Runners are giving

One of the things I noticed at my very first race last September was how much encouragement runners were giving each other, not only before the race but also during and after the race as well. I was so taken by it that after I ran the 5K that day, I stuck around to cheer for the 15K runners because I knew how much it had helped me to hear the claps, woots, and ‘looking good runners!’ along the way. (I also remember thinking that 15K was an impossibly long distance).

Since that first experience everything I’ve witnessed since then has only reinforced my belief that runners are giving. A few examples.

I had absolutely no experience in running long distances prior to this year. None. Every single time I’ve needed the benefit of more experienced runners’ knowledge, it was not only given freely and enthusiastically, but I’d get follow-ups asking how things went. It didn’t matter how mundane (sore nipples) or important (nutrition) the topic was, runners lined up to help.  Mike B, Madison G, Ariana H, Chris B, Joe M, Rebecca B, and Erin K have been especially helpful.

When I got done running my first half marathon early this month, I went home, got some lunch then started browsing around to find some results from the race. While doing that I came across a story I had missed the day before from the ending of the 10K race. Amy Schoenfeld and Shari Klarfeld had battled for first place for nearly the entire race.  Shari pulled ahead toward the end, but then bonked badly just a few feet before the finish line.  Rather than running right by her, Amy Schoenfeld helped Kladfeld across the finish line first, then stepped across for second place.

Last month’s Runner’s World featured a story about Scott Jurek, arguably the greatest ultra marathoner in the world. After running 24hour races covering hundreds of miles, he routinely heads back into the course to encourage other ultra runners still out on the course.

In my last post, I was belly aching about a recent lack of umphhh in my running. Within minutes of posting, a local friend, Doug A., commented on the post, then got in touch with me to suggest we shake things up a bit and go for a run together to help cure those blahs. Maybe run a new route. Doldrums: cured.

But it goes beyond just advice and encouragement.

Joe M, a runner I only know virtually, has been raising money for his friend Dom who is fighting cancer. Joe had donations from countries all over the world, mostly from the running community.

Sara S, a runner from Milwaukee, just shared a very personal story about her battle with Chiari Malformation. Here are her words about why she even shared.

“What prompted me to share was that, in my own research efforts about Chiari, I came up flat. I wanted to hear stories, not medical fact-based info. I had found enough of that. I bought books, I read medical journal papers, I packed my brain with knowledge about my condition. I needed to hear someone’s STORY. I found very few. I realized that I can change that. I can share my story for the people who, just like me, need to understand the impact of their diagnosis, surgery, additional treatment, prognosis, etc.

So, I’m not afraid to share anymore. I will tell the story. I will pay forward the love, kindness and support that all of you give me by giving it to people who need a fellow “Chiarian” to talk to.”

Pay it forward indeed.


I think I have the male runner’s equivalent of postpartum.  These past couple of weeks since the Flying Pig have been one ‘blah’ run after another.  While I’m happy with the improvements I’m starting to make with my form, I’m just not happy with how it’s been feeling.  My fitness level hasn’t dipped.  My diet is the same.  Even my milage is back up to where it had been pre-taper.  I’m still motivated enough to get out there, but I just haven’t been feeling it at all.  No real sense of energy.  No feeling of satisfaction when I’m done with the runs.

Because I have no one but me to blame it on, I’m going to chalk it up to post-partum.  I’m not trying to trivialize real postpartum depression, I am empathizing.

For my entire life, I had envied runners.  Those people who worked hard at running, day in and day out.  They were like a magical bunch who ignored pain, boredom, weather and just kept going.  After many false starts at running, I can now finally say, I’m one of them.  No, I’m not claiming to be good at it, and I’m certainly not the fastest, but I am doing it.  I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have “I’d really like to run a long race” in my head, and hold it out there as an accomplishment, an endpoint.  I’m 41 years old.  That’s a long time to be wishing for something.

On May 3, 2010, I finished a half marathon and did so at a decent pace.  Truly, a life-long goal was attained.  Although I still have the full marathon looming out ahead of me (and who knows what after that), I wonder if my doldrums these past few weeks haven’t been somewhat related to having achieved something long desired and now missing the “want” just a tiny little bit.

I know I’ll get my running mojo back, it’s just a matter of pushing through. Until then, I’ll just have to deal with the reality that I can get excited about future, seemingly unattainable milestones too.

