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January 2009

Open Mic Friday: Welcome Nikki

Open_mic_friday Everybody loves a comeback story—Rocky, Mickey Rourke, the Spice Girls. 

This week's guest at the Open Mic is Nikki Scott, who is the recent winner of the ExtraOrdinary Runner for her story, "I Never Thought I'd Run Again."  Today she talks about a disastrous injury and her comeback.  But more importantly, she talks about what she's excited about in the future-—including a very special event in her life—and  reminds us that ordinary runners accomplish extraordinary things every day.

Welcome Nikki!


You had quite a 2008 with your return to running. What was the biggest obstacle to overcome?

Nike Race 011 There were many obstacles I had to overcome in order to get back into running this past year.  Aside from the obvious physical ones – which felt insurmountable at times – the ones imposed by others were the hardest to deal with.  With a catastrophic back injury like mine, every part of your body is affected, whether it was actually broken or not.  I was told that because of my limitations and resulting pain, I’d likely never get back into any of the recreational activities I used to enjoy.  However, after discussing it with my doctors and family, I was encouraged to give running a try – I was told not to expect much because it might just be too painful, but I wanted to give it a try.  At first, I didn’t think I could do it, everything hurt, new things started to hurt, nothing felt right – it was like running with a broken-down body. 

And of course, other people couldn’t keep their opinions and judgements to themselves – “Doesn’t that hurt?”, “Should you be doing that?”, “I thought you were hurt...” etc.  It was and still is, really difficult to explain to people how important this goal was to me.  And, yes it hurt, and yes it was hard, but the benefits I have gained from the running – getting in shape, getting fitter, losing weight, strengthening my hips, core and legs – have been hugely beneficial to all aspects of my recovery.  I don’t expect everyone to understand what I’m going through, but I want people to know that physical activity is one of the best things someone can do for recovery of injuries like mine, and is the only thing my doctors say I have left to rely on.  There are lots of things I can’t do, but many things I can.  Anyhow, I haven’t let the naysayers stop me.

H2H Relay - Nov 08 What did coming back from no running to three half marathons teach you?

That if you set your mind to a goal, you can achieve it as long as you keep believing in yourself.  I used to run before my accident, but getting back into it this time was so important to me because of my health and my well-being that it was a much more important goal.  I learned a lot about myself in this process but by far the most important thing was that I was able to get through all of the negative stuff by keeping focused on where I was going.  It feels good to overcome so many challenges and complete 3 half marathons. I barely thought the first one would happen let alone 2 more, and they each were more enjoyable than the last!

How are you a better runner or person since your comeback to running?

I think I run a lot smarter now.  When I ran before, it was more about getting out there and showing my friends I could do it too.  This time, I knew that if I wanted to run I had to learn to run properly including proper nutrition, hydration, injury prevention, technique, medical support etc., not to mention the fact that my body is so much different I had to start all over again.  Because I was starting from scratch I let myself learn everything anew and let myself take whatever amount of time I need to progress. I don’t really worry about how far or how fast I run, just that I’m running and not getting hurt because of it. I would also say I’m a happier runner – I’m always the one at the back of the pack with a smile on my face, just happy to be there.

Scotia HM finish line So what’s going in your life outside of running?

Well, clearly our pending arrival is one of the biggest things going on in my life right now.  This will be our first child, so we’re busy learning a lot about what’s going on inside my tummy and how our life is going to change once he or she arrives.  Given how important exercise has become to me feeling good, my doctors are very supportive of me continuing with the running, swimming and Pilates (it all helps control the pain) so I am busy sourcing out whatever I can about running and pregnancy.  I’ve found a few good books, and have connected with some pregnant/running bloggers, but mostly am just learning things along the way.  Running with a baby on board is definitely different, even when it’s as tiny as mine is right now (I’m almost 12 weeks along).  I’ve been lucky that I haven’t been too sick to run, so I plan to keep it up as long as I can.  It’s a pretty exciting time for us and we’re really looking forward to this summer.

What advice or encouragement would you give to another runner dealing with a setback?

Stick with it and listen to your body.  Nobody recovers from anything overnight, it takes a lot of hard work to return from any kind of setback or injury. I think as long as people don’t expect it to be like it used to right away, they can overcome a setback and get back into running.  I was always the slowest, always the last one in, always hobbling or hurting in some way, but I listened to that and adjusted my pace so that I could get through it and improve the next time.  I think staying realistic is important.

