“When something bad happens you have three choices. You can either let it define you, let it destroy you, or you can let it strengthen you.” ― Dr. Seuss
Besides running, there is one common thing almost thing every runner shares. Each of us has at least one person we know that cannot understand this entire running thing that defines us. They may shake their heads and chuckle every time we lace up our running shoes, but sadly the laugh is on them, not us. Ignore their negativity. It says more about them than it does about us. We are awesome and amazing, never forget that!
I had a friend who used to be afraid to loan me anything before a race. He asked me if I ever heard of James Fixx, author of the 1977 best seller The Complete Book of Running. Fixx is credited with starting the jogging craze in the USA, but he died at 52 from a heart attack while jogging.
Another friend thinks it’s funny to yell “No one’s chasing you!” when he drives past runners.
I’ve casually mentioned to people that I have an upcoming marathon only to have them respond, “You run?”
I could go on, but such negativity on their part is what sets US apart from them. It takes courage, determination, and a positive mindset to take that first step from the couch towards the track. Negativity holds you back. It is a soul killer. You cannot have a positive life with a negative mind.
Running is good for your mind, body, and spirit. Running clears your mind as you focus on the race. It is great therapy for working through personal turmoil or trauma, while at the same time strengthening and toning your body. Since I ran my 1st 5K on April 28th 2019, my weight has steadily dropped. I feel great, and I feel better about myself.
My pace continues to improve, and I have run a marathon. Now I’m pursing my 1st 50K. This was unthinkable three short years ago back in 2018.
Additionally, running is a great way to build new friends through the community of runners. Local races draw the same groups of runners, so you begin to see the same familiar faces each time, and they in turn see you.
You may not always be aware of it, but all around you there are people that take notice of you and are watching. Your observable actions and positive attitude encourage and inspire these individuals as they work through their own journey of self-discovery. I cannot count the number of compliments I have received from individuals over the past two years as my progress improved. I cannot count the times fellow runners have told me ‘you got this’ when I was struggling. And I in turn cannot count how many times I have given back similar compliments and encouragement to other struggling runners. The mutual feedback of positive energy is uplifting.
I have never found a more encouraging and accepting group of people than I have in the community of runners. “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17. NIV)
If you have additional running tips and tricks, please leave a comment. If you are local to me, you can find me at these upcoming races:
In the human foot, there are 26 bones, 33 joints and over a hundred muscles, ligaments, and tendons.
Having the proper sneakers that fit well are essential equipment for ‘most’ runners. Modern footwear provides protection to that other essential thing that most runners don’t usually even think about, their feet. Keeping your feet healthy will improve your ability to run. Shoes that fit improperly will cause all manner of foot aliments, from simple blisters up to and including: bunions, corns, and black toenails (from cramming your feet into the front of the shoe). Now if you’ve ever caught the toe of your shoe while running at top speed like I have several times on trail runs, you’re probably grateful for having the toe box of the shoe take the hit on that ‘invisible rock’. Slamming your naked toe full force into an immovable object is a surefire way to break a toe.
The soles of our shoes protect our feet as we run from any sharp or jagged items on the ground. The cushioned insoles soften the impact of our feet hitting the ground. This two step protection prevents the natural build up of calluses on the soles of our feet. Calluses are thickened layers of skin where friction, irritation, and pressure repeatedly occurs. Our shoes are like armor for our feet providing a barrier between our feet and the rough ground. They also alter the natural movements of our feet by restricting the ability of many joints in our feet to flex like nature intended, and in turn have altered the way humans run. Instead of striking the ground with the balls of our feet, we now strike the ground with our heals. As a result, we need added shock-absorption in the heal area of our shoes, so we are constantly walking and running with our feet on a slanted plane. We should be launching ourselves from the balls of our feet.
The barefoot running movement.
Abebe Bikila was an Ethiopian marathon runner who won back-to-back gold medals in the 1960 and 1964 Olympics. Amazingly, he ran the 1960 Olympic marathon completely barefoot with a record time of 2:15:16.2. Think about that for a moment. 26.2 miles on the soles of his feet without any footwear what-so-ever. AND HE WON! 4 years later at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, he won again, this time wearing shoes. His time was over 3 minutes faster at 2:12:11.2. If you’re curious, he was wearing Puma Osaka sneakers. These were an innovative design with a minimal sole and a nearly non-existent heal-to toe wedge providing a ‘barefoot’ feeling. In modern footwear, we refer to this as a zero-drop shoe, meaning that the heel and the ball of the foot are on a flat horizontal plane with no slanted wedge.
The best of both worlds
A zero-drop shoe is designed in a way that the toes and the heel have the same distance from the ground allowing your feet to sit in a natural position that helps with spine alignment and posture. Minimalist running shoes all have zero-drop platforms with super-thin, ultra-flexible soles and fit your foot like a glove. Perhaps the most widely recognized brand in this category is the Vibram Fiver-Finger shoes, sometimes referred to by the slang term as ‘toe shoes’.
You don’t do ballet wearing combat boots!
The super thin soles, lack of insole padding, and soft flexible upper shells allow ‘barefoot’ shoes to provide the wearers with fully uninhibited motion of the entire foot. Unfortunately, this comes at the cost of all the protective properties of traditional running sneakers. Proponents of the barefoot running movement claim that this natural foot movement eliminates many of the physical problems runners sometimes develop such as shin splints, knee pain, IT band syndrome and a host of other ailments. As a person who has always worn traditional sneakers, I can neither confirm nor deny these claims. I personally like to think that the padding and thick soles protect our feet in much the same way that boxing gloves protect a boxer’s hands as they’re pounding their opponents. As a Clydesdale, I’m pounding that pavement a lot harder than thinner runners, so I’m very hesitant to try this fad.
Full disclaimer: I am neither a podiatrist nor an expert in biomechanical muscular-skeletal movement. I’m just an avid runner making a guess from personal experience. It seems to me that perhaps it might work, maybe, but I’m extremely skeptical.
The bottom line:
I’ve seen runners run in 21°F (-5°C) wearing nothing but shorts and sneakers because it ‘felt good’ to them. Everybody is different, and every body is different. Listen to your body and do what you feel is good for you. I may give barefoot running shoes a test at some future date just to see how it feels. I am eyeing a pair of Xero-shoes sandals, but they never seem to have them in my size when I shop online. IF I ever do score a pair to try, it will be on flat pavement. So do what you think is right for YOU. Whether you choose tradition sneakers, minimalist running shoes, or no shoes at all, the choice is up to you.
I will recommend one thing though. After a long hard run, treat yourself to a therapeutic foot massage. Your feet will feel amazing afterward!
If you have additional running tips and tricks, please leave a comment. If you are local to me, you can find me at these upcoming races:
Sneakers is an American word used to describe soft rubber-soled athletic shoes. They have been around since the mid to late 1800s and go by many names. In England, they are referred to as trainers or joggers. Other names include: Tennis shoes, running shoes, runners, track shoes, sports shoes, gym shoes, kicks, and a plethora of other slang terms relating to usage, style, or manufacturers. Sneakers are so ubiquitous that they have crossed the divide from athletic usage to everyday casual footwear, and the dreaded fashion sneaker.
