Thursday, May 29, 2014

4 Miles and an Exchange with My Cousin

Yesterday I ran a very easy 4 miles.  Total: 853.  Location:  Still on Missouri Route 100/Manchester Rd.  Now in the Kirkwood area as I head west of St. Louis from the Mississippi.

The run yesterday was not eventful.  Just useful for keeping my legs moving and continuing to keep in shape.

So, what else happened yesterday?

I had a series of exchanges with a cousin who writes a blog, too.  We were discussing my reaction to her latest entry:

This is a pretty serious blog entry.  She warns people in her blog entry about the disturbing nature of some of the discussion.  It focused on the shootings in Santa Barbara by the man who thought that he was owed sex by the women around him.

My gut reaction--not all guys who end up as "just friends" feel this way.  And some can turn it into a positive learning how to be platonic friends with women and learning some great listening skills.

My cousin's reaction--that's not the point.  She knows I'd never react that way.  But in any situation a woman has no way of knowing whether I am a really nice guy or the guy who did the shooting in Santa Barbara.  While guys as extreme as the one in Santa Barbara are few and far between, the belief system is not as uncommon as we might hope for.

So, in my constant thinking about numbers I think about the four miles yesterday and the eight intervals I hope to run this morning.  Four is half of eight.  I can think of four good examples of how I am not part of the problem.  My cousin would say that only gets me half way there.  I have to figure out whether I want to be part of the solution.

I think I am not part of the problem because I hold women in high esteem. I have a 24/7 reminder as my tattoo shows the man (St. Sebastian) as the vulnerable one and the woman (Irene) as the rescuer.  I have described many times the importance of strong women in my family, as professional mentors, and as fellow athletes.  It is great to hold women in high esteem and recognize their importance in my life.  That is one example of not being part of the problem.  How can I turn it into being part of the solution?  Well, perhaps it would start with my own sons.  How have I taught them to keep that lesson as close to their hearts, minds, and souls as I do?  Have I ever done that explicitly?  Or do I just hope that the attitude will be adopted by my offspring?

I think I am not part of the problem because I like to think that there should be no stereotyped expectations.  The man in Santa Barbara focused on sex.  But why should any male/female stereotype hold.  In a marriage there are certain things that have to get done and the partners have to figure out who is going to do them.  Yes, I have been known to say "well, you should do that because you are the stay at home mom."  That's awful.  A better argument might be, "In light of the fact that I have to work this much to earn the money that we need to achieve the goals we have, it might be better for you to spend your time on this particular task."  It gets us to the same place.  But it is not because Sherry is the wife.  And there is nothing that I should be doing just because I am the husband.  So here, while I try very hard not to hold prejudicial attitudes in general, I think that going that next step and making sure that I never utter the words, "You should do this because you are the stay at home mom" again would be a good start.  And then, once again it comes back to our sons.  After that it is about setting a good example for others.

In running, I have two examples.  Earlier this year I wrote about the occasion on which I found myself just behind two women after they entered and intersection and turned down Charles Street just before I passed through the intersection already going to the same direction as they had turned. I remember thinking, "I don't want to be perceived as that creepy guy who hangs out behind two women runners."  As a result, I sped up and passed them even though their pace would have been just fine.  Clearly, I am tuned into the fact that some guys could be perceived that way and it could make women uncomfortable.  I'm not sure what I can do to extend this to make myself part of the solution.  I guess one way is to work even harder to avoid situations in which I could be perceived as a threat and set an example in this way.  I like to think that things as simple as saying hello to others makes me seem less threatening.  But in this day and age, people will wonder about motivations.  They may ask, "is he trying to lull me into a sense of security but he really is mean and nasty?"  This is a hard one.  i think the key is to be on guard against placing myself in situations that make others uncomfortable in an unnecessary way.

Finally, the second running example and fourth example overall.  I have heard male runners talk about getting "chicked."  That is--outrun by a woman.  Personally, I am a 44 year old runner who knows that there are men and women who are older and younger than me who are faster than me.  And I am faster than other men and other women who are younger and older than me.  We are all just runners.  To talk about getting "chicked" (even in jest) is not something that crosses my mind at this point.  The problem is that even if the guys who say this are saying it in jest, it is representative of an attitude that is accepted.  I have also known guys to comment incessantly on the "bodies" of the women runners around us.  Again--even if just said in what is perceived as not harmful the question is why should this be said at all?  Again, the fact that I'm not going around talking about being chicked, that I complement any runner who offers me advice, the fact that I recognize other runners for being great runners is nice.  I am gender neutral.  Great.  It is another example of how I think I am not part of the problem.  But that doesn't make me part of the solution unless I start to ask my fellow male runners, "Why?"  And, of course, it is not all male runners.  But for those who do, the question should be there.

The question in our society is why we cannot trust each other.  Why we cannot just approach each other as individuals.  Valued for our skills, our knowledge, our conversation, our company.  Valued for who we are rather than what we are.  Valued even more importantly for what we are rather than what we are perceived to be.  Valued even more importantly for what we are rather than what we are labeled.  And when an individual or group of individuals feels labeled, how does that affect their decisions and their lives in ways that may be completely unproductive?  How limiting is that?  And what am I going to do to help solve the problem.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Power of Positive

Today's title sounds like a self-help book.  I suppose that is okay since my blogging is essentially a self-help experience.  

Today, I will briefly share how far I've run the past two days.  Where I am in my virtual pilgrimage.  And a lesson I learned.  

