26 December 2009
Consider the role of music in running. How many of has NOT used some playlist on our mp3 players to get through some tough miles, to find some emotional inspiration in lyrics or a special musical rhythm? In fact, there are people who specialize in supplying running music for runners, whether to match a specific cadence/pace requirement or to help runners lose themselves in their running. When I need that special oomph in a run, I turn to a couple of special songs that have struck an emotional chord in me. Who hasn’t done so?
So why is it then, that we are often taught to ignore or suppress the emotional side of our running; to treat our running like a clinical exercise? There are those who would prescribe forgetting a bad run (or even a good run for that matter, to prevent overconfidence or complacency) as a means of moving forward, of getting past the past. What good does it do us to suppress the emotional, spiritual side of running in order to perform better? And is that even possible if our genetic makeup requires addressing that emotional, mental side of running?
I’m here to submit to you that running is not a clinical, soulless exercise. That it is okay to experience and express emotions before, during, and after running. In fact, we can become better runners if we learn to understand what out emotional side requires from us and from our supporters. If we do not learn to understand what our emotions tell us, then we cannot grow as individuals, as runners. But the issue is a little deeper than learning to express emotion in a healthy way. The issue gets to the very nature of humanity itself.
We now know, thanks to the Human Genome project that no two humans are alike (well, we knew it for a long time, but some geeks in lab coats confirmed it for us). If this is true (and why wouldn’t it be, anyone found their exact twin recently?), then we must grant that runners as individuals are different. I’m not talking about paces, stride length, foot strike, or speed. What I’m writing about is runner temperament, runner emotions, and runner psyche. We are distinct, each of us possessing a set of ideals and beliefs and attitudes that derive from nature or have been nurtured in our environment. And as runners, we are no different. Each runner has a different temperament, attitude, outlook; a set of world views as they relate to the sport we all so dearly love (and sometimes hate—see, emotion!).
So what’s my point? My point is that the secret to runner success can be found not only in the training, the miles, the hill work, the speed work, the gear, or the race-day conditions, but also, and perhaps most important, in the runner’s mind! There has been a lot of recent literature and focus recently on the mind of the runner, but most of it (at least that which I have read) focuses on the necessity of understanding that the mind controls the body, that the body can do more than the mind “thinks” it can, and that once one understands that, then running progress can occur quicker. In short, this literature has focused on the mind/body relationship. But what about the need to understand a runner’s emotional needs? If we are not all alike, then we must realize that each runner has certain emotional needs. Some runners need positive reinforcement in their training and races. Others need “tough love” as a motivator to improve. There are those runners who exhibit a dispassion for their running, a sort of mechanical nature to their emotional side, but they too have an emotional side that they are suppressing.
We do a disservice to ourselves and those we support, then, when we appreciate that strides and gaits are distinct, yet ignore the variety of runners’ emotional needs. Imagine trying to fit all runners into the same model and style of running shoe. Chances are that someone will become injured by this “one size fits all” mentality. Yet, we do this when we neglect the emotional differences in runners. And worse yet, when we dispense running advice to one another we should fully appreciate those physical and emotional differences. Just because one runner may be able to take a bad run or a lousy race and forget it, to clear it out of the mind immediately, doesn’t mean that the next runner will be able to do the same. If the former can forget the bad, the latter might require a purging of the bad memories of a race or negative running result. And without that purging the runner may fail to move on with a clear and focused mind for fear of reliving a unique event. Without a discussion of what happened, why it happened, and what can be done to prevent or overcome a negative event, some runners are unable to move on. And yet this is not rocket science. Often the answer is a simple: not your fault. Other times the answer can contain specific actions a runner did or did not take. Regardless of WHAT the answer is, the runner who requires this closure MUST get this closure. Some runners need a beer after the race in order to move on. Others need more elaborate measures, from deep-thinking conversation, to a boat load of tears. The sooner that we realize what kind of runner we are emotionally, then the quicker we can adapt to those needs and grow. Just because you are able to quickly come to terms with a bad result doesn’t mean that the person you are advising or training can. The essence of a good running friendship or training relationship is the mutual awareness of these differences and needs that each person has. One size most definitely does not fit all.
So why am I writing this? Well, for one, I’m on vacation and my mind is not occupied with work matters. Second, I’ve thought about this issue for some time now. When you cry after your first marathon and get mocked for it ever since, you find yourself thinking about why some people express emotions and others don’t. And third, being able to observe the training programs of several friends and their various successes and failures has given me an opportunity for observation and analysis. Running is like that. It is one of the few sports where we’ve all been through what every other runner has been through (except maybe BQing or winning a marathon, but you get my drift). So running lends itself to be, at once, objectively and subjectively analyzed. It offers a level of experiential analysis that few other sports can claim. I mean, really, how many of us could identify fully with Derek Jeter winning the World Series as part of the Yankees Baseball Club?