Just as people come in all shapes and sizes, so do sneakers. Just as all people are not runners, all sneakers are not running shoes. You should NOT be running in fashion sneakers. So if you’re going out for a run (an ACTUAL run, not a metaphorical one), or you’re gearing up for a race, leave the Chuck Taylors and Vans® at home.
It’s probably easier to pick out a car than it is to pick out running shoes. As mentioned in the opening paragraph, not all sneakers are running shoes, but all running shoes are sneakers, so for the remainder of this article, when the words sneaker or shoe appears, it is specifically referring to running shoes.
Just as there are many auto manufacturers, makes, models, and colors, the same holds true for sneakers. The list that follows is by no means exhaustive, but it was exhausting to compile. (If I missed any popular ones, let me know in the comments)
Adidas. Allbirds. Altra. APL. ASICS. Brooks. FILA. HOKA. Inov-8. Karhu. La Sportiva. Mizuno. Merrill. New Balance. Newton Running . Nike. Puma. Reebok. Salomon. Saucony . Sketchers. Under Armor. Veja. VJ Shoes . Xero Shoes.
There are high end brands, and low end ones. A sneaker does not have to cost an arm and a leg to be good, and sometimes the extra bucks are just paying for the company logo.
Brand loyalty will lock you into a particular company with shoes faster than you can say ‘RUNNERS, READY’. And sometimes, you will have a very limited color choice in that style. You may have a strong desire to own a particular brand, only to discover that they don’t fit your feet properly. Running is a very individual sport and everyone’s foot is different. Small, large, narrow, or wide all play their part as to what shoe is best for your individual foot. Just because your BFF running partner wears the latest from Saucony, doesn’t mean that they make it in your size.
When it comes to buying sneakers, you really have to do your homework, and you can’t buy cut-rate. Stick to well known brands and get your shoes fitted at a shoe store, one where they specialize in running shoes like Fleet Feet does.
Most quality running shoes will set you back about $150. Do NOT go to a place like a department store and buy $20 sneakers. You get what you pay for. Before I actually committed to becoming a runner, I didn’t know any better. When you’re a newbie, sneakers are sneakers. I purchased a pair of no name running shoes in 2018 which I barely ever wore before I got my Nikes. I was on vacation August 24th 2019 and I had ONLY the ‘no-names’ with me, so I decided one morning to go for a run on the boardwalk in Ocean City MD. This happened:
Yep. I ran so fast that my sole left my body.
So two lessons learned that day:
NEVER EVER EVER buy cheap no-name, or counterfeit running shoes.
ALWAYS have two to three pairs of running shoes in rotation, and a spare pair with you in your gym bag.
When you do get around to shopping for your shoes, don’t fret about the color or obsess over a brand and style.
There are only two real considerations you should be concerned with.
What surface are you running on? Road, or trail. Some brands have both types, others specialize, but you need trail shoes for trails, and road shoes for roads. They are made different for a very good reason!
How do they feel on your feet. It doesn’t matter if they’re the prettiest pink shoes you’ve ever seen, and all the girls in track have them. It doesn’t matter if your hero who took the Gold at the Olympics wears them. If they don’t fit, and they hurt YOUR feet, they’re worthless. And when you do go to buy shoes, always wear the same type of socks that you usually wear when you run, because you want these shoes to fit perfectly when you hit the road. Never wear brand new shoes for a race, or a long run. It takes five to ten miles to break-in new sneakers so take them out for two or three 5K training runs before you race with them.
BE PREPARED to spend about $150. You might get lucky and catch a sale, or a closeout on last year’s model, but don’t get your hopes up.
BUT EVERYONE WEARS THEM Look , I understand that you may love your special brand, and that’s wonderful. My road race sneakers are my Nike Initiator running shoes, and for trails I don my Inov-8 X-Talon 200 trail shoes. I always wear MudGear brand socks.
The reality is, when it comes to sneakers, most Olympic runners wear Nike. Does it mean you should wear Nike? Not at all. I wear these particular shoes because I have an odd size foot, and finding shoes that fit me is a challenge. If you find a brand that appeals to you, run with it! The only wrong running shoes are cheaply made no-names. If that’s ALL you can really afford, run with it. It’s better to run with inexpensive (but inferior) shoes than to not run at all. Just buy the sneakers you can afford without breaking your budget.
As for why elite runners chose Nike more than any other brand, the answer is simple. Nike is courting these athletes and seeking endorsements, while the athletes in turn are looking for sponsorships to pay for their training costs. For professional athletes and corporations, it’s a mutually beneficial arrangement. Plus if everyone is wearing the exact same shoe at the Olympics, They’re all competing on a level playing field. The moment someone breaks the trend for something ‘new’, everyone cries foul!
The Nike ‘Alphafly’ prototype shoes worn by Eliud Kipchoge when he became the first athlete to run a marathon in under two hours in October 2019 have now been banned.
In 2019, 31 of the 36 podium positions in the six world marathon majors were won by elite athletes wearing Nike Vaporfly, as reported by the Guardian.
According to Runnersworld, at the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials, 404 of the 565 finishers wore Nikes.
Vaporflys have not been banned, but Nike must adhere to strict new guidelines. Critics state that these shoes which have thick, foam soles and carbon-fibre plates to improve speed give the wearers an unfair advantage during competition, but again, if all the athletes wear them no one can complain.
As of this writing, a pair of men’s Nike Vaporflys cost about $425 depending on size and style. No, I’m not planning on buying a pair. I would never spend THAT MUCH on a pair of running shoes, plus Amazon doesn’t have them in my size.
All good things must end Remember the car buying analogy I made at the beginning? Just as car manufactures retire a certain style and replace it with a new model, the same applies to sneakers. The new model offered by your favorite brand might not fit the same or feel as comfortable as the old style of the same shoe. I’ve heard many a runner moan over the changes made to a specific shoe that they felt was ‘perfect’. The reason manufactures do this is planned obsolescence. The shoe must wear out after so much usage, and styles get changed and updated to keep the customers coming back to try the latest model. If a particular brand and model feel AMAZING, buy two or three extra pairs and stockpile them as soon as possible. I am down to my last brand new pair of Nike Initiator running shoes, and I my ONLY Inov-8 X-Talon 200 trail shoes.
These are no longer in production, and as soon as they wear out, I’m going to have to find new sneakers that make my feel ‘happy’.
Running shoes last about 300 to 500 miles depending on the runner’s weight and running style. If you have an uneven gait, and you get edge wear, or on the heal, your sneakers will not last as long. Uneven sole wear will kill your shoes.
Also the more you weigh, the heavier you pound the pavement. A 250lb male will wear out his shoes faster than a 99lb female even if they both run identical distances on the same trails with the same frequency. It’s not ‘fat shaming’, it’s science. Just another reason why it’s tough to be a Clydesdale. (But Clydesdales ARE tough!)
Lastly clean your sneakers regularly, spraying the interiors with a sneaker spray to kill bacteria and mold which can form in dark, damp areas of your shoe.