What would your family and friends tell us about your passion for running?

I think they would probably say they are proud.  I was never much of an athlete growing up, in fact, when I was younger running was definitely my nemesis.  So, to see me return to running after inuries like these, my family has told me how excited and proud they are about that.  I think they can see the benefits it has brought me, they can see that it makes my body feel better.  They all surprised me and came to see me finish at my first half marathon – seeing the tears in their eyes, especially my dad’s, meant a lot.  It was a fun finish.

Tell us about your interest in blogging.

Well, I have always liked to write and after following friends’ blogs for awhile I decided to give it a try myself. So I launched Slow is the New Fast.  As well, with everything I’ve been through injury-wise, I like that I can get some of that out in the open for people to read and understand.  I try to stick mostly to running topics, but everything else is a part of my life too, so I hope people enjoy reading it.

Okanagan HM - Oct 08 Best race experience?

I have two.  The Okanagan International Half Marathon was memorable because it was my third HM and my PB by far, but also the Nike Human Race was really memorable this year because of the unique atmosphere, beautiful course around the Vancouver inner harbour and the concerts afterwards.  It was a very fun event.

Any quirky running traits?

I absolutely cannot run without my water belt – even if it’s only a short sprint!  It’s almost as if its become a part of me now and without I feel off balance!  If you see me running in circles out there, i’ve likely just forgotten my water belt!

What have you not done with your running that you’re still looking forward to?

One day I’d like to run a marathon (not sure if this body can!) and hopefully get back into sprint triathlons again.  For now though, I’d like to run through my entire pregnancy – my mini goal for that is to try and run in a 10K race for every month...so far I’m on track.

What gets you excited about running?

Getting through the first 10 minutes because it reminds me of where I’ve come from.  The first 10 are always the hardest and once I get past those I find my groove and really start to enjoy the run.  It reminds me that there is always a little challenge to get to the good stuff.

What’s your secret to running success?

Believing in myself and not worrying about speed, I`m never going to win, so I may as well just enjoy the ride!

Favorite picture from my first HM Favorite Race

Even though it`s huge, I always enjoy the Sun Run.

Favorite distance?

The HM, but now 10k will be about my speed for awhile

Non- running and non-blogging interests?

Pilates, card-making, reading, crocheting – crafty stuff.

Greatest running moment?

Crossing the finish line of my first HM.

Most embarrassing running moment?

My friend and I were out running and we were running alongside a ditch – all of a sudden these ducks flew out of the ditch in front of us.  We both stopped dead in our tracks an screamed for a second.  It was really silly, we were the only ones out there but scared to death of the ducks!

Take It and Run Thursday: The Marathon - Explained

Take_it_and_run_thursday Welcome to Take It and Run Thursday! 

It's our way to bring together the knowledge of all of us ordinary runners.  It's the virtual equivalent to putting our virtual heads together.  Even though many of us aren't elite athletes, coaches or authors, it doesn't mean that we haven't earned a well deserved PhD in running.   Whether you are starting out, have 50 years of running under your belt or somewhere in between - all of us have lessons learned that make us wiser and better runners.  

Today's theme is ....Why Don't They Get It? The Marathon-explained. What is it that attracts us to the marathon? What is so special that we give us so much and run for so long just for the pleasure of yet running more on the big day Why do we do it over and over? How do you explain the mysterious pull of the marathon? Why do you run marathons?

Next weeks theme is .... The Secret of How To Qualify for Boston.   Calling all experienced runners!  Many Loungers have their eyes set on a BQ marathon this year.  Share your tips on how to do it.  And if you are one of the runners who are on a quest for the elusive BQ - share your tips on what you are doing.

Check out the great posts on "The Mystery of the Marathon-Explained."

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ck ou

Runners Loungecast - Episode 9: Laugh Tracks - Game On!

Formally titled, "Be Funny", Ian and I (sans Nitmos) square off with Amy, Marcy, and Xenia in a Running Loungecast logo Battle of the Sexes, so to speak.  Enjoy.

