All I Need to Get Up and Keep Going

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They say a promise is a comfort to a fool. Hmm… I don’t know, maybe it depends on the promise? And the fool? All I know is the promise of Spring keeps me running. These winter days are numbered and so are all the layers that go with them. So in-between time, I focus on keeping myself motivated and getting in tip-top shape for the glory days.. heck yeah!

Staying focused, happy, confident and motivated is a lot of work; It demands many self-lectures and constant support mentally, spiritually and physically. Aside from that, there are a few things I just can’t go without, especially during this time. I find comfort, speed and my get-up-and-go attitude in these running must-haves:

Faith: in God and in myself. One depends on the other and I depend on both. I find strength and hope in the One who runs with me every day. His quiet presence and constant care helps me to rely on and trust in His love for me through all seasons and all things.        

My Running Group: this is how I get the majority of my speedwork in. Since the importance of speedwork to the competitive runner cannot be overestimated, I swear by these speedies, they’ve made me question the term “limits” time and again.      

Running shoes: my Mizunos are my road babies while on the trails Saucony gives me wings.                                                       

GU gels: for anything over 10 miles these gels have become a necessity for running efficiency. Half the time, I suspect age is the culprit. I never needed these things till recently.

Head/Ear band:  I only don’t wear these in the summer, in every other season they provide comfort from the cold and acts as a buffer from the noisiness of my surroundings.                                               

My Gamin/Phone: used to be a time not so long ago when I wouldn’t hesitate to leave either of these behind but it turns out I’m often competing with myself out there and they act as my time keepers.

My Nike Rain/Wind Jacket: I am the real deal and I even have a talisman to prove it. Lol. Really, since the cold has started, I have not been a day without it. Indeed I shudder to think of running without my second skin, I would not survive..I mean that.

As they are, they may seem a pithy list but in truth I don’t need much and I like to keep it simple as there’s only so much keeping up I can do – at least in this instance I’m a minimalist. On the other hand, what’s on this list actually have a big responsibility: getting me to Boston and beyond. So far they’re doing a darn good job of keeping me focused. My faith expects nothing less of course.

Running Groups Rock!

Source: precisionfitpb.com

Source: precisionfitpb.com

They’re that bunch of people you sometimes catch a glimpse of as the run by followed by infectious laughter and animated chatter, and sometimes, the tell-tale sounds of a playlist. I used to sneer at the raucousness, all serious and solitary-like,  wondering if they seriously got any anything done until I understood the camaraderie-boosting and encouraging spirit that embodies the running group.

Very early on my view of running had always been that of a get-out-there-get-the-job-done kinda sport with not much room for socializing on the course. I mean, who wants to be fighting to conserve energy one minute and wasting it in the next breath. My reasoning, though sensible, was flawed as it left no room for the ability to converse at varied paces as well as the need and right by some runners, to seek clarification, encouragement or even the opportunity to distract themselves from, what may be, a tough run. I felt it was do it, get over it..why prolong the suffering. My reward was delayed gratification via a race of some kind where my pace, form and endurance told the story of my application. “Where’s the fun in that?” You may rightly ask. My response is absolutely no where. Thank God I grew and matured in my views; it opened up a world of knowledge and opportunity in my running life.

I have come to appreciate and even love the running group. I now understand the dynamics at work with the aim of fostering a community of like-minded people who share a common passion. I’m such a convert that when my schedule allows, I’m first up and looking to hook myself up to the closest one; talk about transformative thinking. Here’s why my views changed:

-Running groups are a good way to meet people and make friends. It provides the avenue for social interaction and has become the basis for many a meaningful and lasting connection.

-Such groups are a deep well of encouragement, knowledge and opportunity to the runner, providing information on issues from nutrition to injury prevention and every and anything that concerns running.

-A running group is your very own personal cheer squad. They not only provide you with the impetus for running and training, being right there with you on your journey, but come the all-important race day, they are there to cheer you along and celebrate with you.

