YOU DESERVE A MEDAL!

The ultimate ego boost!

The ancient Olympic games date back to 776 B.C. At the games the victors in each competition were adorned with olive wreaths.  The contemporary tradition of awarding gold. silver, and bronze medals for the top three finishers began over  a hundred years ago when such medals were first awarded in every event at the 1904 Olympic Games held in St. Louis Missouri.  

The modern marathon also began with the modern Olympics first held in Athens Greece in 1896. Its current distance of 26.2 miles (42.195 km) was standardized by the International Amateur Athletic Federation 1921.

The practice of giving out finisher’s medals to all participants completing a marathon race did not become common until the mid to late 1980s.

Today, there are currently over 1000 marathons races held across the United States each year. About 1% of the US population has run a marathon. Marathons are the ‘gold standard’ of running. Nearly every runner wants to run at least one marathon in their life. Non-runners sometimes even put running a marathon on their respective bucket lists.  If you asked the average person on the street how many miles are in a marathon, 90% or greater would not be able to tell you the correct distance, despite the prevalence of all those oval car stickers with the 26.2 on them.  However, the MOST popular distance race is not the marathon, but the half-marathon.  The number of half-marathons held annually in the USA is nearly triple those of the full marathon. Many seasoned runners sign up for multiple half-marathons each year. 13.1 miles is still a challenging race, but it does not beat-up your body as much as a full marathon. The bonus of this race is that you also get a finisher’s medal if you complete the distance.  Some runners collect the various finisher’s medals, either by running favorite races annually, choosing races by the medal offered, or an combination of both.

Shorter distance races such as 5K , 10K or 15K do not as a rule hand out finisher’s medals. The only medal you’ll get in these races is if you place in the top of your division. Ultra-marathons also exist but only .03% of the population has run these distances of 50K (31 miles) 100K (62 miles) or 100 Miles (161K). At ultras, finisher’s medals may, or may not be offered depending upon the race.

Running half-marathons, full marathons, or (for those brave souls who dare) ultra-marathons is no easy feat. It takes up to 20 weeks of training to achieve these distances safely. If you skip the training program, you can expect a world of pain and physical injury, or possibly even death. Two out of every three Americans are overweight, and exercise is a foreign concept for most of them. Your health is your wealth, and you only get one body. I don’t care how easy or difficult running a half-marathon or greater is for you, but if you complete that distance you deserve a medal. You earned it! You’ve accomplished something that roughly 97% of the people in the country couldn’t do to save their lives. You are amazing!

In the short run

As previously stated, to earn a medal in a short-distance races such as a 5K, 10K, or 15K, you need to place in a top position in either your gender, age division, or weight class as is the case of Clydesdales.  By breaking the race down into different brackets, you even the playing field so that all participants are able to compete at their best in an effort to shine by going for the proverbial gold. Winning a medal in your division is an incredible ego booster. It is a physical representation which proclaims that you bested another athlete. It is an amazing feeling to have that medal placed around your neck, or handed to you in front of a room of your peers.  When I began running, I ran with a small group of fellow runners all of whom were very supportive and encouraging of ‘the new guy’. And that’s a great thing, to feel accepted and be part of the group.  But it was kind of a mismatch as this pack of runners were much faster than myself, and overtime, they began to grow weary of waiting for ‘the slow-poke’ at the end of these fun runs on local trails.  These athletes ALWAYS walked away with a medal at the post-race award ceremony.  THEY expected a top place medal. THEY WERE FAST!  My hope was just to maybe one day earn 3rd place.

Since then, I’ve met many other running-friends most of whom are roughly the same pace as myself and we have much more fun. 

Expect the unexpected

At the 1st Third Thirsty Thursday race of 2020, I was sitting with that original group of faster runners and watching them go up one-by-one to get their medals. By this point I had lost all hope of ever getting one.  I was stunned when my name was called for the 1st time ever.  I had to ask race director Ron Horn three time “ME?” while point at myself as he said “YOU!” while pointing back at me before I claimed my medal.

The best medals are the ones we don’t expect. The worst medals are the ones we think we deserve, but don’t get. It can be soul-crushing to see someone else walk away with the last medal when you ran you’re fastest pace ever and thought you had the award without a doubt.

Ironically this happened to me just last year. Once again it was at a Third Thirsty Thursday race on May 21, 2021. The thing about the Clydesdale Division is that after a while, you know your competition. The course is a straight out-and-back 5K.  You go straight down the trail 1.55 miles, turn around at the marked point, and run straight back. So as you run out, you’re aware of who passed you, and you have an idea of who’s still behind you. As you see people in your division heading back to the start, you count. 1St, 2nd, 3rd, etc. This particular race is a series, but it also allows for race day sign-up, so the line-up of competitors can change from race to race. As I counted the 4th male Clydesdale heading back, I was confident the 5th place spot was mine. Hitting the turn-around point, I saw that fellow Clydesdale Joe was right behind me by mere yards.  This began a frantic pace to stay ahead as Joe and myself kept trading the lead. I re-claimed the lead at the last quarter-mile calling out as I passed “I’m fighting you to the finish ‘Apollo’ you ain’t taking the win, I’ve got ‘The Eye of the Tiger’!” As the finish line came in sight, Joe yelled back “Alright, LET’S DO THIS!” We sprinted the final 50 yards neck-and-neck like two crazed stallions. And just like that, Joe crossed the finish line  with me just one second behind him.  I was crushed!

Ironically, it was all for nothing.  I had missed a ‘faux pony’ who must have technically just barely been a Clydesdale. The coveted 5th place spot had already been claimed. Joe was 6th and I was 7th. But what a race it was!