Vanilla - Half Fast
Amy - The Lawsons Did Dallas!
Marcy - I Signed Up for This????
Xenia - Diggin' It
Razz - Running Off at the Mind

Download Ep9LaughTracks

Find other Running Loungecasts on the Podcast section of the Lounge or on iTunes.

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Runners LoungeCast - Episode 8 - Runners Lounge Update

This week Tom and Amy sat down to give an update on the Lounge and what is planned for 2009.   The Loungecast logo episode contains information about what the Lounge is about, ongoing and new stuff planned for 2009 and even a bit about Tom and Amy and their running plans for 2009.

Show notes and links:

Tom Green, email at tom@runnerslounge.com

Amy Hunold-Van Gundy at amy@runnerslounge.com

Runners' Lounge blog

Forums: 

ExtraOrdinary Running Awards

Open Mic Interview

Download Ep8RLupdate

Catch up on past Runners' Loungecast episodes by going to iTunes or to the Runners' Lounge Podcast page.

Marathon Madness, Articles and Resources

The marathon.

It's unexplainable.  It grips our interest and sucks us into a mysterious underworld where we swing back and forth between excitement and anxiety, between calculated training and recklessness, between certainty and doubt.  It's inspiring, abusive, addictive and unforgiving.  It offers us mountain top experiences one moment and then drags us through hell and back a few moments later.

Still somehow, we forgive the marathon as it erases our grim memories and seduces many of us to try it again.  And so many of us come back running season after running season to face the challenge and lure of the marathon.

As we look at the marathon this week, you don't need to have run the 26.2, and you don't need to be training for one now or ever.  It's just that the marathon deserves every shred of attention we give it.  And we hope that someday, someone will uncork a lasting explanation of what it's about, unlock the formula of how to train for and race it well, and explain why it is we're obsessed by it.

While you're here, if you're looking for some great marathon resources, we're gathering and sharing them for everyone.  Here are a few in the Marathon topic of the Know How section in the Lounge:

  • "How to conquer the marathon." A collection of advice from marathoners where they share their secrets of the marathon in 26 words or less.

No matter what your experience--a first timer or a relentless veteran, or a runner smart enough to never attempt the 26.2 distance--we invite everyone to share all your advice, memories, and explanation of marathon madness at the Lounge.

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Launch into Marathon Week at the Lounge

...A quick update on the Runners’ Lounge Book Project.

In the next few weeks, we invite you to draft and finalize your articles.

As you may recall, the original intent of this project is collaboration.  Soon those contributing to the book project will also be making some decisions about the book title, art and design, and the charity to which the proceeds will be donated. 

So here’s a little action required on your part:  Please provide us a heads up about your interest in submitting an article. 

If you’ve already said so in the forums, great! 

If you’ve sent us an email about your interest—and some of you have already submitted your article—even better. 

Most importantly, if you’re still planning to contribute—even if you haven’t figured out what you’re going to write—just slip us a note at so we can hold a place for your article and include your input and feedback about the project’s upcoming decisions.  Just send to info@runnerslounge.com.

This week at Runners’ Lounge, we’re focusing on the marathon

Why in January are we focusing on the marathon?  Isn’t fall the peak marathon season?  Maybe, but did you know during the months of February, March, and April there are more than 100 marathons in the U.S. and more than 60 internationally?  So there must be a whole lotta marathon training going on.

What could we possibly write about?

  • Training plans—those special formulas of mileage, long runs, speedwork, recovery, and tapering that work, didn’t work, and what we’re going to try next
  • Selecting a marathon—which ones do we recommend; new destinations and old time favorites
  • New marathon goals—they don’t always have to be about time
  • New marathon strategy—what are you going to try different this year
  • Mental barriers—what we need to overcome or break through
  • Advice—tips for first-time marathoners and timeless reminders for all of us
  • Inspiration—what gets us through the training, set backs, to the start line and across the finish line
  • Encouragement---by going public with our marathon plans, we open up to the support of others
  • Questions--until the last marathon on earth is run, there will always be questions about the marathon.  What questions do we want to throw out for discussion?

It seems most marathoners are interested in talking about their past and upcoming races.  And our  supportive nature makes us equally interested in others' marathon experiences too.

BTW, don't be fooled thinking the importance of this coming Sunday is merely a football game.  More importantly, it's opening of registration for the Chicago Marathon--my favorite event of the racing year!

