Sunday, November 30, 2008

The monster within


John Bingham wrote,

“For many of us, running releases a primal element of ourselves that we didn’t know existed. It seems like once we let that monster out, it wants to take over.”

I couldn’t agree more, and that got me thinking, just what exactly does it mean to be a runner?

When answering this question, some would immediately analyze pace, distance, miles, years, even "seriousness." Not me.

To me a runner is someone, who at some point decided he wanted better, he wanted more. Whether that was a weight-loss goal, a “get healthier” goal, or a just “get-out-of-the-house” goal, he wanted to change his life. Runners are marked by a conquering attitude and a core belief that we can always get better, do more, raise our bars so to speak, and that raising our bars is a worthwhile quest, not just on the streets, but on the road of life as well.

Most runners start out the same way, with the same goal, something like completing a 5-K road race. Once that’s done, the races become more frequent, the distances become greater. And at some point along the way, it becomes clear that there is very little in life that we cannot accomplish, there is no finish line we cannot reach. And the more we run, the more this lesson is taught to us. We see little inclines in the road ahead and remember a time when that was the steepest of hills. Suddenly the most challenging moments in our lives become quite manageable, they become quite “climb-able”.

Being a runner spills over onto those around us. As runners, we become an inspiration the very first day we lace-up our sneakers and head outside. And we all have an “Aunt Betty” who doesn’t quite get it, but she’s proud of us, she’s inspired by us, and when we’re not around, she tells someone, anyone who will listen, about our latest running accomplishment, our latest finish line.

Being a runner means facing it head-on, never backing away. We want more for ourselves, we want to go farther, we want to see just how far we can go. We never quit. Like all of our life experiences, some of our runs leave us wanting more, some humble us, but these leave us wanting more as well. There’s a lesson in each foot-strike. Runners are in-tune -- they learn those lessons, prepare, and overcome. They endure and push through. Running is like life; we prepare for the road ahead, but we turn around sometimes and see how far we’ve come.

Celebrate! We’re runners. We’ve awoken the monster within and let him out.

Run for your life.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Born to run


This week, about a dozen cheerful souls took their first few strides (in the rain I might add) along the road to long and rewarding running careers. As is often the case when I talk to new runners, I get asked for some advice or “pearls of wisdom” that might make the experience that much more enjoyable. I went way back, almost two years to the day, in my blog archives, and dug this one up.

I received an email from my oldest sister today announcing that she too has taken up running. She wrote that her reason for doing so is because she was getting tired of being left out of family gatherings that more and more have been revolving around running events.

I think it's terrific that my oldest sister has made this decision and it confirms my belief that running is about so much more than sweating, hard breathing, and pounding the pavement - leave that for the athletes. In our case, it has become a real connection point for our family. Separated by miles, schedules and other commitments, running has become a common thread, keeping us together, and a force gravitating us closer to each other.

My sister asked if there was any advice we could offer her as a newbie to running. I've given it some thought, and here are my best ideas for runners just starting out, in case she happens to read this:

Read John Bingham's "The Courage to Start" and then read "No Need for Speed", also by Bingham;

Start easy - a walk/run approach is best to get your body ready for the new stresses it is about to experience;

Go to a good running store and get fitted for a pair of quality shoes. It's worth spending the money here - you need a comfortable ride;
Before getting started, accept that there will be bad days - forget about them;

Before getting started, accept that there will be outstanding days - remember them always; and,

Enjoy. Take in the sights, celebrate your accomplishments, no matter how small they might seem. New runners see great gains in fitness and endurance in a relatively short period of time - keep track of your workouts in a log or online so you can easily look back on how far you have come.

Most importantly, put one foot in front of the other and enjoy every foot-strike.

Run for your life.