If you have additional running tips and tricks, please leave a comment. If you are local to me, you can find me at these upcoming races:
Idiomatically a four-letter word is a swearword, considered rude and unacceptable in certain contexts.
Today is February 14th 2021 and its 23°F (-5°C) here in Lancaster County Pennsylvania. I was ‘supposed’ to be running a 10K race today, but it was postponed until the 28th due to safety concerns. The recent heavy snowfall has left many city streets narrowed down to single car widths with few accesses from the curb to the sidewalk due to the mounds of snow. Even where streets and sidewalks are cleared, there are still patches of snow and ice. So road races are not very safe under the present conditions.
Last Sunday, I drove 27 miles in a blizzard to run 11K (6.75 miles) up and down a snow covered mountain. Mount Penn is a small mountain in Berks County where Pretzel City Sports holds several trail races during the year. I ran up this mountain last year for the first time for the UGLY MUDDER 13K back on Feb 23rd 2020. It was warmer then, and there was no snow. This time the mountain was covered with two feet (66cm) of snow, it was still snowing, and it was much colder. This was my first snow-trail run, the CHILLY CHEEKS 11K.
193 runners showed up for the race that day.
Whenever I do trail runs, I swap out my Nike Initiator running shoes for my Inov-8 X-Talon 200 trail shoes.
I always wear Mud Gear brand socks. I’ve run in cold weather, but I have never run in snow before, so I had no idea how the Inov-8s would perform. The aggressive cleats built into the sole of the shoe worked great on mud and dirt, and ‘should’ work as well on snow and soft ice. They also meant that I could not wear STABILicers ,YakTrax or any other brand of ice spikes. I briefly toyed with the idea of trying out a pair of electric socks to keep my feet warm, but opted instead to wear two pairs of socks.
While the Inov-8 X-Talons 200s did indeed work, the double socks failed to keep my toes warm. I SHOULD have purchased toe warmers, but as with doing anything the first time, you only discover these things after the fact.
Several of my fellow runners also used trek poles, a set of folding walking sticks that resemble ski poles and can help with navigating tough terrain. Unfortunately I have zero experience using these, so I had to rely on grabbing trees as I made my way up or down steep climbs. More than once, I chose to slide down the icy landscape feet first in the seated position like a sledder without a sled.
For half of the trek, I fell in with a group of 3 other runners led by Barry Elder.
We were the last group of runners on the mountain, and three of us were Clydesdales. People come in all sizes and shapes, and there is nothing wrong with being a Clydesdale. We may not be as fast as ‘the skinnies’ , but it takes a lot more physical effort for larger runners to maintain that pace. At about mile three, I could no longer keep pace with Barry, and stepped to the side and let Erin and Vanessa pass me while I took a breather. I almost managed to catch back up to the group twice, but eventually I lost sight of them and was alone on the mountain.
Once again, I had come to a new challenge, only to discover that I had way underestimated the difficulty level. CHILLY CHEEKS is the toughest trail course Pretzel City Sports has developed. When you run with a buddy, you motivate one another to keep pace. Iron sharpens iron! Alone, you begin to play mind games with yourself as you begin to experience mounting levels of self doubt. If you’ve done something before, you know you can do it again, but the first time really tests your metal.
Just as I had hit the point of giving up, one of Pretzel City’s employees showed up.
Jules’ job that day was to remove the trail markers at the conclusion of the race. For the last half of the race, she managed to keep me motivated to press on and not give up. If she had not shown up when she did, I would probably still be up on Mount Penn sitting in the snow like a frozen Buddha. My quads were beginning to cramp from the effort, I was out of water, and my toes were numb from the cold. I was also sweating profusely since I had worn several layers but couldn’t really remove them because I had no place to stash them.
Now DFL is not a palatable position for me, I hate being last. Yes, I know ‘someone’ has to be last, but I’d rather that someone not be me. It’s a matter of personal pride. Of course DFL is much better than DNF, or DID NOT FINISH. This was only the second time I’ve ever come in last, the first was my 1st ever trail run, The Chobert Challenge 15K in 2019. That was in the summer, and here I was in mid-winter forcing myself to dig deep, being prodded onward by Jules as she keep telling me “you’ve got this, you’re almost there!”
And after 3:34 minutes, I did crawl up the final hill to the finish line, to cheers of Helene Horn calling me a rockstar, saying that she’s proud of me, and telling me I’m awesome!
The moral of the story? If you don’t push yourself to the limit, you will never know how far you could go. Many of your limitations exist only in your mind, and you will never have a positive life if you have a negative mind. So instead of saying ‘I can’t’ TRY, and if you struggle, don’t quit! There are people watching you and rooting for you that you are unaware of, and your accomplishments fuel their hopes, dreams and aspirations. No one wants to emulate a loser, so be a winner! If you can’t do it for yourself, do it for THEM. Like Sir Winston Churchill once said, “If you’re going through Hell, KEEP GOING!”
If you have additional cold weather running tips and tricks, please leave a comment. If you are local to me, you can find me at these upcoming races:
Today is January 31st, 2020 and here in South Central Pennsylvania we are poised to get the first significant snowfall of this year. Friday was the coldest day of the year locally, and yesterday was not far off. Likewise today we are also experiencing sub-freezing temperatures as we prepare for the storm.
Saturday also marked the first live-in-person race of this new year. The HumBug Bustle 5K had been delayed from six weeks prior due to a state-wide prohibition against large gatherings in December and part of January. As a result several local races either were either rescheduled or became virtual runs.
It was great to be among the 216 committed runners who showed up to race in the 20°F (-6°C) cold. My amazing friend Bruce finished just seconds behind me.
Pretzel City Sports is a local race timing company owned and run by Ron and Helene Horn with the help of their talented and professional staff. They hold their own race events as well as the races of other running organizations such as the local Pagoda Pacers Athletic Club.
When I ran my first ever 5K race, BEAT BEETHOVEN back on April 28th, 2019 it was timed by Pretzel City Sports and just as they have been supporting me from day one, I support them by running in as many of their races as possible. Although I continue to express my gratitude to Ron and Helene because I personally feel I could not be where I am as a runner today without them, they continue to remind ME that I am the one who made the commitment and did the work. To quote Ron from an e-mail he sent me last year after I completed my first marathon:
“While we were glad to offer encouragement along the way, what you accomplished in that period is all about YOU! YOU ran the training runs. YOU ran thru the pain! YOU altered your diet to drop the pounds. YOU went out and did those long runs. Not us. We were honored to be “along for the ride” but it was YOUR ride and you’ve done a life-changing job at it.”
Words have POWER and I hold these words forever in my heart. Ron is absolutely correct. NO ONE can do the work of improving your life for you. YOU must do it yourself, and that requires perseverance and commitment. You will never know what you are capable of succeeding at until you have accomplished it. Once you have achieved your goals, you do not stop! You continue to set new and better goals and plans for the future. Then you ‘pay the universe back’ by providing the support and encouragement to others as they set forth on their own journeys of self-discovery. As the word of God says,’ iron sharpens iron’.
Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend. Proverbs 27:17
Yes, it was cold outside yesterday. A runner runs! This means running in all kinds of weather and temperatures. It is nice to have other runners out there with you, but sometimes you have to go it alone if you are maintaining your training, or if there is no race or fellow runners available. You must not stop training or you will lose the training effect and any progress you have made you will lose. In conditions too hazardous to run such as deep snow and ice, or temperatures significantly in the negative zone, your only option may be to run inside on a treadmill.
If you are able to run outside in the winter, there are several important tips that you should follow.
1 Run with a buddy. If there is an in-person race, sign up for it. If you have a friend who can run with you, set up a time and place to get together. If you MUST run alone, stick to manageable distances and established trails. Make sure you have your cell phone fully charged and with you. If your GPS watch or a running app on your phone allow for ‘live tracking’ set these features up so that your friends monitor your progress and can be notified and able find you in an emergency. You do not want to be lost alone in the woods in freezing temperatures. This can be a fatal mistake. I bit off more than I could chew on New Year’s Day because I am doing Run The Year, but I was on an established trail, being live-tracked, and came upon a fellow running who was able to pace with me back to the car when I was struggling the last few miles.
2. Always carry water and running fuel. Running burns calories, and your body will burn more calories in harsh temperatures as it struggles to maintain your core temp. Likewise, you must replace the water your body loses while running. You will sweat as you exert yourself, and you may also overheat depending on your clothing. You will lose body fluid in the form of water vapor in your breath while you breath. You may need to stop and urinate. Does a bear piss in the woods? Runners do as well. You need to replace lost fluid. You need to have some kind of running fuel to provide energy should you suddenly need it. I always run with a packet or two of Accel Gel (a glucose gel similar to GU Energy) from Pacific Health Labs in my running waist-bag. I keep post-run granola or cereal bars in my car. I mix CR-333 in a sport bottle or two for drinking while running, and also have a bottle of post run ReHab mixed up to drink as soon as I reach my car at the end of the run. CR-333 and Rehab are available from CarboRocket.com I swear all by their products. If you decide to give them a try, you can use my personal code TOTHEMAX to receive a 25% discount on your first order, or click this link: https://carborocket.com?sca_ref=283788.xst8wM5N56
3. Dress appropriately for the temperature. You will sweat while running and you will heat up, but you do not want to be drenched in sweat and overheated. You know your body comfort zone. As I said, it was sub-freezing yesterday for The HumBug Bustle 5K. There were people who ran wearing shorts. I was passed by a very fast female runner who was only wearing a sports bra. It’s possible for many advanced or physically fit runners to do a 5K in under 20 minutes. It takes me twice that on average. I’m a Clydesdale. The last ten people to run yesterday took more than fifty minutes to finish. You need to have a balance of heat loss and core-heat retention. You will lose most of your heat from your head and fingers.
So first and foremost, HAT AND GLOVES!
Wear an appropriate cold-weather hat, preferably with ear flaps that can be deployed if necessary. Wear premium runners gloves. A face buff can protect your face as well as warm the air you breath.
The fabrics closet to your skin should be moisture-wicking. After that a hoodie and cold weather windbreaker if necessary. Both should have a zip-up front that allows you to vent if needed. Remember you will heat up as you run. Dress as if it’s 20°F warmer than the ambient temperature, but don’t neglect the wind-chill factor or potential precipitation. You DO NOT want be outside in sub-freezing temperatures underdressed, being pelted by wind, snow and ice. EXPOSURE CAN KILL! As soon as you stop running, you will get cold.
Lastly keep a dry set of clothes in your car.
As soon as possible after your run, change into warm dry clothes. Your core body temperature drops as soon as you stop running. You will get cold very quickly especially in clothes wet with perspiration.
AND THEN THERE WAS COFFEE!
Reward yourself after your winter run with a nice hot cup of coffee, cocoa, or if you prefer, tea. Nothings takes off the edge of winter then having a nice hot drink after a long cold run. You can have your hot beverage of choice waiting for you in a thermos or hot mug your car, or stop for carryout on the way home.
If you have additional cold weather running tips and tricks, please leave a comment. If you are local to me, you can find me at these upcoming races:
2021 is a whole new year and now that we’re done putting a bow on 2020, it’s time to dust off the ashes of the old year and do what needs to be done to make 2021 a better year than the dumpster fire we all just survived. I don’t think that there’s a person alive today that will look back on 2020 with fond memories.
So here we are in this new year with another chance to start over once again. As I stated in my previous blog post, this year I’m changing the format of InstantCoffeeWisdom.com a bit. New content will still be uploaded on Sundays, but only once or twice a month instead of weekly, and I’m shifting the focus away from finance and politics towards running and fitness. You may be asking yourself why. The answers are simple. Over the last three years, I have provided you all the tools and advice you need to get your financial house in order. I’ve proven by my example to you that just as I am having a comfortable life free from the self-imposed monetary burdens that enslave many people, you too can free yourself from these chains. I have written over 100 articles on budgeting, saving, planning, and investing. I’ve provided you the keys, now you must open the locks and free yourself. You must do it yourself, I cannot do it for you.
As for the lack of discussions of politics, let’s just say that I’m done with politics for the foreseeable future. The results of the 2020 presidential election broke my heart, and I see dark days ahead for my country. Donald J. Trump was the president America needed. May God have mercy on our fallen nation.
As I have said many times in the past, your health is your wealth. Staying strong and healthy will shift the odds in your favor of a long and happy life.
I started 2021 by hitting the ground running. I mean this both figuratively and literally. The phrase ‘hit the ground running’ means to start something and proceed at a fast pace with enthusiasm. On New Year’s Day, January 1st, 2021 I did something again which I did last year. I got up early and went out for a run. Unlike last year though, this time it was a solo run, as well as a virtual race.
Last year when many of my official races were cancelled, I discovered ‘virtual races’. If you are unfamiliar with the term a virtual race is one when you sign up online and pay your entry fee. Then you pick your own course and distance, and time yourself with your GPS runner’s watch, or phone. You upload the results and you get your medal in the mail.
Now I had signed up for not just one but TWO virtual different virtual races. One for just that day, and one that lasts the entire year. For New Year’s Day, I selected a virtual race called ‘Run out of the 2020 Zone into the 2021 Zone’ because the finisher’s medal had a Twilight Zone theme to it. This race was sponsored by Goneforarun.com I was only intending to run a 5K, but I got caught up in my enthusiasm and kept on running. I don’t know what I was thinking when I passed the 10K turnabout point and kept going. It was below freezing and I was not prepared for a long run. For some odd reason, the thought of running a half-marathon popped in my head, but by the time I had run 4.7 miles (7.6K) down the trail, I knew I had bitten off more than I could chew and had to turn back. The final 2 miles were a struggle, but another runner who had passed me earlier was now heading back as well, and she was able to provide encouragement and conversation as we matched pace and ran back to the start. It was a good thing Kris happened by when she did because I was discouraged and just walking at that point because I was cold and tired. I ended up finishing with a 15K (9.3 miles) that took 2 hours 38 minutes 46 seconds to complete. The temperate was 24°F (-4°C)
What prompted me to press on beyond my initial intention of just running 5K (3.1 miles) was the OTHER virtual race I had signed up for. For 2021, I had opted to join the RUN THE YEAR CHALLENGE. This is a yearlong virtual race offered by runtheedge.com where you run 2,021 miles in 2021. It has a beautiful finishers medal that anyone would be proud to display.