Open Mic Friday: Meet the Kristina, the Marathon Mama

 Open_mic_friday A sign of a great guest for Open Mic Friday is how quickly the reader departs reading the interview to go read the guest's blog.  Today's guest is Kristina, the Marathon Mama, whose passion for running and writing make for a blog which is a treat to read.  She tells it like it is and can turn a phrase that makes us wish we'd said it that way. Perhaps the most down-to-earth holder of a doctorate you'll ever meet, a former Buddhist, a wickedly insightful writer, and a fine runner, she's grounded in motherhood and her adoration for her son, Henry. 

Fresh off completing P.F's Changs RnR Marathon on Sunday, we're delighted to bring you Kristina Pinto.


Congratulations on your hard-earned PR.  Care to tell us more about how you’re feeling about it a few days later? 

Is it strange to say I’m making peace with my PR? I had trained quite hard for a really ambitious time goal and didn’t make that goal in this race, so the PR is a little bittersweet. I’m trying to keep my sense of humor about the outcome and shake it off so I can move on in my running. Either that, or I’ll take up bocce instead.

Boston How would you prepare differently for a marathon in January in Phoenix?

Tough question because I live in northern Massachusetts so I can’t really train in Phoenix-like conditions, which proved to be my undoing in the marathon. I think I’d have to plan a smarter nutrition strategy that is specific to the climate of the race, rather than just drinking water from every cup that’s extended to me.

Tell us how you got started running and racing?

Poverty! I started running after college because it was cheap, which makes me laugh now because I’ve made it exponentially more expensive with my lust for running gadgets and gear.  I ran my first 5k after watching the Pittsburgh marathon go through my neighborhood and welling up with tears. I took that as a cue that I should start running—either that or go for an eye exam. I didn’t consider myself a runner at all but for some reason I thought if would be a good idea to run a marathon after that 5k. I hadn’t run further than 4 miles at the time. What can I say? I’m a dreamer not a planner.

What are you most looking forward to about running in 2009?

I’m running the Covered Bridges Half-Marathon in Vermont in early June. It’s quite competitive to get into, and I spent almost an hour trying to sign up the day registration opened. I’ve had an easier time getting Springsteen tickets.

Kristina and Henry You have a very special writing/running project going on.  Care to tell us about it?

I’m writing a book about the culture of mother-runners—moms who run. It’s meant to be a motivational study of the meaning of running in our lives. Running has changed motherhood by giving women an outlet to connect meaningfully with each other and to reclaim and develop their identities after having children. At the same time, motherhood has changed athletics in a radical way through running by carving a space for a group that is not usually prominent in sports. Mothers hold the world record in the marathon and the gold medal in the marathon. Women’s running performance actually improves in the year after childbirth. It’s like motherhood and running are meant for each other, but the pairing hasn’t really ever been given much attention. Can you tell I’m kind of passionate about this topic?

What would your family and friends tell us about your passion for running?

They’d probably say it’s ruined me for conversation about any other topic. They’re all incredibly supportive of my passion for running, but behind my back I’m fairly certain they twirl their fingers at their temples.

You have a great blog.  What makes it unique and interesting?

I don’t know that I’m unique, but I strive to be candid and to see the humor in my own missteps, of which there seem to be many. I’ve kind of become a Murphy’s Law marathoner, so it’s getting to the point where people read just to see what will go wrong next. I’ve had a DNF from injury, pulled out of a marathon with pneumonia, and now dealt with unseasonable heat. I’ll probably be abducted by aliens in the next one.

Striding Best race experience?

I had a great race at the Hyannis Marathon last year, which I ran as a relay with my husband. One of those cliché races where everything clicks and you remember why you love running so much.

Any quirky running traits?

This is kind of embarrassing, but I am unfortunately afflicted with “excessive mucus production” when I run (I’m trying to be decorous here). The problem is that I lack the talent for expelling it with enough force. I’ve had men try to teach me the art of shooting it from my nose, but it always ends up on my clothes or shoes. It’s amazing that anyone is willing to run with me twice. Is that quirky or just gross?

How did you develop your passion for running and fitness?

