Monday, September 24, 2012

Rules of Running

During a Facebook conversation with a friend and teammate recently, I was reminded that runners have their own set of rules.  I don’t mean runners as a group.  We have those too (don’t wear the race t-shirt during the race, no two-stepping, etc.) But, in addition to those, each runner has his or her own unique demands.  All of us expect our fellow runners to follow them.  99% of the time this does not happen.  Part of the problem is that these rules are rarely written down. Although most of the problem is that the rules are ridiculous.  That is why I am going to share my ridiculous list of six running rules whether you want to know about them or not.  They are not listed in order of importance.  They are all important.

1.       A race is a race.  If you fill out the registration form, cross the starting line and then cross the finish line, you have by definition just competed in a race.  I don’t care if you didn’t PR, or you were “just doing it as a tempo”.  You owe it to every other runner in the race, the race organizers and yourself to respect the event.  Nothing annoys me more than seeing someone deliberately leave a race out of their training log because it was “just a workout.”  Your goals may be different than others competing, but you still ran a race.

2.       Don’t complain about running.  It’s not your job.  No one is making you do it.  It’s a hobby.  If I see a Facebook status that says, “I wish I could sleep in, but I have to get up and do my long run,”  I will think long and hard about de-friending that person.  Complain about not being able to run.  That sucks.  For the select few for whom running IS their job, they have even less room to complain.  They get paid for something most of us do in our spare time for fun.  Most people cannot say this about their profession.   People aren’t getting up at 5am to snake stranger’s toilets for the sheer enjoyment of it.  Professional runners must realize that we would all give children, life-savings and/or limbs to have their jobs.  So when they whine (and very few actually do), that’s like William Shatner going to a Star Trek convention and  complaining about how much he hates being Captain Kirk.  That said, most professional runners are underpaid, but that is whole different topic.

3.       You almost always have time to run....  unless you are in solitary confinement.  You just have to make time.  Sometimes if you want to get a run in, you have to get creative.  That’s part of the commitment you make when you commit to being a serious runner.  Training for Boston, I was working long hours, so I got out the door as early as 3:45 some mornings.  You have to make a lot of sacrifices to be the best you can be or you have to lower your expectations.  If you must, go to bed early.  Skip parties.  Don’t sleep in.  But when following this rule, remember one thing: running revolves around life.  Life doesn’t revolve around running.

Spongebob Elvis 

4.       Do not get beat by someone in costume.  My good friend John Compton is one of the best runners I know.  He once had a duel to the death with a a talented runner dressed in a taco suit and emerged victorious.  I can’t explain in words exactly why getting beat by someone in costume is so humiliating, but I can’t think of anything more embarrassing than getting my race photos and seeing the image of Spongebob Elvis whizzing past me like I’m standing still.  Look at the non-costumed people in these photos.  They are devastated The less-threatening the character, the more crushing the defeat.  It's almost acceptable to get passed by someone dressed a Flash Gordon. But, imagine telling your friends that you were beat by Minnie Mouse.  Note: this guy is making following this particular rule very difficult for a lot of runners.

5.       Your  finishing time is not negotiable. It’s what the official results say. You do not get to subtract time to tie your shoe, poop, etc.  “Well, I ran the marathon in 2:45 minutes, but I stopped to use the porta-john for 2 minutes, so really it was a 2:43.”  WRONG!  The amount of time it takes you to get from the starting line to the finishing line is your race time.  If you decide to watch “Gettysburgh” after the gun goes off at a 5K and then it takes you 15 minutes to run 3.1 miles, congratulations, you have just completed a 4 hour and 51 minute 5k!

Coconut Cream Donut minute before I destroyed it
6.       Reward yourself with a donut.   Or ice cream, cake, ho-hos, ding-dongs, giant lollipops…whatever.  It’s ok.  You can eat them.  I eat a donut every time I run 18 miles or more.  It’s the only time I eat donuts.  When you burn more than 2,000 calories before most people are out of bed, a few hundred empty calories aren’t going to hurt. 