Yesterday--5.7 miles. It took a good 3-4 miles for my legs to feel ready to go after the 5K on Sunday.  By the time I was done, my legs did open up again.  And it felt good.  That put me up to 843 miles.  That put me on the edge of the St. Louis University campus.  I have been on the St. Louis University campus once when I was speaking at Washington University.

Today, I went to the Dunbar track.  The group of us included 5 runners this morning.  The other 4 did 4x800 with 400 between each.  I did 1 mile warmup.  8x400 with 400 active rest between each.  Times: 87, 87, 87, 86, 84, 86, 86, and 82.  Two of my four friends stayed around until I was done the last 400.  They cheered me on as I ran the last four 400's and that really helped.  The extra six miles has me moving across the city of St. Louis on Manchester Rd.  

Now for the power of positive.  First, despite the race on Sunday not going 100% as planned, I just keep going.  That is positive.

Second, I met a new runner for the track group this morning. I gave her a shout out when I mentioned the four people on social media this morning after the run.  I could not put a link to her as I did not know her before this morning.  One of my other friends put a link and we became friends on social media.  Turns out she is a research dietician and we may have some common research interests as well as running interests.Thus, you never can tell what one quick mention will turn into.

Finally, I took time this morning to email the person whom I "raced" at the 5K on Sunday.  She has numerous mutual running friends.  I thanked her for the advice but pointed out how difficult it is for someone who has been running off and on for 30 years and who has been running constantly for 5 to change in the middle of a race but that I'd keep her advice in mind.  I also noted how wonderful it was for her to cheer on the women ahead of her and to come in third in both races.  She wrote back that she appreciated the effort to write a positive note more than I coudl appreciate as she is on a mission to give more positive recognition that society does on average.  What a wonderful thing to say.  She even said she would think of the experience the next time she did something nice for someone.

It is amazing how much a little positive recogntition to two people this morning led positive outcomes for all concenred.  What I need to do is to take the lesson about the power of positive into the rest of my life.  Not just my running.  My teaching.  My managment.  My research.  My parenting.  My marriage.  All parts of my life.

Monday, May 26, 2014

5K Race Recap +

So, yesterday, I ran the MCVET 5K race for the 4th time.  First two times, I paced my now 14 year old.  Last year I ran it for my own time.  This year I did the same.  The goal (as stated in my last entry) was sub-19.  I did not make my goal, but I had a great race.  Here is the story.

I had to awaken my 14 year old just before 5:30.  We had not had a chance to pick up packets in advance.  So, we drove to a little more than a half mile from the start of the race where parking is free and walked down.  Easily found the packet pick up.  Got our numbers, our goody bags, and out timing chips.  And then met up with other runners from Back on My Feet.  I wanted to get in a whole mile in adance of the race, so I left before the stretching was done and the Serenity Prayer was recited.  Not what I wanted to do.  But it gave me time for my warm up, a last trip to the rest room, and a few striders before the race.  I did not line up in the front row but a few rows back.  My goal was to go out at 6:06.

As we began the race, people sorted themselves out quickly into relative paces.  There was a guy named Duance whom I see in a lot of local races.  He didn't end up having a great day and I was surprised at how early I passed by him in this particular race.  I don't think that I was passed or passed anyone except for one person after about the first mile.  This is getting more and more typical in races I run where there are a relatively small number of fast competitive runners.  This time there were 10 out of 242 who ran sub-20. I am not in any way saying that there is not some good competition and kicking it out at the end to win among runners who take longer.  Just not usually a lot in the front.  

So, I passed a few people who had gone out quickly.  Saw that ahead of me there was at least one guy who looked clearly older than me and I knew Maurice was out there (it turns out that there were three) and I settled in.  I have tried to make it a habit not to check my watch excessivley during the run especially because it is hard to know whether the watch is measuring exact distances.  So, I came through.  A time of over 6:20 was announced by the guy at the first mile marker.  It had not felt that slow.  Adding up the time that my watch said as it beeped for one mile plus the extra time to get there to the marker, I had 6:16 based on my watch.  The second mile was all flat and involved teh turn around on Key Highway and passing the water stop.  It was very warm out on the road despite the chilly start yesterday morning.  I took a water at the water stop before the turn around (there are water stops just beorfore and jsut after the turn around) and poured it over my head.  I had just passed someone whom I would spend the rest of the race in competition with.  If nothing else, I finally had someone to push me the whole way.  That was a good thing.

We continued back along Key Highway toward Light Street and reached mile 2.  This time, my mile was right at the mark and I had a 6:09.  I had picked up nicely but still not enough to really shoot for the sub-19.  Goal was still to beat last year's time.  Running neck and neck with the woman whom I'd passed and been jsut ahead of at the turn around.  I don't know how "just ahead" of her I was, but I did worry about splashing her when I poured the water over my head.  

Now, it was time to dig deep.  The third mile is the only one with some uphill.  I didn't think I had lost that much.  And during the third mile, the woman who was running next to me offered some advice on how to fix my stance and stride.  It helped me speed up but it is hard for a 44 year old who has been running since he was 14 to make major changes on the fly during a 5K.  

We reached Calvert Street still running neck and neck.  I was looking for the three mile sign.  I don't know whether it was never put up or it had fallen down, but when all was said and done, I saw the six mile sign for the 10K race that used mostly the same course but I did not see the 3 mile sign for the 5K race.  I wasn't going to worry about it.  I had someone to outkick.  Afterwards, I looked at my watch and it said 6:24.  All that was relelvant at the time was that I not lose my place.