The Epic Battle for the gold against Muhammad Ali

Until I began running, the only medal I ever earned in my life was that one time when I was competing against Muhammad Ali. First I didn’t even know I was battling him, it was a total surprise.  Second, it wasn’t THAT Muhammad  Ali. It was this short Muslim kid in 9th grade named Muhammad S. Ali. It was our final year as seniors at Van Wyck J.H.S 217 in Queens NY and we were both the top students in computer programming. We had to right a computer program that did two things based on the info entered. I don’t remember the specifics, but I only know that my program worked and his didn’t. I ‘think’ I used a bit of spaghetti logic with an IF-THEN-GOSUB line that delivered the proper answer.  At graduation we earned the top awards in computer science, I took the gold medal, he got the silver.     

The eye of the beholder

Like beauty, these medals  only have value given to them by the recipient. They are either treasured mementos, or worthless trinkets.  If it’s important to you, then it’s important. Most runners like myself display our medals on the wall.

Some pack them away in a keepsake box. One very competitive runner I know has an entire trophy room to display medals, trophies, race-bibs, and framed news articles,  If I owned a house, I might do likewise some day. On the other end of the spectrum, I know a runner who throws away his race-bibs, and gives away his awards to his grandson to play with. He ran the race, he knows how he did. It’s done, who needs a keepsake? Well that’s his viewpoint not mine. I earned my medal and you can have when you pry it from my cold dead hands!

You can find me at these upcoming local races

March 2022

Shiver by The River 10K Winter Race Series #4 of 4  March 13th @ 10:00am Muhlenberg PA

Be sure to check back  on March 13th, 2022 for another article.

As always, I wish you success and happiness!

THE STRUGGLE IS REAL!

Everyone’s journey is different!

The joy of running! It is a feeling that cannot be conveyed to a non-runner. The non-runner views running as a form of punishment or self-torture. They cannot imagine running a marathon.  They also will never know the deep feeling of personal satisfaction a runner feels after completing a marathon.

A runner runs! It’s who we are, it’s what we do, and it defines us. We are on a journey  of self-improvement.  All runners are not created equal. Each of us is unique in our own special way, and we come to the sport of running from different places in our lives. Everyone’s journey is different, and how we got here is not that important, what is it that we made it!  Five years ago running a marathon was the furthest thing from my mind. It wasn’t until Nathan Maxwell (a Twitter friend who is an ultra runner) inspired me and encouraged me to start with a 5K and work my way up. Since I began my running odyssey three years ago, I have been smothered by accolades, encouragements, and numerous ‘thumbs-ups’ from the running community.  I have been called ‘amazing’, ‘awesome’, an ‘inspiration’ and a ‘rock star’. I have made many friends. Iron sharpens iron and I would not be where I am today were it not for my running friends. In my division, I have placed in the top five twice, and the top four once.  So what’s my division you may ask?  

I am a Clydesdale. In addition to being a breed of horse, Clydesdale is a term applied to larger runners. We are in a different category because of our larger size. Distance running is broken into different divisions by sex, age and weight. A 4O year-old runner would have a hard time beating a 17 year-old.  Same for a woman out-running a man, and a larger person beating a smaller, faster person. So by competing within your division, with similar athletes, you are encouraged to do your best without being discouraged by others outside your category.

The Clydesdale movement began in 1988 and was started by Joe Law who wanted to level the playing field to encourage larger runners. Their motto is “You don’t have to be thin to be fit.” There are male and female Clydesdale divisions as Clydesdale is a breed and not a gender of large horse. None-the-less, some women opt for the cutesy term Clydettes, or prefer to be called Athenas after the mythical  goddess of strength and wisdom.  I’m not a fan of the last term, but that’s just me.

WHAT’S THE SKINNY?

If you saw a man exercising alongside a woman, you might think something like ‘good for them’.

They’re both doing the same exercise. You wouldn’t think ‘she can’t do that, she’s just a girl and he’s so much stronger than her’. You’re a judgmental bastard if you do. Yes men are bigger and tend to be stronger than women,  but this is just a physical reality. It is not an indication of one being better than the other. In reality, the woman is working that much harder than the man to accomplish the same exercise.

Now compare the next two athletes doing a simple planking exercise:

Again, if you though ‘kudos for her’ on the first athlete, but laughed at the second athlete, you’re not a very nice person and you need to check yourself. The overweight woman is working that much harder to do the same exercise than the skinny girl is. There is NO SHAME in trying to improve your health.  This is the real importance of having a Clydesdale division in running.  Winning a medal in a race is an incredible ego booster. Being able to say that I got off the couch, I trained, I worked HARD and I WON THIS! It’s an amazing feeling. Every person deserves to feel good about themselves and have a great life. The Clydesdale division gives us our moment to shine! 

There is no such thing as a FAT PERSON.

Fat is a component of food. It is something that gets stored in our body for energy reserves when you overeat and do not exercise enough. As such, overweight people get slapped with the stigma of being  lazy,  gluttonous, or both.  Every person you know is struggling with some inner demons or internal conflicts that you know nothing about.  Fat-shaming is a real thing and overweight people are constantly humiliated by people  mocking or criticizing them about their size. When I tell non-runners that I have a race coming up this weekend, I sometimes get comments like ‘you run?’ My former boss was famous for this. When I ran my first marathon, he asked me “how many days did it take?”.      

Overweight people are laughed at and rejected in  so many situations in the real world that they tend to believe that they are worthless, or not good enough.  As a result, they lock themselves away from  the world. It takes an incredible act of courage to make that first step and take action to improve your health.

 You may be laughed at by callous people being jerks. Ignore them!   I was 322 pounds before I started running. When I signed up for my first 5K race EVER in 2019, my non-running friends informed me that it takes months of training to run those races.  I told them I had already been running treadmill for the past 8 weeks at that point. When I finished the race, Helene Horn told me I was amazing. Not one of my non-running friends showed up to watch my race.

