Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Cutting Back To Move Forward

I ran my first marathon, in Memphis, TN in December of 1992. Well, that's not exactly true. I trained - or overtrained - for my first marathon during the fall of 1992. I didn't read anything about training, didn't have a training plan, just a stubborn determination. I made it to mile 6.

I complete my first marathon nearly a year later in Columbus, OH. I had a training plan, and a training partner. I had a race strategy and a very cool "engineer's" hat. I ran at least one marathon a year EVERY year from 1993 to 2006. That's 14 years. And some of those years I ran as many as 6 marathons. That's not a lot if you're one of the marathon maniacs, but it was a lot for me.

The marathon in 2006 was part of the Walt Disney World "Goofy" challenge. As it got late in 2007 I got worried about breaking my streak. Once or twice I started on a marathon training schedule only to get a certain distance and just think "no way". In 2008 I tried a couple of times to complete a half marathon training program. I started out with good intentions, but never got past a 12 mile run.

What I've discovered is what I knew when I started out. I like the shorter distances. I like running shorted distances, training for shorter distances, and racing the shorter distances. I can run more often, run harder and faster - fast for me - and find it easier to fit the training into my day. It works for me.

Why, then, do I feel guilty about REALLY liking the 5K distance? Why is it that I think that training for, and participating in, a 5K is somehow "less than" training for and participating in a half marathon or full marathon? I don't know. But I have some thoughts.

The running "industry" loves the long distances races. They can charge big fees, they can attract big crowds, and they can make a ton of money. I'm not being critical. I've certainly benefitted from the 2nd running boom's desire to run long distances at huge races.

What I miss, though, is the spirit and sense of community that you find in local races. I ran a small 4 mile run last Thanksgiving and had a GREAT time. I didn't have a great "time", but I was able to push myself just a little because I knew the distance was well within my capabilities.

These days I'm running 3 miles a day - or walking 2 miles - nearly every day. I can do that because I'm not worried about long runs. And, to be honest, I'm having more fun than I have in years.

So, it's not that I'm bashing the long distances and giant races. I'll be at all of the Rock 'n' Roll Series events this year. I'm just saying that for me - and maybe others - the joy of running is still the best reason to run, whatever that distance turns out to be.

Waddle on,

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Adding some seasoning to by running

The past couple of days have been simply amazing here in Chicago. After the coldest January in 25 years, February has brought near record temperatures. Yesterday, February 10, it was in the 60’s.

You would think that this would mean being reinvigorated and enthusiastic about running outside. You’d be kinda right, but not altogether. My body’s seasonal clock is still set to winter, which means hitting the treadmill and cross-training. So, even though the sun comes out and the temperatures go up I’m not ready to unplug the machines and head outside.

I did go for a walk, outside. Somehow that made sense. The reason I went for the walk was just to enjoy the weather, to be outside, to feel the warmth, and enjoy the act of walking. I wasn’t thinking that it was helping my heart, or controlling my weight. It just felt good. THAT made sense to me.

What occurred to me is that this winter hibernation is, for me, exactly what it is for the earth. It is a time of renewal. It’s a time to rebuild, to rest, to prepare for the stresses that will come with the spring. What I’ve been defining as a lack of motivation my actually be a necessary condition for being a life long runner.

We accept that there are seasons in other sports. Football is over. Baseball hasn’t begun. There are seasons. As runners, though, we think that if we’re not running and training and preparing and logging miles 365 days a year we are somehow not really runners. My experience has been, this year for sure, is that I need the seasons.

I’m looking ahead to the spring season of my running. I’m looking forward to the events that are months away. I’m looking forward to getting outside on a regular basis, getting back on the streets, paths, and trails.

For now, though, I’m going to enjoy the winter season so that when the spring comes I’m ready.

Waddle on,

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Birth of a Column

Some of you may have noticed that the "No Need for Speed" column was not in the February Runner's World. This is a funny time in the publishing industry, and I'm certainly no expert on magazine publishing, but it looks like there's some sorting out going on. I'll be in the magazine 10 times this year. Look for the column again in the March issue.

With the April column I will have completed 13 years as a columnist with Runner's World. That's 156 columns. Considering that I was worried that I wouldn't be able to come up with ideas for the original 8 columns for which I was contracted, that's not bad. The funny thing is that, rather than it being harder to find ideas, I now find that I don't have the time or space to write about everything I want to.

Thanks goodness for Blogs.

In May of 1996 the column was called "The Penguin Chronicles", a name taken from the reference in the first column to images of runners always being gazelles or eagles and I felt like a penguin. A legal challenge from Penguin-Putnam Books convinced the US editors to change the name of the column to simply "The Chronicles". As a side note, the column remained "The Penguin Chronicles" in all international editions of Runner's World.

With the new editorial and publishing staff the column got renamed "No Need for Speed", and Gil Eisner's wonderful penguin characters were removed. In some ways that shifted the focus of the column, or at least seemed to, from the original concept of sharing the "joy of movement" that I discovered as an adult-onset athlete to being an advocate for going slowly. The truth is, I've never advocated going slowly. I've only advocated finding your own pace - fast OR slow.

As I recently wrote, after running for 15 years running is like an old friend to me. I like running. I like being around running. Like a relationship that has matured over time my relationship with running has come to a place of comfort. I don't need to impress myself or anyone else any more.

But, even after 15 years I still have the same sense of wonder and mystery about running - and myself as a runner. Every day I learn something new. Every run reveals something that I hadn't seen. That's what makes running so wonderful.

What I'm discovering is that the Web 2.0 medium - this blogging, Facebook, Twitter, medium - is more like what it was in the beginning for me. And I've found I really like it. It's liberating to be back where I was before 17 people decided what words would be read.

Stick around, folks. I think this is going to be a fun ride.

Waddle on, friends.

"The miracle isn't that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start"