I don't mean to offend anyone.  These are my rules and the only person really required to follow them is me (and Lauren). 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Fall Freestyle

Fun or frustrating.  When I started my long journey toward regaining fitness I was at a fork in the road.  I could look at it as having to do all the work I did two years ago over again, or as a chance to do some workouts, races and rave runs I wouldn't do if I were in the midst of serious training.  I obviously chose the latter or I wouldn't be writing right now.  I'd be analyzing my last run trying to figure out why my easy run pace was five seconds slower than I had hoped or scrolling through splits from Tuesday's speed session on my Garmin in an effort to formulate a plan to do the next workout better.

But I'm not even wearing a Garmin except for on tempos and long runs.  I'm wearing the most simple/durable Timex the company makes.  I bought this watch four years ago when I was working in a running store and recently found it in the bottom of my running drawer amidst widowed socks, still ticking, correct date and time give or take three minutes.

Registration for the Boston Marathon has opened and probably closed.  I don't know.  I haven't checked.  I had a fleeting thought or two of signing up, but in the grand scheme of things, the marathon is not the goal.  The goal is getting fit and mixing it up in some local races.  The goal is taking my running seriously, but taking Lauren's running more seriously as she ramps up to run her first marathon, one that has much more meaning in it its 26.2 miles than any of mine ever have.  I run marathons for me.  She's running for a cause.  This sport is a selfish one 99% of the time.  Sorry Occupy Wall Street, but in this case Lauren is the 1%.

With Lauren's marathon high atop the priority list and her field placement keeping her occupied on Sunday mornings, we were tasked with finding a half marathon on a Saturday morning.  The only one we could find was a tiny race in Rockaway Beach, Queens.  The Ramones famously sang about hitching a ride to this beach front community.  I hope they got one, because the subway takes forever to get there!

We boarded the A train at 4:45am.  That's roughly the same time people who stayed at the bars until closing time are stumbling on board for their rides back to the outer boroughs.  Other than a luggage-carrying couple likely headed to JFK, I reckon Lauren and I were the only people in the train car for which it was Saturday morning and not still Friday night.  During a ride that long, you can watch people go through the many phases of intoxication.  It starts at obnoxiously loud and ends with silently drooling.

The race itself was a rarity for New York City.  There were maybe 150 people on the starting line, including me who at the time had not run farther than 12.5 miles post-injury and planned to run 6:30s. The duration of the 13.1 miles were run on a boardwalk feet from the Atlantic Ocean and instead of corals and a starter's horn, there was a line drawn on the ground and a guy who yelled "go".

My run isn't worth recapping.  I did the workout I set out to do in hopes that it would help me climb back up the fitness ladder.  I was battling a bout of food poisoning which made things interesting, but other than that, it was a run that happened to end with me sitting on my butt in the ocean.  I had reminded Lauren that this was not her goal race and to keep it controlled, and even without going 100% she would PR.  PR she did, by four minutes!  You may think running on a flat boardwalk is easy, but it is actually killer.  Your legs absorb all the energy and by the end, they feel pretty shot. Boardwalks are no cakewalks.

Lauren continues to progress.  She has run 20 miles for the first time and did it in stifling humidity.  As I write this, she has just walked in the door from a 15 miler. She is impressing all the Urban Athletics coaches at her weekly speed sessions. She is diligent about doing the ancillary work it takes to fend of the ever-present threat of injury every marathoner fights. Most importantly, she has achieved her goal of raising $5,000 for Get Your Rear In Gear and there are still 7 weeks until the race. 

As for me, well I am having a blast.  I just got back from one of those runs where you finish thankful that you can run.  I'm running about 60 miles a week.  Thursday night, I won a 5K.  Wait, that requires a little explanation.  I crashed what I am pretty sure was supposed to be a fun run for charity in Riverside Park because I had a three mile tempo on my calendar and saw the opportunity to run on a marked course and drink free beer.  My goal was to tempo at 5:25 pace and I did 5:22 pace.  Three weeks ago, I did my first three mile tempo since coming back  and ran 5:35 pace.  So, things are on track.  I have some goals for the fall, but I am not worried about them.  This unorthodox, freestyle plan seems to be getting the job done.  I've never been a math guy, so maybe fewer numbers, formulas and calendars is the trick for now.  I'm a pretty regimented person though, so rest assured I'll go back to my old ways soon. What's important is that running is a whole lot of fun right now for me, and being the proud husband of a first time marathoner...that's just plain cool.