FAUX PONY BALONEY

When is a Clydesdale NOT a Clydesdale? This is a controversial gray area. Some of my fellow Clydesdales and myself included are slightly upset when we see a runner who looks way too light to be a Clydesdale walk away with a medal. Is this stolen honor, or just sour grapes? The category is not a perfect division. Muscle is much denser than fat, but a pound of muscle is equal to a pound of fat.  Some race directors rely upon a BMI formula based on weight and height, while others go by weight alone. In the weight alone situation, the limits are usually men: 210lbs+ women: 160lbs+ .   Now here’s the thing what if a man is packing a lot of muscle on his frame, very little body fat at all, AND weighs in at 210lbs 1oz ONLY because he ate breakfast that day. Is he REALLY a Clydesdale? According to the rules of that race, yes.

A 250lb Clydesdale packing an excess of body fat, with a BMI of over 35 is going to get clobbered by such an athlete.

What if a very tall, skinny girl with very long legs and who weighs who 160lbs 1oz decides to sign up as a Clydesdale? Should she? Is it a fair race against a short plump woman with short legs who weighs 230lbs and is running her heart out to try to get a medal, only to see the tall girl walk away with the prize?

What about the 20-year-old Clydesdale who is competing against the 45-year-old in the same division?

The above situations have occurred at various races and at various times. Everyone wants a medal. Not everyone is going to get one, and there are some who never will. The Clydesdale division is a necessary race class, but it is NOT a perfect division. Until a greater number of overweight runners begin signing up for races there is no fixing this imbalance in the class. Unlike professional boxing which has 17 different weight classes, there is no way to subdivide the Clydesdale category when Clydesdales on average make up less than 10% of the runners in any given race. It sucks, it’s not fair, but no one ever said life was fair. Participation medals are worthless trinkets. If there is an imbalance in our beloved Clydesdale division, we need to use that to encourage us to push ourselves that much harder. And when we do earn that medal by our own merits, it will be the greatest feeling in the world!

You can find me at these upcoming local races:

February 2022

Ugly Mudder 9.5K Trail Race February 19 @ 10:00 am Reading PA 

March 2022

Shiver by The River 10K Winter Race Series #4 of 4  March 13th @ 10:00am Muhlenberg PA

Be sure to check back  on February 27th 2022 for another article.

As always, I wish you success and happiness!

THE CLEAN SLATE!

Starting over, AGAIN!

It’s 2022 and the first month of the year is just about over. Like many people, you probably started the year out with a New Year’s resolution or two.  That’s a wonderful way to begin the year by wiping the slate clean. The bad news is by the end of the first month, about one in three people have already broken those resolutions and given up.  To those of you who have still managed to hang in there and are on track to accomplishing those goal, kudos to you! You are awesome! For those you stumbled and fell this first month, you too are awesome! You tried, you didn’t succeed, BUT you still have eleven more months of the year. There is no rule that says you can’t start over, again. January is a long, cold month. I only managed to get two runs in this month. A personal 5K on New Year’s Day so that I could start the year running, and the Shiver By the River 10K on January 16th. My New Year’s Day run is  a ‘new tradition’ I first began on January 1st 2020 with my running friend Steve.

It was cold, but we did it together.  I do it solo now, but we all have to start somewhere and that was the beginning.

 I encourage all runners to start the year out with a New Year’s Day run. It’s a way of setting the year up. You can tie this in with any number of personal Virtual Races if there is no local in person race, and you can earn a medal to commemorate the occasion. But it’s vitally important to start the year with a run to set your mind for the year ahead. If you didn’t do this in 2022, plan to do it on January 1st, 2023. A runner runs!

Also be sure to sign up for the Run The Year Challenge from Run The Edge.  Registration includes a tracker app that you can pair to your Strava or Garmin so you can track your mileage for the entire year . Last year I only managed to run just over 300 miles, but hopefully I’ll do better this year. In order to run the entire 2022 miles, I needed to achieve a 5.54 mile every single day.  I fell short by missing most of the month. Now to achieve my goal, I need to up the mileage to 6.6 miles per day, every day for the rest of the year.  You need to challenge yourself and keep motivated, this is a great way to do that.

So IF you fell short of your resolution in January, all is not lost. Begin again on February 1st. February is a cold month, but it’s also the shortest month.  I have 3 in-person live races slated that I plan to run. Once again, these winter months are brutal, but the key is not to quit! Winners never quit, and you are a winner, not a quitter.  Grab those running shoes and go for a run! The ONLY goal I task you with is to run more miles in February than you did in January. That’s it. I can do it, and so can you!  

You can find me at these upcoming local races

FEBRUARY 2022

Arctic Blast 5K February 5 @ 10:00 am Reading PA

Shiver by The River 10K Winter Race Series #3 of 4  February 13th @ 10:00am Muhlenberg PA

Ugly Mudder 9.5K Trail Race February 19 @ 10:00 am Reading PA  

Be sure to check back  on February 13th 2022 for another article.

As always, I wish you success and happiness!

FEEL THE BRRR!

Baby it’s cold outside!

Today is January 9th, 2022 and it’s the 3rd week of winter. The unpredictability of winter weather can pose difficulties for the safety of runners.   

Today was ‘supposed’ to be a race day. It’s not  because of another four letter word, snow. Snow which melts a bit, then re-freezes and becomes known as ‘sleet’, or little pellets of ice. If it doesn’t re-freeze on its journey from the clouds to the ground, it arrives instead as ‘freezing rain’. If air turbulence bounces the precipitation up and down repeatedly for a prolonged period, allowing the snow/rain/sleet particles to melt, freeze, melt again, refreeze and merge with other particles as it hits them, we wind up with hail. Hail is pretty rare as far as precipitation goes, but it has been known to destroy cars, roves,  crops, windows and even kill people or animals not fortunate enough to find shelter in time.