So, the last 0.14 according to my watch was run in 38 seconds.  Was it 0.14 or just 0.1?  It does't matter.  I held my place, and the other runner and I congratulated each other.  After having crossed teh finish line and gotten our chips removed she came over and made a further comment about my stride and mentioned to a friend of hers that it was just the coach in her coming out.  She had had enough energy during the race to encourage the woman who won the race (good for her!) and the other woman who came in before we did.  (This was after they had turned around on Key Highway but before we did.)  And then to offer me some coaching.  Not only that but she came back and was the third woman overall in the 10K as well.  I don't know if I would recognize Amy anywhere else, but hats off to her for a great race and for helping me to come in ten seconds faster than I did last year.  Goal achieved.  And the race was actually a race rather than just a hard run surrounded by others.  

A few other things beyond the race report.

First, this puts it at 837.3 miles for the year.  I am on Illinois Route 3 in Venice, IL, right near a train yard and about to cross the Missippi and enter Missouri.  

Second, I am wondering whether I make the commen I am about to make only because I didn't reach the goal, but for once I feel that the journey was as important as the destination.  Runners talk about this issue a lot.  I'd be interested in knowing from fellow runners whether they find it comes up much more when they have not reached a goal.  But the key is what is more important--for a 5K, for a marathon, or for running in general?  No simple answers here.  But I found that yesterday, I was not as disappointed as I expected to be.  I ran 16 seconds faster than a race three weeks before.  I ran 10 seconds faster than the same race a year ago.  I was eighth overall and first in my age group.  I can't complain.  My son got a medal as well.  And I enjoyed the preparation.

Why did I enjoy the preparation?  Because I had a plan that someone had helped me to develop and I worked through the plan.  Every day.  Every workout.  Each one hour experience was just right.  Why worry about whether 19 1/2 minutes was just right when for the eight weeks of preparation everything was.

I also learned something else about myself.  I have said for years that running is no longer just an individual activity for me.  The camaraderie I felt yesterday was amazing with so many runners from Back on My Feet.  The many workouts with others leading up to yesterday.  But I found during the preparation for this race, that one other thing was important.  Talking with others about running.  

The person who had helped me prepare a plan also wanted to know how each workout went.  Having someone to talk with about each run provided an opportuntiy for useful insight and feedback.  And it was nice to have someone to talk about running with who cares about it as much as I do.  (There are plenty of people out there like that but not necessarily people I engage in conversation with every day.)  It reminded me of why I like Johns Hopkins and why my oldest son has enjoyed the Baltimore School for the Arts and will attend a conservatory for college.  It is great to be around people who care about your activity as much as you do.

So, in conclusion, hats off to Coach Shannon as well--for the plan to prepare and for helping to learn some more about running and some more about myself.

The two women who are first and foremost among those who have been strong in my life and are represented by Irene rescuing St. Sebastian in my tattoo are my wife and my mother.  For my wife, every day of life with me and three boys in the house is a show of strength.  With this running experience of the past eight weeks culminating yesterday with an enjoyable race, I have added Shannon and Amy to the list of strong women who have influenced my life.  

Friday, May 23, 2014

In Pursuit of Excellence

The last time I wrote was after my easy 4 miles on Wednesday.  Today, is Friday.  It is unusual to have a Friday to rest but I do.  I will have one last run tomorrow before the 5K race on Sunday for which I have been training diligently.  The person who helped me develop a training plan says I've done all the right things to achieve my goal.  Now the key is to remind myself of that goal and to visualize.  So what is the goal: 18:59 or better.  Other than the GBMC 5K last year that was short by everyone's GPS watch and for which I didn't feel like I had run a sub-19), I have not run a 5K at a sub-19 pace since I was a teenager.  In fact, probably since 1986.  Ronald Reagan was president.  I had not graduated from high school.  I was probably watching the Cosby Show, Cheers, Night Court, and Family Ties.  It's been a long time.

Yesterday, I ran 3x2x200. Short workout.  Intended for the track.  But there was lightning when it was time to go.  I do track workouts alone.  I do track workouts in the rain.  I've even been known to do one or two alone and in the rain.  But I don't do them alone and in the rain when there is thunder and lightning.  So, I did it on the treadmill.  It is not often that I set the treadmill for 10.8 MPH, 11.3 MPH, and 11.8 MPH--even for 1/8 of a mile.  And I don't expect to hit those paces during the race except for the very end.  If I can run my 6:06 first mile (a little net down) and come through with a 6:06 second mile (pretty flat), then run a 3-ish 800 M, all I will have left is 0.6 miles.  And at that point, anything goes.  And when I have 0.1 miles left, I will dig deep and give the race everything I have.  If all goes well, I'll be able to find it in me to kick like I was running at the end yesterday and set a new grown up PR--and hit my sub-19.

That is my pursuit of running excellence.  My run yesterday put me up to 828.4 miles which puts me coming off the Madison County Transit Nature Trail in Granite City, IL, getting ready to run counterclockwise around the Horseshoe Lake.  The Catholic church in this city is called Holy Family, and that is neat because I want to talk about a few things having to do with family today.

Wednesday we had the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School's commencement ceremony.  I read all the names.  We finished in record time.  It was a great event.  It was a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the pursuit of excellence with family.  It was also reflective of pursuit of excellence within the "family" of Carey employees.  We made that ceremony come off as seamlessly as possible and the teamwork aspect was great. 