Now how you run this seemingly impossible distance is entirely up to you. The key is to have a plan, and this is where the 6P Rule comes into play. Simply stated the 6P Rule is: ‘Prior Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance‘. Memorize that phrase, learn it and live it. If you are going to be successful, you MUST plan. If you fail to plan then you plan to fail. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. Without a proper plan firmly in place at the onset, failure is inevitable.
When you divide 2,021 miles by 365 days you get 5.53 miles per day. That’s not a bad exercise goal to stick to for the year. I do not own a treadmill, there is no space in my apartment. Running outside is far better, and it’s free. The problem lies with the weather. There are days when running outside is a miserable option, or even out of the question. As I said, right now it’s bloody cold outside, but I am managing to run about 20 miles a week despite the cold weather and the 60+hour work weeks I face at my day job. I’m trying to run distances of at least 7.5 miles at a clip. Sundays are my long runs, so anything up to a half-marathon is possible , weather permitting. Last Sunday Jan 17th 2021, I ran a winter half-marathon for the 1st time ever. Temperature was 36°F. I chose the 2020 Dumpster Fire Half-Marathon from virtualstrides.com
Just like 2020 was a Dumpster Fire of a year, so was this run. To my credit, I did not give up despite the cold, but this was my worst time ever for completing a race of this distance. 4hours 26Minutes 55seconds. Normally I can run this distance in about 3 hours or less, but I have NEVER run this far in temperatures this frigid, so there is no sense beating myself up over this.
Last night I ran 7.5 miles, and it was a much faster pace. So far this month I have run 50 miles. Today is Sunday Jan 24th 2021 and I’m going for a long run, probably a 15K again. As I RUN THE YEAR, I will continue to post progress updates as well as upcoming races where I can be found.
NEXT 2 UPCOMING LIVE RACES:
HumBug Bustle 5K Saturday Jan 30th 2021 Reading PA
Shiver by the River 10K Sunday Feb 14 2021 Muhlenberg PA
When the weather gets warmer, I should be able to run further distances and more frequently. I only have 1,971 more miles to run, and I have the strength and motivation to accomplish it. Perhaps my fitness journey will encourage you to pursue one of your own. The year is still young. As always I wish you success and happiness!
Well, this has certainly been a very different and disappointing year for most of us, to say the least. Unless you were living under a rock, you know that COVID-19 (or as I like to call it, The Snowflake Flu) struck mid-March shutting down most of the world for months, cancelling plans and pretty much ruining people’s lives. The whole year flew by in the wink of an eye. Today is Christmas Day. It’s 30°F and there are occasional snow flurries here in Lancaster County Pennsylvania.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! In 7 days it will be 2021. Decades ago, television station WPIX 11 in NYC began the fun NYE tradition of running a Twilight Zone marathon. 2020 was not my favorite year, and I think many people will second that. I felt like I was living in The Twilight Zone, my only fun was running, and I ran my first marathon. I found a virtual race for New Year’s Eve/New Year’s Day that had a Twilight Zone theme that just fit this entire sorry excuse of a year. Add-ons included a Christmas ornament which was the very last one which I places on my tree, next to a door and a blue ball. The blue ball was from the first real Christmas tree that I had in my apartment. If you recall the intro to the Twilight Zone, (depending on which of the 5 seasons ) These is an eyeball, a door, or a spinning black and white cone. I think I captured the look.
Two weeks ago, our evil tyrant, state Governor Tom Wolf shut down PA for the rest of 2020, forcing more closures, cancellations, and misery.
Last night was the 1st time in 20 years that I didn’t go to Christmas Eve service. Stupid shut down and mask rules. So I worked 13 hours. Today I slept in and did my virtual Kris Kringle 5K race. My last 3 December races were postponed to January, or in the case of the Kris Kringle 5K went virtual.
Now you’re probably wondering what happened this summer as I was training for a (cancelled) marathon, and getting ready for a vacation at the shore. Suddenly without warning my weekly blog went silent without warning. I apologize for that. If you were worried about my health, I did get injured a couple of times, but nothing serious. Also, my day job is considered essential, and because of COVID-19 we have been severely short-handed. I have been working mandatory 12 hour days six days a week, and training or racing on Sundays. Over the last 3 years, I have taught you everything I know about how to succeed. There is nothing new that I have to share about health, wealth, politics, religion, or attitude which I can explain to you. From this point on, your success is up to you. I have given you all the tools you need. If my advice has fallen upon deaf ears, there is nothing I can do. Starting in 2021, InstantCoffeeWisdom.com will no longer be posting weekly. There WILL BE new blog posts, at least once or maybe twice per month, and the focus during the coming year will be on running. Hopefully my longtime readers will enjoy the new focus and format.
Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year and there is always something to be thankful about if you pause a moment and think. Maybe 2020 was a very bad year for you and you are one of those people who blames the year for your misfortune. Find things in your life to be thankful about and shift your focus there. Attitude is more important than what is happening in this crazy world we are living in. Seize control of the things that you have the power to change and be the architect of your future success and happiness. One week from today you will have a whole new year. You can continue to wallow in self-pity, or you can choose to do something about it! Right now, I am home all alone on Christmas Day. What am I doing about it? I did a virtual race, I took pictures of Christmas trees, I looked at beautiful displays. I am posting a blog, one last time for 2020 to show you that happiness is a choice you have to make for yourself. To show you that success is possible if you choose to pursue it. To prove to you that you can do ANYTHING if you are serious and do the work required.
So what happened with my running and the marathon plans?
The USA re-opened in July and REAL races returned by the beginning of summer. I signed up for every race available. I was still doing my Hal Higdon marathon training, and I was attempting to run my first 30K Trail Run in August when I fell at mile number 5 during the Double Trouble 15K/30K. The impact knocked the wind out of me, and severely slowed me down. As a result, I could only complete the first lap, 15K. My bruises on my thigh took 4 weeks to heal.
I went to the beach for Jeep Week through Labor Day down in Ocean City Maryland, and ran 5 miles on the boardwalk in the early morning several times during my vacation. By September I was fully recovered, and on September 20th, I ran a solo 20-mile run completing my marathon training. As the Phily Marathon was cancelled, I was determined to keep training and stay in marathon shape until the time came. I ran a half-marathon every Sunday in October. Life happens. I never gave up! Quitters never win and winners never quit! This IS attitude! This IS Determination! This IS how you succeed in the face of adversity! YOU DON’T QUIT!
