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

Everything I need to know about Life I learned from running

I submit that everything I need to know about Life I learned from running!Running is training is running

Here, I share those thoughts with you in no particular order, and each week or so I intend to elaborate on each of these lessons for life. I look forward to your comments and/or observations. I hope you enjoy!

1) Life is a marathon, not a sprint (the marathon isn’t over until you reach 26 miles 385 yards)

2) Don’t stop running

3) Don’t pass a refreshment station (there is critical nourishment and encouragement there)

4) 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 it

5) Always use the right equipment

6) Read and take to heart all you can about the task at hand from those who have tried, (possibly failing along the way, but who ultimately) succeeded, not from those who talk a good game but have never finished a race.

7) Coming in first or last doesn’t matter. Finishing does. Success or failure is not measured by the time on the clock. It is measured by miles you have placed behind you, the wear on your shoes, the sweat on your face, and ultimately by having crossed the finish line, whenever that is.

8) Look ahead, but not too far ahead

9) Intermediate milestones along the way, help you stay focused and positive

10) Your best chance for success is by employing a coach and/or mentor

11) When you are on rocky terrain,  Stay in the moment.

12) You can do it

13) Don’t allow yourself to become distracted from the goal

14) Enjoy the journey

15) Every mile spent in training helps to insure a successful run

16) You are not alone. Many have run before and many will run after

17) You can run farther and get their faster and enjoy the experience more when you run with someone who is like minded, matches your stride, and pushes you to go another step, just a little faster

18) You will hit the wall, but you can and must get through it

19) There are people around you, many of whom you don’t even know who are cheering for your success

20) Cross training is important (don’t do one exercise to the detriment of the rest of your body.)  You need to become well rounded

21) Hills can be your friend, valleys can be your enemy

22) It is never too late to begin, and you are never too old to start

23) You are your own worst enemy

24) Watch where you plant your feet

25) Running is work, but you can find fulfillment in it

26) Proper nutrition is critical

27) Listen to the signals your body is giving you (those aches and pains are trying to tell you something).  Adjust accordingly

28) Proper technique helps to avoid injury

29) If you get injured, get help

30) The more you run, the more you can run

31) Mark your progress daily. Keep a journal

32) Be careful of the company you keep (IE: If you are not a fast runner, but you run with a fast crowd, you will pay for it further down the road)

33) Others have inspired you, and whether you know it or not, you are inspiring others

34) A little proper eating before you start will help insure a successful run

35) Eating smart at the end of today’s run will help you run better tomorrow

36) As I run my marathon, there are many “someones” along the way who I do not know that will hand me a cup of water, a pat on the back, or a word of encouragement that will insure my success. Without them, I would not make it

37) What I learn from my experience I need to share and help someone else on their run along their path

38) When I cross the finish line, someone else may cry for my success even more than I do

39) Stretching before and after a run prepares my muscles for the run as well as protects me from injury

40) My dog loves to run with me so much, she would run until she dropped dead. Am I that loyal to someone or something?

41) Every day that I can get up and run is a gift

42) On good days or on bad, when I receive encouragement whether from someone running along side me or someone on the sidelines waiting for me to pass by, it really does make a difference.  If I can be that encouragement for someone else, I should and must

43) There is a big difference between “I can’t” and “I don’t want to.” Therein lies the difference between winners and losers

44) When you get injured your body heals on its own time, not yours

45) You get younger, not older when you run consistently and carefully

46)  The end isn’t the end… it’s only the beginning!