29 April 2013

runners can change the world

i will likely never chain myself to a tree to stop a forest being cut down.

but that doesn't mean i'm not vitally concerned with how we're treating our planet.

around my house, i'm the nag who's on everyone's case about leaving the lights turned on in rooms where there's nobody.  i scour packaging of all shapes, sizes and materials to make sure that they shouldn't go into the recycling bin before they're dumped in the trash.  i'm willing to risk foul odours and the occasional maggot in order to collect compostables in our 'green bin'.

with that kind of MO, it's only natural for me to wonder how as runners we can contribute to a brighter ecological future.  

aside from the "well, you can use your feet to take you places instead of your car" suggestion (which is an entirely valid one, by the way), i often wonder about the waste that we produce in purchasing and using so much gear.  maybe that's one reason why at least 70% of all my running equipment (apparel, shoes, even timepieces) have been purchased from second-hand stores.  there's enough good stuff that people give away that i'm prompted regularly to ask do we really need to give the merchandising industry any more reason to keep the production lines running overtime?

but given that i myself am a creature addicted to novelty, one of the other ways in which i compensate for my own consumerism is to pay close attention to recyclability:
  • i've always wanted to own a pair of the brooks green silence (in the original hansons-brooks colourway) because of all of the intentional effort invested to make it an environmentally friendly product ... i still hold out hope!
  • numerous pairs of shoes that have been retired from my collection have found their way over to the local Running Free store where they have a receptacle for good condition shoes that can be re-distributed to local and global populations in need
  • i just read about Soles4Souls, whose express purpose is "to give relief to the victims of abject suffering and collects used shoes to support micro-business efforts to eradicate poverty" - i can totally get behind that.
as my friend lewis has often challenged himself (and me in the process), the question to ask while running is how am i saving lives by doing this?

i hope to always have a good answer to that question.


26 April 2013


as the winter weather is slowly (and reluctantly) releasing its grip on this part of the country, i'm beginning to notice something.

there are more people running outside.

more runners hitting the pavement at 6:00 am with me.

and you know, something?  that's great.

i've read plenty in the last couple of months about how people struggle to make the transition to getting outside and beating the winter doldrums.  i was also reading a post last week titled "evening runner trapped in the mind of a morning runner", and thinking about how so many people find it tough/preferable not to run in the wee morning hours.

and just yesterday i recognized (thanks to dailymile) that i've eclipsed 1500km run in 2013 - something that i'm proud of, not because of how much more that might have been than anyone else, but because it's evidence of the fact that i've managed to stick with each day's prescribed run of the hansons marathon training schedule.

so when i kept my facebook friends up-to-date on my training efforts, i received in a response a number of "wows" accompanied by "i'm only ..." statements.

honestly, it doesn't make a difference to me if you're running 5k or 50 miles.

you could be clocking a 3 minute kilometre or an 11 minute kilometre.

your track of choice could be the treadmill, the oval, the lonely rural roads or the dog walking path.

healthier living could be your motivator, or a 10k age group award.

the fact is, you're moving.

and if you're moving, you're focusing on living.

so i tip my hat to you.


22 April 2013

group running vs. running alone

i just noticed today that this article was released in iRun Canada's magazine about the process of determining whether or not retaining a coach is right for you, and how to go about it.  it's almost as if they'd read my mind (or at least my previous post)!

and while i'm exploring the possibilities of entering into a coaching relationship, there's also the option of participating in a group training program which can serve a similar benefit (as noted in the iRun magazine piece).  with the benefits of being a more pocketbook-friendly version of an instructional environment and providing additional social interaction, many runners flock to group running as a great motivational tool.

i mean hey - even the kenyans are big on running in groups.

but what's one to do when one is a rabid introvert?

generally speaking, i'd prefer to be alone than to be with others.  that's my optimal, recharge time.  maybe that's why i run pre-dawn, when most of the people in my neighbourhood are still hitting the snooze button ... or on the squalling, -30°C not-fit-for-man-nor-beast days.  alone time is pretty precious to me, and so i'm often loathe to give it up.

that being said, i have two friends who are regular running partners - one on saturday, the other on sunday.  both great guys, both ironman triathletes, and yet distinctly different in terms of running 'function' - one helps to keep my pace quite moderate to easy (so i don't overtrain), while the other pushes me to run long runs at almost a marathon pace clip.

i'm thankful for both of those guys - and most weeks i look forward to the time that i get to spend with them.  i do feel like i'm a better runner because of what each of them bring to the table - from conversation to competition - and appreciate having someone with whom to share running exploits and tales.  and when i finally do race, i tend to be the guy who is a chatterbox with the other runners in the pack with our pace bunny of choice.

still, the introvert in me savours the isolated country road runs - kilometres on end with no music, no dialogue, just birds and breeze and a keen sense of the presence of the Creator.

so if you see me plodding by you with no wink, wave or other acknowledgment, don't take it personally.  i like to distance myself from everyone without prejudice.