So just as we need to be aware of our physical needs and limitations, we should also be aware of our emotional needs. And more important we need to let fellow runners know what they are and how best they can support us in our running.
20 December 2009
19 December 2009
17 December 2009
As you know from the last post, I went into the race fairly confident in my training, but a little nervous as to the outcome. To spare you of the suspense, I had a great race where everything went according to plan. I ran 5:33:00 for my second marathon and shaved 37 minutes off my WDW Marathon time from January (which was 6:10). The Rocket City Marathon was a blast.
10 December 2009
- Weight. I've lost 27.5 pounds (from 231.5 to 204) and feel incredible. My running has improved and I KNOW this will assist my racing and recovery. Eating a healthier diet has been paramount to this growth and I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Megan (the Vegan Running Mom) for helping me wean myself from dairy and meat (I'm not totally off them yet, but my consumption of those two items has decreased exponentially, and my weight has come off because of it)
- Rest. Before the WDW race, I had toured the parks for a full 2.5 days before trying to rest the night before the marathon. My endurance suffered from walking miles a day and standing in lines for hours. This time, I've had plenty of rest and recovery during my taper.
- Training. My training for WDW was "just finish." The training for this race has been specific for a time goal and for growth and improvement as a runner. This has made a world of difference in my attitude and conditioning. Again, thanks to Megan for being my coach.
- Experience. Another year of running, with its successes and failures has taught me great lessons about myself and about running. I still consider myself a newbie, but feel so much more knowledgeable about this sport.
- Friends. You, the people who read this blog, or listen to the podcast, or tweet with me on twitter. You mean a lot to me. All of you have inspired me in one way or another and I can only say thanks, and hope to give you something to be proud of when I run.
05 December 2009
04 December 2009
As a running nut, I am fascinated with running gear. Running sleeves, at least in my mind, are a recent arrival on the non-elite running scene. I mean, most of us have seen world class marathoners wearing them at cold weather races. My first recollection is seeing Ryan Hall wear them at the NY marathon a couple of years ago. He wore them again at Boston last year. I had never considered myself a worthy enough runner for arm sleeves. I always thought you had to be a kind of elite runner to look right wearing them. But I was curious nonetheless.
So, having seen a Moeben ad in a running mag, and on the recommendation of some twitter tweeps (who recommended them highly), I contacted Moeben and requested a couple of pair of arm sleeves for a product review. None other than the CEO herself, Shannon Farar-Griefer, responded and sent me a few pair for evaluation.
Moeben is a company run by Shannon Farar-Griefer and is named after her two sons, Moe and Ben. She is an ultra runner who developed her product after noticing a skin lesion during an ultra race. The sleeves come in a variety of fabric types (eco friendly bamboo and hemp, or poly/lycra UV protection) and a wide range of prints, from subued black, white or blue to camo, tie-dyed, and even leopard print.
I had to wait a few weeks for the weather to cool in order to see how they assisted cool-to-warm weather runs. See, since I am not a speedy runner, my long runs typically start in the cool of the pre-dawn morning and end well after the sun has come up and has heated the place up. I have always had an issue with either over- or under-dressing. So I was excited to try the sleeves on several occasions when I knew the temps would undergo some fluctuation.
Before I get to the rest of the evaluation, let me tell you the coolest thing about these sleeves: the pockets. Each sleeve has a small pocket on the portion of the sleeve that would rest near your bicep/tricep area. The sleeve is just big enough for an iPod Nano or small cell phone. The iPhone is too big for this pocket, to give you an idea. My Nano fit perfectly in the pocket. And since the sleeves fit nice and snug, there was no danger of their falling down with the Nano inside. For track or tempo workouts I even placed sheets of paper with my paces in the pockets.
I am in love with these sleeves. The ability to pull them down or up as my body heats up or as the temps climb or fall is liberating. I can wear a short sleeve shirt, and wear the sleeves, and not fear overheating during the run. In fact, on an 11 miler in Franklin, Tennessee over the Thanksgiving weekend, they came in real handy. I wore the Bamboo tie-dyed sleeves. The day started out sort of cool but not windy, so I had the sleeves on. As the run progressed, the sun rose and the temps grew milder—I pulled the sleeves down to my wrists and wore them loose around the wrists near the hands in order to cool off a bit. But as I approached the Battle of Franklin Civil War site, which is more open field, the wind picked up and cooled off again, so I pulled them back up and kept my arms warm. Nice and versatile.
If you are considering buying some, you will need to decide whether you want the bamboo or hemp (which feel softer against the skin) or the traditional poly/lycra models. The hardest thing is choosing the print that you want on the sleeves. Believe me, some of the prints get pretty wild.
Visit the Moeben site
02 December 2009
Gordon makes his last long run before the marathon, 21 miles, finds that he lacks any confidence whatsoever. He records all of this episode in his car. He makes hummus–successfully.