved. The dead snake wasn't dead. In an instant I was rocketing out of the woods, scanning left right left right for the slithering evil, and trying to keep at bay the realization that just a few minutes before I'd run by a live snake. It was a blur of adrenaline and emotion and sweat pouring down my face.

Obviously, I survived. Of course I survived. The snake didn't rattle. It didn't strike out at me. It didn't even move when I saw it. Hell, I thought it was dead! It had no interest in me. I ran right by it on the way out. I've probably run right by it a dozen times this summer, and a dozen others deeper into the woods. And I've lived to tell the tale. As I cooled off, I shook my head, laughing at myself the way you'd laugh at how scared you'd been just moments ago as you exit a horror movie.

Still, for the next few runs in the woods, I'm sure I'll be looking for that snake. I'll be a little anxious as I'm winding along that brown ribbon in the relative cool of the deep shade. And every time I venture out into those woods, face that fear and survive, I'll know myself, and what I'm capable of, just a bit better.

Treadmills have their place, but outside of that limited usefulness, they are enablers. They support our fears of heat, rain, cold, snow, dirt, distance, hills, stares, laughter, remarks, and snakes. Treadmills are safe. But safe doesn't get your heart pounding. Safe doesn't give you practice controling out-of-control emotions. Safe doesn't test your limits, real or imagined. Safe wants to keep you right where you are.

Challenge yourself. Be suspicious of safe. Step off of the treadmill, literal, figurative, or both, and experience the uncertain excitement of the real world.

Good running,

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Oscar Pistorius: Blade Runner, Olympian

Oscar Pistorius has no legs. Well, no lower legs. Yet, he will be running the 400m in the 2012 Olympics in London.

I am NOT making this up.
Photo from CBCSports

Since he was 11 months old, Oscar's been a double-amputee... right below the knee.

But he's one of us, a runner, thanks to some technology (Flex-Foot Cheetahs by Ossur), and a hell of a lot of courage, hard work, and more courage. He used to prefer rugby to running, only trying track and field to rehab from an injury, but we won't hold that against him.

And now, just last week, he was named to the South African Olympic team. I'm talking about the REAL Olympics, not the Paralympics for people with no legs or nor arms or whatever, though he'll run those too, and I'm guessing collect some nice hardware.

As Oscar's times have fallen, the controversy over his carbon-fiber feet has risen. The IAAF (the grand-poobah of track and field) even ruled him ineligible at first, saying the technology gave him an advantage over flesh and blood and bone.

That is ridiculously retarded.

I'd like to see any member of the IAAF spend 15 minutes enduring the pain and discomfort that amputees face every day with prosthetics. Advantage? Don't be stupid. Oscar doesn't just live with that, but he runs and trains and races like a, well like an Olympian!

You wanna know how to tell if that technology makes people faster? It'll be when able bodied runners lop off their human legs for some carbon-fiber.

I am not kidding.

Athletes at all levels, but especially at the top of their sport, have proven time and again that they will sacrifice their bodies, their future, for a few tenths of a second. They've blood-doped, juiced up on hormones and steroids, even endured sex changes, just to be closer to the top of their sport. If there's evidence that carbon-fiber ankles and feet will get them an Olympic Medal, one of these fools will trade-up and spend their winter rehabbing, relearning to walk, and run, and inventing a story about getting both legs caught in a bear trap.

Photo from BBC

Until that happens, we will cheer, and admire, and marvel at Oscar, the Blade Runner, because... well look at him, he's running the 400m, IN THE OLYMPICS, with artificial legs! Those legs are no advantage. They're just a tool that let him demonstrate his strength, speed, determination, and courage, Amazing!

Oh, and next time you think you can't suffer through a run, think about Oscar Pistorius. That oughta shame you into lacing up.

Good running,