You probably recall the terrible fate that befell a group of runners in China last year.  

On May 22nd, 2021 21 Chinese ultra-marathoners died from exposure to freezing temperatures. The ill-fated 100K race took place at 9am at the Yellow River Stone Forest in the Gansu province of China. The forecast that day predicted some wind and rain, but a freak winter storm caught the participants off guard at a mountainous section of the course. The unfortunate runners were pelted by hail, heavy rains and gales as the temperatures sharply plummeted three hours after the start of the race.

Two of the casualties included 31-year old Liang Jing, one of the most accomplished ultramarathoners in China, and 34 year-old Huang Guanjun  a hearing-impaired Paralympian marathoner. 

172 runners went missing in the limited visibility, but were found by rescue teams before they succumbed to the elements. 6 ‘comparatively lucky’ runners were rescued by  local sheep herder Zhu Keming. He had been sheltering the storm in a cave were he stashed emergency  supplies when he saw one of the participants. As he guided the man to the cave, four other runners arrived. A fire was built. Zhu then rescued a sixth man. The four men and three women  warmed themselves and dried their wet clothes until the storm passed.

There are two things to keep in mind here. 

1. You cannot predict the weather to 100% certainty. You can only make an educated guess based on available data. The officials running the Yellow River Stone Forest 100K made a horrible, bad call on allowing the race to start when they received late-breaking information of worsening storm conditions. As a result, good people died, and charges of criminal negligence were filled against the organizers of the race.

2. Expect the unexpected.  Ultramarathoners  tend to know their stuff, but sometimes that also leads to overconfidence.  I cannot imagine running 62 miles with an impending storm wearing only shorts and a light jacket, or worse, no jacket at all. Yet some chose to because they were comfortable wearing the lighter gear. It is better to have what you don’t need, than to need what you don’t have.  I have already had seasoned runners chide me about my large waist pouch, but it’s my choice to carry gear if I believe I may need it. I’m a Clydesdale, and I’m also not the fastest horse in the race.

My late mother used to tell the temperature by the calendar. It didn’t matter if it was one of those weird January days when the temperature nearly hit 60°F (16°C) and it was sunny. You had to put on six layers, gloves, a hat, boots, and a 12′ knitted scarf that you could wrap around your neck four times and still trip on.  The woman, God rest her soul, had no clue! You dress accordingly and everyone has a different comfort level. Listen to your body!  I have seen people run outdoors in winter wearing shorts, while others looked like they were dressing for an expedition to the North Pole.  

You can’t skip a season of running because it’s cold outside, and no one wants to run like a deranged hamster on a treadmill for months.  So sign up for those winter races because a runner runs and it’s fun to race with your friends and peers. Just dress accordingly.

The key is to wear layers, and have a hat and gloves SHOULD YOU NEED THEM.

You want to keep your core temperature at 98.6°F (37°C) and protect your skin from frostbite in cold temperatures.  When you are done with your run, you want to quickly change into warm dry clothing so keep a change of clothes (including socks) in your vehicle.

If you are running alone in winter, keep distances SHORT, and stick to well traveled trails. These is nothing wrong with doing a morning 5K followed by an afternoon or evening 5K. You just don’t want to get injured or stranded miles away from help.

If you are running in darkness, wear reflective clothing and use a light. Options include headlamps, sneaker lights, LED rope-vests, blinker bands, or a simple flashlight. Just make sure you  can see and be seen.

Wear appropriate footwear, with optional ice-cleat clamp-ons  for icy conditions. You can even purchase neoprene toe-warmers to wear over your socks.

Running outside in winter doesn’t have to be a bad experience as long as you dress smart and always keep personal safety in mind!

You can find me at these upcoming local races.

January 2022

Shiver by The River 10K Winter Race Series #2 of 4 NEW DATE January 16th @ 10:00am Muhlenberg PA

February 2022

Arctic Blast 5K February 5 @ 10:00 am Reading PA

Shiver by The River 10K Winter Race Series #3 of 4  February 13th @ 10:00am Muhlenberg PA

Ugly Mudder 9.5K Trail Race February 19 @ 10:00 am Reading PA (still tentative due to my hamstring issue)

Be sure to check back  on January 30th 2022 for another article.

As always, I wish you success and happiness!

It’s the Most ‘RUN’derful Time of the Year!

Shivering by the river in Muhlenberg PA

Today is the 12th of December 2021 and Christmas is 13 days away! It’s also the second Sunday in December and the start of the 34th Annual SHIVER BY THE RIVER 5K & 10K Winter Race series.  Each year this 4 race series is held by the PAGODA PACERS athletic club (PAC) , a regional Berks County running club founded in 1980.  Shiver by the River is held on the second Sunday of each month at 10AM from December through March. The course starts at Dietrich Park Muhlenberg  and loops though a nearby housing community before heading back to the park. The course is well-marked and staffed by volunteers to keep you con course . The race is timed by another local running giant, PRETZEL CITY SPORTS (PCS).

Although SHIVER is not specifically a Christmas-themed race, the  first race of the series usually marks one of the last times local runners can wish one another a Merry Christmas before December 25th. The  ONLY one other local race between now and then is PCS’s Humbug Bustle 5K on Dec 18th. On the day after Christmas, the PAGODA PACERS will hold a 5 Mile Kris Kringle Run in Leesport PA.  Many runners today, (myself included) dressed in Christmas running attire.