I signed up for the LABOR PAIN 10 ENDURANCE TRAIL RUN being held on November 22nd . (This race normally is 12 hrs, and was postponed from its NORMAL Labor Day Weekend Sunday, as well as being re-located to French Creek State Park, all due to COVID-19 restrictions ) By shear co-incidence, this was now scheduled the EXACT SAME DAY as the Philly Marathon was supposed to have been held. I ONLY INTENDED to run 24 miles, that was my INITIAL GOAL. I figured, trail runs have dangerous and uneven footing in spots, so a slow nice 2.4 mile pace for 10 hours= 24 miles, and it would be good training for the future marathon, whenever it eventually happens. First thing Ron Horn (the world’s greatest race director!) asked me was “what’s your goal today Michael?”. When I said 24 miles , he replied “24? If you do that you’ve GOT to go for the marathon!” I just said “we’ll see”. 7 hours and 56 minutes later, I finished my 6th 4-mile lap. 24 miles, with 2hrs. 4 minutes to go on the clock.
THEN I GOT THIS WILD IDEA! If I can JUST run another 7 miles, I can pull off a 50K! I almost have enough time if I really haul ass, I thought to myself. I could ULTRA before I marathon! I only needed 1 more full lap, plus 1 out-and-back to the 50K turnaround sign. I took off at break-neck speed as I began lap 7 with darkness approaching. 1.22 miles into the lap, maybe 50 yards past the Marathon out-and-back turnaround sign, I tripped and slammed full force into the rocky ground! I hit so hard my Garmin Forerunner 945 ended my run to send off an emergency distress beacon! This ‘special feature’ sent out a text message to all my emergency contacts alerting them that I had an accident. It gave GPS co-ordinates and a live tracking map of where I was, just in case I am immobilized or unconscious. I cancelled the alert, texted and phoned my emergency contacts that I was ‘alive and mobile, sort of’. Then I took a step, and my leg informed me that I was NOT finishing this lap, nor beginning an 8th. So I limped in pain back 1.1 miles in the growing darkness. It took me ONE HOUR to go ONE MILE. I had bruises on both knees, right thigh, stomach, scratches on my left calf, plus I injured my left iliotibial band which let me know with every painful step. I finished my endurance run at 9 hours 21 minutes 43 seconds having completed 26.2 miles. I had not intended to run a marathon, but I had ‘accidently’ done so. I had pushed myself to new personal records for both time and distance. My awesome running friends (all of whom ran 40 to 48 miles each) grabbed my gear and helped me to my car after we paused for our team photo.
I could not walk for the first 2 days after the race, and it took weeks to fully recover. If you want to avoid sports injuries, don’t do sports. They go with the territory and whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Pain is just weakness leaving the body. By December 6th I was back at French Creek in Elverson PA in time to do the Dirty Bird 15K trail run.
My body heals much faster from injuries now that I am in the best physical shape on my life.
When 2020 began, I had planned to run just 25 races. By the time 2020 was almost over, I had run more than 50 races instead. When you push yourself to new and greater heights, nothing is impossible!
The way I see it, you have two choices in life. You can sit on the couch and become a mountain, or you can run up a mountain and become a MAN! I choose to be a MAN! Your health is your wealth, and you should spend every day of your life working on some form of self-improvement. If you think you’re perfect, you’re perfectly wrong. There is always something you can improve upon. I made a decision to do something about my weight three years ago when I began the odyssey of diet, exercise, and self-discovery which got me from couch potato to marathon man. I did my research, I asked questions of expert runners, and I changed my entire lifestyle. I ate healthier, exercised more often, and got more sleep. As a result I feel great and I am in better shape now than I was at 25.
Your life IS YOUR LIFE. You are responsible for you own wealth, health, success, and happiness. The world owes you NOTHING. It is your job to pursue your own personal path to success. It is out there. Opportunity abounds and the possibilities are endless. You yourself have to do the work! No one is going to do it for you, and even if they did, could you truly appreciate it? There is pride in personal achievement.
If you refuse to set an example and inspire others, then you become a cautionary tale. There are people watching you every day that you aren’t ever aware of. Countless people I have met during my runs have told me I’m amazing and called me an inspiration. It is a humbling experience to be held in such regard. Everything that I have done to make my life better, you can also accomplish as long as you have the courage to make the necessary changes and the determination to tough it out to the finish line.
The caterpillar cries that the world is ending while the butterfly shouts the adventure is just beginning! You can fly too, but you MUST leave your cocoon behind. So as we leave 2020 behind, make the powerful and wonderful decision to take the steps needed to live your life to the fullest! Choose to be the best YOU that you can possibly be. Don’t repeat the same year over and over and call it a life. Fly into 2021 with a renewed sense of purpose and the determination to soar to new heights! You are not alone! God is with you always, and with God all things are possible! I wish you all the happiness and success that God has planned for you in 2021!
Some like it hot and some sweat when the heat is on Some feel the heat and decide that they can’t go on Some like it hot, but you can’t tell how hot ’til you try Some like it hot, so let’s turn up the heat ’til we fry
Feel the heat pushing you to decide Feel the heat burning you up, ready or not
(Lyrics from the song ‘Some Like It Hot’ by The Power Station – 1985
You may have heard it said about a person that they were ‘not worth their salt’. This phrase refers to the practice of paying Roman soldiers partially in salt. Salt was an expensive commodity because it was scarce in the ancient world. This salt money payment given to the Legionnaires was called ‘salarium’ and our modern English word salary is derived from that.
Roman soldiers used salt to help prevent muscle cramps from dehydration, and this is why ‘some’ people still think taking salt tablets is a good idea. Maybe if you were living back in the nineteenth century or earlier.
The chemical name for common table salt is ‘sodium chloride’ but when athletes sweat during extreme exertion and in high heat conditions, what they are really losing in their perspiration is electrolytes. Electrolytes are types of ‘salts’ which include not only sodium and chloride, but potassium and calcium as well. They are electrically charged minerals and compounds that produce energy in our bodies and allow our muscles to contract. Physical performance is affected by both the loss of electrolytes AND water! Low electrolyte levels will cause muscle cramping. Severe electrolyte imbalances can cause serious problems such as coma, seizures, and cardiac arrest.
Electrolyte pills should ONLY be used by athletes during extreme workouts and long distance runs, especially during periods of high heat and humidity.
Likewise severe loss of water (dehydration) can kill you! Water is one of the seven vital nutrients that our bodies NEED to survive.
There needs to be a balance of the electrolyte and water content in our bodies. This is regulated by our kidneys. The kidneys remove wastes and extra fluid from the body, producing about 1 to 2 quarts (liters) of urine daily.
Urine should be clear or a lightly tinted yellow color. The darker the color of your urine, the grater the level of dehydration.
Athletes need to train in order to improve their physical performance. Training schedules need to be strictly followed to get the most out of the training effect . Bad weather can delay training by a day or two AT MOST, but skipping entire weeks will undo everything you are trying to accomplish. If you are training for a fall marathon, you will be running 3 to 4 days a week, all summer long, probably in high heat and high humidity. At least one of those weekly run days will be your long run. Yes, it’s going to be hot during the summer. So logically, you are going to be hot, sweaty, tired, and thirsty towards the end of your workouts, and especially during those long runs. The average person sweats between 0.8 to 1.4 liters, or 27.4 to 47.3 ounces per hour of exercise. (That’s equal to roughly one to three pounds of body weight.) You need to replace that fluid loss!