Wednesday evening, I went to the last 3rd grade parent-teacher evening I will ever attend at the Waldorf School of Baltimore.  We talked about 3d grade highlights and a bit of a 4th grade preview.  And we painted wet on wet.  My appreciation for art has increased since I got my tattoo. My appreciation for the hard work to produce good art has increased even more since I got my tattoo.  When I get my picture, I will have to show it.  (It is not cery good)   Wet on wet painting is one thing that requires patience and control to pursue excellence.  Done often enough one learns how to work with the flowing colors rather than be frustrated by it.  It is kind of like running.  Painful/difficult at first, perhaps.  But after doing it enough times it becomes second nature.  One learns how to work with one's body and the random things that occur around it in the pursuit of excellence for running.  The experience made me slow down and breathe deep, so that was also very relaxing at the end of a long day.

We talked about geography as a unit in fourth grade.  The teacher mentioned that some adults don't have much of a sense of direction.  One of the joys of running alone or designing courses to run with one or two friends has been an incredibly more developed sense of direction about the roads on the runs that I do.  I would not call it a pursuit of excellence for me, but it is definitely part of my development of excellence. And for the kids, it may clearly be a pursuit.

Finally, in terms of family and pursuit of excellence, I attended the Baltimore School for the Arts senior honors recital last night.  Seven young adults getting ready to move on to study music in college who were able to develop a 15 minute repertoire of music to perform in two parts.  Amazing.  Pursuit of excellence celebrated with family and facilitated by family.  It will be fun to see where these kids (including my oldest son and his girlfriend of three years) go.  

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Running and the Former New York TImes Editor's Tattoo: Considering Commitment

Time to report on two days worth of running and what I thought about.  Yesterday's run was 7.8 miles.  2 miles of warm up.  Three sets of 3 quarter miles.  First set at 6:00/mile.  Second set at 5:52/mile.  Third set at 5:44/mile.  All was good.  The workout made me feel much better than I had when I awakened yesterday morning.  My throat is much better than it was on Monday morning.  That is good as I have to read ~400 names at the Business School commencement today.

Today, I went out and ran an easy 4.1 miles.  New course.  Up into Stoneleigh and home.  Very nice. 

Puts my total up to 822.4 miles.  I am still in Illinois on my virtual pilgrimage.  In fact, many of the most recent miles have been on bike trails.  It's very nice to see that there are so many miles of bike trails in that section of Illinois.  At the moment, I am in Glen Carbon on the Glen Carbon Heritage Bike Trail. 

The Catholic church in Glen Carbon is St. Cecilia.  She is another Roman martyr and is the patroness of music.  She is described as having sung in her heart to the Lord at her wedding.  Music is obviously relevant to me given my own ministry for numerous years and given my oldest son choosing Gregory as his confirmation name (the patron of musicians).  

Music ministry leads me to think of what (if anything) I would get as a second tattoo.  At the moment, my vision is a cornucopia bursting with breads, golden apples (teaching), and red eggs (Mary Magdalene) placed in a Garden of Eden setting with a cassowary in the background.  I've described most of that before, but the cassowary is new.  It is a reflection that not all things are good and gentle and not everything in life is perfect.  

Thinking about my own tattoo (and potential future tattoo) and thinking about advice I've given adult friends about getting tattoos, brings me to an interesting story in the news yesterday.  Here is an article about the immediately past editor-in-chief of the New York Times in one of her first public addresses after she left the position.  She apparently has a tattoo of the classic New York Times styled letter "T" on her back.  She was asked if she would get it removed.  Removal of any tattoo is not perfect.  But it says something about her commitment (at least that she is willing to admit to publicly).  Getting a tattoo is not to be taken lightly.  Like marriage.  Like parenthood.  A tattoo is designed to be forever.  A tattoo should be something that if it is on a part of the body that is visible to others, the person getting the tattoo would need to want to explain it on the day they get it, one year after that day, ten years after that day, and (should they be lucky enough) fifty years after that day.  The former editor-in-chief seems to have made a choice that reflects a story she will always be willing to tell regardless of her employment by the paper.  My tattoo of St Sebastian and Irene is a story about vulnerability, strength, and people helping people that I will always want to tell.  My story about bread, teaching, and contemplation is something that I would always want to tell.  When I first thought about a second, I had music high in my mind.  But now I don't.  It reflects how important it is to consider the tattoo long and hard before getting one.

It is like running.  Not necessarily a lifetime but definitely something that takes commitment.  And certainly something (like any exercise) that if I am wanting to do today, in a year, in ten years, and in fifty years will lead to a much better health and wellness outcome.  And to spread even further, my approach to spirituality and religion--also a matter of life long commitment. 

So, a couple of runs, "arrival" in Glen Carbon, IL, and looking up some of the history around St. Cecilia leads to thinking about some very interesting issues regarding commitment.  From tattoos to exercise to religion.  The stories we tell. The dreams we have.  The things we wish.  Driving life ahead.  

Monday, May 19, 2014


Quick report today.  Slow opening with the first mile over 9 minutes.  Then, I hit a downhill and ran sub-8.  I finished the set of 6 miles in an average time of 49:32 (or approximately 8:15 per mile).  Then, I did six striders for 20 seconds each with 40 seconds of active rest between each.  They felt good but running at 85% sprint pace made me work very hard.  Striders are great for preparing for a race.  It was a good workout.  It made me focus.  They make me think about an expression my boss used today.  

My boss today, in a presentation, talked about a three word phrase--focus, finish, celebrate.  I would think that focus, finish, fun would have been better for aliteration.  

The key is that running takes focus.  Running well takes even more focus.  Racing well takes an incredible amount of focus.  

Finishing is what running is all about. Some say it is about the journey.  That is true, to a degree.  I have never expereinced a did not finish.  But I really do believe that the journey is not how I see things.  I often say taht the hardest workouts are the workouts that I cannot do.  That started back in 2010.  And I would say that every time I have to skip a worout for reasons that I cannot control, I feel a bit down.  So, for me finishing is key.  I need to make sure that finising is just as important in other areas of my life and not just in running.

