Tag Archives: Road running

Why YOU should be proud of running

Unabashedly, I consider myself a runner. But it would be easy enough to substitute cyclist, or swimmer, or something else active in the post that follows. If you’re not a runner, feel free to do so! ūüôā

Yes, you are an inspiration!

I have a lot of my friends on Dailymile. They come in all sizes, shapes and speeds. Some inspire me with their high mileage (like Jonathan S) or incredible pace (like Susan). I am uplifted by other friends who may not run far or fast, but have faced daunting obstacles and remain runners (like Holly T). If you are one of these groups, I thank you for the motivation and inspiration you provide. You should be proud of what you are accomplishing.

But, if you are among the aforementioned, this post is not about – or dedicated to – you. This post is for the significant percentage who aren’t aware of the inspiration that they have become for me. They are sometimes missed by the Dailymile population at large, since they don’t log long miles, record amazing race times, overcome impossible odds, or carry run streaks that are three and four digits long. For some reason the members of the group I am referring to think what they are achieving is small and unimportant. Just getting out the door every day might be the toughest struggle they face. They don’t always overcome every obstacle; often life gets in the way of their running; their motivation is sometimes weak or non-existent, and inspiration hard to find.

But they don’t quit. They miss a day, or two, or a week… but they keep coming back. Many of them eventually move on to become “hardcore”; they start logging the big miles, adding days and months to streaks. Not all, though. Whether you make that transition or not, you should be proud that you call yourself a runner.

Running, as recreation or exercise, at any speed, anywhere, and under any conditions, is a challenge that you should not underestimate, with rewards you should not undervalue. Despite the “popularity” of running, the running population is still a small percentage of the total. Statistics are hard to come by, and vary from community to community. (In Boulder, Colorado it is the oddball that doesn’t¬†run.) You might think that 50% of the population had run a marathon, based on the talk, the number of new races, and the large crowds. But, according to MarathonGuide.com, less than 2/10 of 1% of the US population recorded a finishing time in the marathon in 2010. If you consider that many of them were people who completed more than one, the number is far less. Stats for shorter races are even harder to find, but I suspect that less than 1% of the people in this country would call themselves runners.

The remaining 99% are becoming obese at an alarming rate. HealthyAmericans.org says in the last 30 years that adult obesity has doubled from 15% of the population, to 30%. Child obesity has tripled. If you are among those fighting this disastrous trend, then you should give yourself a pat on the back.

And I want you to know that you do inspire others, even if you don’t realize it. That 1.5 miles you log tomorrow has value. Those four days you ran last week are important. Keep doing what you do; dragging yourself out the door, feeling guilty when you miss… coming back and starting over. This post is dedicated to you.

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A Chance to Start Over

It is difficult to reflect upon the past ten days because I am now eager to discover what the next few weeks will bring. I have a chance to change my eating habits, re-form my body and recharge my running as result of this cleansing I’ve undergone. ¬†The post I really want to write will focus on the future – my expectations and my goals. But I promised an honest reflection on my experience and so here it is:

This fast was not hard. You might find that difficult to believe, but it is true. My memories of the hunger in the first few days, the mild headaches, the cravings and other minor side-effects are already fading. They vanish like the memories of pain and exhaustion during a marathon in which you cross the finish line exhilarated at achieving some long-desired goal.

Now I am going to qualify that “not hard” statement. Refusing to eat was the easy part. As I said in an earlier post, I even felt like I was cheating when I ate the few calories that I was allowed in order to partially fuel my daily run. Lots of things were challenging during the fast, but skipping meals wasn’t one of them.

“Give it up!” you say. “If it was easy, everyone would do it.”

And you are right; I need to come clean on the hard stuff. At times, the running was physical and mental torture. I tend to look on the bright side in my Dailymile posts, but here I’ll be completely honest and say that, while I was doing it, sometimes it really felt insane to be out there running at all.

Other negatives:

The sleeplessness of the first few nights was hard on my wife and left me more drained during the following day than I really should have been. This put a crimp in my enjoyment of some of the positive effects of fasting.

For almost the entire fast, I had a very low-level pain or tightness across the front of my body between my shoulder blades and under my neck. I got used to it and it often went unnoticed.

And yes, I was tired for most of the ten days. I attribute this to my running, which consumed a lot of calories and kept my body from fully engaging its “hibernation” mode. Maintaining the high level of mental and physical energy that I was asking was a strain. A lot of people who do these fasts report an elevated energy level and I did have periods of that, but they were not long-lasting.

Oh, I almost forgot. I had to wear a lot of clothes during the fast. My body did not want to waste any calories keeping me warm!

But that is it, and so I am in a¬†quandary; a delicate situation where I want to be careful about what I say about the positives of the ten-day fast that I concluded last night.¬†Many of the comments I received during the fast were in the line of “Fine for you, but I could never do that.” How can I disagree without encouraging a person to do something that, if not done properly, has serious health risks? Hence this disclaimer: If you have a screw loose like me and my posts have made you consider a fast such as this, do so for your own reasons, after careful research and at your own risk. Google things like “fasting for health” and “negative effects of fasting” and make your own decision.