-Groups provide a benchmark for your development and success with the varied paces they offer. The average runner starts out running at any given pace but with repeated effort and training gets better and better and can measure their progress.

-They have the in when it comes to first-hand information on registration, specials, giveaways and discounts on races and can often-times provide group deals on running apparel and incentives for runners.

-Joining a running group or club comes with the opportunity to advance your running game. You can gain points and bragging rights depending on the competitive nature of the club.

-Most groups are free and only require you to show up while running clubs often ask a nominal fee to cover operational costs which is nothing compared to an annual gym membership.

-Also, you get the chance to be passionate for a good cause. Groups participate in charity events like Cancer walks, runs and relays and you have the opportunity to take a stand and make a difference.

Here in New York City we boast an endless array of running groups from the fun meet-ups to the competitive clubs, there is a group for everyone. Whether you’re a twice-a-week runner for fun or you’re training for a marathon or 5k, whether you thinking about starting, just started or have been running forever you can find your place or pace among dozens of runners who feel you.

Some of the well-known running groups in major cities including here in NYC stem from the stores that sell sports and running wear: Nike, Lululemon, Paragon, Northface, the Running Company and Jack Rabbit while some popular running clubs in and around the city include: New York Road Runners -host of the New York City Marathon, Central Park Track Club, New York Flyers, Front Runners, Dashing Whippets, Brooklyn Ross Runners, Forest Park Runners, Van Cortland Track Club among many others. All paces are welcome.

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It is the quintessential uniqueness of New York that welcomes all runners of all abilities to come and share their love, their story, their experience, their encouragement with every and anyone lucky enough to call it home. If that isn’t enough reason to love them, then I don’t know what is.

 

Is there a Runner’s code?

2014 Boston Marathon

                   2014 Boston Marathon

“That day, for no particular reason, I decided to go for a little run. So I ran to the end of the road. And when I got there, I thought maybe I’d run to the end of town. And when I got there, I thought maybe I’d just run across Greenbow County. And I figured, since I run this far, maybe I’d just run across the great state of Alabama. And that’s what I did. I ran clear across Alabama. For no particular reason I just kept on going. I ran clear to the ocean. And when I got there, I figured, since I’d gone this far, I might as well turn around, just keep on going. When I got to another ocean, I figured, since I’d gone this far, I might as well just turn back, keep right on going.”  – Forrest

Quite a few times in my writings you may have seen me close off with the term – “runner’s honor.” As to whether there is indeed such a thing, I can only speculate and hope, on good basis I might add, since my observations & experiences with runners over the years have been overwhelmingly positive. I surmise that in all likelihood there exists an unspoken but very real code of honor that we runners adhere to. If I were to put it in words it would look something like the above quote from the movie Forrest Gump.

Formost among others, runners have an enormous capacity for endurance and the unerring and dogged ability to pursue a thing to its end.  Fortified with vision and purpose, there is little that can stand in the way of us realizing our goals.  Day after day, week after week, month after month, we condition our minds, bodies and spirits to achieving the pinnacle of our dreams through tireless practice, the sacrifice of other pleasures and dedication of our time. We are the most accomplished when we’ve gotten our daily run in.  Runners recognize that we belong to a community of passionate believers, that many will call crazy, who respect the human body as being the ultimate machine that will take us as far as we let it – only insofar as we care for and treat it right.

Runners share a camaraderie of spirit which propels us to encourage and cheer on fellow runners. This is evidenced by the many times I have either been on the receiving end of, or given, words of encouragement or a running hand to other runners on the course. Also, runners expect and give respect on the course. It can be harrowing sometimes at the start and at other points on the course with the share numbers out there; while competitiveness is the norm, we never allow this to overstep our respect for the runner behind, in front or beside us, giving way or making way as we run along. Another code runners honor is that of the injured runner. We look out for, ask after and if necessary give comfort and support to those who are hurt or in pain. Here, I particularly remember the Boston Marathon of 2013; a tragedy that touched the world but more so, the running community. Everyone united “Boston Strong” and ran for months after in support and solidarity with those injured and the three spectators that died that day. Even today we speak of them with such pride and admiration. Still, we are mindful of our purpose and will no sooner see a runner helped than we are off single-mindedly to pursue our goal.

