Lesson #5 Always Use the right equipment

In order to succeed, every business or endeavor has its required tools and equipment. In order to succeed (or in my case, survive) in running, it is even more critical to have the right equipment. I say “more critical” because, in my case, the less skilled you are, the better equipped and prepared you had better be.

For me this list continues to evolve, and grow, and grow, and grow. Currently it includes: Continue reading

#7 Coming in first or last doesn’t matter… Finishing well does.

Lesson #7 Coming in first or last doesn’t matter… Finishing well does.

In a Marathon, unless you are an elite runner (probably from Kenya), it matters little whether you come in first or last.  What matters most is first, that you even dared to run, and then second, the manner in which you run and finish. In short, success or failure in a Marathon is not measured by the time on the clock or by the number of people who cross the line in front of or behind you.  (Between you and me, I will admit to you that I do privately use my finishing position – in my age bracket, and overall – as a benchmark for my own personal feeling of accomplishment and – if noteworthy enough – bragging rights). Rather, it is measured by miles you have placed behind you, the wear on your shoes, the sweat on your face, and ultimately, having crossed the finish line – whatever your time is – that you are spent, and that you can look back on the race as having put all your energy into the effort. Continue reading

Lesson #6 – Read and take to heart all you can about the task at hand…

…from those who have tried, and (possibly failing along the way, but who ultimately) succeeded, not from those who talk a good game but have never finished a race.

The only thing you learn from failing and failures is what doesn’t work and how not to win. Having said that, failure does give you insight into things to avoid and how not to lose. Henry Ford said, “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” Failing may in fact be a part of life and learning, but I believe we can often circumnavigate failure by applying the perspective and experience of others.

Whatever your endeavor, there are resources you can draw from that can give you a leg up on, shorten the learning curve, and minimize failures and missteps as you move through the 4 stages of competence. You have certainly seen them before, but I list them here for you in perhaps a different context. The 4 stages of competence are: Continue reading

Lesson #4 The pebbles in your shoe will take you out of the race…

The expanded version of this lesson is: Large boulders in your path can distract you and cause you to veer from your goal, rocks in your path may trip you up, but (uncorrected) it is the pebbles in your shoe that will take you out of the race. All three can ruin your day, if you don’t address each problem as you encounter them.

Let me first say, I’d apologize for this long post, but I took the time to write it and don’t know what to cut. So I hope you will read it without getting bored, and gain something from it (and maybe even say, “Nice work!”).

I run 5 to 6 days per week. I am practically obsessive about it. If I can’t run several days during the week, I get… well… agitated. If you are a runner, you know what I mean. So, if I am pressed for time, I will only run 4 miles. If I have more time, I may run between 7 and 10 miles. Running with Dixie (my dog) is therapy for me. To which you may conclude, Continue reading

Lesson #3 Don’t pass the Aid station…

…There is critical nourishment and encouragement there.

In early Marathons, runners ran the entire distance without having aid or water stations along the way. This lead to a lot of casualties. Then a few runners started carrying water. Fewer casualties. Finally, someone got the idea to start having water stations at predetermined distances along the route.aidstationhandoff.gif

Still, there were casualties, but even fewer than before. When Gatorade was invented (for the University of Florida “Gators” football team), later discovered by runners who found they were able to replenish lost electrolytes, we began to see more finishers with better times.

Nowadays, every Marathon, Half Marathon, and even a 10k races have water/Gatorade stations placed strategically throughout the race, though some are further apart than others.

In the Chicago Marathon (my first), the aid stations were approximately every gatorade-aidstation.jpg1 to 1.5 miles apart. The World of Hurt run I did recently had them every 4 to 5 miles (adding to the brutal nature of the race), so you had to carry fuel and water with you. In fact, race officials would not let you start unless you had a minimum of 20 ounces with you at the starting line. The end result to all this is that even old guys like me can run and complete a Marathon.

Now for the runner’s dilemma. The question many runners ask themselves is, Continue reading

Lesson #2 Never Quit!

Lesson #2 – Don’t stop running.

When all seems lost, and you feel you can’t continue, don’t quit. There is a reward waiting just on the other side of the hill you are climbing. No matter how steep, you can make it.