I’ve never been especially passionate about fitness, oddly enough, though running is obviously a passion. I think it actually took writing about it for me to see my passion for it, and now I write in my head while I run, so they’ve kind of evolved together.

What have you not done with your running that you’re still looking forward to?

Three words: Qualify for Boston.

What gets you excited about running?

Good music. Have I mentioned I’m a Springsteen fan? I don’t think I’ve brought that up yet. I think my legs actually have muscle memory for “Glory Days,” I’ve listened to it so many times during speed work.

What’s your secret to running success?

I don’t know how well I do this, but one thing I’ve heard from elites is that they can shake off a race disappointment and move on pretty easily. I think that’s the secret to having the confidence to do well on the next run, whether you’re a professional or an amateur. I like to apply that strategy to other areas of my life, too. I tell my son to shake it off when he loses a game of Chutes and Ladders.

Favorite race?

Tufts 10k for Women in Boston. It’s huge, follows the Charles, and you get to shake Joan Benoit Samuelson’s hand at the finish line.

Favorite distance?

Half-marathon

Greatest running accomplishment?

In this last training cycle, I did a speed workout of 4 x 4 miles on my treadmill. Including the rest intervals, it came to 18 miles alone in this tiny room, gradually losing my mind. It was the hardest, most miserable run I ever did, but I finished.

 Current running goals?

Take some time to enjoy running for its own sake, without a watch, and then revisit my time goals. I desperately want to run a 3:40 marathon; I don’t know that I actually want to run Boston, but I want to meet that qualifying standard.

Non- running and non-blogging interests?

Needlepoint (bet you didn’t see that coming!), cross-country skiing, and all things chocolate.

With Henry Running hero?

The woman I just interviewed for my book who organizes and facilitates groups of running mothers in London. She doesn’t get paid for it; she just does it because she’s passionate about how running changes women’s lives. So inspiring.

Greatest running moment?

Finishing the Boston Marathon (for charity) in 2008

What is one unique thing about you that most people don't know?

I don’t know how to drive a stick shift. It’s so embarrassing, but I am totally unteachable.

Who are some of your virtual running friends you would like to meet up and run with?

Everyone who left a comment on my race report for Phoenix. They were all so kind.

Most embarrassing running moment?

Nope, too embarrassing!

What’s going on in your life outside of running?

There’s a life outside running?

If money could buy you a running dream, what would it be?

I could buy interviews with Paula Radcliffe, Catherine Ndreba, and Constantina Tomescu-Dita for the book, I would in a second. And a massage every week.

Best running advice you’ve ever been given?

Run a good race, regardless of what the clock says. Jack Fultz, ’76 Boston Marathon winner and coach of the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge team, reminds his runners of that a lot when we get caught up in time goals. It always reminds me that if I’m not enjoying the race, I shouldn’t be running it.

Best running advice you’d like to share?

Get good socks. Seriously, socks never get the attention they deserve, all hidden there under the fancy shoes picked especially for you. Once you find your perfect socks, they’re as important as the shoes.


Take It and Run Thursday: How to Run Your Best Half Marathon

Take_it_and_run_thursday Welcome to Take It and Run Thursday! 

It's our way to bring together the knowledge of all of us ordinary runners.  It's the virtual equivalent to putting our virtual heads together.  Even though many of us aren't elite athletes, coaches or authors, it doesn't mean that we haven't earned a well deserved PhD in running.   Whether you are starting out, have 50 years of running under your belt or somewhere in between - all of us have lessons learned that make us wiser and better runners.  

Today's theme is .... How to Run Your Best Half Marathon in 2009.   Calling all half marathon lovers this week!  Share your best tip on how you and others can run their best half marathon this year.  We will leave it up to you to define what "best" means - it could be fastest, most enjoyable, building block to a marathon, etc, etc  

Next weeks theme is .... Why Don't They Get It?  The Marathon-explained.   What is it that attracts us to the marathon?  What is so special that we give us so much and run for so long just for the pleasure of yet running more on the big day?  Why do we do it over and over?   How do you explain the mysterious pull of the marathon?  Why do you run marathons?
 
Click here for a list of great posts on How to Run Your Best Half Marathon.

 
 

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Let's hear it for the Half Marathon!

There’s something wrong about the name we’ve given to the half marathon. 