Additionally, an important code runners share is their solidarity to the sport and sometimes cause of running. Runners unite in the achievement and vision of other runners and support the advancement of the sport and the use of running as a platform to make a difference in our world. It does not take ingenuity to decide that running can impact the lives of thousands but it does take ingenuity to decide to run to make this happen. Time and again, we dedicate out time and talent to transforming lives through our passion for running. We spearhead, support and enlist the help of our running and wider community to highlight the disadvantages that many in our world face through many charities and causes. Lastly, runners are continuously inspired to run longer, faster and stronger. We are united in our efforts to become the absolute best version of ourselves, which simply means constantly pushing beyond perceived limits and challenging ourselves to another PR.

As with all things human, we will often find a lot to complain and disagree about, and if we look well enough we may even find those that do not ascribe to the general code, but I argue that they would be the exception to the rule. Runners by far are the most giving, gregarious, open and welcoming folks I have had the fortune to know. I do no say it lightly when I say runners rock. They do!

How Important is Choosing the Right Running Shoes

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On a scale of 1 to 10, choosing the right shoes for running is an even 10. Now shoes have always been high up on my priority list for the chief reason that I’m a confessed shoe lover as are most women; It’s something we can’t explain, it just is. And so when you’re talking shoes, I’m all ears but when you talking running shoes, my interest just upped to another level entirely. This is because no matter what you decide about running, and there are lots of decisions to me made for sure when you’ve decided to pursue this sport, the most important decision you’ll make after deciding to run is what shoes to run in.

Use to be that one would just go to a store, find something pretty -expensive-, something you felt comfortable in and..volía, shoes. But it’s just not so easy anymore, there are numerous things to consider when going to purchase your running shoes, like; how serious are you – are you about jogging, or are you gonna be running; consider the mileage – 10 miles per/wk vs 30 miles per/wk, the terrain – road, trails or track, the purpose or goal – are you training for a race; short distance or a marathon, and lastly but by no means least, consider your body type. What is ideal for one of a skinny or thin persuasion would be dynamically different for a bigger, heavier person. These are what runners consider your running profile, it is way important to identify these questions early on and to go to the store armed with this information.

Another important aspect of deciding on running shoes is knowing your running style. According to an article by Barbara Russi-Sarnataro on Web MD, titled ” How to Buy Running Shoes: Tips to Treat Your Feet Right” who interviewed Bruce Wilks: a physical therapist, runner and running specialty store owner. He claims that it is important to know how you run. I can attest to this. For my part, I’m a forefront runner, as are most athletes, therefore it is necessary that the shoes I wear have a lot of support and cushioning at the front of my shoes, it’s where I land when I’m running. For the person who is more of a heel-toe kind of runner and your landing is on your heel then that’s where you have to look for your cushioning and support, which I have found is so much easier to find by the way. A knowledgable salesperson at the running specialty store will also ask you to consider your stride, form, and arch – whether, flat-footed, high arch or neutral and may ask you to try out on a treadmill to determine how you run. Another factor to consider after running for a while and you’re looking to replace shoes, is whether you’ve developed any injuries from running, like shin splints etc., the right running shoes can often help with your recovery process.

imageSo there you go, thought it was easy huh? It’s actually not all that bad and sounds much more involved and detailed than it really is in practice. And you do get to take part in the fun aspect of the whole process; brand, color, style; these are a bit secondary but definitely important and should get your attention too. Just so you know, color is a big deal these days. The important thing for you to understand though, is that it is absolutely necessary to get the right shoes for running, not just so you can have a good experience or run, but to ensure you do not fall prone to running injuries that could be helped by choosing the right shoes. We do want to see you out there looking and feeling good after all.