18 April 2013

good will hunting or the dread pirate roberts?

first off, i was at the airport yesterday picking up my daughter who arrived home after a couple of months in france.  as we stood at the arrivals deck, i watched several people clear customs wearing their 2013 Boston Marathon jackets.  recognizing that it may well have taken them a few days just to be able to secure their exit from the city, i quietly held my hand over my heart as they walked past on the ramp.  

boston is in our hearts.

* * *

and now - just as of late i've entered into conversation with several individuals about entering into a coaching relationship with them (me as the one being coached).  as you might know, i started into this whole running thing in 2009 on my own, spurred on my a pair of leather pants that i needed to wear as an elvis impersonator in a local theatre production called "discovering elvis".

thanks to little more than a treadmill and some youtube videos (for motivation and timing), i managed to begin to work myself into some kind of running shape.

now, with eyes fixed on that elusive BQ (boston qualifying) goal, i'm entertaining the possibility of enlisting the help of a coach.  i've reached out to two potential candidates, and been approached by one other.  to this point, i've had limited dialogue with sage canaday (former member of the hansons-brooks distance project, two time US olympic marathon trials qualifier and 2012 USA mountain running champion), caleb masland (2:34 marathoner, team coach of the Hall Steps Foundation and founder of Team Wicked Bonkproof), as well as one other person whose privacy i choose to help preserve at this point, as this individual is just considering entering the coaching arena - but suffice to say that this inspired and inspirational runner is a multiple world record holder.

there's (a big) part of me that would just feel incredibly honoured to even have a smidge of attention from any of these athletes.  i mean, to benefit from that person's wisdom, experience, knowledge and encouragement would undoubtedly help take my game to the next level.

the lesser, renegade part of me thinks that i can keep getting better on my own - set my own targets - push harder, run smarter and race faster based on information that i can glean at my own convenience and discretion thanks to this tool called the internet.  plus given the tightness of finances, this would be the more economical way to go hands down.

it's less than three weeks until my next BQ attempt in mississauga, so i'm sure that that will provide me with plenty of ammo to evaluate next steps, be it a great day or a not-so-great one.

but i'd love to find out from anyone out there who might read this - what's been your experience of working with a coach?  does it come recommended for recreational competitive types?  how would you detail out the pros and cons?

your feedback is hugely appreciated!

15 April 2013

praying for the marathoning world

first hurricane sandy through the NYC marathon, and now this.  running is, and should always be about life.

11 April 2013

another brick in the wall

this is my first blog post to require the category label of "rant".

last year, my wife was one of the coaches of a program at our kids' school called "girls on the run".  as an after-school extracurricular, it combined elements of exercise, self-esteem development and character building, culminating in a celebratory (read:  non-competitve) 5k run that brings together all of the other GOTR groups from schools within the GOTR district.  last spring's 5k run had something like 800+ students and coaches participate - an awesome and inspiring sight to behold.

as a dad to four girls, i was excited to have three of them participate in the GOTR program (although our littlest was granted an exception to participate since mom was coaching), and two of them (the age-eligible ones) ran the 5k.  

as a runner, i think that it's great that there would be an organization looking to promote physical activity/fitness (involving running) at the elementary school level.  

as a man, i believe that it's vital to do whatever we can to help promote positive self-image and emotional health among women of all ages.

which is why i'm frustrated that there's no such program running in our region this school year.

from what i gather, the local incarnation of the GOTR organization disbanded over some intra-office political and territorial issues.  i confess to not understanding all of the issues involved, except to say that because the group's leadership could not figure out how to make things work for this region, girls across this school county have been deprived of this important opportunity to participate, grow, and run.

boo.  red tape wins the day again.

all i can say is that if you have this program running in your neighbourhood or school, i encourage you and your kids to take full advantage of it.  and hopefully one day it will return to our area - before its too late to make a difference in many more lives.