4 Winter Running Tips

  • Always have a hat and gloves YOU MIGHT NEED THEM
  • Always have a running jacket YOU MIGHT NEED IT
  • Always have shoe-cleats YOU MIGHT NEED THEM
  • Always have a dry change of clothes YOU MIGHT NEED IT

In the winter, temperatures can vary drastically by region. Today in Berks County, it was 43°F (6°C). The sun was shining brightly, but there were occasional wind gusts.  It was cool enough that I was very glad I had a runner’s jacket in my car. Just my red t-shirt would not have been enough, buy my Santa Cap kept my head warm.   Thankfully we have yet to have a regional snowfall, so the streets were nice and dry.  It was just warm enough that I could keep my jacket un-zipped to vent, so I did not work up a sweat. The key to safe winter running is to be prepared for the unexpected. On a short 5K loop, the furthest distance away from your vehicle may only be 2.5K (1.55 miles) but that can be a cold and miserable run back. You can always shed a layer if you need to, but it’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. Hypothermia kills.  

Know your limits

The Shiver series gives you the OPTION of doing a second 5K lap provided you make the first round before the designated cutoff time of 50 minutes.

I have ALWAYS run the second lap ever since I started in 2019. Today I had every intention of doing so once again.  Unfortunately for the past 5 months I have been plagued by a hamstring injury that just will not heal. I was doing well up until mile 2.5, then I began to feel the discomfort in the back of my knee. I did get my lap in before the cutoff time, but I could not be certain that I could finish a second lap if I dared it. I hesitated 15 seconds before I turned right to the finish line instead of left to an uncertain outcome. Yes, I was disappointed that my knee let me down once again, but IF I had not listened to my body and stopped when I did, I might have made things worse and possibly missed even more upcoming races.

Running is supposed to be fun

The joy of running these great local races held by both PAC and PSC is that you get to see familiar faces and are surrounded by friends. The power of a few encouraging words and thumbs-up from your fellow runners can be all the difference between a good time and a bad one.  I carried a small Bluetooth speaker in my running bag today and played upbeat Christmas music as I ran. I wished people Merry Christmas. I told people they were doing great, and they had this in the bag. I had a good time that my non-running friends will never get, and I outran everyone who sat home. I had a great time.

ANOTHER YEAR OVER, A NEW ONE HAS BEGUN!

In regards to running 2021 didn’t turn out the way I intended. I got hurt, missed races, and my times went from personal bests to personal worsts. The good news is that I was able to run as many races as I did. I didn’t quit, I didn’t give up. My times are slowly dropping back towards my normal, and hopefully by Spring I’ll be able to start running half-marathons again, and by November I’ll be ready for that elusive Philly Marathon that keeps slipping through my fingers. I would not be half the runner I am today were it not for the support and encouragement of all my running friends.

December 2021

HumBug Bustle 5k December 18 @ 10:00 am Reading PA

Kris Kringle 5 Mile Run December 26 @ 10:00 am Leesport PA

January 2022

Shiver by The River 10K Winter Race Series #2 of 4 January 9th @ 10:00am Muhlenberg PA

Well this closes the book on another year, as Christmas is in less than two weeks. InstantCoffeeWisdom will return in the New Year. Be sure to check back  on Janury 9th 2022 for another article.

As always, I wish you success and happiness, a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!

STEP UP YOUR GAME!

Work those legs!

(This is the second article in a series of body weight exercises for runners. For the first article read WORKING THE PLANK)

Most health care experts cite a weekly minimum of 2.5 to 5 hours of moderate-intensity exercise, or 1.25 to 2.5 hours of high-intensity exercise, or an equivalent combination of the two. Additionally, at least two-three days should be used for strength training.  A more basic rule of thumb is 30 minutes of exercise daily with one rest day off each week.  Two of the biggest excuses given by people for not exercising are:

No time to get to the gym

Don’t have the proper equipment.

The beauty of body weight exercises is that they can be done practically anywhere, and require little or no equipment.

Running is a body weight exercise. When you run your feet and legs are propelling your entire body mass forward. Just as a strong core means faster run times, so do stronger feet and legs. If you are not actively working to make yourself stronger, then you are actively making yourself weaker. So if you’ve mastered working the plank, it’s time to step up your game and focus on your legs.

There are five major muscled groups in the legs, the quadriceps, the hip flexors,  the hamstrings, the glutes, and the calves.

Think you know SQUAT?

Squats are essentially deep knee bends which work most of the muscles in the lower body including:

  • gluteus maximus, minimus, and medius (buttocks)
  • quadriceps (front of the thigh)
  • hamstrings (back of the thigh)
  • adductor (groin)
  • hip flexors.
  • calves.

While bending your knees, you lower your thighs to the floor until they’re parallel while keeping your chest upright.  Hold the position, then stand straight back up to the starting position. Pause a second or two and repeat. Shoot for 3 sets of 12-15 reps.

If a regular squat becomes too easy, you can add dumbbells to the routine, or you can always try a single leg squat, but this requires really good balance.

Step it up.

You don’t need a Stairmaster Machine to do step exercises!

Climbing stairs or just doing single step-ups are a very simple exercise. Who doesn’t know how to go up steps? You probably learned that shortly after you first started to walk as a baby.

Step-up  exercises are great as a lower body conditioning workout. It targets the quads, hamstrings, and glutes.  All you need is either a small step stool, and aerobic step platform, or just a set of stairs you can use.  It’s simple, you step up, you step back down, you repeat. Nothing to it.

If you do happen to have  a convenient  staircase you can run up and down, GO FOR IT.

LUNGING ONWARD!

The forward lunge exercise strengthens the glutes, hamstrings, quads, and calves. They can be done as an in-place exercise, or as a forward lunge where you ‘walk’ while lunging. Begin by standing straight, then step forward with one foot until your leg reaches a 90° angle. As you are stepping forward, drop your hips straight down and  bend your rear knee until it is parallel to the ground.  Do NOT touch the ground with your rear knee, and your front knee should not extend past your toes. For an in-place forward lunge, simply return to the starting point by bringing your forward leg back as you stand up. Switch legs and repeat for 10-12 reps per leg.