On to the positives! The primary, overwhelming and, to me, most miraculous effect of this fast is the elimination of almost all joint and muscle pain in my body. The laundry list of aches and pains I have accumulated at fifty-five years old include: achilles pain, knee pain, IT band soreness, arthritis/stiffness in my fingers and wrists and a variety of other tiny ailments that bother me every so often. When you start getting old, you learn to¬†accommodate¬†and ignore this stuff. A lot of you are in the same boat, I’m sure.

I am working at the computer now and my hands feel better than they have in years. I can massage my achilles tendons and feel no pain at all. All of the little bodily burdens that I usually ignore… ¬†seem to have disappeared. Once again, part of this is attributable to the reduced strain on the joints, tendons and muscles as a result of the lost weight. But I am now a true believer in the cleansing and detoxification effects of fasting.

Another positive is the increase in mental toughness I believe have achieved. It should mean good things for my running. Leadville again? Maybe. Maybe more.

Although losing weight wasn’t the purpose of the fast, the sixteen-plus pounds have allowed me to start over; to rebuild. Imagine you are a skinny sophomore in high school wanting to develop into a strong, fast athlete. I’m now at the same weight at which I started high school. Yeah, I am getting carried away here, but I feel like I have that chance again. If I eat right and follow the right exercise regimen, I can, even at fifty-five, be strong and fast again.

I have also felt very productive these past ten days. Not preparing and eating meals certainly gave me extra time to get things done. New ideas for stories and blogposts were delivered regularly into my mental inbox. So much so that I need to resist getting carried away with my posts. I’m learning to store them for a rainy day.

Getting the chance to improve¬†my act¬†from an eating/nutrition standpoint is another big plus. All that junk is cleared out of my system. It is up to me to keep it clean. This one will be the hardest to sustain. Even ten days is not enough to rewire my brain. I still love all the food I used to love. All that stuff that I KNOW isn’t good for me. And, despite the fast, despite Leadville, despite all the hard things I’ve done in my life, I’m not as strong as I’d like to be, especially in this area. How can I go ten days resisting all food and not be able to resist the bad stuff? It’s different, believe me.

As they say, I could write a book…

Needless to say, this post has gotten too long. Where’s my editor?

In conclusion (really?) I’m certain to do this again. Maybe it will even become my annual “Fall Cleansing”.

Feel free to comment or ask questions

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Running fast – Day 8, Making adjustments for everything

The prairie outside our front door. Notice the faint trail along the fence. It is one of the trails created by pronghorn antelope that we run on.

This entire, crazy, eight days of fasting has been one of adjustments. At first it was getting adjusted to the hunger pangs, then it was learning to deal with the one banana before my run and how it bothered my stomach. I’ve had to learn to wear more since my body doesn’t heat itself very well without fuel. Remembering not to stand up too quick has been an important adjustment. Next, it was realizing that the banana just wasn’t working out, learning about juice fasts and then adjusting to that. Lately I’ve found it harder to make myself drink enough water.

And, all along, I’ve had to deal with the energy-zapping load of running every day.

Until today.

It was cloudy, twenty-four degrees and almost no wind. My pace felt a little quick when I started but I let it go since I could tell that I had more energy than yesterday. The prairie had received an additional dusting of snow and the path was slippery. My legs had adjusted to the lower weight, so the light, prancing feeling that I had for a couple of the runs was gone, but I still was running comfortably. Only a third of a mile in, the tank went dry. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but on all the runs,except yesterday’s awful one, I could tell the exact moment my body ran out of what few calories I had ingested for that day. On other days it was hard to deal with and slowed me considerably. Today, it was as if my energy production system flicked a switch and immediately began using my remaining stored fat for fuel. It might be hard to believe, but I think I’m becoming hyper-attuned to my body’s functions; I swear I can tell the difference between when it is burning those few carbs and when it is burning fat.

This run was, by far, the best, most sustained effort during the fast. My mile splits were 9:50, 9:12 and an 8:35 pace for the last .45 of a mile. I have taken in a total of approximately 630 calories during the last seven days and fourteen hours. On my runs alone I have burned about 2400 calories, the equivalent of what I burn on an average day. I find it amazing that I was able to accomplish a run like this.

I’ve had some runs that felt good on my legs, because of the reduced weight and I was even able to get in some strides. Yes, I skipped my banana yesterday, but that two-plus miles was tremendously hard considering that I think of myself a long distance runner… long meaning marathon length or longer. So I was thinking that the succeeding days would only get harder.

So there is no explanation for today. Granted the six ounces of V-8 that I had an hour before I ran was much easier on my stomach and may have meant less energy going to the digestive process. But the amount was about thirty-five calories, exactly a third of what is in the banana it was replacing. I also had another good night of sleep, which I am sure helped.

What am I saying? Of course there is an explanation. My experience reinforces my belief that the human body is a tremendously adaptable, resilient and strong vessel. It may have limits, but very few people ever discover what those limits are. Even now, I know I haven’t reached them.

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