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Thoughts on Running

Thoughts on Running (17)

Running can be a life-changing activity, a passion, an outlet, sometimes (hopefully not often), it can even feel like a chore.  As many long-time runners can attest, running can also teach many lessons that are readily transferable to a wide array of life situations.  Some of these examples are encapsulated in the encouragement runcoach (like many other running coaches through history) gives you along your training journey.

 

Run through the Line

Running, belief, commitment, and a willingness to see the task to completion are crucial components to success.  Many times a premature decision to evaluate a project or a race midway through eliminates the chance to enjoy the fruits of your labor, or a change of fortune in the late stages of the race.  Marathoners go through rough patches, and can weather them and find success if belief and commitment are strong.  Many a start-up or a long term project has also gone through a dark season or two before things finally look up.  Commit to running the race until completion, and earn yourself the chance to enjoy the good that might still be possible.

 

Plan your rest days into the schedule

Although not every runner keeps the same schedule of rest vs. training days, every runner has a better chance of avoiding injury and training interruptions when they are able to plan regular rest into their schedule.  Try to push through when rundown, or ignore a nagging sore spot, and an unplanned, and much less convenient rest period might be just around the corner.  Similarly, a non-stop schedule of work and stress can often adversely affect our health.  Although we don’t always have control over our schedules, most would agree a balanced life includes times of planned relaxation and recharging for the next challenge.

 

A positive attitude makes an enormous difference

Life and running have their fair share of challenges and unanticipated roadblocks.  Depending on your perspective, many of these are temporary, and loom frighteningly large or completely manageable.  When you retain a fundamental belief that a viable path exists out of your current bind, and when you attack a problem with the belief that the problem has a knowable and doable solution, you have a much greater chance of success than when a defeatist attitude emerges first.  Get through that mid-race rough patch by reminding yourself of your training and the strength it has given you.  Pick your way through a tricky professional patch by relying on the skills that have brought you to that point.  Stay positive, and it will soon take the idea of giving up off the table.

 

Pace yourself

Life is a marathon, and not a sprint.  We say this because we understand that a marathon takes a great deal of patience, training, and learning to succeed.  We also understand that if you start out with a pace that throws caution to the wind, then your end result might be a bit unpleasant.  A life a thousand miles begins with a single step.  Stick to your plan, keep a steady, confident tempo, and arrive on time and in one piece, both in life and in the race.

 

Practice Makes Perfect

This saying, along with its cousin, “Perfect Practice Makes Perfect,” reminds us that it pays to consider our goals and to make sure we have rehearsed the requirements of the day as much as is possible beforehand.  Just like that important presentation or pitch, rehearsing your fueling patterns during your long run or embarking on routes similar in topography to your goal race will teach you how to flesh out the tricky parts and handle them more confidently.   We perform better when we can eliminate unknowns and focus on executing our plan.  Running long distances can be a great incubator for us to reinforce that habit.

 

There are many other sayings and phrases out there that encapsulate the similar challenges and successes we go through as runners in and out of our training shoes.  As runners, we are fortunate to have a great laboratory every day, and hopefully our lives are better for it even after we slip off our shoes.



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Like many of my red-blooded American middle-aged sisters, once I saw my first episode of Downton Abbey, I immediately proceeded to completely DVR binge the rest of the collection.  Although admittedly late to the party, this process proceeded according to the typical fashion. Quoteth the husband, “Ah Downton Abbey….I was hoping to go to sleep right away….. perfect….(snore)”

 

I was training for Boston and it was now mid-January - time to get down to brass tacks.  With a lot of solo long running ahead and in need of good reading while currently subsisting on a daily diet of early season Downton, my interest was piqued when a random iTunes search led me to find that Matthew Crawley reads audio books, and reads them like a boss.

 

If you have read this far, you likely know that Dan Stevens, the actor who so ably inhabited the character of Matthew Crawley for the first three series, is no longer doing so (see: #Christmas #Downton #carcrash #twitterpocalypse). Instead, he has been up to all sorts of things like producing and acting in a recently released movie, starring in a Broadway play, judging the 2012 Man Booker Prize, and writing. But what he should be doing, my friends, is reading audio books, because lawd ahmighty, he is very good at it.