 To do the walking lunges, pull your rear leg forward as you stand up. Again switch legs and repeat for 10-12 reps per leg.

Just remember that exercise only works if you do it correctly, and on a regular basis.   If any of these exercises become too easy, you can always add a lightweight dumbbell to the routine. Just don’t go too crazy on the weight, you’re a runner not a bodybuilder!

You can find me at these upcoming races:

November 2021

Crappy Year 5k November 20 @ 10:00 am Union Twp. Park  Birdsboro PA

Flippin Fun 5k Turkey Run November 25 @ 9:00 am Wyomissing, PA

Be sure to check back  on November 28th for another article.

As always, I wish you success and happiness!

THE ‘I’ IN TEAM!

What role do you play?

the i in team

There are many different kinds of teams, and many synonyms to label them. 

  • crew
  • club
  •  company
  •  lineup
  • organization
  •  party
  •  side
  •  squad
  •  unit

Did you forget any? How about FRIENDS? FAMILY? CO-WORKERS??

You may have heard the old saying ‘There’s no ‘I’ in TEAM’. Simply put, the reply to this is yes, and no. Strictly speaking, when you spell the four letter word out TEAM , there is no letter ‘I’. Now there is a popular joke response floating about the internet that IF you type the word TEAM in certain fonts, you get a lowercase ‘i’ hidden in the negative space of the letter ‘A’. Often the caption that follows is something like ‘I found the ‘i’, it’s hidden in the ‘A-hole’.  This can be true in more ways than one.

First off, let’s address the ‘I’ in TEAM.

It’s all fun and games until someone loses an ‘I’

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Teams are groups of INDIVIDUALS working TOGETHER for a common goal. So the ‘I’ in TEAM stands for INDIVIDUAL, and that has good points and bad points.  Every INDIVIDUAL is unique and has unique needs which have to be addressed. Sometimes these individuals add skills and qualities to the group dynamic that improves the group’s overall performance. That is where the acronym T.E.A.M. comes into play, because TOGETHER EACH ACHIEVES MORE. It’s a wonderful thing when it works out that way, but  sometimes you get those negative elements that don’t play well with others. They are  the ‘a-holes’ bringing down the team.  In those cases, that negative player must either be corrected, or at worst cut, for the greater good of the squad. We are ALL individuals, and WE are all UNIQUE, and we each have our respective roles to play. We don’t always get to pick our teams, sometimes  teams pick us, and other times we are thrown together  by circumstance. Not everyone in the same organization will get along all the time, or even like each other.  Whether you like it or not, you on still on each other’s team. In those trying situations, the INDIVIDUAL you need to focus on is YOURSELF. Are you the solution, or part of the problem?   

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Who’s in charge around here?

Every effective group has someone leading the organization. Being a leader takes courage, discipline, and determination.  It is a very hard job that can be lonely. You can be open to harsh criticism when things aren’t going well, be accused of playing favorites, insulted by underlings who don’t like your leadership style, or feel you don’t recognize their contributions. Occasionally these gripes are true. We’ve all had bad bosses at one time or another. Leadership, like any new skill takes time to develop. Sometimes, happenstance requires that a void in the chain of command be filled. If no qualified  INDIVIDUAL can be found, willing volunteers may be asked to pick up the mantle, or have it forcibly thrust upon them.  This is what is sometimes referred to as ‘trial by fire’. You’ll either rise to the occasion, or burn out. If you suddenly find that you are now the ‘captain of the ship’, then YOU need to act like it, and run things as best as possible, while consulting with other captains of other ships, reading the appropriate manuals, and making the tough calls. This also includes listening to the questions and concerns of your subordinates, some of whom may have more seniority than you.

IF you find that YOU are NOT in a position of authority, and the duly appointed captain refuses to acknowledge the approaching iceberg, YOU have two choices.

Stay the course and hope for the best, or abandon ship.

The LONE WOLF

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As a  leader, we MAY be able to force someone to do something they don’t want to do, but they won’t do it well, and may even quit or take action against us.

As a team-mate, we MAY be able to convince our squad to run a play, but everyone would need to be on board and, the team leader would still need to agree to it. There may be repercussions if we just did it without authorization, EVEN IF IT WORKED.

As an INDIVIDUAL, you can always convince yourself to do anything you really want to do.

Sometimes it’s just impossible to find a group that fits, or create a new group, or convince an old group to try something different that you really want to do.  The lone wolf has total freedom, but that freedom comes at the cost of camaraderie.  One really is the loneliest number, but regret is also a terrible thing.  If your team or group is holding you back, it may be time to explore new horizons and challenges solo. This requires a special kind of courage and strength, because the path of the lone wolf is the toughest.  If you falter and need help, you’re on your own. There’s no one to recognize your accomplishments, or say ‘good job’ at the end.  Only YOU can decide if it’s worth the risk of going it alone, or facing the regret of never knowing if you could have done it.  As INDIVIDUALS we all have the option of taking our ball and going home,  or finding new groups to play with, or just practicing our skills alone. Self-improvement  begins with SELF. No matter where we go, there we are. We can be part of many different groups simultaneously, but wherever we chose to be we need to bring our ‘A-game’ and give it our best effort.

 We cannot control the actions of other people, we ultimately can only control ourselves.   As always, I wish you success and happiness.

 

TIMING IS EVERYTHING!

Every second is precious.

timing is everything

“Until we can manage time, we can manage nothing else.” ~ Peter Drucker.