This last weekend I ran my second race. This one was a particularly tough endurance race in that it was a “Hill” run. Forget the fact that it was less than 3 weeks after I had run the Chicago Marathon (which in itself is not the smartest thing… that is, running 2 races so close together). It was a great opportunity to discover new limits to my abilities, and I felt I was up to it. Besides, it was such a beautiful setting in what is known as Bootleg Canyon. I was surrounded by like minded (translate that to “a bit crazy”) runners, the air was crisp, and there were gorgeous views in every direction. Ah, the deceptive tranquility of Bootleg Canyon.

human_power.jpgThe run was only 16.74 miles (They called it a “Fun Run” because it was less than a Marathon length), but had something on the order of a 2800 foot change in elevation. Lots of ups and downs, some so steep that you were forced to walk going up and brake hard going down, interspersed with piles of rocks so large you couldn’t run over them but were forced to pick your way over, and others you had to put hands on the outcropping and literally climb over. After the first 1/4 mile, it became a single track, Continue reading

Lesson #1 Life is a Marathon, not a sprint

Lesson #1 – Life is a marathon, not a sprint.

A marathon by its nature is an endurance race that tests and tries the body, eventually taking it beyond its breaking point. Once Glycogen stores are depleted, and electrolytes are burned up, and any stored proteins that the body possesses are consumed, in order to continue, the body converts any sugars that remain into lactic acid, which now residing in the muscles causes cramps, and charlie horses, and excruciating pain.  And from there your body begins to consume and cannibalize muscle, fat, and anything else it can feed on to survive. Unfortunately, a marathon isn’t over until you reach a distance of 26 miles 385 yards, so you don’t have the luxury of stopping.

Who could forget the1984 Los Angeles Olympics when Gabriela Andersen-Schiessgabrielle21 suffering from Heat Prostration stumbled into the stadium to cover the last 400 meters of a 26.2-mile race.  She limped and lurched around the track, holding her head and alternately stopping and restarting as the crowd groaned.  Her left arm flailing at her side, her right leg unbending at the knee, she nevertheless waved off medical assistance, which would have meant her immediate disqualification.  Finally, after navigating the final 400 meters in an agonizing 5 minutes 44 seconds, Andersen-Scheiss fell into the waiting arms of three medical staffers as she reached the finish line in 37th place, 24 minutes behind winner Joan Benoit.

When you finally cross the finish line, your body is -for lack of a better word- broken. It doesn’t appear to matter what your level of conditioning. At the end of the run, you are broke, spent, wasted.  I suppose you could say that your body could file bankruptcy, because there is nothing left in the bank but a big deficit, because you withdrew more than you could ever deposit. From about mile 20 (officially referred to as “The Wall” as in “I hit the WALL”), the only thing that draws you toward the finish line is the residual effects of months of long training runs, the confidence gained as a result of that training which says that in spite of what your body has been telling you for the last several miles you can do it, and then ultimately all of the shear strength of will that you muster up from somewhere deep inside. Even elite Marathoners are broken and rarely will even go for more than a walk to the car for at least a week after a race, while the body heals itself. Remember the Greek Soldier who ran the approximately 26 miles from Marathon to Athens to announce that the Persians had been miraculously defeated in the Battle of Marathon?  What nobody wants to talk about is that a few minutes after delivering the message, he dropped dead.  And this is what they named the race after – in honor of a guy who finished… but died?  They didn’t even name the race after him, but rather the place where he began his epic run.  His name now pretty much forgotten.  After my first Marathon, I would have named it a “Steve” if I could have.  Sounds good to me.  “Hey, I just ran a Steve today”.  And my friends would look on with awe.  “A Steve!” they would say. “I didn’t know he had it in him. I could never run a  Steve.  What is a Steve anyway?”   And I would answer while flashing my Steve Medal, “26 miles 385 yards.”  (I know you’re scratching your head about what his name was.  It was Pheidippides.  Running a Steve sounds so much better than running a Pheidippides, don’t you think?)  But I digress.

Having said all that, after the hundreds and hundreds of miles and of running, the cross training, and the long weekend runs, you  build your capacity for endurance.  All of which trains your muscles, and perhaps more importantly, trains your mind to believe that the end is obtainable.  If you have the right equipment, and have made the sacrifices necessary and learn to manage your pace, and your stride, and your fluids, and your fuels properly along the way, success is a given and the finish line is a footnote to what you have accomplished.  Ultimately, if the preparation for and management of the race is adequate, the end is assured (That is a positive outcome is assured… not like the first Marathon runner).

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On October 5th, 2007 I ran the Chicago Marathon, my first. Out of approximately 45,000 entrants, nearly 10,000 didn’t start as a result of the weather, fear, or various other reasons. But more startling, another 10,000 (for a total of nearly 20,000 people) did not finish the race they trained for months to run. The weather conditions made for a brutal day. Continue reading