Finally, when I finish I libe to celebrate or have fun.  Part of celebrating is encouraging others.  Part of celebrating is sometimes claiming a medal.  Part of celebrating is just resting and realizing that I have finished.

I ran 6.6 miles this morning and have now reached 810.5.  That puts me in Marine, IL, at the corner of Pocahontas Rd & Duncan St.  The Catholic church in town is St. Elizabeth's.  Not far from where I am now.  

Sunday, May 18, 2014

A Sunday Out and Back in Easter Season Makes Me Think Of...

Today, I ran an out and back--sort of.  I drove to meet one of my running friends who ran her first Boston Marathon this year whom I had not seen in person since she ran Boston.  We met at "the corner" (33rd and Greenmount) and ran the Old Baltimore 10 Miler course.  It is definitely an out and back type of course from the zoo to Lake Montebello, around the Lake, and back again.  In this case, we went to the zoo, the back to more or less where we started, then to Montebello, and then back to the start.  So it was actually out and back in two different directions.  And I really dislike out and back courses at this point.  But I am happier to do them when I am with the good company of a fellow runner.  And I am even happier to do them on a course that I have raced before (this one) or plan to race again this year (not this one--I decided I don't like the heat in June for racing that far).

In any case, when I think of running out and back during Easter season in the church, the reading from two weeks ago comes to me. That is the reading along the road to Emmaus.  I have written about Emmaus before.  It is an easy story to think of and one that can have lots of meanings. It is also something that was read at the last wedding I attended in Septmeber 2012.  And it was a wedding of two runners.  And it mentions 7 miles and teh two on the road to Emmaus running back to Jerusalem.  A distance of 7 miles.  A little longer than a half marathon.  A good bit longer than what I ran today.  But definitely something that I think of when I run any out and back.  What do I find when I get there?  How does what I find represent God's goodness and grace revealed to me?  And how much do I want to share it when I get back?

In my case, I am always big on sharing through my blog.  The key question is whether there was any evidence of God's goodness and grace today.  Of course there was.  The bright sun.  The reflection on Lake Montebello.  The good friendship that led to conversation most of the time.  The healthy pace.  The taking of hills.  The running of the lake clockwise--which I have never done before and seeing it all in a new way going to "wrong" direction.  I shared it with my running partner this morning.  I am sharing it with others now.  The out and back also brought us into interaction with other runners.  In fact, one of them was on the track with the large group last Wednesday when I ran.  And the first time I met him was about three years ago in the same season preparing for the Baltimore 10 Miler in 2011 when I was running the course to get a feel for it and he and another runner who were pacing the race were there at the same time.  Apparenetly some patterns never change.  And that is one part of the beauty of the life of a runner. The seasonality of so many things.  The return.  The ability to take a second look and see what may be different.  

And the story of Emmaus goes along somewhat with the theme that Father Sam talked about at 5:30 mass at St. Pius X today.  He focused on setting aside the earthly trappings of success.  White garments without gold.  His uneasiness with the stained glas window with our church's patron showing him with a mace (a sign of worldly power) rather than a cross.  Certainly, my friend this morning and I having both qualified for and run Boston have an eye toward earthly measures of running success.  But each of us also sees running as part of a larger framework of health and wellness and achievement and goal setting in our lives and in the lives of other runners around us.

He also talked about radical change.  While he did not talk about that with respect to Emmaus a few weeks back, it certainly was a radical and life changing experience for the two walkers-turned runners in the Bible.  And running has definitely brought about a radical transformation in my life.  (Friends, activities, blogging, self-image, story telling, etc.)  It is something that can bring about radical transformations for so many.  Some just see running as a chore to stay fit.  For me, it is part of the radical change that all began with running my first marathon and getting number 1313.  

Incidentally, with the 10.4 miles today, I ran 39 this week and am now at 803.9 two days short of 20 weeks into the year.  Thus, I am very much on pace to hit the half way to 2000 mile mark early.  My current position is on Pocahontas Rd in Highlands, IL, a bit north of I-70, and a near a stream that leads to the north end of the Old City Reservoir.   

A Weak of Meaning & Tips on Preparing for a Marathon

I blogged last on Sunday of last week.  That was my most recent planned rest day, although not my most recent rest day in fact.  Today, I'll provide an update since then and use this as an opportunity to describe what I think is useful for preparing for a first marathon.  A friend shared with me yesterday that she wants to try to run the full marathon at the Baltimore Running Festival this year.  That is an awesome goal.  So, in the context of talking about this week, this will also reflect my philosophy.

My workouts this week included an easy six around the extended neighborhood on Monday.  An unplanned day off on Tuesday because there were just too many other things to do.  Ten miles on the track on Wednesday.  An easy 5.9 with a friend on Thursday. And a progress that was supposed to be 7 but turned out to be 6.7 on Friday.  Today was a planned day off.  While it was tempting to move Friday's workout to today (as I had moved each of Tuesday-Thursday one day forward after missing Tuesday), I was advised to take the day of rest.  I'm either experienging a cold or my first spring allergies and I am aiming for my fastest 5K in 27 years next Sunday.  Rest is my friend at this point.  My total mileage is now 793.5.  It puts me just outside Pocahontas, IL, still on US Route 40.

Having said that, it does feel weird to sleep till 6 on a Saturday.  And for me that is sleeping in as I have a child to get to a lacrosse game at 8:30 (the game is at 9).