09 April 2013

ghost in the machine

the other day i posted a quick facebook update, and received this comment in response: 

now i know myself well enough to be able to safely assert that i am not a machine.  many people that i know (in my age group and of comparable life circumstances) are training much more and much harder than i am.  while i'm happy with my progress with respect to this training program that i am currently following (which pushed me from my previous regimen of five days per week to six), i make no pretenses of setting any kind of standard to which anyone should aspire.

that being said, i also read a blogpost yesterday from someone who finds herself struggling with consistency in her running, and was asking for help in trying to stay focused and on-track with a training plan.  i honestly admire that, because i think that one of keys to developing as a runner and improving race times (should that be your intention) is consistency.  and i'm certainly not the only one who thinks that.

but of course, it's one thing to say that consistency is vital - and another thing to develop the kind of consistency that will lead to results.  so just a few thoughts from me on how to develop consistency:
  1. mantras - much has been made of the value of activating mind over matter through the use of mantras, even in running.  admittedly, some of my mantras are pretty goofy - everything from "these legs were made for running, and that's just what they'll do ..." to "i'm on my way home" when i've just left my driveway (i always run an out-and-back route so it works).  but there are days - like today - where the alarm goes off before the sun has come up and i just don't feel leaving the pillow ... but it's "just step one foot in front of the other" that helps to overcome the inertia.
  2. chutzpah - i have to confess that i just like this word.  but i also like what it implies - a sense of confidence, even over-blown arrogance that propels an individual to succeed.   i would be surprised if anyone would cast me as a braggart, but in my mind i often motivate myself with thoughts of "i'm finishing 15km before most people have gotten out of bed".  that sense of comparative accomplishment is quite honestly some great fuel.
  3. persistent gratitude - which seems to conflict with the chutzpah just described, but really it's part of the comprehensive picture of why i run.  when asked that question, i usually answer "because i can".  one of the first great stories of endurance feats that i came across was that of rick and dick hoyt - if you aren't familiar with team hoyt then you need to watch this video:

    when i know that i have the ability to get out there and run but choose to take the path of least resistance and opt for the couch instead, i'm reminded of rick and dick hoyt.  and echoes of steve prefontaine's words haunt my mind:

jog.  run.  sprint.  tempo.  fartleks.  LSD.  recovery.  whatever it is, you have it in you.

05 April 2013

skechers gobionic - road review

after logging a couple of shorter road runs in the skechers gobionic, i thought that i would let you know what my impressions are of these shoes:

you can also read my 'unboxing' review of them in an earlier post.

gotta say that i love my gobionics at this point, and unless some other pair of shoes surprises me these will be my go-to race day kicks for the mississauga marathon.

cry havoc, and let loose the (hot pink) gobionics of war!

03 April 2013

my way or the highway

as the snow insists on remaining a fixture of the landscape in my part of the province, my mind turns to thoughts of driving.

not instead of running ... just the mechanics and logistics of driving.  for two reasons:
  1. i run on the road - this may not be any kind of startling revelation to you, but not all runners run on the road.   many run on trails, and for some great reasons.  i see a lot of runners on the sidewalks (which is a last resort for me, because of the poor surface conditions in the winter and the higher density of concrete vs. asphalt).  still other runners run on the road, but with the flow of traffic.  i have always run against the flow of traffic - yes, on the 'wrong side of the road' to all you driving types - and have even gotten pulled over by the police for it.  the reasons that i run against traffic when on the road is purely for safety (as counter-intuitive as that may sound).  when facing oncoming vehicles, i have the opportunity to make eye contact with drivers and this is always a good idea when occupying the roadspace, whether you're on a bicycle, motorcycle, in a car or truck, or running or walking.  secondly, i can also exercise the option of having enough advance notice to dodge out of the way of a distracted or out of control driver - a luxury not afforded to me if my back is to the flow of traffic.

  2. i'm still learning about how to drive properly - just this morning i returned from our CSSE chapter meeting, and our president gave a very effective and enlightening presentation on high risk driving and assessment.  among the many notable things that he shared was the fact that most people (and i confess that i number among this group) do not have their side-view mirrors adjusted properly - and that because they are not set to provide the perspective that they should, the vast majority of drivers must check over-the-shoulder in order to avoid missing vehicles/cyclists/objects/runners in their blindspots.  ever since my learn-to-drive lessons as a 16 year old i was taught to wrench my neck around linda-blair style in order make sure that i was getting a full panoramic view of what was surrounding my car in transit.  but today, after some 25 years of driving i finally discovered that i'd been totally misusing my rear-view mirrors after being shown this video:

    i made the proper adjustments prior to leaving the parking lot after our meeting, and could not believe the difference that it made in becoming aware of all of the other traffic surrounding me on the road.  
yep, that's me ... still playing in traffic after all these years.