The general rule of thumb for fluid consumption during runs is: Take in 4 to 6 ounces of fluid every 20 minutes. Runners running faster than 8-minute miles should drink 6 to 8 ounces every 20 minutes. You may need more, you may need less, but it is of the utmost importance that you listen to YOUR BODY! Everybody is different, and EVERY BODY is different.
Heat Exhaustion VS Heat Stroke
You may at some point experience some symptoms of HEAT EXHAUSTION, you DO NOT want it to become HEAT STOKE. HYDRATION IS CRUCIAL!
dizzy or fainting
cold, pale and clammy skin
nausea or vomiting
fast, weak pulse
weakness or muscle cramps
What to do
Hydrate with water or sports drinks. No alcohol.
Move to a cooler, air-conditioned place.
If fully conscious, sip water.
Take a cool shower or use cold compresses.
If vomiting continues, seek medical attention.
Act quickly. Untreated heat exhaustion can progress to heat stroke.
Remove tight fitting clothing or extra layers.
Heat stroke – a medical emergency
confusion or delirium
may lose consciousness
no sweating/dry skin
hot, red skin
nausea or vomiting
rapid heart rate
body temperature above 104° F
What to do
Call 911. This is a medical emergency.
Move the person to a cooler place.
Use cold compresses to reduce body temperature.
Do not give fluids
The mind / body disconnect
It is very important to LISTEN TO YOUR BODY! I cannot stress this enough. YOUR BODY is YOUR BODY. You know what works for YOU. You know what YOU need. Sometimes athletes push past what their body is telling them and force themselves to continue on by sheer force of will. This is a mind/body disconnect where you are ‘in the zone’. You refuse to give up because quitters never win, winners never quit, and YOU ARE A WINNER! You yelled! You cursed! You prayed to God for strength! And you pushed your way through to the end with blood, sweat and tears. And hopefully you got stronger from the experience. Believe me, I’ve let out a primal scream or two myself as I forced my exhausted body and tired muscles to up the pace as I charged towards the finish line in a mad sprint of speed.
There are times that I’ve beaten myself up because I’ve run at a much slower pace than I know I am capable of. The problem is that heat changes pace! The hotter it gets, the worse your pace becomes because of the added stress of high heat and humidity. Training is Summer is tough! Optimal running temperature is between 50°F and 59°F. Average runners add 2–2.5 seconds to their pace for every degree F above 59° F. Once you get above 85°F your speed is about 20-25% (or more ) slower than normal, so you push harder because you can’t understand why you are suddenly running like a snail on a course made of peanut butter! It’s okay to do that, but it’s not okay to ignore your thirst in high heat and humidity. Dehydration if left untreated leads to HEAT STROKE. Twice this Summer, I ran out of water 2-3 miles before I ended my long run. Believe me, it sucked!
It’s better to heave water you don’t need than to need water you don’t have. On long runs, you need to self carry water, or pre-stash personal water supplies along your route where you know the will be undisturbed if discovered by passers-by. I use both methods. Last week I ran 15 miles for my long run using the Hal Higdon Training plan for marathons. I ran out of water at mile 12 because it was 92°F but felt like 100°F with the humidity added. Today I will be running 16 miles on a different trail, and will bring a lot more with me. Hopefully It won’t be as hot as last Sunday!
But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.– Isaiah 40:31
I have been in training for months now as I prepare to EVENTUALLY run my first marathon. I was originally planning to run in the Philadelphia Marathon, but it was cancelled this year. I am now HOPING instead that I can run in the Gettysburg Marathon, assuming it too, does not get cancelled. Unfortunately In my case two things have been affecting my training.
First, my day job has been hammering me with forced overtime for weeks now. In this past two week pay period i worked 129.25 hours. My ONLY day off is Sunday, and that day is designated by my training plan as my long run day. Sunday is also the day I TRY to write a weekly article. Sometimes I do not have time to finish and post these articles because I MUST go running.
Second, we’ve been having a heat wave here in South Central Pennsylvania and working 10 to 12 hour shifts 6 days a week in 95°F heat with high humidity has left me drained and exhausted. Last Sunday I barely was able to run 9.5 miles, and I had zero energy after work to go running all week. I work outside all day, and usually walk a distance of about 7 miles. Today I was planning on running 15 miles, and again on next Sunday, but it is raining! My training is suffering as a result, but as I stated in my opening paragraph I am currently unsure when or if I will be running a marathon this year. I do have three very important upcoming races this month, so the lack of ability to train has me greatly concerned. I’m running the Thirsty Thursday Races on August 6th and 20th, as well as the Double Trouble 15K/30K Trail run on August 16th. Training for these races is crucial!
WHAT IS TRAINING?
Athletes are often ‘in training’ for upcoming competitions of one form or another. Training is NOT the same as ‘working out’. Simply going to the gym a couple of times a week is just a normal part of being physically fit. Some type of regular exercise is needed to be healthy, there are just no ‘if, ands, or buts’ about it. Exercise can be anything from walking to riding a bike riding, lifting weights, or just going push-ups and sit-ups.
Training is a programmed series of exercise routines of increasing duration and frequencies, conducted over a period of several weeks or months, the purpose of which is to take the athlete to a higher level of personal physical performance. It is a battle against entropy. It is how a 40-something can beat a 20-something in a race. It is a way of maintaining that peak level of health and strength that the young take for granted. The harder you train, the better you are.
Most runners use the Hal Higdon marathon training program, or some variation of it. Hal Higdon is a writer, coach, and former marathon runner. He has run over 111 marathons and written 34 books on running. His proven training methods have stood the test of time. The basic training plan is a 20 week regiment of speed training, cross training, and a weekly long run of increasing distance, followed by a rest day. It can be found online for free. Although the information is readily available, training does have a cost. Time and commitment!
If you do not stick to the program, you will not achieve the desired effects. You MUST do the exercises, and you MUST put in the time. An ‘accountability buddy’ can help you stick to the plan, so find a friend and go run!
Skipping one week of training can undo two or more weeks of progress. Your muscles start to stiffen up and your body enters a reverse mode where it heads back to its normal resting point. Likewise it is just as possible to maintain the physical level achieved at the end of the training program by continuing to do those activities. This is why some highly competitive athletes are ALWAYS ‘in training’ and tend to be in the top spot for a very long time.
UNFORTUNATELY, the difference between the professional athlete and the amateur is that for the professional their sport IS their JOB, whereas the amateur must still try to fit in a full-time day job to pay the rent. A profession athlete can achieve amazing, even super-human achievements if they have someone else providing them with a constant source of revenue.
THE MARATHON OF HOPE!