Something inside…

Something inside of me just said ‘Hey, wait a minute, I want to beat him,’ and I just took off.
You have to wonder at times what you’re doing out there. Over the years, I’ve given myself a thousand reasons to keep running, but it always comes back to where it started. It comes down to self-satisfaction and a sense of achievement.
~Steve Prefontaine

No matter who you are, we all need inspiration, motivation, encouragement, support and love to accompany us on our life’s journey. For my part, I try to surround myself with those who will empower me  to achieve my best self.  My personal credo is to always give of my best; be it running, writing, volunteering… whatever I do and wherever I go, this is never far from me.

Your challenge, is to find your little world of supporters..your personal cheer squad..that will do all of the above and then some; particularly on those days that you feel uncertainty, doubt and the desire to give up creeping in. Here are a few ideas to help with focus:

. Join a club/gym; make and meet new friends who share your passion
. Enlist the support and help of a girlfriend/buddy who will engender encouragement, motivation and accountability
. Read, watch, listen to inspiring testimonies of persons with like passions who have overcome adversity to achieve their goals
. Be open to constructive criticism from those who are knowledgable and informed on the topic
. Open your eyes and heart to the inspiration that abounds in people, nature,
things
. Weed out the negative elements in your life that will bring about discouragement and disappointment
. Finally, affirm yourself. You are who you say you are and others opinions contribute very little to you achieving the self-satisfaction and sense of achievement that comes from believing in yourself.

 

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The Miami (Famous) Marathon

I review this race with mixed feelings; excitement, disappointment, heart and some regret, but with a pretty cool medal! 

IMG_4193I think I have a lot to learn about races, expectations, course differences, weather inhibitions and a host of other tiny seemingly unimportant details that are in reality super important, so don’t judge me too harshly as I already did. Plus, this was just my second marathon.

In all fairness the race wasn’t bad, but it was long, hard on my foot and quite warm.  I’m careful not to say hot, as I had feared it would be much hotter than it actually was.  Somehow it was 78 degrees and not breathing fire and gosh, was I ever so thankful.  Heat aside, I had major shoe issues with my right foot.  You would think the injury right? Wrong.  I made sure to wrap my ankle, wore my ankle sleeve and heel inserts to take care of my still-recovering injury but went and added insult to injury by running in a pair of sneakers I had never run a full marathon in.  After mile 13, every right step felt like I was stepping on a sharp object, by mile 18 I was super ready to remove said sneaker and run bare-footed.  I held off only because I didn’t want to spend time, better spent running, taking my shoe off.  I shouldn’t have minded that, as I pretty much ended up walking when it became near impossible to run the last few miles and I had to run-walk to the finish line.  My bad, my fault.  As with New York, I had such high hopes for this marathon as it was so scenic and a new course too; I should have been in my element and ace it. On the other hand, I have a pet peeve with running prolonged stretches without variation.  This race had quite a few of those, which of course was made worse by my shoe aggravation and the heat.  Nevertheless, help came in the outpouring of love and support from those cheering on along the route and those who handed out fruit, power bars, wet rags, ices and had their personal spray stations going on, these are the people who make my run possible and worthwhile.  It’s the essence of running that I’ll always appreciate and love; people coming together in recognition and support of and to encourage those who step out and take a chance at something great.  Then there was the brief but timely, just-like-God, shower, which couldn’t hurt and cooled things down some.  We, on mile 21, were thankful.  But if I was feeling sorry for myself, it all ran away, when I got within the last 100 meters and had the opportunity to help a fellow runner complete his last steps to the finish to claim his medal and me mine.

I promise you, not a day goes by that I don’t learn something and as it turns out there were a lot of lessons learnt that day. Lessons that I’ll take with me on my next race, The Rock and Roll DC Marathon, next month. You see my eye is still on the prize: Boston 2015.

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