Crazy…..Crazy Awesome!

Well from the responses I got the other day about runners being crazy, I think the general consensus is that we are all most definitely crazy.  It seems that our friends and family all tolerate our craziness and a lot of us have significant others who see us out the door with a warning not to do something stupid.  Although as I mentioned to one of my favorite bloggers over at 278 to Boston, I don’t think they really understand what “not doing something stupid” really means to us.  In the midst of a long run very few things seem stupid, except for possibly stopping to pet a bear.  I myself have done many an incredibly stupid thing on a long run that seemed to make absolute sense at the time.  For example there was that 10 miler that I decided to turn into 23 with no fuel or plan in mind or when I had that great idea for my husband’s first race to be a trail run up Bear Mountain.  Oops.

A few days ago my husband went on a mission to find a new pair of running sunglasses.  While he was in the store he realized that the case to the glasses was open so he started trying on various pairs.  A short while later he felt a pair of eyes staring over his shoulder and found an employee watching him like a hawk.  He suddenly realized he probably shouldn’t have helped himself to the glass case without asking and apologized to the employee.  Despite the fact that he was in NYC which is sometimes notorious for having “slightly” rude sales people the guy told him it was no big deal but that he was going to hang behind him, “Just in case.”

When he told me this story later that night I thought about it for awhile and had an interesting thought.  I know that many stores have a certain percentage of stock that they assume will show up missing.  Sadly, there are a lot of dishonest people out there and products get stolen or damaged.  I didn’t do any research on this but I wouldn’t be surprised if the amount of things stolen is much less in running stores.  Call me crazy but the way I see it, as a whole we are a pretty stand up group.

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I would be willing to bet that if I left a shirt or hat at the start of a race and came back later, there would be a very good chance that it would still be there waiting for me.

Generally speaking, there is a real sense of community among runners.  There is a respect that is shared amongst each other.  We respect how hard the sport is regardless of how far or fast someone goes.  We respect different styles of runners and shapes and sizes.  Usually we are just proud to have these people as part of our community.  And most runners wouldn’t want to lose that respect by taking something they knew wasn’t theirs.  It is after all a small world.

There are thousands of people who put themselves through the rigors of half and full marathon training to help a charity and on top of that they raise thousands of dollars for those causes.  They enlist family and friends to volunteer at aid stations and give up their weekends and social lives to train

Look at the Meg’s Miles community on Facebook.  When Meg was tragically struck by a car and passed away last year, thousands of people who did not know her rallied to do a virtual run in her honor.  Today there are still thousands of members on the Meg’s Miles Facebook page who run miles for her and find inspiration in her memory.  Hundreds of them donated shoes last year to create a memorial that was made for her near the start of the Boston Marathon.  Kel Kelly created the memorial, and although she never met Meg, she felt compelled to create something for all of the athletes to see as they began the 26.2 mile trek.

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A few years ago I was running along the East River in New York when I came upon a hectic scene.  A man had jumped into the river and was drowning.  Dozens of runners immediately stopped and went into action to try and help this man.  It was such a scary scene but I couldn’t believe how many people were quick to jump into action.  In fact, the first person there was a mom pushing her toddler in a stroller.  Talk about brave!

One of the greatest places that you can see this runner awesomeness is at races.  It was the New York City Marathon that first sparked my return to running.  To run in a race and see people cheering you on regardless of your pace is such an uplifting feeling.  On the flipside, being able to stand on the sidelines and cheer runners on can bring tears to your eyes.

This past weekend I had the chance to run the Boston 13.1 and experience all of the fans and cheering from the side.  During the hardest parts of a race, when you start to question if you will make it or if you truly are insane, those cheers can be the determining factor of your successful finish.  And then I was able to swing back towards to the course and watch as other runners continued filing through the finish.  People cheering for loved ones and strangers at the same time, the college kids who took life sized cutouts of their friend’s head and put it on popsicle sticks, and the older woman who shouted to every single runner, “You are almost thay-ah.”  Top that off by watching as those same runners who were struggling towards the finish were also the first to coax others along as they questioned whether they too would make it.  Ever watch an athlete help carry a peer across the finish line? That is what makes running so special.