In 1977, Canadian distance runner Terry Fox lost his leg due to bone cancer. He was walking again in just three weeks and soon began an aggressive 14 month marathon training program. In 1980, he sought sponsorship and donations to fund a bold attempt to run the entire length of Canada in the hope of increasing cancer awareness. Starting on April 12, 1980 Terry Fox began running the equivalent of a marathon EVERY DAY for 143 consecutive days, with an artificial leg! He had to abandon his 5000 mile quest on September 1st 1980 because his cancer had spread to his lungs. He ran a total of 3,339 miles. Nine months later he succumbed to the disease and passed away on June 28th, 1981 at age 22. He is considered a Canadian national hero and there are statues, parks, roads, and buildings named in his honor. His effort raised $1.7 million for cancer research.
500 Marathons in 500 Days! (And then some…)
Ricardo Abad Martínez is a Spanish ultrarunner and holds the Guinness World Record for most consecutive marathons, 607! Originally the plan was 500 Marathons in 500 Days, but upon completion of the goal on February 12, 2012, he upped the ante and proclaimed he would attempt another 500 bringing to proposed target to 1000 marathons in 1000 days. Unfortunately he failed to secure funding to finance his endeavor and he abandoned his plan after he ran his 607th marathon. He was 42 at the time. More impressive was the fact that he did while working a full-time job at a factory. In some cases, he even ran two marathons in less than 12 hours depending on if he ran after work, or before his shift began.
In my case, my day job has been hammering me with forced overtime for weeks now. In this past two week pay period i worked 129.25 hours. My ONLY day off is Sunday, and that day is designated by my training plan as my long run day. Sunday is also the day I TRY to write a weekly article. I apologize to my regular readers if it’s been hit or miss lately, but I’ve been a tad overwhelmed by everything. I’m hoping the rain stops at some point today so that I can at least do a short run. As always I wish you success and happiness!
Since the beginning of the year, I have been in training to run my first marathon. If the idea of months of training for one event does not make sense, allow me to explain. One does not simply decide to run a marathon on a whim. Running 26.2 miles in seven hours or less is a physically taxing task which is beyond the ability of most people. It doesn’t matter what’s your motivation, if you do not put in the time and effort to condition your body to its best possible shape, you will risk injury and possibly even death.
Three years ago, running a marathon was the furthest thing from my mind. I weighed 325 lbs and was most likely on my way to an early grave. I considered myself both worthless and hopeless. My ‘wake-up’ call was having 3 of my co-workers ( 2 were good friends ) die from heart attacks. All of these men were in their 50’s and overweight. At that moment I knew that if I didn’t take immediate steps to reclaim my health while still in my 40’s, I would soon pass the point of no return. I began focusing on m diet until I found a plan that was right for me. Then I started exercising, and eventually stated running. I’ve lost over 90 lbs since I began this journey of self discovery. I am now back down to what I weighed in college and am in better physical shape than I was when I was 25 years old.
Last April, I ran my very first road race. It was the Beat Beethoven 5K at Alverina University held on Sunday April 28th, 2019. Slowly increasing my strength, stamina, and endurance I was eventually running half marathons by Autumn. I ran eleven official races in 2019 and had planned on more than twice that number for 2020 as I built myself up for the November 2020 Philadelphia Marathon.
2020 started out looking very hopeful until COVID-19, the virus that shut down the world struck. Suddenly all the races from mid March through Summer and part of the Fall were cancelled. Undaunted, I pressed on in my training by signing up for dozens of virtual races. There were a couple of weeks were I ran in 5 days everything from a 5K up to a half-marathon tracking the times and distances with my professional runners smart-watch, a Garmin 945 Forerunner. The Philadelphia Marathon was still slated as of two weeks ago, and I was greatly encouraged by this fact. Unfortunately, my hopes were dashed to pieces last week when the Philadelphia mayor arbitrarily decided to ban all large gathering though February 2021, and the Governor of Pennsylvania doubled-down on his draconian laws shutting down the state. As of this moment, my path forward has been made unclear and uncertain due to this unexpected setback.
Life is what happens when you’re busy making plans
Hitting a stumbling block and getting knocked to the ground is the point at which most people give up. For them, their dream has died and they will forever be a failure. Successful people get up, dust themselves off and pick up where they left off. VERY successful people examine what knocked them down, formulate a plan to prevent similar setbacks, and take a moment to decide on their best course of action BEFORE dashing ahead blindly.
Living in ‘the pause’.
Pause powers performance! –Kevin Cashman
In his powerful book on success, The Pause Principal, Kevin Cashman uses the acronym VUCA two ways, first to describe our world, then to tell us how we must react to it.
Our would is:
Life is not about what happens to us, but how we react to it! We need to pause, and take a step back to move forward.
Our reaction should be comprised of:
Failure is PART of success
Failure is a powerful tool if used wisely. IF a person succeeded at every task they attempted on the very first try, they would never have the impetus to improve themselves. They would never be forced to try harder. They would take for granted every accomplishment as an entitlement that they deserved matter-of-factually. Failure is part of life! Failure is NOT the end. It only becomes the end IF you QUIT! Quitting IS the end! Quitting IS giving up! Quitting IS DEATH!
“I’m a big advocate of personal responsibility. You do whatever you feel is safe, within reason. You know what’s best for you.” – Ron Horn CEO Pretzel City Sports
On Thursday July 16th, 2020 races returned to Reading PA for the first time since the shut down. At Trooper Thorns, 98 fellow runners and myself gave it our all as we ran the first official 5K race in over four months. It was the most exciting and amazing race I have run thus far and I gave it 110%! I was ahead of my friend Steve Capozello for an entire 5 seconds, but kept pace with him neck and neck for the next 30-45 seconds as we raced down the trail like two rabid Clydesdales intent on trampling anyone that got in our way. Unfortunately my pace began to slip as Steve is a much faster runner than I am, and he has been running for over 20 years. Slowly he kept pulling further away from me as I tried to keep up by sheer willpower alone! By the end of our run, I was only 10 minutes behind my friend. Iron sharpens iron. My blue shirt was drenched with sweat from the effort, and I changed into a dry green shirt that was in my gym bag.
At the awards ceremony, Ron Horn called out the various winners by divisions, ages, and genders.
When he called out my name for 5th place winner in the Male Clydesdales division, I was stunned and said “what?” in total shock. After a back and forth of “who?” and “ME?” pointing at myself, he said “YOU!” pointing at me as the third prompting to come get my medal. I had set a Personal Record and I accepted my first ever medal for placing in the TOP 5 with tears in my eyes.
My friend Steve took 2nd place. Another friend Gina took first place in the Women’s 30-39 group.
If I had quit running after everything got shut down by the coronavirus, I would not have signed up for a 12 week virtual running series. If I had quit training due to the unpredictable and ambiguous fate of my November 22 marathon, I would never have gotten faster, stronger, and better. Quitters NEVER win, but winners NEVER QUIT! I have the understanding that The 2020 Philly Marathon is dead, but I also have the clarity of vision that there will be another marathon and I must keep training. I AM A WINNER! Hopefully my example will encourage and inspire you to overcome whatever setback you may be facing. As long as you don’t quit, you too will have your day, and you’ll be able to sit back and reflect upon your accomplishment with pride! As always I wish you success and happiness!