 

With every new marathon training cycle, we learn new subtleties about the reasons we train. Originally exploratory efforts become tempered with expectations and a more complete understanding of the difficulties and physical pain ahead. Even if you love it all, a 20-mile route can begin to feel like rote if you have done it many times.

 

When running solo and on a safe route, my personal solution to these issues has been to press play. When I clicked “buy” on iTunes and started Fall of Giants, read by Stevens, I was at the trailhead of the tough part of the Boston training cycle with hundreds of miles ahead. First in a trilogy by Ken Follett of Pillars of the Earth fame, it fell squarely into my favorite dusty, middlebrow Michener/Rutherford bookshelf.

 

After many hours and miles listening to Stevens rattle off 20+ different accents from people of all ages and both genders, delivered with the weight, tone, and pace as if notes from Yo-Yo Ma’s cello, I was right back looking for the second volume, or a secret 1000 page appendix. As a kid, the characters of a well-read book almost leap from the page and visibly animate in the room.  Well, now I was five years old again, and had gotten used to these characters running alongside me while I shuffled along for hours on the San Francisco Bay Trail. Back to iTunes I went, only to find that another (probably perfectly nice) person had read the second book.  I quit the series and went pure Stevens-read until April.

 

Much has been made of the timbre of Stevens’s voice, but attached to the persona of Matthew Crawley, it has been confined by saying things like “You are my stick” for three years (and this is coming from someone who really enjoys the show). While his recent successes and the William Morris Endeavor agency will likely take him far commercially, I hope for the sake of my future marathon training (and for yours, should this prompt an iTunes run) that Stevens continues the likely financially inefficient pursuit of reading books to us. Perhaps he is just enough of a word nerd to do so.

 

As Stevens’s voice essentially became the narrator for my own journey toward the race, intertwined with the escalating weekly mile totals and the big fat long run at the end of the week, my kids would get in the car and hear some book I had plugged in after running and roll their eyes. “Does Dan Stevens read anything for kids?”  I was asked.

 

“Well, as a matter of fact, he does!” I happily replied, only to be reminded quickly how little my opinion counts.  Rather, my third grader asked to listen to one of the books popular with her set, the Dork Diaries (think Diary of a Wimpy Kid with a female protagonist). Quickly, I realized, I couldn’t take it.  Pages of “O.M. Geeeeeeeeee. Ma-ken-zieeeeeeeee! I was soooooooooo embarrassed I could hardly breeeeeeeathe!”  had me soon talking to the CD, occasionally banging my head against the steering wheel, threatening all sorts of things if they ever turned in papers that sound like this book, and ruing the day it was published.

 

Brilliantly, my older daughter recognized my distress at the inanity one day and blurted out, “Hey Mom, how would Dan Stevens read it?”  Now, our family has a durable new parlor game as well.

 

For each of us, this year’s Boston Marathon immediately ceased to be what it was the instant before we knew of the events at 2:50pm on April 15. Yet, the well-worn metaphor of training as a journey remains true here, maybe more so. In reflection, this season became a completely separate episode from the race itself, populated memorably by the various character tableaux as well as the creative and technical talent that kept my mind busy while my body did the hard work. I am reminded how precious is the gift of losing oneself in fiction, in music, in the observation of nature, or in a great conversation. May we all have a case of jet lag, a load of unfolded laundry or a run where our feet know the route well enough that imagination, for that mile or two or twenty, is again enough breeze to carry us to the other shore. And may Dan Stevens read a couple more books this year – I’m planning on another spring marathon.



chicago1The popularity of marathon running has grown by leaps and bounds over the past 20-30 years, and boldfaced names have increasingly taken up the challenge as well. Like a lot of us, they often run for a cause, and some even have hit some pretty quick paces along the way.  Where do your favorite stars stack up?