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You are all awesome!

My apologies to my buddy Zach, I short changed him on his race time.  I said he ran a 2:25 but he actually ran a 2:23!  That is seven minutes faster than his last.  Go Zach!

Peer Pressure and Marathon Spirit

For the past few weeks my job has been to work with and convince people to sign up for a marathon.  To be honest, I kind of like it and enjoy inflicting this type of peer pressure.  The reason why is because I truly love everything the marathon has to offer.  It is a learning and building experience that I think is life changing as both a runner and for life in general.  It isn’t like the 5k where many declare they will finish one and take a few weeks to prepare.  This is a journey that requires a lot of time and hard work.  But if you are diligent and put your time in, it is an achievable goal for many people.

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I can honestly say that all the people I chatted with and convinced to do the Chicago Marathon this spring are 100% capable and I really wanted them to do this for themselves.  I have to apologize to my friend Jerry because I harassed him for months on Facebook every time he posted his mileage.  He was putting in serious miles and every single time he mentioned his running I asked him when he would do a marathon.  I finally wore him down and he is going for his first.  There were  a few other friends that I was persistent with, but to be fair I really want them to have this experience.

“The marathon is the biggest totally peaceful community activity in human history.”- Spirit of the Marathon II

I absolutely love this quote.  I loved it from the moment I saw the trailer for this movie.  This quote sums up everything that is so awesome about being a part of a marathon whether you are running, volunteering, or there to cheer on the runners.  To watch people of all abilities push their bodies for months and then work to see it come to fruition as 26.2 miles is nothing more than inspirational.  If you ever want to see grumpy New Yorkers at their warmest I recommend standing along 1st Avenue on Marathon Sunday.

To me, every part of the marathon is a lesson not just in running but about life.  From the moment you hit the pavement for your first training run to the day you start and finish the race you are learning.  Sure you are learning about running, but you are learning a lot more than that.

Showing some love before the race.

Showing some love before the race.

The Building Phase:  Part of marathon training is about building up your mileage.  Turning a runner who does 10-15 miles per week into a marathoner takes some additional mileage.  You need to build up your base, not just in miles but also in character, confidence, muscles and endurance.  Isn’t that what life is about?  Aren’t we always trying to build upon where we are and become stronger each day?

The Long Slow Distance Run: Nothing teaches patience like going out early on a Saturday morning to run 20 miles before the rest of the world crawls out of bed.  Running alone for a dozen plus miles requires you to stay calm and confident and allow yourself to slowly work through the miles.  If you take off and start counting the miles or worrying about mile 19 you will never get to the finish, and if you do it will be a miserable experience.  The LSD teaches you to take your time and not look too far ahead into the future lest you be overwhelmed.

Learning to Acclimate: My husband likens marathon training to scaling Mt. Everest.  No one starts at the bottom and scales straight to the top.  They work their way up and camp for awhile and then continue a ways before stopping again.  They even go up and work back down again, much like the progression of your long training runs.  Sometimes you need to learn to take a break, to readjust, and to reassess.  Life isn’t about going straight to the top.  You need to experience the ups and downs to appreciate what the top has to offer.

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“The marathon is all about inspiration and triumph…..every runner is trying to pursue their own individual goals.”- Sprit of the Marathon II

I love asking my runners what their goal is for the marathon.  Many athletes shrug with embarrassment and say, “I just want to finish.”  Personally I think that is the ultimate goal for any athlete in a marathon.  I find it to be the perfect goal.  It isn’t easy, it takes hard work, but the experience will be unlike anything else in your life.