So, let me talk about my philosphy of training for a marathon, especially a first, in the context of my Wednesday long track workout.  The workout consisted of 8 laps of warmup (~2 miles), 8x800 all around around 3:00 (fastest was 2:53, slowest was 3:02, and 5 of the remaining six were less than one second off 3:00).  Then nine laps cool down.  The fact tthat I was able to get eight in a row at a target pace led me to think about what I might write about as eight principles of running. As the week moved on, I thought abou how to relate Thursday's and Friday's runs to those principles.  And then, when my friend asked me for advice, I thought that I coudl tie this all together.    

So, from my workout on Wednesday here are eight principles of running, of life, and of preparing for a first marathon.

I: Have a plan.  There are tons of places to get plans these days.  There are plans on the web.  There are plans in books. There are training groups that have plans.  For those who hang out in circles of runners, there is very likely to be a friend who has a plan that can be recycled.  And for those with enough resources, people can be paid to develop plans for individuals.  The key is that there needs to be a plan.  And the plan has to be followed.  Plans help to ensure two things.  Plans help to ensure that a runner has built up to the distance.  And plans help to ensure that that build up occurs safely.  Injury avoidance is the key to marathon completion.  I ran a 3:02.

II: Life happens.  Despite having a plan, and depsite having a lot of passionate runners in my circle of friends, no one I know is a professional runner.  As such, there will be a need for flexibility.  When the plan changes sometimes it means that workouts can be swapped.  Sometimes it means that workout will be shifted.  Sometimes it means that workouts will be missed.  But the key is to remember that there will be a need for change.  A need for flexibility.  A need for accepting that things will need to be adjusted.  All can be good.  The key is to accept.  This reminds me a lot of what happened at the Y on Friday when I just had to accept that I needed to stop at 6.7 and missing 0.3 miles was not the end of the world.  I ran a 2:53.

III: Don't try to do it alone.  We need to work with others.  It is very hard to prepare for a marathon alone.  We need people to run with.  (Thursday's run was an excellent outing with a person who has taught me a lot about running, who has become a dear friend, and who was my last MPH advisee--great way to have a meeting.)  We need people who understand what it is like to have a big goal.  We need people to encourage us along the way in a whole variety of ways.  I ran a 3:00.

IV: Cooperate with others.  There are a number of ways that I think about this one.  I think about it in terms of making sure that my spouse at least tolerates what I do.  It would be better if my spouse truly supported what I do?  Does my spouse have to love running?  No. But understanding having a big goal.  Understanding early to bed and early to rise.  Understanding the level of commitment.  And understanding the feeling of accomplishment would be great.  It also means when on workouts cooperating with others.  Over the years, I have seen runners not be cooperative on the trail.  And last Wednesday when there was a large group on the track at the time I did my workout, they were very conscientious of every time I ran past.  Ones who were looking warned those who weren't with the usual "TRACK!" or "Lane one!"  There are so many ways that cooperation is important.  I ran a 2:59.

V: Go big or go home.  Running a marathon is a big deal.  Whether it is a first or a sixth (my next one if I run another), it is always a BIG deal.  So, it is important to realize that this is something that you have to be "all in" for.  If a person training for a marathon is not "all in," the risk of injury or having a marathon day that ends with DNF (did not finish) goes up.  I recall when I first came on the job that I have now held for a little over a year and shared my tattoo with my direct reports.  Their reaction was that it showed my personality that they had already picked up quite well.  The fact that my first was an elaborate tattoo on the outside of my entire right calf suggested to my colleagues that I was a "go big or go home" type.  I ran a 2:58.

VI: Be optimistic.   I don't think I have ever met a pessimistic marathon runner.  I'm not sure I've ever met a pessimistic runner in general.  Running is someting that is always about moving forward.  Moving ahead.  Taking the next step.  Never taking steps backward. Coaches tell runners again and again not to look back.  Perhaps those who come to running are optimistic.  Perhaps those who stay in running become optimistic. But in my circle of running friends, I would have to say that just about everyone is optimistic.  I ran a 2:59.

VII: Make it a part of something bigger.  Running is important.  But I already mentioned earlier that neither I nor any of my friends are professional runners.  But I and many of my friends take our running very seriously.  (Some would say too seroiusly.)  But still, I put my running in a larger context.  I run because it is part of searching for meaning.  I run because it has helped me find friends.  I run because it has become a social act.  I run because it helps me achieve something right away each time I run, and I love the feeling of accomplishment.  And yet, I have the opportunity to see things in a long-term context.  I ran a 3:00

VIII: We become what we decide.  This is not the exact quote that was shared with the eight grade group at the Waldorf School of Baltimore from which my second son will graduate in a few weeks.  But the quote is close.  And it got me thinking.  We make decisiosn all the time.  Each decision shapes me.  Each decision shapes my future.  Yes, there are things that I canot control and that will happen regardless of the decisions that I make.  But ultimately, I am pretty much responsible for what I do with the situation.  And marathon running is about making a decision to stick with it despite the ups and downs that are inevitable.  Despite the mental toughness that is required.  Despite the hurt that is inevitable somewhere along the way in the 22.s miles.  I ran a 3:00.

So, there is my philosophy of how to train for a marathon.  Not a bad philosophy of life in general.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

A Crazy Week

Despite my best efforts, I was not able to blog after each run this week.  I did begin to make a little progress on straightening at home.  I did get some extra sleep and my attention span is the better for it.  And I did have some struggles with my running.

As reported at my last entry, I had some shin pain on Sunday of last week.  And it got more noticeable as I left for a flight.  And it was most of the way better after the flight.