It’s been said that ‘fools rush in where angels fear to tread’. It’s also been said that ‘he who hesitates is lost’.  We all live in the moment and there is no ‘right time’. People who wait for ‘the right time’ often wait forever and never accomplish anything. Ultimately it all comes down to proper timing. Each day, we all get the same 24 hours and how we spend that time is up to us. We also all have dreams, some big, some small, some practical, some unrealistic, and occasionally some totally bizarre. Like our time, realizing those dreams is also largely up to us. Highly successful people manage both their time and their money exceptionally well in order to accomplish those dreams and goals. Your future success is determined by what you do TODAY. People who chose to do nothing accomplish nothing and have no future. That same group is the most vocal about how successful people have somehow held them back in life, and that life is unfair. They refer to successful people as being obsessed. The important thing to remember is that obsessed is just a word the lazy use to describe the dedicated.

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If you truly want to improve your life, you cannot procrastinate, and you must attack your goal with full fledged determination. If you do this, you will succeed in life because most people are lazy. The important thing is to start! Do not put off for tomorrow what you can do today! Make a checklist of the things you need to do, and arrange them in a logical order so that you do not undermine your progress by having one chore undo another. For example, if you were  cleaning your kitchen, you would clean the counter tops BEFORE you swept the flour. You do not want to be counter-productive. The more efficiently you use your time, the more you can accomplish. Some tasks can be done simultaneously, others must be tackled one by one. Highly efficient people write things down and work from lists.

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Schedule EVERYTHING including downtime.  Dedicated people tend to over-schedule and burn out due to stress. Everyone needs a break. It’s OK to burn the midnight oil occasionally, but if you are constantly working late, sleeping little, and avoiding rest periods, you will begin to break down from stress. There’s an old adage: “early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” If you feel you are not having enough time to do everything you need to do, you may need to cut out time-wasting activities. If you spend HOURS sitting in from of the TV, or playing games on the computer, then those bad habits are holding you back. I allow myself plenty of time in the morning by waking up earlier than I technically have to. This allows me time to have breakfast, pack lunch, exercise etc.  I allow a few extra minutes on the commute to work in case of construction or gridlock.  When I have tasks like shopping, I save time by making a single large loop and hitting all my destinations in the most efficient manner as to avoid back-tracking or going out of the way.

Remember, the future belongs to those who work for it. Do not neglect your health, no not neglect your finances, and if you have a family ESPECIALLY do not neglect them. People are ephemeral, we will all die one day, and it will be when we least expect it. The same goes for our friends and family.  How you spend your time is up to you. Will you waste it? or will you make the most of every moment? Only time will tell. As always I wish you success and happiness!      

RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!

(Your life may depend on it someday)

RUN FOR YOUR LIFE

“Now if you are going to win any battle you have to do one thing. You have to make the mind run the body. Never let the body tell the mind what to do. The body will always give up. It is always tired in the morning, noon and night. But the body is never tired if the mind is not tired.” — George S Patton

Two hikers stumble across a grizzly bear and her cubs. The enraged mama bear snarls and charges towards them. As the two men turn to flee in terror, the one says “We’ll never make it, we can’t outrun the bear!”  His buddy replies, “I don’t need to outrun the bear, I just need to outrun you.”

That’s an old joke, and you’ve probably stumbled across it before. Often it gets recycled or changed a bit.  Lately it’s been used pretty often in the popular Zombie Apocalypse Fiction genre.  One traumatic  example was in the second season of TV’s The Walking Dead when Shane shot Otis so he could outrun the zombies chasing them by sacrificing his buddy.  In the move Zombieland, Columbus had 33 survival rules, but his NUMBER ONE RULE was Cardio. “To escape a pursuing zombie you will need to out-run it, and this means being in good shape. ” There is even an running app for your smart phone called Zombies, RUN!

Many people take running for granted, often fooling themselves into believing that if they ever needed to run, or run FAST and far , they could if they had to. You’ll never know how far, or how fast you can run unless you make time for a regular fitness regime that includes cardio.  Now besides entertainment, end of the world Zombie fiction is good for getting people to THINK about what they what they would do if the unthinkable happened. When a natural disaster such as hurricane Katrina or Sandy suddenly devastated coastal regions would you have  fresh water, power, or food? What about tools, and other supplies. So let’s assume you were smart and did have a ‘bug-out-bag’ with supplies ready and waiting for an emergence. Could you strap it on your back and walk with that load  for miles if need be? Could you?

Two out of every three Americans are overweight, and half of those are obese. Being FAT is not healthy. It is bad for your heart, your veins, your bones, and your mental state. It is bad for every part of your body. I should know, I’ve been struggling with weight issues for years, and two years ago I embarked on a vigorous diet and exercise program to get my life back on track once and for all. Understand this above all else, it is impossible to lose weight by exercise alone. Exercise just helps to strengthen and tone the body. You’re food is your fuel, and your body needs the best possible nutrition to build strong bones and muscles. As a stress eater, I know that it is a struggle to give up comfort foods such as chocolate, cake, and pizza. Trust me, I know all about it. It is a daily struggle of mind over matter, but once you establish a daily routine and stick to it, you will see results. It will NOT happen overnight, all good things take time. The important thing is to start.

The Power of Positivity

When you feel good about yourself you feel better physically, and vice versa. I was in a bit of a funk a year ago because my weight had hit a plateau which is common.  So I needed to change what I was doing as far as both diet and exercise. After all what is the point of being rich and successful if you’re too sickly or overweight to enjoy the fruit of your labors? Doing NOTHING is not an option. When I was fatter, my knees hurt. Running was not an option in that state. As I began losing weight, the knee pain lessened and I started doing the elliptical more and more at the gym. And I began to see results so I started feeling better about myself. Obesity causes mental illness, such as depression.  Over the past two years I’ve managed to lose about 60 lbs so far, 30 last year, and 30 this year.  Last summer when I lost the first 30 lbs, I was on vacation and a cute waitress at my favorite cafe noticed, and told me I looked really good. That one compliment made my entire year and provided the impetus  to train even harder. So I decided to try running.