Politicians

Last election cycle, Representative Paul Ryan’s marathon time made a lot of headlines (real time: Grandma’s Marathon 1990, 4:01), but he is far from the only politician on either side of the aisle to have completed the full 26.2.  Other marathoners with an eye on the White House or the Vice Presidency have included Al Gore (1997 Marine Corps Marathon, 4:54), Sarah Palin (2005 Humpy’s Marathon, 3:59), John Edwards, (1983 Marine Corps Marathon 3:30), and George W. Bush (1993 Houston Marathon, 3:44).  Surpassing them all in the governmental division, however, are former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, who clocked in a solid Boston Qualifier at 3:03 in the 1989 Marine Corps Marathon, as well as retiring Montana Senator Max Baucus, who smoked a 3:01 at the 1982 Governor’s Cup Marathon.

Movie / TV Stars

“Stars!  They’re just like US,” scream the tabloid pages.  However, how much is your favorite screen star like you on the race course?  Green Lantern actor Ryan Reynolds stepped up with a 3:20 at the 2008 New York Marathon, while Katie Holmes clocked in at 5:29 at the 2007 five-borough event. Fellow teen television star Mario Lopez went from a 5:41 finish at the 2002 Boston Marathon all the way down to a 4:23 at the 2011 New York Marathon.  Famously, TV talk show host Oprah Winfrey also ran the 1994 Marine Corps Marathon in 4:29, putting a significant margin on the popular Today show meteorologist Al Roker, who clocked in at a 7:09 in the 2010 New York Marathon.   Celebrity Chef Gordon Ramsay has run several marathons, including the 2008 London Marathon in 3:19, and even Rudy (Sean Astin) has joined in, completing the 2010 Los Angeles event in 5:16 before improving to 4:26 the following year.

Musicians

Does having a golden throat or nimble fingers help you make it across the finish line any faster?  It depends.  David Lee Roth completed the 2010 edition of New York in 6:04.  P Diddy also ran New York in 2003 on a very truncated training schedule, still hustling to the finish in 4:14.  Representing the hipsters, Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie) completed the 2011 Los Angeles Marathon in 3:56, while songstress Alanis Morrissette has a 4:28 in 2009 in New York to her credit as well as a 4:17 trail marathon effort from the 2009 Bizz Johnson event.  Welsh classical singer Katherine Jenkins also competed at London this year, coming home in 5:26.

Athletes from other Sports

Those who have completed a marathon have one year left to claim they are faster than Mo Farah (the 2012 Olympic gold medalist at 5000 and 10,000 meters; he ran only half of London this year as a practice run).  With other celebrity athletes, we may not be so lucky.  Star athletes from other disciplines who have completed a marathon include 1996 gold medal winning gymnast Kerri Strug (presumably with two good ankles and without Bela Karolyi carrying her), who did the 2008 New York Marathon in 3:56.   Without ice or skates, hockey great Mark Messier and speed skater Apolo Ohno both did New York in 2011, with finishing times of 4:14 and 3:26 respectively.  New York Giants wide receiver Amani Toomer took on the same course in 2010, running 4:13.  Interestingly in his case, a charity partnership with Timex had him start as the very final person in the race, with incentives for how many people he was able to pass along the way.  Across the pond, tennis great Amelie Mauresmo ran right by her old stomping grounds at Roland Garros in the 2012 Paris Marathon, hitting a solid 3:16 on the finishing clock, while Olympic champion swimmer Summer Sanders finished this year’s Boston in 3:33, and World Cup winning soccer player Brandi Chastain earned a 4:08 in the 2008 New York Marathon alongside Strug.

Stars who should run a marathon

The growing list of celebrities attempting the marathon begs the question:  “Who should be next?”  For the sake of argument, and in the context of the running done while on screen, here are a few potential training recruits:  Tom Cruise (let’s see what he’s got – there is always at least one scene of him running at full speed in all of his movies), Angelina Jolie (as Lara Croft, Tomb Raider), Daniel Craig (as James Bond), Tom Hanks (as Forrest Gump), Regina King (as Lydia Adams on Southland, yes, but as Marcee Tidwell from Jerry Maguire, no), and Benedict Cumberbatch (either as Sherlock running to solve crimes or Khan from Star Trek: Into Darkness, running from Zachary Quinto as Spock, but most definitely not as Christopher Tietjens in Parade's End).

Who knows?  These names only represent a few of the famous faces you might encounter on your next marathon attempt. Keep an eye out on the course and a smile on – you never know who might be grabbing the cup next to you at the fluid station!



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