But I rested on Monday.  And I rested on Tuesday.  Two days in a row is a lot for me.  Wednesday I came back with an easy 5.  It went well.  I noticed a little soreness and tightness in my shin (and in my entire body after that long a rest) but I felt good.  Lesson of the day: take it easy when you come back to something.  There is no need to rush.

Thursday came and instead of doing the (by now) standard progression run, I did 7x800 with each being 3:01 or better.  Another track workout basically alone although there were a few people putting in laps, the walker who is almost always there, and two women who appeared to be running partner 800's.  That was a great workout for me.  Lesson: stability.  Hitting 800 after 800 with times from 2:57-3:01 was a great workout.  Stability in running is a good thing.  Stability in life is a good thing.

Friday--hills.  Except this time instead of running hill repeats, I decided to run the hilliest course I could think of for five miles near home.  Why did I not want to do hill repeats?  Simple--after 36 laps on the track the day before, the idea of repeats seemed to be a problem for my mind.  And I feared that I would run them too hard as I was frustrated about something not running related in my life.  So, I did a workout in which I kept my mile paces as near to 8:30 as I could using the natural hills of north Baltimore.  Lesson: sometimes even for a strenuous activity it is critical to relax first.  

Saturday--14 miles with no unusual feeling in my shin.  A week of patience and self-massage on the muscle at my shin had paid off.  The run was done in an average of just under 8:29.  I had a slow first mile.  A faster second.  Then settled in.  Rather than an out and back or a loop from the house, I did a "circle" (sort of) in which I was never more than 3 miles from home.  Probably even less as the crow flies.  Just made it easier to back out if I needed to at any point.  Lesson: caution can help avoid much bigger problems.

So, where am I on my question for 2000 miles?  Still, ahead of the game.  As I rest today, I am two days from the end of week 19 of the year.  And I am already at 764.9 miles.  That is pretty cool.  I am back on US Route 40.  (It goes quite a bit of the way I am going.)  I would have run through Teutopolis, Effingham, Altamont, St Elmo, and Brownstown on the way to where US 40 and I-70 meet in Otego, IL.  

I decided to look up St. Elmo.  There was a movie about St. Elmo's Fire in the 1980's.  I think of the Elmo character on Sesame Street.  But I had never bothered to look up St. Elmo. So, there appear to be numerous interpretations of who St. Elmo might actually have been (no one actually named St. Elmo but several who were referred to as Elmo among other things.)  The most likely one looks like Erasmus of Formia. Another martyr who died around 303.  He is the patron saint of sailors and abdominal pain.  Quite an interesting mix.  And interesting how many of the saints were martyrs.   

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

5K Race Report and Then Some

It has been several days since I have written.  And those days have been quite interesting. 

Let us begin with the 5K on Saturday.  It was a 5K to benefit the ALS center at Johns Hopkins Hospital.  I’ve personally known one person with ALS.  It was a devastating condition to observe.  Although the person who had it went down fighting all the way.  A friend invited me to run with his team—honoring his father who is still alive and looking pretty good.  He had a huge team.

I arrived an hour before the race.  Met some of the rest of the team.  Caught up with several other runners I know.  Participated in the group shot and went for a one mile or so warm-up around 7:45. 

The race began a few minutes after the targeted start of 8:00.  I was near the front but not in the front row.  Got off to a quick start running south away from the Power Plant Live and toward Pratt Street.  Left on Pratt.  Jostled around a bit turning from Pratt onto President.  At that corner I was trying to move between two runners.  They closed in.  Not intentionally to block me, and I didn’t see either one of them the rest of the race as far as I know.  I was frustrated and almost expressed it verbally.  But I have to remind myself that while I have some goal times, I am ultimately out there for fun.  I kept quiet, pushed ahead, and continued down President Street.  While I had gone out what felt a little fast, I had settled into a reasonable pace.  At the end of President Street I hit the traffic circle and then headed down to Lancaster.  As we continued along my watch beeped, then I got to the one mile marker.  I hit lap. I heard the person by the sign shout 6:20.  When I got home I had 6:21.  So far, so good.  Fast, but not too fast. 

I continued along.  From this point on there were only a few shifts in place.  As we approached the turn around point there was a water station.  The people attending the water station had put out lots of cups but were just standing there.  Skipped the water.  Passed a teenage kid as I neared the turn around.  Got to the two mile mark.  Person shouted 12:50.  That seemed slower than where I thought I was.  My watch had again beeped before the second mile marker.  I hit the lap.  Checked it when I got home—second 6:21.  Solid and on pace. 

I continued back toward Power Plant Live.  Not sure where I would hit mile 3.  Was passed by one guy who just pushed quite a bit ahead.  But otherwise, kept going.  Nearly caught a guy as I came to the mile 3 mark and headed turned back onto Lombard.  Got my third mile time.  Checked when I got home 6:18. 

Had nothing left for the last 0.1  Ran it in 0:44.

Life was good.  A 19:44.  What was interesting was the fact that my times were so consistent.  And the fact that the person nearest ahead of me was about 7 seconds ahead and the person behind was about 19 seconds back.  I did not think that with 1500 people in the race I would be so far away from people on both sides.

I ran Sunday and I did 13 starting very early.  I enjoyed it but had some shin issues starting at mile 6.  Hobbled a bit.  But was cleared after I flew to give a presentation on Sunday.  Have rested since then.  Will test it out tomorrow morning. 