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One of my friends on Twitter is Nathan Maxwell @socialshark . I met him though CoffeeChat. He’s an Ultra endurance athlete, married with six kids. He started running 11 years ago and at the time he too was overweight, and couldn’t run one mile. Since then he has trained incredibly hard and to date has run more than 60 ultra marathons and four 100 milers. He has been (and still is) an incredible source of inspiration and motivation. I am fully convinced that I would not have reached the level of running I have currently achieved had it not been for his knowledge, wisdom, and encouragement.  Almost six months ago, I ran my  first 5K, that’s 3.1 miles. Since then I did a 15K Trail Run, uphill with 4 creek crossings in 90°F heat, and two weeks ago I ran my first half-marathon (13.1 miles). On October 13th I’m running another half-marathon, and four days later I have a 5K night run planned. I hope to run a full marathon in a year or so once I get my times down on the half-marathon.

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If there is one thing that I can say about the running community, it is filled with people who encourage and support other runners. I have been told that I was AMAZING more than once, and have gotten many thumbs-up, fist bumps, and high-five palm slaps. Likewise I have passed on encouragement to fellow runners, including one man  who decided to run his first 5K at age 70. And yes, Richard finished, and he wasn’t last! Even if he was, the point is running the race, and not giving up. I was dead last when I ran the Chobert Challenge 15K trail run. I burned over 2000kcals and was exhausted and staving when I crossed the finish line, but I did it, and there was even pizza waiting! Next time, I won’t be last. My first half marathon was grueling, but I finished! The best thing about half-marathons and up is that you get a finishers medal when you cross the finish line. This is not to be confused  with the insulting participation medal. It is a FINISHERS MEDAL and you earn it when you FINISH.  Crossing that finish line is an accomplishment that needs to be recognized.  Each year there are over 750 marathons and half-marathons held across America. Less than 1% of the US population runs in these races.  As for 5K races and such, there are also medals awarded by divisions and gender, so you can still win first, second, or third in your bracket even if you were not in the top three over all, and your times are recorded so you can track your progress as you go for the gold! Good luck, and as always I wish you success and happiness!  

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CONQUER THE WORLD!

Ask me how…

conquer the world

Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy. – Dale Carnegie

The world is made up of two types of people. Those who talk about doing things, and those who go out and get those things done.  According to a recent article printed in Business Insider  about a third of Millennials think that they are worse off today than they were ten years ago.  The question that really begs to be asked is what were these ‘eager young space cadets’ doing over the past decade to improve their lives? The overwhelming response was nothing. They stayed in the same dead-end jobs for fear of finding a better job. They didn’t invest in the stock market for fear of losing money. They didn’t save because they had just enough to make ends meet, and they feared they wouldn’t be able to.  The end result of doing nothing is nothing. Nothing happens unless someone makes it happen. You will never be able to conquer the world until you learn to conquer your irrational fears.

Do the thing you fear to do and keep on doing it… that is the quickest and surest way ever yet discovered to conquer fear. –Dale Carnegie

If you do not conquer self, you will be conquered by self. – Napoleon Hill

Many times, we are held back by bad habits. Laziness is chief among all bad habits. We put off for tomorrow what could be done today because we ‘don’t feel like it’ or we ‘don’t have time’ or we have ‘something better to do.’ Motivation can be difficult when we don’t see immediate results, but all things take time, and Rome wasn’t built in a day. This goes for all bad habits from poor eating habits to addictions to failure to exercise regularly. If you start something, keep at it until the task has been accomplished. Never give up. Focus on doing what you can, and then going one better.    

“Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do. Do not bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.” ― William Faulkner

If you believe that something is impossible, and you don’t attempt it, you will never know if it could have been accomplished. Trying once and failing is not an indication of impossibility, it’s just an indication of inexperience and lack of knowledge. No one was ever an expert the first time they did something, and if they happened to do it perfectly that first time, it was dumb luck. You’re an expert when you can consistently deliver the same results, and that takes time and practice.   

Energy and persistence conquer all things. – Benjamin Franklin

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For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. –Jeremiah 29:11

Make plans! If you fail to plan you plan to fail! You need to know where you are, where you want to be, and have the steps to get there. You need to know what direction to go, what tools you’ll need to accomplish your goal. It’s not going to happen overnight, but it won’t happen at all unless you take to proper measures beforehand. Spontaneity is great when you’re stuck and need to think of something to get you back on course, but it’s a terrible way to live your life. All successful people take notes, make plans, and work from paper. Again, if you do nothing, nothing will happen. You got this! You just have to believe in the possible.

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I believe that in the end the truth will conquer. –John Wycliffe

As you continue moving on towards accomplishing you goals, You’ll encounter a lot of fake news and negativity. You need to cut the dead-weight that’s holding you back. Unhappy, unsuccessful people will be jealous of your attempts to better yourself. Success is the best revenge. There are many people you will meet throughout your life who will never accomplish half the things you do, and they will try to make you feel bad about yourself by calling you greedy or selfish. What they think of you says more about them then it does about you. Your success does not doom them to failure. They doomed themselves to failure by doing nothing and just want you to feel sorry for their poor life choices. You can’t help them, they are the only ones who can help themselves, and they don’t want to for whatever reason. If you have access to the internet, you have access to the sum total of human knowledge. Ignorance is a choice, knowledge is power, and the truth will vanquish any lie in time. Stay focused on your goals and they will become your accomplishments. You got this, and no one can take that away from you!  If you can conceive it, and you can believe it, you can achieve it! As always I wish you success and happiness!