Form here to eternity

The title is my entry into the World’s Worst Pun® competition.  I think I’ve got a real shot at winning.

So, I’ve been spending my time doing three things.

  1. Working on my form.  After reading Born to Run by Christopher McDougall, I’ve really started to think about my form.  I’m not trying to get performance, necessarily, but I am hoping for longevity.  I plan to be running 20 years from now, so I want to do what I can to avoid injury and breakdown.  I’m about one week into focussing on shortening up my stride, landing on my midfoot with my my foot directly beneath my body, and a higher kick.  No conclusions yet.
  2. Healing my heals.  What an odd place to get cuts; there’s just no easy way to allow them to heal and still continue running.  Almost there, though.
  3. Working on my strength, especially my core.  I know if I don’t get stronger there I’ll never make to the end of 26.2.

Back at it

Having rested a bit after the race, I’m now back out on the roads getting in some good mileage.  It feels good.  Although I now know that tapering for the race was necessary and helped me run better during the race, I still didn’t like it.  I’ve grown too accustomed to running decent lengths on a daily basis and I think my body expects to be physically tired.

The cuts I got on my Achilles due to poor wet weather planning for the Pig continue to bother me.  They are healing, but having cuts in a place that gets scratched and rubbed normally durning runs makes it difficult to get it healed quickly.  A runner friend recommended putting Duct tape over top of the normal bandages and that does seem to be helping.

Flying Pig Half Marathon race report

I went in to my first half marathon race hoping that I could run it in 1:55:00, and that was based on my training runs and their typical pace.  Running a 1:55:00 half marathon would be keeping a pace of just under 8:50/mile, which seemed doable.  Well, I didn’t quite make it. Official chip time:  1:56:14.

Before I go through my thinking, let me say this: I am incredibly proud of my accomplishment.  A year ago I couldn’t run a single mile at all, let alone a half marathon.  I put in the miles, I slogged through the winter, I trained very diligently, and with the help of more experienced runners, I trained pretty intelligently too.  I feel ten feet tall today.

Now then, how did I miss my goal?  A few factors, I think.  I plan to get some more experienced input as well, but here’s what I think:

  1. I didn’t train on hills enough for this particular race.  If the Flying Pig is known for any one thing, it’s the hills.  Miles 6-9 are pretty much all uphill and it’s a doozy.  Every time you think you’ve made it to the top, there’s one more push to make.  And, unexpectedly (to me), I found the downhills from 10-12 to be just as tough as the uphills on my legs.
  2. I wasn’t as prepared for the weather as I should have been.  It rained through most of the race, especially at the beginning.  The socks I chose to wear today were kind of low cut and that ended up being a mistake.  I never put any body glide there and payed the price.  Just over 2 miles into the race, I could feel the rubbing of the wet shoes and socks and it never let up after that.  When I got to the finish, another runner asked me if I was OK because I had a steady stream of blood going from both Achilles into my shoes (which are now blood-stained).  It was my own little Curt Schilling moment.  I tried to just ignore the pain, but I’m sure I changed my gait a bit here and there trying to alleviate the pain.
  3. Lack of experience.  I should have noticed much further back that I was a bit off my goal pace.  I noticed as I passed the mile 11 clock, but even though I pushed hard to make up the difference in the final two miles, I ran out of real estate.

Here’s my race in more detail.  As you can see, the uphills were the miles were I was running at a pace higher than my goal.

All in all, I’m happy with this first half marathon.  And now I have something to gun for when I run my second half marathon in Columbus this summer, and then the full Chicago Marathon.

P.S.  Funny update.  If you’ve read this blog before, you may remember my post titled “I’m a serial killer.”  It was a post about how I’ve killed three iPods in a very short amount of time.  When I got back home from the Flying Pig, I forgot to take my Shuffle out of the pocket of my running shorts, and sure enough, they went though the wash. Dead. Another iPod, mercilessly cut short in its prime.

One day to go

By this time tomorrow morning, I hope to be done with my first half marathon.  I am excited, nervous, and, at the moment, dry.  Tomorrow, that will not be the case.  A couple of headlines from our local ABC affiliate’s weather website:

“Will the Flying Pig be a washout?”

“Raleigh’s Forecast: Severe & Strong Storms”

And here’s a picture of our current radar.  You can’t even see the map beneath the storm!

Strong storms

The good news is that the taper is over.