The Boston jacket led me to an interesting conversation on Sunday at the airport on the way home from giving a presentation about low vision and economics.  Talked with a guy from Cincinnati who has run 102 marathons.  60 years old.  Coaches the marathon training group at a running store in Cincinnati.  Did Boston this year. 

The total distance at this point is 731.9 miles.   That puts me in Teutopolis, IL on E1400th Ave.  Continuing on.  Even with 2 days off, I am still 10 miles ahead of 40 miles per week.  Life is good.  I count my blessings.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Counting Blessings

Yesterday morning I did my local hill workout.  4 times up the hill on Overbrook between Regester (although it goes down a bit and the real uphill starts at Arran) and Sherwood.  Total 6.3 miles.  Total for the year 713.9 miles.  Puts me on E 1750th Ave (or E County Highway 6) in Newton, IL.  When I run the hill there I cross St Albans Rd multiple times.  St Alban was the first English Christian martyr.  Interesting.  I had never looked up the history before yesterday.


(1) The ability to run.  Just heard an NPR story about someone who was able to come back to running after a new form of treatment was developed for his condition.  I take it for granted.

(2) Running hills in an interesting area.

(3) Running hills at a pace that is meaningful (which I did yesterday) rather than all out (which is closer to what I did last week).  Better workout yesterday.

(4) Getting to see younger boys at their school's celebration of May Day.  Nice ceremony yesterday. 

(5) Getting to hang with other parents during the May Day celebration yesterday.

(6) The fact that my kids have four living grandparents--three of whom we saw yesterday.

(7) Ability to get some work done.  I find fulfillment.

(8) Final high school level orchestral concert for my oldest and his girlfriend of 3+ years yesterday.  Great concert.  I stayed awake the whole time--I've done that two weeks in a row now!

(9) Very nice dinner after the concert--sharing with my family and the girlfriend who has really become a part of the family.  Introduced her to Turkish food.

(10) The chance to help a friend in need after the dinner with a ride home he needed.  I'm lucky I have a car.  I'm lucky we had gas.  I'm lucky I wasn't already sleeping (as I often am at that time on Friday nights.)  I'm lucky to be able to help.  I hope that if I ever needed similar help some day my friends would do the same.  

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Never Lose Sight of a Dream

So this morning’s run was my by now typical 7 mile progression run on Thursday mornings.  I felt it more than last week.  Cruised through miles 1-3.  Then really felt is as my body was asked to run 6:45/6:30/6:15.  Still, after a massage yesterday (where the muscles are worked on, obviously) and shop-vaccing last night and a challenging track workout on Tuesday, I didn’t think it was a bad thing.  In any case, when I went to Giant afterwards, I made it a point to say hello to more employees than I do on many mornings.  Just last night I had discussed the idea of doing that regularly with the woman who cuts my hair.  And so, having mentioned it, I thought it would be important to actually walk the walk and not just talk the talk.  I often say hello anyway, but I don’t always do it when the employee doesn’t say hello.  I took the initiative this morning. 

My 7 miles puts me at 707.6.  26 miles on the week already.  And somewhere on 1850th Ave either just outside or inside Yale, IL.  Interesting names of streets continue.  My virtual pilgrimage continues.  The official town population here is 85.  I’d be adding more than 1% to the population just by passing through. 

So what is the lesson from today?  As I mentioned to the person who helped me develop my training plan, one lesson is that I am, after all, only human.  Not every run is going to come easy.  Not every run is going to be care free.  Some runs are going to be tough.  I added that I am a recreational runner (something she said about herself a week ago).  She commented that when I put it that way it sounds ery deflating.  I answered that I don’t find it deflating at all.  If you told me I was just a “jogger,” I might feel deflated.  But recreational running is not a problem.  It simply means I do it for recreational purposes.  Not that I don’t take it seriously and set some very serious goals.  Those are not mutually exclusive ideas. 

I also thought some this morning about the email that I sent yesterday to a colleague back in the Bloomberg School of Public Health.  I saw the announcement for his Dean’s Lecture next week (a tradition for when people get promoted to full professor) and was thrilled to see one of my colleagues talking about teaching.  It is a great thing for people in academia to discuss.  Where I spent the first nearly 17 years of my career it was important but rarely the main focus.  When I was told after my Dean’s Lecture that I was one of the first (perhaps the first) to talk about teaching, I was quite surprised.  So, to see someone else, even if I cannot make the presentation, was quite nice.

Sending the email to him also reminded me of an exchange I had with my mother when I was a teenager.  I recall saying to her, “Why would anyone want to teach?”  That was after she had gone to college to be a teacher.  She had sacrificed by taking a job at a bank when I was first born to help support our family while my dad went to college after getting out of the Air Force.  She sacrificed her career while being a stay at home parent for years when my sister was born when I was 5½.  Then, finally, she got back into it when I was a teen.  But I couldn’t see why it was so great.  Now, it is what drives my career.  My teaching.  Monitoring and helping to improve others; teaching.  I even mentioned it to my colleague in the email I sent and he was pleasantly surprised by the email—especially what I was willing to share.

I saw something today asking how your mother inspires your running.  Well, my mom was never a runner.  But this relates.  Why?  Because she came back to a dream after a long time and made the most of it.  I didn’t make a sacrifice for my dream.  I just spent time pursuing different dreams.  Academic success.  Parenthood.  Professional success.  Maybe my mom would say that helping to support a family and being a stay at home parent was not such a sacrifice either.  The key is coming back to a dream.  I came back to running after 18½ years (almost nothing from May 1987 through January 2006).  When I returned there were fits and starts.  But now, I am making the most of it.  Never lose sight of a dream.  It can change your life if you just have the faith to follow it.