It’s just not right to refer to such a challenging and worthy racing distance as “half.”   The name suggests it’s only part of something greater, only 50% of a preferred distance, and less than complete.  Wrong.

Ornament Every other race enjoys a proper, respected description either in miles or kilometers—5k, 10k, 5 mile, 10 mile, etc.  But unfortunately, we’ve chosen to name and define the half marathon using a fraction, misleading some to believe the marathon is the greater race

Nobody would ever refer to climbing half of Mt. Everest. Nobody wins half an Oscar.  We would never put the word “half” in the name of an Olympic event.  There are no half triathlons.  We don’t call someone with $500,000 a half millionaire; we call them very successful!

Many marathoners are also half marathoners, and they would deny that the half marathon is a step child of the full marathon. On those days we are training for the half marathon, does anyone feel like they’re giving it half of what marathoners are giving?  Don’t think so.

I actually ran my first marathon before running my first half marathon.  The reason—there were hardly any half marathons being hosted back then.  And the few 13.1 races that were around seemed like afterthoughts for the “also runners” not yet in shape for 26.2 miles.

Now the half marathon enjoys a hugely popular reputation, with full respect, excitement, and a racing experience that challenges the beginner as well as the most competitive runner.

The half marathon isn’t a diminished version of anything.  We don’t have to compare it to “the full” marathon to give it credibility.  We often try to talk up the half marathon by rationalizing that it doesn’t require as much training, it’s over in half the time, and it doesn’t take as much time to recover so we can race the distance more often without breaking down.   Those are all great points—but the merits of the half marathon can stand alone without comparing it to the full. 

I love the half marathon. The training is demanding and often whips us into our best fitness levels ever.  The distance is hard, the field of runners includes every level of talent and passion, and the sense of accomplishment is euphoric. To run the half marathon well requires immense effort, concentration, determination and perhaps even more strategy than any other race.  There is a feeling of excitement and challenge every step of the way. 

Unfortunately, the name we’ve given to 13.1 miles is probably with us forever.  It’s a quick, handy reference to the official distance, and it’s become part of our running culture.

We’re looking forward to learning from everyone’s advice, tips and half marathon experiences this week at Take It and Run Thursday.  Your collective wisdom won't make us better partial marathoners--it will make us better runners!

Half Marathon Ornament on Google Images

Runners' Lounge Book Project wants you!

Do I have to find an editor so I sound like I passed kindergarten?

The trick will be limiting myself to 600 words…

I really want to contribute an article, but sometimes have trouble getting my thoughts into words…

I hope that you will find it suitable to use…

Not sure this is what you’re looking for...

Book project Widget These are some of the comments and questions we’re getting related to the Runners’ Lounge Book Project, and we want to relieve some stress about the project. For those who haven't published there might be some writer's block, but don't let that interfere with your passion and message.

Like getting started running, our best advice is sit down to write and have fun with it.

One article contributor said it best when she advised just keeping it simple and just try to answer the original questions as if in a conversation.  The original question for the article goes like this:

You’re in a conversation and you just caught someone’s attention by mentioning you’re a runner.  They’re interested in running but you only have a few minutes to tell them what you know.

What would you advise them about what consistently predictably works for your running?

OR

If you could tell them what you know now that you wished you known then about running, what would it be?

The project is shaping up and landing in good hands every day.  We’re pleased to announce that Kristina Pinto has joined the Advisory Team, heading up the editing function of the articles.  Kristina, also known as The Marathon Mama, is a professional writer and editor.  Obviously she’s also a mom with a four-year old, and she just crossed the finish line yesterday at the P.F. Chang’s Rock N Roll Marathon.  Congratulations, Kristina, on your marathon, and thank you for spearheading the editing function!

Also, Mega Thanks to the many runners who have offered further assistance, such as editing, graphic design, PR, etc.  Our goal is to use every ounce of talent, so you’ll be hearing from one of us very soon so we can exploit—ahem, involve you—in this great project.

For now, keep spreading the word about the project!  If you know someone in your running group, your local club, or a blogger who impresses you, please pass the word along them. Please share the information about the project or link to the forum, or even add this widget (shown above) to your sidebar or profile. 

There's lots more happening in the Lounge, including a new feature called Running Teams.  Please check them out.

About Runners' Lounge

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