“It is the journey that is the most significant and it changes peoples’ lives.”-Spirit of the Marathon II

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That quote is the reason that all of the hard work and all of the struggles of marathon training are worth it.  If I had to tell you why I want so many people to jump in and join the experience it is because the actual journey itself of training for a marathon is life changing.  No matter who you are, you will find that deep within you there is a very strong person; stronger than you ever imagined.  You will find that you are capable of so many great things….and probably also that certain foods go down (and stay) much better than others.

All jokes aside I am truly excited and inspired by all of the athletes of so many different backgrounds who have decided to experience the journey that the marathon has to offer.

A special shout out this week goes to Jerry, Beccah, and Michelle for being running inspirations!

 

How About Some Inspiration To Get You Going?

It’s cold, it’s dark, you ate your weight in holiday food, and you know you should go run but you lack the motivation.  How about some running inspiration kick in the pants?  Below are some of my favorite reads and flicks that get my blood pumping and keep my feet pounding the pavement.

Books:

Born To Run– Christopher McDougall

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There is a very good chance that if you are already a runner you read this to help get you started or just for the love of running.  This is a National Bestseller and a modern running classic.  It started the barefoot running craze, but I personally took a lot more out of it than that.  This book contains several running stories within the main story as it takes you to the Copper Canyons of Mexico with a few awesome ultra runners.  The book takes you back to the basics and early history of running all while making you a true believer that each of has an inner running self.

Ultramarathon Man- Dean Karnazes

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Some people love him, others hate him but Dean Karnazes can seriously run and for a long, long time.  This book follows his late start as a couch potato turned runner extreme.  He turned his life around and has become an incredibly successful ultra athlete.  This is a fun and quick read and will make even the laziest of us feel like we can get out there and run 100 miles.

The Long Run- Matt Long

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This is by far one of my favorite books ever.  Matt Long was an accomplished triathlete and had just qualified for the Boston Marathon when he was run over by a bus during the NYC transit strike on his way to work with the FDNY.  After nearly dying and being severely mangled by the bus, Long documents his slow and arduous recovery and desire to become a runner again.  This book is full of inspiration not only for running but for life in general.  I shed many a tear of sadness and joy with this book.

Once a Runner- John L. Parker Jr.

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This is a cult classic from the 1970’s.  Parker self-published this and sold it out of the back of his car at races.  This book follows a competitive athlete through his college years as he trains his body and mind in ways you wouldn’t imagine possible. This book embodies the personality of a typical Type A runner and wild, unruly male college athlete.  I thought a lot about the main character’s insane training during my own long runs.

Movies:

“Spirit of the Marathon” I & II

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I highly recommend these movies in anticipation of marathon training, right before a race or just to reignite your love of running.  Both of these documentaries follow several runners from beginner to elite during their training process for the Chicago (episode I) and Rome (episode II) marathons.  They are informative and amusing all in one.  You laugh, you tear up, and you leave feeling ready to take on any run.  I watched the first one years ago and just loved it. I recommended this to my husband before his first 20 mile training run.  He was hooked and really did think it helped get him through that first big hurdle.  We were lucky enough to see the national premier of “Spirit of the Marathon II” in theaters the week before we ran our marathon.  It was awesome!

“Running the Sahara”

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And you thought getting out the door to do your daily 3 mile run was rough.  This documentary follows 3 elite runners as they trek across the Sahara Dessert for 111 days and over 4,300 miles.  It is an incredible journey documented by National Geographic.  This movie takes you through their highs and lows both mentally and physically.

“Unbreakable: The Western States 100″

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The Western States 100 is the oldest and considered by many to be the most prestigious 100 mile mountain ultra run through the Sierra Nevada.  This race is so difficult to finish in the 30 hour time frame that it is famed for the prized belt buckle you earn if you can make it to the finish in time.  This documentary follows 4 of the top runners as they make their way through their race not only wanting to get their hands on the buckle but vying for the top spot.

This is by no means a complete list, but a good one to get you started.  Let me know if you have any favorites that I forgot.  Let’s keep the inspiration going!